This is the example sentence: 私の趣味はギターを弾くことです。

My translation - Playing the guitar is my hobby.

However, why is it not: '私の趣味はギターを弾きます。’

Basically I don't understand this use of 'ことです'.


1 Answer 1


Short answer: nominalization.

In this case, it's not really a quirk of the Japanese language, at least you're doing pretty much the same in English as well.

In English, we don't say

*My hobby is play the guitar.

*As for my hobby, play the guitar.

The pattern A is B needs two things (either a noun, or mentioning a word or phrase, as in swim is a verb) for A and B. So we use the gerund playing, which basically refers to the act of doing the action play.

My hobby is playing the guitar.

This does not mean that playing the guitar is done by your hobby, playing the guitar is behaving like a noun here.

The same goes for Japanese. 私の趣味はギターを弾く could perhaps mean my hobby plays the guitar, but what you want to say is that the act of playing is your hobby.

弾く事【こと】 (こと is usually written in kana) is almost literally the the act of playing.

And ギターを弾くこと is playing the guitar, which is your hobby, ie. 趣味.

  • 1
    Hmm, I'm not sure I've ever seen the nominalization 「こと」 written as 「事」 (aside from 変換ミス). Of course, that could just be because I don't read widely enough. Jan 6, 2015 at 0:57
  • 1
    @Darius Nominalizer こと is written in kana in modern standard Japanese, but using 事 is not totally wrong. You can see them especially in older documents.
    – naruto
    Jan 6, 2015 at 3:33
  • @Darius Nominalizer I only wanted to mention the kanji to show the literal meaning of the phrase. And yes, in older documents you can find many more kanji: 迄【まで】, 行き度【た】い, と雖【いえど】も, 今【いま】茲【ここ】に &c.
    – blutorange
    Jan 6, 2015 at 8:10

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