What does する mean when it does not mean "do"?



3 Answers 3


する does not actually mean "do". It's much more generic than that. "to do" is just one way it parses into English.

For your sentence あなたも血のにおいがするな. It would mean "I smell blood on you too"

する in this sense takes on the meaning "to perceive non-visually"

Summarising from nihongoresources:

The kanji form of する is 為る. And the kanji 為 represents some objective. So as a verb it means "to act in a way that accomplishes [objective]" If your objective is におい then to "accomplish" it would be to smell.

This is also why ~にする means "to decide on (whatever your choice is)"

And for ~をする since を marks the direct object, it means "do ~" (Because it's a direct object, doing ~ directly accomplishes ~)

する can also be used for describing some attribute:

私は長い足をしている to mean "I have long legs"(stative resultant ている form of する)

To accomplish "long legs", the simplest way is to simply "have" it.

  • 7
    Actually even "do" doesn't actually mean "do": "let's do lunch", "do you speak English?" In both languages they are kind of auxiliary verbs with many functions, though not always the same functions. In fact many languages if not most have such auxiliary verbs that nominally translate to "to do"/"to make" in English. Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 10:53
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    Well, "Aのにおいがする" does sound like "it does(=emits) a smell of A". So I thinks it still maps.
    – Axioplase
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 13:28
  • I can't understand, from the description, how Xにする becomes "to decide on X". Actually, I don't even understand how "act in a way that accomplishes an objective" could have an indirect object. A manner of being accomplished, maybe... Commented Aug 20, 2011 at 22:41
  • You really can't argue about the meaning of a Japanese word by reference to the meaning of a kanji (which is Chinese, as I'm sure you know). Particularly for function words like する (and probably 是 etc in Chinese), meanings never match up across languages. Even closely related languages: the French for "do" is "faire", but you still have to learn all the places where this works differently. Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 10:34

In this type of saying, it is almost describing a state of something. In such, it can be used somewhat loosely to describe different things.

血のにおいがする → smells like/of blood
すっぱい味がする → (has) a sour taste / "gives a sour flavour"
あの子は青い目をしている → That girl has blue eyes
友人が消防士をしている → My friend is a firefighter ("He 'does' firefighter-ing for his job")

  • btw i was just curious, if i say 青い目をする instead of 青い目をしてる what will the sentence become?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jul 30, 2011 at 14:26
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    I would say that "she'll have blue eyes", link she's going to put in blue-coloured contacts or something.
    – istrasci
    Commented Jul 31, 2011 at 5:18

http://japanese.about.com/library/weekly/aa060301a.htm may be this would help you いい匂いがする。it smells good 波の音がする。 hear the sound of the waves among others

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