I think I understand the pattern  ...を adverb する e.g.


He makes her happy


I made my room tidy

I think I'm right in saying that the に in these sentences serves to turn the な-adjective into an adverb.

I got confused when I saw this sentence:


This translates as something like "He used chopsticks as oars and went up the river" (not as weird as it sounds, in context). I don't really know how to translate nounをnounにする. Can you please break it down for me and provide some additional examples of this grammar?

2 Answers 2


I think you're actually asking about にする and not just に. に isn't a verb after all.

It has a lot of uses, each probably worth a question of their own.

Here are some definitions from Jisho.org:


  1. to place, or raise, person A to a post or status B
  2. to transform A to B; to make A into B; to exchange A for B
  3. to make use of A for B; to view A as B; to handle A as if it were B
  4. to feel A about B

For the first two sentences, I think in your case it's the second meaning of to transform or make into. Perhaps the third as well, but there the third meaning of to handle as or make use of is better. But yes, it can be attached to nouns and noun-forms.

It has so many particulars to it I don't think a single question or answer can cover it. How and where it's placed, the tense of what it's attached to, affects all of this. So it might be best to ask about a specific use.

  • Option 3 is perfect here. The reason I was talking about adverbs is because there is also a pattern that goes nounをi-adjective stemくする which has the same meaning, e.g. もっとスープを甘くした方がいいです, where the く is turning the i-adjective into an adverb. So it seemed like the に or the く went with B rather than with する. Is it correct to assume that examples 1-4 all work with this 'nounをi-adjective stemくする' pattern too? Commented May 23, 2015 at 9:14
  • My feeling about にする is that I don't think there's a general explanation of it that doesn't have dozens of bullet-points with sub-bullets. So, that's to say option three is perfect somewhere but there's a case for that sentence where option five is perfect. I think I see what you're asking about, but I don't know the grammatical term is... it sounds to me like you're asking about having noticed that sentences can become objects that can be treated like nouns, because they are things. But I think にする revealing that has misdirected you as to what allows that. It's not the actor in my opinion. Commented May 23, 2015 at 9:28
  • Correct me if I'm wrong but are you asking how complex ideas can become nouns? Commented May 23, 2015 at 9:30
  • I think I'm trying to invent patterns that don't exist. For example with a na-adjective I can say 部屋をきれいにしました. With an i-adjective I could say 部屋を明るくしました (I made my room bright). My point is that it's now not にする but くする. Both of these are example of adverbs followed by する, whereas my example with the chopsticks was a noun followed by に followed by する, which didn't fit the same pattern. I'm very happy with your current answer though. Commented May 23, 2015 at 9:43
  • Heheh, my answer sucks, it was just too long for a comment. Can you make an adverb from a noun by adding に? I didn't go there because I'm not sure what we are talking about... I took a guess at the にする thing. So let's define our words, what is an adverb? Commented May 23, 2015 at 9:46

I don't think there are any な-adj in the third sentence at all (only nouns, which function like な adjectives), に is used as a general location particle, and is not limited to actual places, the first clause in


which is


would mean,

"Chopsticks, in (in the form of a) paddle, is done"

"In the way of a paddle, chopsticks were being used." or "In place of a paddle, chosticks were used"

Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to get a natural sounding translation in English as して is extremely context sensitive.

The second clause,


means, to go up the river.

There's no な adjectives there either, but there is を.

The 'pattern' you mention is actually just two distinct and separate grammar functions.

を is the direct object of the noun (chopsticks is done)

while a noun or な-adj is turned into an adverb-like function using に. There's not really an English equivalent here, as English does not merge adjectives and nouns together.


would be

As for him, she is done (to happiness, in happiness, in the form of happiness)


"He does her happiness", "She is done by him to happiness"

ZはYをXにする is best interpreted as "Z does things that generally lead to Y being X"

部屋をきれいにしました does not have は, so Z is 'I' by context, and the meaning would be "I did things that generally led to room being clean"

箸を櫂にして uses a noun instead of a na adjective, but the gist of it is "(I) do things that generally makes the chopsticks to be a paddle"


(I) do things the generally makes the chopsticks to be a paddle, then went up the river.

I'm really terrible at formatting - can someone help me make the answer more readable?

  • I like your "Z does things that generally lead to Y being X" as a general translation and the stuff you wrote below is helpful too. I don't think the attempts at a literal translation above that are particularly illuminating. It's just not possible to make a literal translation. I think "He happily did her" would be the most accurate literal translation which is clearly very wrong and also would earn you a slap from a girl in the UK. So if you want to tidy up, I'd lose the top half. Commented May 23, 2015 at 9:29

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