”I did some difficult studying last night."

Could I say, "昨夜、難しい勉強しました。”?

Basically, my question is: can an adjective, relative clause, or adjectival phrase modify a noun that has する attached, for example 勉強をする or 勉強する? And does it make that word or phrase actually adverbial when applied like that?

  • @sawa since "勉強します" is a verb, then words that describe it would be adverbs?
    – Flaw
    Commented Oct 6, 2011 at 23:40

2 Answers 2


(The combination 難しい勉強 sounds slightly off to me, but I put this aside for the purpose of this question.)

You have to distinguish noun+する and noun+をする.

  • Noun+する: Once you attach する, what was originally a noun becomes a verb, and you cannot modify it with an adjective.
  • Noun+をする: Attaching をする does not change a noun to a verb, and you can still modify it with an adjective.

For example, 難しい勉強する is ungrammatical (although this is not unheard of), whereas 難しい勉強をする is grammatical.

  • 2
    Would 難しく勉強する be grammatical (albeit nonsensical)?
    – Lukman
    Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 8:13
  • 2
    @Lukman: I would not call something nonsensical as “grammatical,” but noun+する can be modified by an adverb and the adverbial phrases (including the 連用形 form of an adjective) if that is what you are asking. For example, 素早く配達する and 楽しく会話する are grammatical. Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 11:02

I agree with Tsuyoshi's answer.

Here's a research paper discussing these する constructions.

The relevant section states:

"In addition, the VN occurring with the light verb suru cannot be modified by an adjectival phrase (subayai ‘quick’ in (5a)), but can be modified by an adverbial modifier such as subayaku ‘quickly’ in (5b)"

   5. a. *Taroo-ga piza-o subayai HAITATSU sita.
          Taro-Nom pizza-Acc quick delivery did
   b.     Taroo-ga piza-o subayaku HAITASU sita.
          Taro-Nom pizza-Acc quickly delivery did
   ‘Taro deliveried pizzas quickly

It's pretty dense reading, but the first chunk of it is pretty understandable. You may be interested in the last part if you're into linguistics at all or are just masochistic.

  • The whole point was that 5a is ungrammatical, showing that haitatsu-suru could not be modified by an adjectival phrase. Even without piza-o, haitatsu-suru cannot be modified by an adjectival phrase. Furthermore, pizza-o haitatsu-suru is valid. I don't think I understand your objection. Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 1:28
  • 1
    I agree with sawa that the examples quoted from the paper are not a good evidence of the claim preceding the examples. We should not trust everything written in arbitrary research papers. Also note that the paper is a conference proceedings and not a refereed journal paper. Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 11:09

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