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I am learning Japanese via Glossika. I have now come across a construction which I do not really understand and cannot find an explanation online.

The sentences in question are always of the form

て-form of a verb + になります。

E.g.

日本語 を 勉強し 始めて に なります。

(slightly altered to not use the concrete sentence from Glossika)

Here are orignal examples (as well as a similar one I found online)

  1. あなた は 先生 に なって どのぐらい に なります か?

  2. 英語 を 勉強し 始めて 半年 に なります

  3. 日本 に きて どのくらい に なりますか?

Can someone explain the usage of になる in this case. I know that this means 'to become' but so far I have only seen it used either with nouns or adjectives.

  • Could you maybe "use the concrete sentence from Glossika"? It looks like you might have altered the original sentence a bit too much. – Earthliŋ Jan 22 '17 at 21:40
  • Ok. These are two examples 1. 英語 を 勉強し 始めて 半年 に なります。 2. あなた は 先生 に なって どのぐらい に なります か? – wood Jan 22 '17 at 21:45
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    Ah, good. It seems that you for some reason left out 半年 & どのぐらい in "て-form of a verb + になります". Can you figure out by looking at examples what goes between the te-form and になります? – Earthliŋ Jan 22 '17 at 21:57
  • Ok, so if 半年 is what this what makes the sentence correct, I still do not understand it quite cleary or would it literally translate as 'I have begun studying english and?? it has a become half a year' Still not clear to me how to interpret the usage of the て-form – wood Jan 22 '17 at 22:00
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There are two key concepts to understanding this sentence: the て form, and なる.

Function of -て

Firstly, the -て form of the verb is used to string events together, usually in sequential order:

朝ご飯を食べて、シャワーを浴びた。
I ate breakfast, and then took a shower.

When the second phrase expresses a passage of time, it describes how long it has (or had) been since the first phrase happened:

学校が始まって一か月がたった。
It's been a month since school started.

Thus, we can understand the first part of your example as:

英語を勉強し始めて
(I) started learning English... (and then something else happened).

To a native English speaker, this kind of construction for telling time looks strange (yet logical), but it is very common in Japanese.


なる

As for なる, it still is used with a noun here. なる is only used with adjectives and nouns. In fact, to use it with a verb, you have to turn the verb into a noun with よう or こと so that you can attach に. For example:

ピアノをひけるようになった。
I became able to play the piano well

So in the second part of your (full) example, なる is used with the noun 半年, to indicate the passage of time:

半年になります
It becomes a half year/half a year passes


The original sentence

So, putting these concepts together, we can decipher your sentence:

英語を勉強し始めて半年になります
I started studying English, and then it became half a year. (lit)
I've been studying English for half a year.

  • ピアノをひけるになった。 >> You meant to type ひけるようになった, no? – Chocolate Jan 23 '17 at 4:14
  • @Schokolade Yes, I did. Thank you for catching that! – Blavius Jan 23 '17 at 4:28
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In the expression:

「Verb in て-form + (length of time) + に + なる/なります」,

「~~になる」 does not mean "to become ~~".

Instead, it means "(length of time) has passed".

When using this expression in asking questions regarding how much time someone has been doing something, you just replace the (length of time) by 「どれくらい」 or 「どのくらい」 and attach a 「か」 at the very end of the question.

This should explain the structures and meanings of all of the example sentences you have listed above.

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