Building on from Zhen Lin's answer to "The grammar of ~かれ~かれ",

Brief explanation of Zero-nominalisation:

Nominalisation refers to the process of turning a word, or more generally a phrase, into a noun or noun phrase. For example, こと and もの are nominalisers for verb phrases. Zero-nominalisation is when the nominalisation happens without an overt word.

Previously being examined:

良かれ悪しかれ has a modern grammar rendition:

[a] よいにしろ悪いにしろ

It is observed that the declension of the adjective is い instead of く as one would normally expect of い-adjectives when used with a verb.

Zero-nominalisation accounts for this idiosyncratic behaviour.


  • Why does zero-nominalisation occur?

  • Why do the adjectives in [a] not take on the declension (along with deletion of the に particle)? Would よくしろ悪くしろ still be grammatical?

  • In what other instance(s) (if any) is zero-nominalisation appropriate?


2 Answers 2


Interesting question! The cases I can think of are ~より, ~には, ~にしても, ~にあたって

バスで行くより、歩いて行くほうが早い It's faster to walk than to take the bus

日本に行くには、ビザが必要だ You need a visa to go to Japan

正しいにしても、やはり心配だ Even if it's true, I'm still concerned

参加するにあたって欠かせない This is necessary for participating

There are probably others.

As to why zero-nominalization occurs, I'm not sure. But it seems like it's an old construct in Japanese, which used to be more prevalent, but now only survives in certain combinations. So an more interesting question might be why it started to disappear.

よくしろ would mean "do it well/do it often/make it well". よいのにしろ would mean "make it a good one/choose a good one". I'm not sure if it's to distinguish from these cases that zero-nominalization survived here, but it might be a theory.

  • 1
    i found this sentence in a manga: "残るはボクだけですか". is this another example, or something else?
    – Axe
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 19:57

Regarding your first question, the answer is economy. In general, language tends to omit things that are obvious, although different languages have different restrictions regarding what you can omit. The less content a word has, the more easily it can be omitted. Especially, nominalizers do not have any meaning, and is easy to be omitted.

The i ending of i-adjectives in present Japanese is due to a morpho-phonological process called イ音便. Classically, it used to be ki, which partially shows the ku ending.

Since dainichi gives Japanese examples, I will give English examples:

The poor and the rich
The Japanese

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