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I'm a beginner learner, just learnt about なる and I'm curious about なる vs other verbs when it comes to adverbs.

When using an adverb like 早く on a verb, it modifies the action or manner of the verb. For eg, 早く飲む would mean "drink quickly", or "drink in a quick manner", or even "the act of drinking is quick". So as a generalisation, "Xに/Xく Yる" would mean "to Y X-ly", or "to do Y in a X manner".

That makes sense to me, so when I learnt about なる I was completely stumped. "早くなる" means "to become quick" but based on the above I would think it should be more along the lines of "to quickly become (something)" or, "to become (something) in a quick manner".

So my questions are really,

  1. Why does なる seem to break the general adverb-verb behaviour?
  2. And what other verbs behave this way?

Feel free to correct any misassumptions or interpretations! Thanks in advance.

ps. I understand that "早くなる" just means this way, but I'm curious how the syntax works vs other verbs.

ps2. I can 'get' the logic of 'nounになる' and 'na-adjになる' because the に here is similar to the に particle as in '彼にあげる'. It's really just the i-adj that confuses me.

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  • In this case one wouldn't think of 早く as an adverb but rather a conjugation of 早い the adjective. When it's adjective with い swapped by く followed by なる, it always means "to become [this adjective]"; however, if you insert something else between the two, e.g., 早く大人になる, that means "to become an adult quickly". I guess it depends on what immediately comes before なる.
    – xyzjayne
    Mar 29, 2017 at 16:20
  • に may not be the particle: both it and -く for i-adjectives may be inflections. Cf. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Middle_Japanese#Adjectives Feb 20, 2019 at 6:54

1 Answer 1

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It looks to me, if I understand your question correctly, as though you may be overthinking this. The basic rule is:

The く ("adverbial") form of an い adjective followed by なる means "become [whatever the adjective means]" - although, of course, this is not always the best way to translate it.

For example:

大きくなる become big, grow bigger

高くなる become high, grow taller, become more expensive

赤くなる become red, go red, redden, blush

青くなる become blue or green, turn blue, go green, [of a person's face] go pale

暑くなる become hot, get hotter

美しくなる become beautiful

Remember that for the purposes of inflection the ない and たい forms of verbs are in effect い adjectives, and use this pattern. In these cases the sense is exactly parallel, although because of the vagaries of English, they have to be handled differently when translating.

For example:

行かない I don't go 行かなくなった ["It became that I don't go"=] I stopped going there, I don't go there any more

読みたい I want to read 読みたくなった ["It became that I want to read it"=] I conceived a desire to read it, I decided (having seen an enthusiastic review of the book) that I'd like to read it

おもしろくない It's not interesting おもしろくなくなった ["It became not interesting"=] It ceased to be interesting, I lost interest in it

死にたい I want to die 死にたくない I don't want to die 死にたくなくなった ["It became that I do not want to die"=] I ceased to want to die, [Having reviewed the circumstances of my life again] I decided that I didn't want to die after all.

歩く walk 歩ける can walk 歩けない cannot walk 歩けなくなった ["It became that he cannot walk"=] He ceased to be able to walk, He lost the ability to walk

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