This question will be a bit complicated. Here are two sentences with two very similar constructions (in bold)

1. 地図は普通、北を上にして[描]{か}かれる。 "Concerning maps, usually they are drawn while you put north at the top" (as literal as I could manage, hope its still correct) From Line 7 in this one https://www.docdroid.net/847v2dg/img-20170413-0001-new.pdf.html

2. 地図に経度と緯度が使用されるようになって、北を上にして地図をかくのが普通になった。 Here's my attempt at translation "Because it has come so far, that on maps longitude and latitude are usually used, it has become usual, that you draw a map while putting north at the top." (again as literal as I could manage to set the individual syntactical parts apart as good as possible) From an exercise about the text in 1.

3. So, in 1 things are pretty distinct. The bold part has an adverbial function, right? In 2, things aren't as clear to me because a noun directly succeeds the bold part. I know that this doesn't necessarily mean anything, but it is a position where attributes are very common. An attribute isn't really possible from my perspective because there isn't dictionary form, but て form. Furthermore, at least in a translation which tries to preserve an attributive relation between 北を上にして and 地図, the result feels ungrammatical: "It has become usual that you draw a you-put-north-top/north-put-top map." The part in italics tries to make things sound at least half-grammatical by translating the unspecified subject into a passive construction.

So TL;DR: 北を上にして acts as an adverbial in both 1 and 2, right? And: Is there a case, apart from one in which the conjunctive forms form a chain which leads up to a dictionary form adjective/verb which modifies a noun, where て form can act as a prototypical attribute, like here: よく考える人は効果的な生き方を見つける。


2 Answers 2


The pattern A を B にする is very common. (I used to offer my students a small prize if they could find two pages of continuous Japanese prose that didn't contain an example.) It means "make A into B", "have A as B", "treat A as B", "regard A as B", and so on. Here, 北を上にして in both sentences means "making North the top", "having North as the top", " treating North as the top", and so on.In idiomatic English I think we'd say simply "with North at the top".

Bearing in mind that the て form is uncommitted as to tense, so that the tense of the corresponding verb in an English translation (because English matches tenses) will be determined by the tense of the main verb, in this case なった, the second sentence goes like this:


It came about that lines of longitude and latitude were used on maps, and


drawing maps with North at the top [subject, marked with が, of following verb なった ]


became usual

More idiomatically:

When lines of longitude and latitude began to be used on maps it became customary to place North at the top.


~して literally means "do ~ and..." In this case, it's "put the north at the top and (draw the map)."

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .