I struggle emotionally with this topic because it's something I love to do in English and Spanish. Yet Japanese (afaik) deem personification grammatically incorrect because non-living things don't have wills of their own.

I have a few questions about this topic:

  1. Is personification commonly understood? If I had an acquaintance or friend and I told them something like "太陽に殺される". How widely understood would it be that I'm playfully saying it's terribly hot that day? I feel like it would be okay in casual conversations right?

  2. In books or novels, is it normal for authors to write personifications?

  3. Is it really considered grammatically incorrect to write personifications? I feel like it wouldn't be if they knew you were intentionally writing it rather than by mistake as long as the sentence structure was sound.

Bonus: I like to use this kind of humor, how do I cope with what seems to be lack of personification in Japanese writing? sad (I've never come across it, then again stuff like that isn't shown in study material I guess. Although it is taught in English writing)

  • 2
    On the topic of personification of "non-living things", I always wondered if あめちゃん (as in 飴ちゃん) is perceived as a kind of personification by native speakers.
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 12:20
  • 3
    @Earthliŋ "ちゃん" や "たち" を付けたくらいで擬人化とは普通は言いません。
    – naruto
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 16:28
  • I can't think of examples right now off the top of my head. But while I agree this type of writing is not commonly included in Japanese study materials (at least none that I remember from what I've used in the past), I come across this type of sentence often enough in TV/books/manga/etc. and even in daily conversations.
    – yushi
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 1:24

1 Answer 1


It's perfectly fine to say 太陽に殺される in Japanese. By "non-living things don't have wills", perhaps you are referring to this grammatical tendency? While it's a good idea to keep this tendency in mind while making ordinary sentences in a natural way, a rhetorical device such as personification is a different story. You can form personificated sentences like 山が呼んでいる, 海が怒っている, 本が泣いている as far as your creativity allows. You can even use いる with a talking tree.

That being said, each language has its own common ways of forming rhetorical expressions, and I cannot guarantee everything that makes sense in your language will also make sense in Japanese if translated too literally. Actually, ~に殺される is not as common as English "(something) is killing me", and there are many Japanese articles that explain how English speakers like this "killing me" (for example this and this) in daily conversations.

  • So then if I wanted to go hike, it'd be okay to personify "The mountains are calling me to come to them" in Japanese? Yes, I'm aware I could simply type "I want to go hiking" but because personifying is part of my humor I'd like to keep that aspect of my personality in Japanese
    – Tek
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 0:36
  • @Tek Yes you can, and 山が呼んでいる is fairly common.
    – naruto
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 8:48

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