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So I know that when an i-adjective like 速い becomes an adverb to modify a verb you have to change the い to く, like 速く走る (to run quickly).

I'm having trouble understanding the grammar in 強くありたい. I know it means 'I want to be strong' but shouldn't 強く modify ありたい like the example above? I want to be/to exist/to live strongly instead of wanting to posses the characteristic of being a strong person.

  • 「強くありたいと願い」 is not a sentence. – l'électeur Jan 20 '19 at 3:13
  • Then I'll delete that part, I'm more curious on how the adverb modifies the verb. Maybe it's incomplete. Thanks. – Chrollo Jan 20 '19 at 3:20
  • What is 強くありたい supposed to be. Do you mean 強くなりたい? – Leebo Jan 20 '19 at 3:58
  • That's what I'm trying to figure out. It is from a song, here are the lyrics (second verse). Also, when I do a quick Google Search, the phrase 強くありたい is present in many pages. So I assumed the phrase made sense. – Chrollo Jan 20 '19 at 4:06
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    It's better if you think of 強く as an inflected form of an adjective, not as an adverb. – snailplane Jan 20 '19 at 7:26
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Japanese i-adjectives (速い, 強い...) are inherently predicates, so in theory they don't need another verb "to be" to support. Here, the extra ある is a kind of rhetorical reflection of the will to be (in a state), or consciously keep being.

It can be used in the same way with na-adjectives and nouns in the form ~である. Of course, である can be also just an expanded form of ~だ, so the form is less exclusive than i-adjectives (whose conjugations, like 速かった is contraction of 速くあった too, but it never expands anymore).

強くあろうとする strive to be strong/tough
生涯気高くあった remained dignified throughout one's life
80歳になっても健康でありたい want to stay healthy at the age of 80
良き教育者であれ Be a good educator!

This is a relatively literary, solemn expression. Also, the difference with ~くなる/~になる is that なる implies you are currently not in the state (80歳になる means you aren't now), which is not the case with ~くある/~である (健康でありたい doesn't mean you aren't now).

PS

[adjective]くある also appear when you attach a focusing particle to an i-adjective.

薄くあるが、持ち運ぶには重すぎる
= 確かに薄いが、… / 薄いことは薄いが、…
It's slim to be sure, but too heavy to carry around.

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