In my Japanese class today, we were supposed to say a sport we liked. I said:


We haven't learned this way of nominalizing verbs or the names of many sports, so my 先生 shook her head no and I said some other sport. I am aware that some verbs are nominalized with this kind of ending (including 泳ぐ):

終わる → 終わり

話す → 話

始まる → 始まり

走る → 走り

So when is it appropriate to append の to nominalize a verb versus using the い-ending as its nominalization?


To be clear, I am asking what the difference in meaning is between the two following statements:



  • Cheers for the lack of an explanation and the downvote. Renyoukei was what I was looking for. Didn't know the name for this grammar construct. For anyone wanting an explanation.
    – ringo
    Nov 25, 2019 at 19:25
  • I might be wrong (still fairly new to Japanese myself), but I think the problem here isn't that you can't do 泳ぐ -> 泳ぎ (which is fine), but that 泳ぎ actually just means "swimming" as a general action, not the sport of swimming, which is actually called 水泳 (すいえい). If you think about it, most sports in English aren't actually named the same as the general action they involve either ("swimming" is one of the exceptions in English) so it's not surprising that you can't just nominalize a verb to make a sport name in Japanese.. (I'm not sure what any of this has to do with の at all, though?)
    – Foogod
    Nov 25, 2019 at 19:54
  • @Foogod Yes, I looked up and saw that 水泳 is how swimming is referred to as a sport in Japanese. I made an addition to clarify my question. Even reading more about renyoukei still didn't quite answer this question for me.
    – ringo
    Nov 25, 2019 at 20:02
  • Possible duplicate of Conjunctive form (e.g. 書き) vs Conj + mono (e.g. 書き物) ("Masu-stem" is one of the English names of a type of 連用形. See this for details.)
    – naruto
    Nov 25, 2019 at 20:04
  • 1
    BTW, if you were to say 彼の泳ぎが好きです that works fine and means “I like his swimming”, aka “I like his (style of / way of / etc) swimming”. Not sure if that helps... Nov 25, 2019 at 22:57

1 Answer 1


To generically answer your question as described in your title, masu-stem (aka 連用形) can often "nominalize" a verb, but the resulting nouns can have unpredictable meanings, and you have to learn them individually. Please see this answer. A good rule of thumb is that you should avoid trying to nominalize a verb using 連用形 unless you know what you are doing.

To specifically answer your question about the difference between 泳ぐの and 泳ぎ, 泳ぎ tends not to refer to the abstract concept of "swimming" as a kind of sport or action. Instead, it usually refers to someone's concrete swimming ability, style, form, episode, achievement, etc. 泳ぎが好きです simply sounds unnatural to me. A normal way to say "I like swimming" is 水泳が好きです (sounds relatively formal/serious) or 泳ぐのが好きです (sounds casual). 泳ぎ is also used as a part of fixed compounds such as 平泳ぎ "breaststroke" and 背泳ぎ "backstroke".

You can use 泳ぎ like so:

  • 彼女の泳ぎはとても美しい。
    (彼女の水泳は美しい is very unnatural)
  • 彼の泳ぎは世界に感動を与えた。
    (彼の水泳は世界に感動を与えた is wrong)
  • 体操選手は脂肪が少ないため、泳ぎが苦手です。
    (this 泳ぎ is interchangeable with 泳ぐの or 水泳)
  • 今は平泳ぎを練習しています。
    (平泳ぎ is a fixed compound)

EDIT: How about other verbs? の is very consistent and straightforward:

  • ✅ 私は踊るのが好きです: I like dancing (either casually at a night club or seriously as a performance).
  • ✅ 私は歌うのが好きです: I like singing.
  • ✅ 私は走るのが好きです: I like running/jogging.
  • ✅ 私は絵を描くのが好きです: I like drawing pictures.

However masu-stems are inconsistent and tricky:

  • ✅ 私は踊りが好きです: I like (watching or doing) dance (performances).
    (踊り is basically a wago equivalent of ダンス.)
  • 🚫 私は歌いが好きです: wrong
    (although 歌い occasionally means 'singer' in compounds)
  • 🚫 私は走りが好きです: wrong
    (although 走り means 'running form/ability')
  • ❓ 私は絵描きが好きです: I like painters (people).
  • I feel like 走り doesn’t work in any of those sentences except for the usage in #3 (though not sure it’s exactly perfect there), what’s your take? 踊り seems to be exactly like 泳ぎ. In fact I feel like even using 踊りが好き to mean 踊るのが好き works pretty decently, though maybe it sounds a little casual/childish or otherwise marked somehow. 歌い seems to not work at all. So odd... Nov 26, 2019 at 7:30
  • I think 泳ぎ is close to neither of 走り and 踊り. 彼女は走りが上手だ doesn't sound right, but あの大会での彼女の走りは感動的だった sounds fine to me. 踊るのが好き can mean someone likes dancing at a night club or a party, whereas 踊りが好き normally means someone likes performing or watching dance as a serious performing art. 歌い is rarely used, but it sometimes means "singer" rather than "singing". So these are examples of how masu-stem as a noun is inconsistent and unpredictable :)
    – naruto
    Nov 26, 2019 at 9:06

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