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I was reading an explanation online regarding the difference between いつも, いつでも and いつまでも. At the bottom of the article there was this sentence, which seems to be taken from a banner ad:

いつまでも美しくいるために

And here the translation taken from the article:

(in order) to be beautiful forever

I understand the meaning of いつまでも here, but I can't figure out the meaning of 美しくいる. I would translate it as "be in a beautiful way", which doesn't make much sense. Is there another meaning or it is just impossible to translate it literally?

  • And what is the problem with the translation you've given? – macraf Mar 5 '20 at 15:02
  • I think the translation would be acceptable (considering how distant English is from Japanese), and I don't have many problems with it. The thing is, I don't really understand why the adverbial form and the verb いる are used. I think there is some grammar pattern I'm missing – Jon Mar 5 '20 at 15:21
  • I don't really understand why the adverbial form and the verb いる are used -- so what would you use instead? – macraf Mar 5 '20 at 15:22
  • Well, I would use the adjective alone but I don't think it's correct – Jon Mar 5 '20 at 15:57
  • @Jon - maybe just the fact that in English "to be" does not require an adverb? But that's just peculiarity of the English language. – mic Mar 5 '20 at 15:59
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If I have guessed right, you are somewhat confused by the ambiguity of English be.

Be itself is a verb that has a meaning when you say "I think, therefore I am". Meanwhile it has another usage as almost meaningless bridge between words in a case like "I am Sam". And English adjectives need the aid of the latter (copula) be to correctly inflect, which Japanese i-adjectives dispense with.

Along this line of thinking, 美しくいる should grammatically correspond to English "be being beautiful", and of course the two "be"s have different meanings, so more precisely "exist being beautiful". But I doubt any English speaker say in this way. They'd instead verbalize it "remain beautiful" or "keep (oneself) beautiful", or in some appropriate contexts, just "be beautiful".

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    Thank you for your clear explanation! I know "to be" has two meanings, but I was wondering if there were any difference with 美しいために. – Jon Mar 5 '20 at 18:15
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    Unless you mean "because of beauty", 美しいために is ungrammatical in Japanese. "In order to" represents an aim, and only verbs (actions) can describe it, as adjectives (states) can't express changes by their own. When you can replace the "be" before English adjectives with another verb (become, keep etc.) it is using the verb meaning of "be". In English this conversion is implicit because it is "be" either way, but Japanese have to distinguish them. – broken laptop Mar 5 '20 at 18:50
  • In this case いる clearly doesn't translate into English "be". – Super-User Mar 5 '20 at 22:36
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    Another way to look at this is never to think of いる as meaning "to be" at all, but always read it as "to exist" instead (which sometimes doesn't make for as natural English sentences, but correct meaning is much more important than naturalness, IMHO). Since the adverb form of "beautiful" (美しい) in English would be "beautifully", that means 美しくいる translates to "to exist beautifully", that is to make your existence be a beautiful one. – Foogod Mar 6 '20 at 0:13
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I can't figure out the meaning of 美しくいる

It's the second meaning of いる here:

居る "to stay".

  • When I'm awake I find your answer neater. – broken laptop Mar 6 '20 at 0:44

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