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若い時にいい友達『を』作ることはとても大事だ。
“It is very important to make friends when one is young.”

“To make” is not a noun, it's an infinitive. It should be “making friends” no? I understand that it turns the verb into a gerund, but why is it in the infinitive here? I don’t get it.

(Sentence is from the basic grammar dictionary).

P.s.: I know it says ことは but the example is listed under ことが in my dictionary.

  • Just to be clear, were you expecting to see 作っていること here instead of 作ること? – user3856370 Jun 2 at 15:16
  • I didn’t think about that to be honest. I just don’t understand why the infitive was used in the sentence and I didn’t go further. – Etienne Zizka Jun 2 at 15:21
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    @user3856370 Nah, he thinks that こと is a noun and therefore the English version should have a noun, and he also thinks that gerunds are nouns in English, and he also thinks that the English translation should have similar grammar to the Japanese instead of just similar meaning. – snailplane Jun 2 at 15:22
  • It’s not “they”, it’s “he”. I don’t think “koto” is a noun you misunderstood. – Etienne Zizka Jun 2 at 15:57
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    Then you'll have to explain what you're asking about, because after re-reading your question I can't see any alternative interpretation. – snailplane Jun 2 at 16:33
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Firstly, classing Japanese verbs can't be done in the same way as with English verbs. The linguistic terminology is generally different because of the incongruities between the languages. While you can call the English verb "to make" an infinitive, calling 作る or 作ること an infinitive is not quite correct. It is sometimes known as the Dictionary form, or Plain form, but Tsujimoto (1996) refers to these as verbs where the nonpast tense 'ru' is attached to verbal roots. While this may sound somewhat abstract, the broad definition reflects the wide range of usages observed in this verb category. It sometimes functions differently than infinitives function in English.

Secondly, こと in this context is generally referred to as a 'nominalizer', in that it turns the preceding phrase into a noun phrase which can then be modified in the same way nouns are. See this thread for a more detailed explanation of nominalizers in Japanese.

Finally, the は in this sentence seems to be a standard usage, as a topic marker. If this sentence was preceded by some contrastive statement, you could argue that it is a contrastive usage of は. Either way, it seems to be a normal usage. I think you would benefit from reading this thread which discusses the difference between the usages of は and が.

[An Introduction to Japanese Linguistics (Tsujimoto, 1996)]

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