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I'm reading berserk currently and came across this sentence

人は自らが人で在ることを忘れがちです

I read this usage of である the same way I would read it as if it was の (人のこと). Are they interchangeable here? If not what is the difference between the two?

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  • I could be mistaken here, but isn't this simply using こと to nominalize the whole verb clause 人は自らが人で在る? – user40476 Nov 27 '20 at 13:49
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    @Garbaz, The sentence can be rephrased 人は自らが人なことを忘れがちです or even 人は自らが人なのを忘れがちです, so the nominalized clause should be 自らが人{だ/です/である(copula)}, and it's embedded in 人は…を忘れがちです. – Chocolate Nov 28 '20 at 2:59
  • @Chocolate I see. Yeah, makes a lot more sense for the nominalization to include only 自らが人で在る, I didn't give the meaning of the sentence enough thought. Though I don't quite understand how な is used in 自らが人**な**{こと/の} in your rephrasing. Is it simply as the copular (As used with 形容動詞)? Though I wouldn't have thought that could be used after a noun like 人. – user40476 Nov 28 '20 at 16:51
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    @Garbaz These threads may help: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/76979/9831 / japanese.stackexchange.com/q/18408/9831 – Chocolate Nov 29 '20 at 2:36
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    @Garbaz I think both 「人であることを忘れがち...」(←a bit more formal)「人なのを忘れがち...」(←a bit more casual) are equally okay in this sentence. You've seen「verb+のを忘れる」 more often probably because we more commonly say 「[dictionary form verb]のを忘れる」 or 「[continuative form verb]忘れる」 to mean "forget to do", eg 持ってくるのを忘れた, 電気を消し忘れた, rather than 持ってくることを忘れた, 電気を消すことを忘れた. – Chocolate Nov 29 '20 at 14:14
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I believe 在る here is used not as part of the copula である but in the actual literal meaning of "to exist". This is partly hinted by the use of kanji instead of kana (though it is not a 100% indicator with manga).

I.e. the meaning is roughly:

"people tend to forget that they exist as humans"

and not

"people tend to forget that they're humans"

According to デジタル大辞泉, 在る can apply to people:

5 (その存在を客観的、抽象的なものとして捉え)人が存在する。居る。「昔々、おじいさんとおばあさんが―・りました」「異を唱える人も―・る」

6 この世に生きている。生存している。「世に―・る間」

  1. (when perceiving existence as objective or abstract) people existing. to be (of an animate object). "Once upon a time, there were an old man and wife". "there are also people who disagree".

  2. to live in this world. to exist "while [I] am/exist in the world".

Another example that comes to my mind is this line from the song Hemisphere (RahXephon Opening):

僕は灰になるまで僕で在り続けたい

I want to keep existing as me until I turn into ashes

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    I think this で在る is just a copula regardless of whether it's in kanji. What's wrong with the translation "people tend to forget that they're humans"? The last example is "I want to keep being myself", not "I want to keep existing" nor "I want to survive". To say "to exist as a human", we have to say 人としてある, not 人である. – naruto Nov 27 '20 at 23:37
  • @naruto: AFAIK である is equivalent to だ but 人だこと does not work. I admit "exist as humans" is not a good translation but I tried to keep the literal equivalence. – Igor Skochinsky Nov 27 '20 at 23:47
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    That's simply because the attributive form of だ is not だ but な. The sentence in question can be rephrased to 人は自らが人なことを忘れがちです, although this sounds colloquial. – naruto Nov 27 '20 at 23:49
  • ^ I agree with なるとさん. It can even be rephrased as 人は自らが人なのを忘れがちだ. – Chocolate Nov 28 '20 at 2:58

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