Pardon my wordiness here, but I'm trying to wrap my head around the exact nuances of ~ようにする, together with the many other questions about it on this site (such as this, this, and this).

日本語文法ハンドブック (in section 7) lists three different definitions of ~ようにする, with examples:

  1. 無意志的な出来事が起こるように働きかけるという意味。「油をさして、ドアがスムーズに開くようにした。」
  2. 習慣的にある意志的な行動をすることを表す。「私は毎朝朝食を食べるようにした。」
  3. 出来事が実現するように努力するという意味。「今度会議にはできるだけ出るようにするよ。」

A passage about the 2nd definition's example sentence reads: 「例えば、『私は毎朝朝食を食べるようにした。』はいつも朝食を食べたということを表します。」This implies that although a common translation of ~ようにする is "try to", implying possible failure, definition 2 means that the regular action indicated by ~ようにする is done successfully without fail every time, as indicated by 「いつも」 in that sentence. So I feel that a more appropriate translation would be "try to and succeed" (as long as we're talking about a past habitual action here per definition 2).

In contrast, the highest-voted answer to this question says that ~ようにする implies a wishy-washy, passive or apologetic degree of intention, as if failure at some attempts is a very real possibility.

It seems to me that the degree of implied success varies depending on tense and whether the action is volitional or not (意志的 or 無意志的). Please help me understand if my interpretations below are correct.


The action is non-volitional and non-habitual. So this sentence does NOT imply success at making the door スムーズに開く, but merely an attempt.

今日からお酒を飲まないようにします。 I'll make sure I don't drink any more alcohol from today.

The new habitual action is volitional and placed in the future. So this does NOT imply success, but merely an attempt. Any further implication of success or failure depends on the person's reputation, although ~ようにする does not imply an impressive amount of personal determination here.

毎日歩くようにしている。 I'm trying to walk every day.

The habitual action is volitional and in the present. This does NOT imply success every day, but merely regular attempts, although success with at least the majority of these attempts would be implied.

毎日宿題をするようにしました。 I made sure that I did my homework every day.

The habitual action is volitional and past-tense. Per the description above, this DOES imply success at every attempt; the listener understands that the speaker WAS able to do their homework every day, for an unspecified period of time.

Please let me know what is correct or incorrect about these interpretations.

1 Answer 1


although a common translation of ~ようにする is "try to"

This does not seem true, and I guess from other questions you cited that it is because you perhaps confuse two expressions ~ようとする and ~ようにする, or two よう in them (they are as different as can (able) and can (container), and attach to different verb conjugations).

~ようにする is, literally parsed, "do so that —ing occurs", or "make (sure) — happen". Even if you want to translate it with "try", it is not "try to V" but "try the best so that V". I think this answer by Graham Healey is the best verbalization for its usage.

Given that, the implication of success with and without た is easy to explain: when you promise to "make it happen" it is objectively still uncertain if it does, but when you say "made it happen" it is already done.


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