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もし戦いになったら作戦変更だ

The translation of this sentence in context is "If they start fighting, I'll change my strategy". My question is, why would you choose to use だ in this situation instead of する? It's something that seems to be natural and comes back a lot and I have a hard time grasping. Wouldn't する be more precise? What is the difference between the two?

Edit: After a couple of comments, I will add this because I think it clarifies well the confusion. I'm trying to put myself in a Japanese setting where a lot is omitted and the information you have is "change strategy". Knowing this, and knowing that you're about to potentially take this action, you can either say "It will be" with だ or "I will do" with する. To a non Japanese (my frame of reference is English and French), "I will do" seems like the better option because it adds the information that it's an action instead of a statement. However, it seems like it's the opposite that's natural in Japanese. How would you explain that?

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  • Related[Difference between [Noun]する vs [Noun]をする vs [Noun]だ](japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/29519/…) Oct 2 at 9:33
  • @kimiTanaka Close question, but the sentences in your link are easy to understand. This is because it's a sentence describing an action in the past, which means that you can state that "it was" with no information. In this case the person is doing the action and, in English or French, you can't just state something that you do or will do without precision. Another way to look at it is that the sentences used in the other questions all have a translation in english, but here they both translate to "I'll change my strategy". Knowing this, an English speaker would expect to see する instead of だ.
    – Simon
    Oct 2 at 10:08
  • @Simon no they do not translate to the same thing here. "We will change our strategy" vs "there will be a change of strategy". As for the actual difference in nuance in Japanese, I am not sure. だ feels more natural in your particular sentence somehow.
    – a20
    Oct 2 at 10:14
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    Isn’t it like “(Our next course of action) will be a change of strategy”?
    – aguijonazo
    Oct 2 at 11:00
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    Actually, it’s not a neutral statement. This だ is not quite interchangeable with politer です. In that sense, it’s kind of similar to the だ you use when you have just discovered something. I’m sure someone will have a good explanation.
    – aguijonazo
    Oct 2 at 14:07
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It is gradually known that various grammaticalized copula-ending constructions play key roles in the Japanese grammar. For this reason, Japanese as a whole exhibits strong preference for noun predicate in comparison to average European languages. (FYI there is a book (didn't read) recently published in English that claims it is an areal feature in Asia-Pacific, but Japanese still as an extreme example of it.)

More specifically, that type of expression in your example is often classified as 動作性名詞述語文. 動作性名詞 refers to the bare stem of suru-verbs (勉強, 買い物, and 変更), which serve somewhat as English gerund. Among their usages, the description is very clear for your case (source):

a. 未来時における成立が発話時以前に既に確定している事象、または、
b. ある条件の下でその成立が確定するような事象
((a) an event whose future occurrence is determined prior to the point of utterance, or (b) an event determined to occur under a certain condition.)

By using this construction here, you mean it shall (destined to) happen when the condition is met, or declare the decision practically a done deal to that effect.

The pragmatic difference between e.g. もし戦いになったら作戦変更する is that, ~する represents a strong will of speaker towards a future with possible uncertainty, while ~だ is not that passionate but rather like talking as a matter of course or already planned.

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    "To eat" is not a verb? Anyway, I think this comment is very helpful. The clash between the languages is also only present when planning to do an action yourself. If you observe, you speak about someone else or you speak about the past, there is no problem, but when doing or planning to do an action, you would precise that you will do it (in a Romance language). My conclusion is that even when speaking about yourself, specifying that it's an action isn't really important in Japanese. I still don't see the difference between the two sentences, but I guess I'll take it as that for now.
    – Simon
    Oct 3 at 6:30
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    @Simon I should have written "not contain a main verb". And your following remark is interesting for me too. In the Japanese mindset, you declare a future action in the name of yourself means you made up your mind to do it at that very moment. When you have a plan, either by you or others, or know of natural consequence it needs to be done, the action is supposed to be automatic no matter who will be the doer (unless it really matters). So it is still an action (gerund means verbal noun) but subjectless. Oct 3 at 7:37
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    @Simon "To eat" is an infinitive which function as nouns. Consider "To see is to believe" is equation "N1==N2". In English, we have numerous ways of forming nouns from verbs: "conclude" => "conclusion". Try the following experiment for a month or so, when you wish to write a word derived from a verb (like conclusion from conclude) try to rewrite the sentence only using the verb (sometimes you'll have to be creative). When you're tempted to use an abstract noun derived from an adjective (freedom from free) try the same experiment. If you seriously try this, you might be surprised.
    – A.Ellett
    Oct 3 at 14:52
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    Yes, Japanese expression strategies are often very different. In particular, agents are de-emphasized and subjects are noticeably less likely to be agentive. The idea here is that the change in strategy itself is emphasized, rather than the person who will enact it. You can sort of get this effect in English with circumlocutions like "a change in strategy is called for". Oct 4 at 0:07
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    The same idea explains the behaviour of adjectives like 好き, 欲しい etc. - liking or wanting is seen as a relationship between two things, more than an act by the liker/wanter upon the liked/wanted. Cure Dolly touches on this in several videos (I don't have a good specific reference handy). Oct 4 at 0:10
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Some Japanese nouns can function as -suru verbs. That means that these nouns can be expressed as in a state of being in reality and as in a state of doing whatever their assumed function of existing in reality is, which can lead to the type of grammatical ambiguity that you are experiencing. (To expound on the second sentence: a waterwheel is often moving. It does not move without some form of human interaction, but when you paint a mental picture of one, it may very likely be moving, which means that this state does not need to be implied with a verb, but can be for increased clarity.)

To me, it is the difference between saying "If they start fighting, I/they/he/she will change the strategy." (for suru) and "If they start fighting, there will be a strategical change/change of strategy." (for da) There is a change in perception or emphasis when comparing these two variations.

I am not 100% sure of the correctness of this answer, though, as desu appaears to effectively be a shortening of desuru, with de being used to- seemingly, from the standpoint of this question, redundantly- a means, time, or location.

It may just come down to intentional omittance for practicality's sake.

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  • desu is most commonly thought to derive from de arimasu, not de suru (although Wiktionary lists that as a possiblity). Oct 4 at 0:13

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