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強くさせてくれたこと, by Google Translate and by what I can infer from the context, is something that made me strong. However, upon further analyzing the grammar, I felt something was not right. To be specific, shouldn't "something that made me strong" be 強くならせてくれたこと, and shouldn't 強くさせてくれたこと be something that made me make something else strong?

If we construct this sentence from 辞書形,

  • 強くなる → (I) become strong (自分)が強くなる
  • 強くする → (I) make (something) strong (自分)が(何か)を強くする

  • 強くならせる → (Something) makes (me) become strong (何か)が(自分)に強くならせる
  • 強くさせる → (Something) makes (me) make (something else) strong (何か)が(自分)に(他の何か)を強くさせる

  • 強くならせてくれたこと → Something that made me strong
  • 強くさせてくれたこと → Something that made me make something else strong

Is this correct? If this interpretation is correct, does that mean Google Translate is wrong? From the context of 強くさせてくれたこと I'm sure the author meant Something that made me strong instead of Something that made me make something else strong. Is this an instance where the natives' usage contradicts the grammar? (Like in English how we like to say 'off of' in speech where it's actually grammatically wrong)

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  • Hint: your parsing of ならせる is off. On its own, this is more likely to be interpreted as the potential form of verb 鳴【な】らす "to make a noise; to break wind". 😄 Nov 23 at 21:47
  • ならせる is unidiomatic but you can indeed say (自分を)強くしてくれたこと. I think we had a similar question earlier.
    – aguijonazo
    Nov 24 at 0:08
  • For the particular case, I think your reasoning is correct and 強くさせてくれた is technically wrong.
    – sundowner
    Nov 24 at 0:43
  • I have a theory... Just like we say 早くして! instead of 早くなって!, here we are implicitly saying (自分の速度を)早くして, so we use する and not なる. By this logic, the "something else" in question with 強くさせてくれたこと would actually just be 自分のこと. This makes sense, but can anyone confirm it ?
    – dvx2718
    Nov 24 at 2:23

1 Answer 1

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So Google Translate is often wrong, and generally should not be trusted regardless, but I do not think that is actually the issue in this case.

I think the fundamental issue here is that in Japanese, なる is usually only used for things which happen without (substantial) external influence. 強くなる means "to become strong", but it really means "to become strong" through one's own efforts or natural development, etc. Therefore, using the causative with なる just usually doesn't even make logical sense. In Japanese, you technically cannot be "made to become something", because the act of making something happen to someone else fundamentally makes what occurs not be "becoming" (なる) anymore.

In general, when somebody else causes the development to occur instead of it happening on its own, then する is used instead of なる:

  • 強くなる - "to become strong" (on one's own)
  • 強くする - "to make (something/someone) strong"

Another way of thinking about this is that in practice, the causative form of なる effectively turns out to just be する, not ならせる. (This is why, as Eiríkr Útlendi pointed out, ならせる would usually not even be interpreted as a form of なる at all, but instead a form of 鳴らす.)

The difference between する and させる for many types of actions is also kinda ambiguous, and in cases such as this where する is effectively already expressing a causative action, する and させる can often be somewhat interchangeable.

So I believe that in this case, 強くさせてくれたこと and 強くしてくれたこと both mean basically the same thing, which is "the thing that made (someone) strong for me". The "someone" here is unstated, so it technically does not have to be the speaker, but unless there's something to suggest otherwise, the general assumption, I think, would be that since the speaker was receiving the favor (くる) they were also the one who received the strengthening as well.

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