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Japanese Grammar – NI NARU and NI SURU (になる and にする)

なる (ni naru) and にする (ni suru) are both used to indicate change in Japanese.  This change can be intransitive in the case of なる (ni naru), or transitive in the case of する (ni suru).  We can also use them to imply that some kind of decision has been made.  I will help you understand the difference with some examples.

なる (ni naru) indicates change and is similar to become

なる naru is a useful Japanese verb very similar to the English word “become“.  We need to use the Japanese particle に to make it work that way in a sentence.  One thing I want you to notice right away is that it indicates a change all by itself, rather than someone or something inducing the change.  In English we would say something like “the flower is becoming beautiful”.  

hana ga kirei ni naru
(the flower is becoming beautiful)

 The flower is changing it’s state or condition right before our eyes, and we are describing that change with an adjective.  We are not restricted to adjectives, however.  Someone or something can also become another noun, as I will show with our first example below.  

A noun becomes another noun: A noun changes condition: A noun changes condition:
(noun)  (noun) ni naru (noun)  (na-adjective – na) ni naru (noun) が (i-adjective – i) ku naru
mayachan ga sensei ni naru
(maya will become a teacher.)
mayachan ga sensei ni naru
heya ga shizuka ni natta
(the room became quiet.)
heya ga shizuka ni natta
kuruma ga kitanaku natta
(the car became dirty.)
kuruma ga kitanaku natta

You might be wondering what the く is doing there in the last example.  What’s going on, Keiko!  I was introducing one more little rule: we only mark nouns and na-adjectives with  (ni) before our verb なる (naru).  If we’re using an i-adjective, then we should use (ku).  Remembering to make that small adjustment will come with time and practice.

なる (ni naru) is intransitive because there is no direct object.  In other words, the noun takes on the action all by itself.  The Japanese refer to this as a “ji verb” or “自動詞 (じどうし)”.  In English we take this concept for granted, but to learn Japanese we need to get a full grip on this because it’s a very important language component.

する (ni suru) indicates change that has happened by someone or something else.

Although にする (ni suru)  and になる (ni naru) both indicate change, there is one major difference.  The difference is that なる (ni naru) indicates something changing by itself (intransitive), while にする (ni suru) indicates something being changed by someone or something else (transitive).  Once again, we need to treat a na-adjective slightly different than an i-adjective.

(noun)  (na-adjective – na) ni suru (noun) (i-adjective – i) ku suru
へやきれいにする。 みずつめたくしよう
heya o kirei ni suru. mizu o tsumetaku shiyou.
(I will clean the room.) (Let’s cool down the water.)
heya o kirei ni suru mizu o tsumetaku shiyou
Since we have an object being directly affected by a verb in the above two examples, we need to connect them together with を (wo).  Make sure you are familiar with the Japanese “wo/o” particle in my other lesson. Notice the lack of the  with なる (ni naru) since there is no direct object!

する (ni suru) can be used to “decide on” a noun.

If you are selecting food from a menu, にする (ni suru) would be useful because are you “deciding on which noun you are about to devour in the restaurant.  You can think of this as “going with” an option or choice.      
(noun) + ni suru
kyou wa udon ni suru.
(I’ll go with udon, today.)
kyou wa udon ni suru
This works great for deciding between delicious nouns, but what if we want to decide on “doing” something?  You will need to add ことに (koto) if you plan on using any verbs with this kind of construction.  I will explain that in the next section.

なる (ni naru) and にする (ni suru) can be used with こと (koto) to “decide on” a verb.

こと (koto) is what we call a “nominalizer“.  We can use it to change a verb into a noun. We will need to do just that if we want to use になる (ni naru) or にする (ni suru) with verbs.  I am going to re-use my last example with the addition of a verb so we can justify using こと(koto).

(verb) + kotoni suru
kyou wa udon o taberu koto ni suru.
(I’ll eat udon, today.)
kyou wa udon o taberu koto ni suru

Since taberu is a verb, we need to add koto to turn it into a noun.  Let’s try it now with になる (ni naru).

(verb) + koto + ni naru
koko ni chuusha dekiru koto ni narimashita
It has been decided that I can park here.
koko ni chuusha dekiru koto ni narimashita

With this last statement, it’s not clear who made the decision.  Perhaps it was a parking attendant, or a property owner.  Maybe it was even your passenger (don’t you love backseat drivers?)  Whoever made the call, it’s not stated and so it is intransitive.  It’s even possible that the spot became available by someone simply leaving it.  That’s why I used になる (ni naru).

なる (ni naru) and にする (ni suru) can be used with よう (yoー).

We use よう (yoー) before にする (ni suru) to express an effort or intention.  

wasurenai yoー ni shimasu
I’ll try not to forget.
wasurenai yoー ni shimasu

よう (yoー) can be used before になる (ni naru) as well to express a change.  However, it does not express the speaker’s intention as it does with になる (ni suru).  A good translation is “to become able to”.

watashi no neko wa hiragana ga
kakeru yoー ni narimashita
My cat became able to write in Hiragana
watashi no neko wa hiragana ga kakeru yoー ni narimashita


Adding KA and MO to Japanese interrogatives to create new expressions Expressing Cause and Reason in Japanese: KARA
Adding KA and MO to Japanese interrogatives to create new expressions Japanese Grammar Index Expressing Cause and Reason in Japanese: KARA