928 - をきっかけに(して)

JLPT N3: をきっかけに(して)《after...; when...; was the reason that...

We've actually had an entire lesson on the supremely useful word きっかけ before.

On its own, きっかけ means something like "motive" or "impetus," but in practical terms it's useful for asking people why they started doing something.

For example, as we saw in the lesson mentioned above, you could ask someone:

サッカーを始めたきっかけはなんですか?
サッカー を はじめた きっかけ は なん です か?
Why did you start playing soccer? // What made you start playing soccer?
Literally: "soccer + を + started + motive + は + what + です + か?"


And if you're living in Japan, a question you'll be frequently asked is:

日本に来たきっかけはなんですか?
にほん に きた きっかけ は なん です か?
What was your reason for coming to Japan? // What made you come to Japan?
Literally: "Japan + に + came + motive + は + what + です + か?"


If we wanted to use a bit more literal translation, perhaps we'd say, "What was your motive for coming to Japan?" or "What was the impetus for you coming to Japan?"

If you want to see a sample response to the above question, along with a less formal version of it, you can go and check out the lesson on きっかけ. In this lesson, however, we're talking about grammar!

That said, the "grammatical usage" we're talking about isn't all that different from what I've described above. The main difference is that we're looking at the forms in which this word might appear in the JLPT N3 test:

- きっかけにして
- きっかけ
- きっかけ

These are used in compound sentences that follow this pattern:
 
catalyst +  をきっかけにして
をきっかけに
がきっかけで
 + new action

For example, in the following sentence, "meeting my French girlfriend" is the catalyst for "I started drinking wine." Accordingly, we can say:

meeting my French girlfriend + をきっかけに + I started drinking wine

In Japanese, that's...

フランス人の彼女との出会いをきっかけに、ワインを飲むようになりました。
フランスじん の かのじょ と の であい をきっかけに、 ワイン を のむ ようになりました。
After I met my French girlfriend, I started drinking wine.
Literally: “French person + の + girlfriend + と + の + meeting / encounter + をきっかけに, + wine + を + drink + ように + became.”


As you may have noticed just by looking at this first example, the word coming directly before をきっかけに (or the other forms shown below) will be a NOUN.

 

Here's an example with をきっかけにして

親友のをきっかけにして、自分の人生について真剣に考えるようになった。
しんゆう の し をきっかけにして、 じぶん の じんせい について しんけん に かんがえる ようになった。
After my best friend’s death, I started to think seriously about my own life.
Literally: “best friend + の + death + をきっかけにして, + oneself + の + life + about / regarding + serious + に + think + ように + became.”


As is shown in our first two examples, clauses containing the phrase ~ようになった (an N4 grammar point we have covered before) are relatively common after をきっかけに(して), but those are not the only types of phrases that can come after it, as you'll see in our examples below.

 

We won't always use the word "after" in our English translation, as you can see in our final two examples...

妻の妊娠をきっかけに、きっぱりタバコをやめられた。
つま の にんしん をきっかけに、 きっぱり たばこ を やめられた。
When my wife got pregnant, I found the resolve to give up smoking completely.
Literally: “wife + の + pregnancy + をきっかけに, + decisively / distinctly + cigarettes / tobacco + を + was able to quit.”


その動画を見たことがきっかけで、パイプオルガンに興味を持ち始めました。
その どうが を みた こと がきっかけで、 パイプオルガン に きょうみ を もち はじめました。
Seeing that video was the reason I first took interest in the pipe organ.
Literally: “that + video + を + saw + thing + がきっかけで, + pipe organ + に + interest + を + started to hold.”

 

That's all for this one. In one of our future N2 lessons, we'll cover を契機にして (をけいきにして), which is a somewhat similar grammatical construction.