358 - ことがある

Today we're looking at こと.

The meaning of こと as a noun is technically "thing" (事), but it also has some grammatical functions, as you may already know.

One of the most important grammar hurdles of N5 and N4 is mastering the use of こと at the end of verbs.


Generally speaking the grammatical function of こと when it attaches to the end of the verb is to make the verb into a noun, much like the suffix "-ing" in English:

食べる(たべる // to eat
食べること(たべること // eating

That example is quite simple, but you might find yourself getting confused when こと is changing an entire phrase into a noun.

For example:

レインコートを着る。
レインコート を きる。
I wear a raincoat.
Literally: "raincoat + を + wear."

レインコートを着ること
レインコート を きる こと
wearing a raincoat
Literally: "raincoat + を + wear + こと"

Are you with me so far?

Because now comes the cool part. We can add a predicate (typically a verb, です/だ, or an i-adjective) to the end of a "こと phrase" in order to make a slightly more complex phrase:

レインコートを着ることが好きです。
レインコート を きる こと が すき です。
I like wearing raincoats.
Literally: "raincoat + を + wear + こと + が + liking + です."

In very basic terms*, the subject of this sentence is "wearing a raincoat." All subjects are nouns. Thus we need こと to make the phrase "wear a raincoat" into "wearing a raincoat."

*Note: I say "in basic terms" because I think it's dangerous to ever start assigning subjects to sentences in Japanese. Well, not "dangerous," but certainly problematic. The first problem is that we're clearly trying to assign English labels to a Japanese sentence. The second problem is that I believe many teachers and books will often identify words as subjects which I don't think are subjects. Long story short: Let's not worry about the subjects of Japanese sentences. I doubt you're thinking about them when you speak your native language, yeah?

Anyways, I digress. We now know how こと can make a verb or verb phrase into a noun, which can then complement verbs and whatnot later in the sentence. Today's grammar point looks at a specific case of this happening...


JLPT N4: ~ことがある (there are times when; sometimes)

By adding ことがある (Literally, "thing + が + there is) to the end of a verb, we can say something along the lines of "there are times when (I) VERB" or "(I) sometimes (VERB)."

An example:

雨が激しい時は、レインコートを着ることがあります
あめ が はげしい とき は、 レインコート を きる こと が あります。
When there is heavy rain, I sometimes wear a raincoat.
Literally: "rain + が + intense + time + は, + raincoat + を + wear + ことがあります."

The usage of ことがあります here indicates that when there is heavy/intense rain, I sometimes wear a raincoat.
I don't always wear a raincoat when there is heavy rain. But there are times when I do.


Construction:

Take a negative or positive verb in plain present tense:

行く(いく // go
行かない(いかない // not go

Then add ことがある:

行くことがあるいくことがある // there are times when one goes
行かないことがあるいかないことがある // there are times when one does not go

A simpler way to write that would be:

V るV ないことがある


Example Town

遅い時間にスーパーに行くと、目当ての物がないことがある
おそい じかん に スーパー に いく と、 めあて の もの が ない こと が ある。
When I go to the supermarket late, there are times when the thing I'm looking for isn't there.
Literally: "late + time + に + supermarket + に + go + と, + object / purpose / aimed for (thing) + の + thing + が + there is not + ことがある."

Notice in this example that the final verb is in plain form. This is because it is a somewhat casual sentence. More formal sentences would end in ます-form:

激しい運動をすると、頭が痛くなることがあります
はげしい うんどう を する と、 あたま が いたく なる こと が あります。
Sometimes when I work out really hard, I get headaches.
Literally: "intense + exercise + を + do + と, + head + が + painful + become + ことがあります."


年のせいか、最近自分の家の住所を思い出せないことがあります
とし の せい か、 さいきん じぶん の いえ の じゅうしょ を おもいだせない こと が あります。
Maybe it's because of my age, but recently there are times when I can't remember my address.
Literally: "year / age + の + fault + か, + recently + oneself / one's own + の + address + を + cannot recall + ことがあります."


Level-Up Time

So, in my constructions above, I sort of lied to you.

The thing is, this sentence won't always end in ~ことある.

It can also end in ~ことある when we want to say "there are also times when..."

For example:

休みの日は、一日中寝て過ごすこともあります
やすみ の ひ は、 いちにちじゅう ねて すごす こと も あります。
On my days off, there are also times when I just spend the whole day sleeping.
Literally: "holiday / day off + の + day + は, + all day + sleep (and) + pass / spend + こともあります."

Last but not least, note that you can change ~ことがある to ~ことはない / ~ことはありません to say "there are never times when..."

Why do we use は here instead of が? Well, it actually depends a bit on the context of the sentence. You won't necessarily always use が for "there are times when" and は for "there are never times when." The reason は is used in the following sentence is that it is emphasizing a contrast (remember that we saw は being used for contrast in the lesson [NDL #315] - JLPT N5: は~が、~は):

1日3食しっかり食べることを心がけていますが、忙しい時は食事を抜くこともあります。でも、朝食を抜くことはありません
いちにち さんしょく しっかり たべる こと を こころがけています が、 いそがしい とき は しょくじ を ぬく こと も あります。 でも、 ちょうしょく を ぬく こと は ありません。
I try to eat three full meals per day, but I sometimes miss meals when I'm busy. However, I never skip breakfast.
Literally: "one day + three meals + firmly / reliably + eating (=eat + thing) + を + am aiming to do + but, + busy + time + は + meal + を + omit + こともあります. + but / however, + breakfast + を + omit + ことはありません."

Sorry to end on such a long example, but that's all for this lesson. ^^

Hopefully I didn't confuse you too much.




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