Expressing a state with「でいる」

By | June 16, 2015

In Japanese, you may have learned that the “ている” form can be used to express a state rather than an ongoing action, like ”壊れている” (broken).

There is another way to express state using a noun or na-adjective, plus “でいる”. The “で” is the “te” form of “だ” (is), and “いる” is the same as in “壊れている”.

This pattern is commonly used to express emotional state, as in the following example:

  • 僕は何があっても平気でいる
  • No matter what happens I’ll remain calm.

You could, however, remove the でいる from the above sentence (or replace it with だ) and the meaning wouldn’t change that much.

Another way to use でいる is by conjugating いる into it’s negative potential form, いられない. The resultant expression “でいられない” means one cannot maintain a certain state.

  • 宝くじが当たったら冷静でいられないでしょう。
  • If you win the lottery I bet you won’t be able to stay calm.

You can also use it with the positive potential of the form, as seen in this expression (it’s a sentence fragment):

  • ほろ酔いでいられるお酒の量。
  • The amount of alcohol to stay buzzed.

The combination of 自分 (oneself) plus でいる means “to be oneself” and can be used in the following way:

  • 彼女といると、自分でいられる
  • When I am with her I can be myself.

You can even use the “tai” form (to want to) of いる, resulting in ”でいたい”

  • ありのままの自分でいたい
  • I just want to stay who I am.

“でいる” doesn’t really match up directly with any English expression, though you can sometimes make a natural translation on a case-by-case basis. Because of this, it can be a little difficult to understand at first. But once you start to get a feel for it, you’ll be thinking of new ways to use it no time.

Update: I originally had an incorrect title on this post. Sorry for the confusion.

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