Using “~ga suru” (〜がする) to express feeling or sensing something in Japanese

By | August 27, 2017

In this post I’d like to discuss a grammar construct that I had not explicitly learned into fairly late in my Japanese studies. I saw it used often but until I researched it I didn’t understand it completely. The pattern is  “[noun] + ga suru”. 

First, before we talk about the combination of “ga” and “suru”, I want to look at what they mean separately.

“ga” has several purposes, but it is commonly used to describe the subject of a verb. I wrote about it in some detail in this post. To give a simple example as a refresher:

  • 僕が勝った [boku ga katta]
  • *I* won.

Here I have emphasized the “I” with asterisks to give some sense of the nuance of “ga”. On the other hand, saying “僕は勝った” would be more like “Oh me? I won”. In other words, it establishes me as the topic and then talks about that.

There are some other uses of が, for example:

  • 〜が分かる [~ ga wakaru]:  You would expect the “wo” particle (を) to be used here, but が is usually correct
  • 〜が好き [~ ga suki]: “ga” is often used instead of “wo” with words like 好き and 嫌い
  •  日本語が読める [~nihongo ga yomeru]: “ga” is often used with a potential verb instead of” wo”
  • 〜するが [~suru ga] “ga” is often used after verbs to connect to something which follow, possibly with the nuance of “but”

As for “suru”, this verb is often used in a generic sense to mean “to do”, as in:

  • どうする? [dou suru?]
  • What are you going to do?

Also, you see it very commonly used after nouns to turn them into verbs. For example:

  • 勉強する [benkyou suru]: study
  • 洗濯する [sentaku suru]: do the laundry
  • 外食する [gaishoku suru]: eat out

So now we come to the combination of these, “~ga suru”. There are two primary meanings for this:

  • A subject does an action (ex: 僕が勝った)
  • Something is felt or sensed

Here are a few example sentences:

  • 吐き気がする [hakike ga suru]: feel nautious
  • 頭痛がする [zutsuu ga suru]: have a headache
  • 寒気がする [samuke ga suru]: feel a chill
  • (変な)味がする [hen na aji ga suru]:  have a (weird) taste
  • (いい)匂いがする [ii nioi ga suru]: have a (good) smell
  • 物音がする [monooto ga suru]: hear a sound  (or: “there was a sound”)
  • (嫌な)予感がする[iya na yokan ga suru]: have a (bad) feeling/premonition, often used for negative feelings
  • 〜気がする [~ki ga suru]: have a feeling that ~

The Japanese->Japanese dictionary describes this usage more technically as: (with my English translation below)

ある状態・現象の起きたことやその存在がおのずと感じられる

Spontaneously feeling the existence or occurrence of a certain condition or phenomenon.

(Also see the Japanese->English diction here with a few other examples)

 

Mini quiz: If 腰痛 (read as youtsuu or koshitsuu) means “back pain”, how would you say “my teacher has back pain”?

 

 

 

 

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