Japanese phrase 〜として (~toshite) [including としても and としては]

By | June 14, 2015

In this post I’d like to go over the meaning and uses of the Japanese phrase “として”. Although it mean seem like this is the combination of the particles ”と” and “して”, the meaning of “として” isn’t the same as simply combining the meaning of these two. So I suggest you think of this a complete separate word. (In same cases this is true to a certain extent, like the combination of ”に” and ”も”).

“として” is used to represent someone’s qualifications, position, or a certain state. This may sound a little confusing, but fortunately most of the time you can just think of it as English “as” since the meaning is pretty close.

  • 僕は経験者として言ってるんだ。
  • I’m saying this as someone with experience.
  • 彼はあんなことをして人間として失格だ。
  • (I feel) He is a failure as a human being for doing that type of thing.
  • 技術作品として美しいと思う。
  • I think it’s beautiful as a work of art.
  • プロとして働くのが夢なんだ。
  • My dream is to work as a professional.

Since “として” modifies a verb it can be considered an adverb in this usage.

A phrase made with a noun plus として can be used to describe another noun using の。

  • としての人生を考えた.
  • I thought about my life as a man.

As with many other particles (such as に), the particle は (pronounced “wa”) can be added after it to indicate a certain condition applies for this case, but not for something else.

  • 彼女は友達としてはいいけど。。。
  • She is good as a friend but…. (the implication is she is not good as something else, possibly as a lover)
  • アイディアとしてはいいんだけど、実用できない気がする。
  • It’s good as an idea, but I feel it cannot be put into real practice.

The particle も can also be put at the end of として to mean “also as”:

  • SF映画としても面白い。
  • It is also interesting as a SF (science fiction) movie.

This pattern can be used more than once just like the も can be (in the form 〜も〜も):

  • 女性としても人間としても尊敬できます。
  • I can respect her both as a women and as a human.

There are some cases where you may see として, but rather than the above usage it is instead a “te” form of the pattern “(volitional form) + とする”, which means “to try to do something”.

  • 泥棒は走ろうとして転んだ。
  • The robber tried to run and slipped.

There is another completely different use of として, which is when it is used to mean “… assuming”. This is similar to the expression “〜とすると”, and can be recognized because the word before として is usually a verb in the dictionary form (i.e. っする), whereas in the “as” usage discussed about the word is always a noun.

  • 買い物に行くとして、何時に帰ってくるの?
  • Assuming you are going out shopping, what time will you come back?



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32 thoughts on “Japanese phrase 〜として (~toshite) [including としても and としては]

  1. Billy Cheung

    Hello, I have a question. What does to shite here mean? I don’t really understand the sentence. 🙂

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Here you can think of “窓口” meaning a go-between, interface, or contact between customers and some other location (probably the internals of a company). The “として” part simply means like “as”. I’ll roughly translate the entire sentence as that may help more.

      “Going forward, we need to put continued effort into improving how we operate as a interface to our customers.”

      Since I don’t know the context, I wouldn’t use this translation anywhere, it’s just to give you an idea of what the sentence means.

  2. Tom

    What is the difference between として and で?
    で is also used with the sense of “as” although it seems less common to be found with this sense but still I wonder if there is a difference between the two…

    1. locksleyu Post author

      I think “で” maybe sometimes can be used in the sense of “as”, though I think literally it is closer to “~is~”. Generally I feel “として” is more natural, and explicit, to say “as”.

      Can you give me a specific example?

      1. Tom

        Thanks for replying.
        Well, when studying Japanese more in depth it is usually said that the closest literal translation or function of で is “as” in English. It characterises a state, form or condition. として in my eyes serves the same purpose as で .


        1. locksleyu Post author

          While “で” can mean “as” in a few cases, in general it does not. Here is a few examples:

          旅人で、詩人です。 => I am a traveller *and* poet.

          僕は車で行った. => I went *by* car

          教科書で勉強してる => I’m studying *with* a book.

          “as” does not fit with any of the above.

  3. Eirini

    Hello ! Thanks for the post it is really helpful !
    I have a question on it, I saw として in a sentence like this : 美味しいカフェでゆっくりとした時間が過ごせます
    I am assuming it is referring to 時間 but I am confused about it’s meaning here , is it supposed to be , time that passes slowly ? I am not sure as to how it would translate in this sentence

    Thank you !

      1. rezardes

        Isn’t ゆっくり “と” adverb? I think the abovementioned sentence is the example of using “と“ adverb.

        1. locksleyu Post author

          Yes, I think ゆっくり, with or without the と can be considered a verb (like “slowly”). Though that was not really the topic of this article (:

    1. locksleyu Post author

      I don’t know of any phrase “atsuide”, at least in common Tokyo dialect. Maybe you mean “atsui desu” (暑いです), which means “it is hot”.

    1. locksleyu Post author

      They don’t have the exact same meaning. A good way to remember “~ toshite” is “as a ~~~”.

      “demo” can be translated as “but” or sometimes as “even”.

      However, “toshitemo” can have a similar meaning to “demo”, when used after an noun.

  4. sandali

    is なければならないmeaning ‘should not be’ thank for your replys

    1. locksleyu Post author

      This literally means “if (something) doesn’t exist, it is bad”, but is typically used for when something is necessary.

      “お金がなければならない” => “(I) have to have money”

      If part of a verb, it has a similar meaning:

      “食べなければならない” => “(I) have to eat”.

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Can you check these pages I wrote which talk about が? Let me know if you still need help after that.




  5. Astic

    hello, could you please help me?
    in this sentence “アレンジはみんなでやる” I can’t understand the meaning of “として”

    1. Astic

      * sorry, I didn’t write the entire sentence in the previous message, the whole sentence is this:

      1. locksleyu Post author

        Without the full context I can’t give you a full explanation, but in this case it looks like it means “Assuming that we do the arrangement with everyone…”

  6. ocdelightful

    Hi! I’ve found this sentence: そんな手で私の目をごまかそうとしても無駄だ on jisho.org. It supposedly translates to “you can’t fool me with a trick like that”. What does the sou + toshite construction mean here? Is it something like “it looks like you are trying to fool me and if so, that’s useless”?

    1. locksleyu Post author

      “~ou + to suru” is an expression that means “to try”, and is often used to express something that failed (to contrast with “~te miru” that lacks that nuance).

      So the sentence can be literally translated as “Even if you try to trick me with that method, it’s useless.”


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