Expressing state in Japanese with “ni aru” and “ni natte iru”

By | July 27, 2015

In Japanese, the expressions “にある” (ni aru) and “になっている” (ni natte iru) are used to express the state of something.

“にある” is often used with words like 状態 (joutai, “state”), 状況 (joukyou, “state”) or 傾向 (keikou, “trend). Take this example sentence:

  • 体は睡眠状態にある
  • The body is in a state of sleep.

Here you can think of this sentence as meaning the body is existing in the “睡眠” (suimin, “sleep”) state.

  • 価格は上昇傾向にあります
  • The price is on a rising trend.

“になってる” is used in a similar way to express a state or condition of something. While it can literally be translated to “is becoming ~”, the “〜ている” form is also used to show an ongoing state, similar to English “it is freezing”.

  • アップデートは管理者によって無効になっています
  • Updates have been disabled by the admin.
  • この工場は生産停止になっている
  • This factory has halted production.

You can also use the past tense of these forms to show something was previously in a state, as in “にあった” or “になっていた”. Make sure you don’t confuse “になっていた with “になった”, the latter which refers to a transition rather than a state.

As you can probably tell from the tone of these sentences, these patterns have a certain formal ring to them and are most often seen in places like formal documents, news, or in a work environment. There is no need to force yourself to use them in conversational speech, but make sure you understand what they entail if you happen to come across them.

You can see two of my past posts below which talk about related expressions for describing state.

Related posts〜て-ある-tearu-saying-something-exists-in-a-certain-state/〜ている-form-used-to-express-a-state/

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2 thoughts on “Expressing state in Japanese with “ni aru” and “ni natte iru”

  1. Angel

    Thanks! I was searching for such construction all over the internet to understand next sentence …


    Should this ことにある be understood as a “trend”?

    (Why Jomon people invented such pottery? Its purpose was to boil things)

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Thanks for the comment. The “ことにある” in your example is a common pattern used to describe things like reason or objective. You can think of it being used close to it’s literal meaning, ex: “The objective is *at* …”. In English I think we have similar expressions talking about reasons and places, for example “I found the reason there.”

      Here is a page in Japanse that talks about another similar pattern where ”ことにある” is used to describe a reason.これの主な理由は+…+ということにある

      As you wrote in your translation, often these types of constructions don’t get translated literally.


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