〇〇を好きだ and 〇〇が好きだ

Discussion in '日本語 (Japanese)' started by kaito, Jun 5, 2008.

  1. kaito Senior Member


    can anyone explain the difference ?
  2. AnubisMarco

    AnubisMarco Member

    Ituzaingó, Buenos Aires
    Argentinian Spanish
    Well, I've never listened about ~好きだ.

    So, possibly, I'm wrong... But, as I know, ~好きだ, emphasizes the object.
  3. kewongjapan Member

    I have never heard someone use ~を好きだ either. The が in ~が好きだ creates an emphasis on 好きだ (preference, or liking for something)
  4. Ocham Senior Member

    In grammatical logic, を is expected to appear right after the object, but a language is not always logical. In case of 好きだ、好きです、 が which should be put after the subject is used after the object. In case of 愛する、愛している, though they are similar in meaning, を is used after the object as in あなたを愛している(I love you.).

    I don't know why が is used here. It is quite exceptional, but is quite often used.
  5. kaito Senior Member

    Now that's quite confusing, to me 〇〇を好きだ is the exceptional case.
    So when Japanese say 好きだ are they actually thinking of the verb right?
    Maybe 〇〇を好き is an euphemistic way to say 〇〇を好く ?
  6. AnubisMarco

    AnubisMarco Member

    Ituzaingó, Buenos Aires
    Argentinian Spanish
    Well, in this case... 好き(だ) is not a verb... It's an adjective NA.
    Maybe there is your confusion, too. They "infinitive conjugation" is 好きだ (in colloquial form).
    When we translate the "〇〇を好きだ", we use to say "I like/love 〇〇". Like and love are verbs, but in Japanese 好きis an adjective. and they conjugate the adjectives, too...

    And if there is a "好く" verb, i'm not sure when it's its use ^^U.
    Perhaps it's how you say, but actually, I've never heard of it in "use".
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2008
  7. Ocham Senior Member

    I don't think 好きだ is an adjective. I still believe 好きだ to be a verb.
    What is confusing most is that we use が after an object. And it is
    exceptional, because when we use 好む which is another version of "like",
    we put を after an object:

    私は本を読むこと好きだ。I like reading books.
    私は読書好む。       I like reading books.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2008
  8. holynightfever Member

    Sheffield, UK
    I'm no expert but I've been taught that 'suki' is a -na adjective, not a verb. If it was a verb it would not be used with the declarative 'da' and would not conjugate like an adjective!

    But, I think I can guess what you mean about it being used euphemistically... do you mean as in directly 'loving' someone in a physical sense? ;)
  9. Ocham Senior Member

    Hello, holynight
    I'm not an expert, either. Grammatically speaking, we actually call "suki-na" 形容動詞 (literally: adjective verb). What is different from usual adjectives is that 形容動詞 has a kind of conjugation. When we say 私の好きな本(my favorite book), it works as an adjective. But when it is used with a subject (私は(I), 彼は(He)...) as in 私はその本が好きだ( I like the book), I believe, it works more like a verb. And more formal way to say 私はその本が好きだ is 私はその本が好きです/好きである
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2008
  10. holynightfever Member

    Sheffield, UK
    Thanks Ocham, there's a lot of information there that is new to me.

    I have not seen 'suki de aru' before. Is this commonly used? In which situations is it appropriate?
  11. kaito Senior Member

    No, both refer to the same loving/liking, one is more direct (someone else used the word "active") than the other.
    Thats my assumption at least.

    だ is short for de aru.
    である is appropriate if you intend to write a novel (I'm not being sarcastic here) or something.

    Funny enough I never looked at the single kanjis in the compound, just the compound itself and the whole compound is translated as "adjectival noun".

    This has been very interesting so far, thanks :)
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2008
  12. Ocham Senior Member

    Hello, holy...
    好きである is not commonly used. It is old and too formal.

    私は○○が好きだ。informal and colloquial
    私は○○が好きです。natural and polite
    私は○○が好きである。old and too formal
  13. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Moderator Note:

    This thread has been crowded with a few topics. ;) I have taken the liberty of moving the posts about the use of adverbial forms to a new thread.

    This thread also discusses whether 好きだ is a verb or an adjective. I might have made a new thread for this topic but it is too intricately mingled with the main discussion to split them neatly. Besides, this may be a very important point for exploring the differences between を好きだ and が好きだ. It remains in the thread for the time being.

    Happy discussion,
    Flam, moderator
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2008
  14. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Constructions を好きだ and が好きだ have little difference in meaning. The differences are mostly grammatical than semantic. I was making a list of sentences where one is preferable over the other but lost it on an unfortunate PC shutdown. I will try rewriting it soon.
  15. kaito Senior Member

    Yes sometimes when you have 2 が's it's very confusing to know who likes who but when the situation doesn't force it and you choose to use it, doesn't it feel more direct ?
  16. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Off the top of my head I can only say that the construction "-o suki da" sounds more old-fashioned than "-ga suki da" ceteris paribus. I find it is most plausible that 好き is a noun or a na-adjective derived from the adverbial form of the verb 好く (see here). Postposition -o may be the legacy of the derivation from the verb. Another adjective that is related with a verb comes to mind but people are seldom aware of the etymology of 欲しい.

    The line of demarcation between verbs and adjectives are more blurry in Japanese than in Indo-European languages. Japanese adjectives have tensed inflections just like verbs. Japanese verbs can modify nouns without much outward change. Still, we can say that 好きだ is morphologically an adjective. It is similar to a transitive verb in that it takes a second argument (like the object of a verb) but adjectives across languages are known to take a second argument ("私は蛇が怖い," "She is jealous of time" etc.). If there is a quirkiness about 好きだ, it is probably the use of -o for making the object noun. My next post in this thread is going to be a comparison of 好きだ with other adjectives that take a second argument.
  17. kaito Senior Member

    Sounds interesting.
    これを欲しい gives quite a few results on google.
  18. gsantise New Member

    English - USA
    Very interesting question for a linguist but I'm sure you'll have most natives heads spinning trying to tease out the difference.

    I'm not a native but I can think of some sentences that might illustrate how in common Japanese usage 好き is a huge blurry area.

    Honestly, most of the time I hear people dropping any particles before 好き and based on the context you will surely be understood.

    For example, 彼のこと好きだった (I used to love him)
    Using more strict grammar 彼のことが好きだった。

    Using を

    彼のことを好きな人がいない。 (There's no one that loves him).

    Using が

    (わたしは)彼が好きだ。= I like him.

    Using は

    は好きな人がいない。 (There's no one that he likes.)

    Using には

    には好きな人がいない. (There's no one in particular he likes).

    So at least in the example I gave the を operates as it usually does, i.e. to point to the object that receives the action. In this case, it seems to work because its part of what looks like a dependent clause to me (meaning you would never see "彼のことを好きなひと” totally by itself because it doesn't make a sentence... but I'm no expert. I hope this gives some help. After that, I defer to the natives to correct any of my mistakes and offer more examples.
  19. holynightfever Member

    Sheffield, UK
    Fairly off-topic here, but why is it 'kare no koto'?

    I'm still trying to get my head around how koto is used.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 17, 2008
  20. gsantise New Member

    English - USA
    Well, if you´re asking about how koto is used. That´s a topic for a whole other thread because koto has a bunch of uses. The most common one that comes to mind is the construction of the gerund in Japanese. For example, ¨I like swimming¨ can easily be expressed in two ways: 水泳が好き。or 泳ぐことが好き. The second example of 泳ぐことが好き uses the gerund, making the verb act as a noun.

    Ask for your original question. In Kare no koto, the koto doesn´t literally mean anything but it serves the purpose of making it even clearer that you are talking about a romantic type of like/love.
  21. holynightfever Member

    Sheffield, UK
    Thanks gsantise.

    Yeah I've already asked about koto in other threads. I'm a beginner and it will take me some time to get a decent understanding of it. Certainly seems useful though :)
  22. Steve Hamilton New Member

    Interesting question. Ocham, Flaminius and GSantise have already explained the general rule quite well (好き is indeed a "NA" adjective-verb which takes が with its subject), but the question of why を is sometimes used remains unexplained. GSantise posts some intriguing examples, and I think is very close to the right answer with the observation that

    " を operates as it usually does, i.e. to point to the object that receives the action. In this case, it seems to work because its part of what looks like a dependent clause to me (meaning you would never see "彼のことを好きなひと” totally by itself because it doesn't make a sentence)."

    I just want to add a few thoughts.

    For those who are new to Japanese and wondering why 好き takes が, perhaps the best way to think of it is to translate 好きだ (and its various alternatives) as "is liked" or "is preferred." In other words, in Japanese, when you say that you like something, you're not so much making a statement about yourself, as about the thing you like. The key point here is to remember that は does not indicate grammatical subject, but rather "topic": it is well (if clumsily) translated in most cases as "as for X." So, when you say,


    what you're really saying is

    As for me (or even "In my case"), sushi is liked (or preferred).

    The grammatical subject of the sentence is not "watashi" it is "sushi." Thus, you would never use を here, since its function is to indicate the direct object of a verb, not the subject. (The same, of course, applies in a sentence with no "topic" indicated. すしが好きです means "Sushi is liked" and only context will tell by whom. However, in practice, there's rarely any ambiguity.)

    That leaves, however, the interesting question of why we sometimes see (or hear) ~を好きです. Before posting, I did a simple experiment (you can try it too!) by Googling the two phrases (using "da," which is more likely to appear in writing), with "wo" and with "ga." The results are . . .

    が好きだ "about 6,920,000"
    を好きだ "about 593,000"

    So it's about 10 to 1 in favour of "ga." But more importantly, if you try the Google test, you will see that virtually all the results (I admit, I haven't looked at all of them!) for を好きだ are actually "quotative" expressions, using the quotative particle と and some variation on 言う or 思う etc. For example, from Amazon.jp, there's the title of a book

    誰がおまえを好きだと言った (Who said they liked you?)

    or a pop psychology website asks (ominously)

    好きな人はあなたのことを好きだと思う? (Do you think the person you like likes you?)

    And so on for as many pages as I could bother looking at. (There is one exception,the phrase を好きになる as in 自分を好きになれないとき or 人を好きになること, about which more below.)

    At any rate, what's happening here, I think, is that the addition of 言う or 思う and their equivalents trumps the regular subject-complement pattern in が好きだ. In Japanese, when you call someone something you must (normally) use を. The key is that the "something" that you call someone is an objective complement (not necessarily a compliment!), and therefore "someone" must take を to indicate it as the object. That's complicated! But a few examples (also Googled) should clear it up.

    を馬鹿(baka)だといったんじゃないよ I didn't say you're an idiot!

    貴方(anata)は笑顔で私を嫌いだと言う You smile and say you hate me.

    And so on (note the equivalent use of "kirai da" in the second example). The pattern is

    X calls Y (a) Z.

    which in Japanese terms becomes

    X は (が) Y を Z と言う

    X は (が) Y を ばかだ と言う
    X は (が) Y を 好きだ と言う

    etc. So, to return to GSantise's example


    is another analogous use of the quotative pattern. It could be rephrased as

    彼のことを好きだ と言う人がいない

    There may indeed be a more elegant solution to the problem, but I think that this at least points the way towards one. The key point is that when is used with 好きだ (or 嫌いだと etc.), it's almost always going to be a special usage in which either the expression is

    1) quotative (as above)
    2) in a dependent clause as GSantise suggests
    3) both.

    But it's a complex subject, and I won't be surprised if someone can come up with counterexamples. So I'm looking forward to hearing if anyone has other ideas.

    At any rate, for anyone starting out, the simple rule is: use が when talking about yourself 私はすしが好きですand を when talking about what others say or feel 彼はすしを好きだといいます.

    And as for を好きになる and が好きになる, both are used with similar frequency (actually, it's about 2 to 1 in favour of "wo" according to Google) so either is probably fine in this one locution. Either way, it's almost always used attributively, and so it falls under the "dependent clause" rule.


    Steve H.

    p.s. Holynightfever, you should start a thread about "koto." I'm sure it would be very interesting.

    p.p.s. Editing back (whew, this is a complicated subject!). I just realized I left out one crucial distinction in formulating my "rule" above: it applies only in the case of "indirect quotation." If you are quoting the actual words of someone, then you would still use "ga."


    He said he likes Sushi.
    He said, "I like Sushi."

    Which raises the whole issue of direct and indirect quotation. Komatta na! In another thread, on another day, perhaps . . . Ja ne!

    Last edited: Jun 20, 2008
  23. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Thank you, Steve, for your thorough scientific answer. The main issue here was the syntactic rôle of the noun which is marked by -ga (as in 私は彼が好きだ). In my previous post I thought it to be something very akin to an object but understanding the ga-marked noun as the subject provides a framework with which to think of this phenomenon in a wider perspective.

    It is perfectly grammatical to mark the subject of da by -ga for the second sentence (XはYがばかだと言う). If the list of words that allow -ga and -o to alternate (を/が美しいという, を/が怖いという etc., etc.), then the phenomenon is not so much of a peculiarity of a limited set of adjectives as an influence from the construction or main verbs.

    In this thread we have so far covered two types of subordinate clauses where the alternation is likely to occur: the relative clause and the quotative clause. A third type of subordinate clauses for -ga/-o alternation is the negation clause (Since Japanese assigns negation to a tensed word, -nai, I think it is not too forceful to find some kind of subordination here).

    "He doesn't like you" can be expressed in two ways as below:

    Contrasting the likelihood of -o in affirmative sentences, we get amazing results. Here are the row results count for search by Google:

    を好きじゃないよ 3,950,000
    が好きじゃないよ 2,180,000

    を好きではないよ 1,640,000
    が好きではないよ 1,620,000

    を好きだよ 1,770,000
    が好きだよ 18,500,000

    It is clear that -o is preferred in negative sentences. Also of note is that -ga/-o alternation is possible in affirmative sentences. Perhaps this is the major difference between 好き and other words that we have discussed. For a reference, we can see the same tendency with 欲しい, another special adjective:

    を欲しくないよ 3,270,000
    が欲しくないよ 1,900,000

    を欲しいよ 1,430,000
    が欲しいよ 12,300,000
  24. lammn

    lammn Senior Member

    Hong Kong
    Chinese - Cantonese
    Hi Holynightfever,

    It is a custom for Japanese people to avoid speaking things too directly.
    Saying {kare ga suki} (I love him) would be too direct. Thus, people often say {kare no koto ga suki} (Literally: I like the things about him; Actual meaning: I love him) to soften the tone.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2008
  25. holynightfever Member

    Sheffield, UK
    Haha. That is really interesting. My Japanese teacher also told us that Japanese people very rarely use 'ai' because it is too direct.

    Is this just a feature of the language, or are people in Japan very reserved with their feelings generally?

    (Off-topic and probabaly inappropriate!)
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2008
  26. lammn

    lammn Senior Member

    Hong Kong
    Chinese - Cantonese
    I believe language reflects the culture of the people.
    Yes, you're right. But I think native Japanese can better address to your question.
  27. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Moderator Note:
    Those of you who are interested in the use of no koto, please continue the discussion in a previous thread about the topic.

    Those of you who are interested in romantic love in the Japanese language, society or both, unfortunately JP is strictly for language questions. Cultural Discussions forum may be the suitable venue if you can invite comparisons across cultures. For details, please contact CD moderators.

    Regards, :)

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