I have a question about the vocabulary item 対する and its translation in Level 8. I’ve searched previous threads and I think the word itself may have been discussed, but I don’t think this particular point has come up before. Apologies if it has.
The main translation for 対する in level 8 is “to compare with”. Other accepted translations are “to face each other, to oppose, to compare, to contrast, to contrast with”, and the mnemonic is introduced as follows: “When you do (する) versus you’re putting two things together to compare with each other”, referring back to the 対 kanji.
Interestingly, none of the three example sentences for this vocabulary item use “to compare with” as a translation (or any of the accepted alternative translations for that matter) and only in one of those sentences a comparison is being made.
From my understanding, 対する is a rather special verb in that it’s almost exclusively used in a construction like Nに対するN, often lacking an object of “comparison” in the way it would be used in English. I’ve selected a few example sentences from jisho.org to illustrate the point:
- 母に対する義務だけで教会に行きます。I only go to church out of duty to my mother.
- 彼らは罪に対する罰を受けるべきだ。They should face a penalty for their crimes.
- 彼は地震に対する準備ができている。He is ready for an earthquake.
- 彼は片親の家族に対する同情がない。He has no sympathy for single parent families.
In all these instances (and the vast majority of example sentences on jisho.org are similar), 対する doesn’t translate to a verb in English at all, but instead becomes a preposition that is governed by the noun (or adjective in English) that 対する precedes in Japanese.
In fact, there’s no good way of reformulating any of these sentences in English to include the verb “to compare with”, yielding a translation that changes the meaning of the sentence and/or has questionable grammar, e.g. *He has no sympathy compared with single parent families.
There are uses of Nに対するN that would be translated as “compared with” or “in contrast to”, such as in the example below that I’ve sourced from learnjapanesedaily.com, but it remains a limited usage of a specific construction rather than a fully fledged verb:
- 去年に対する今年の冬はなんとなく暖かいです。In contrast to last year, this winter is so wam.
So I was wondering if it would make more sense to change the vocabulary item to the actual grammatical construction rather than the verb alone and change the translation of the item so it becomes less misleading. I think a learner wanting to express what “to compare (with)” does in English would more frequently use forms of 比べる or even 匹敵する instead of 対する. But perhaps I’m wrong?