Nominalization with "to be"

I would like to know more about how nominalization works with the verb “to be”.

For example, if I want to say ”I like being a student" the rule applied to other verbs does not work here. In fact, 学生だのが好きです is wrong and (according to replies I had on HiNative) should be 学生でいるのが好きです。

Could anyone provide more explanation on this?



The copula isn’t a verb, and doesn’t take a nominaliser.


I’ll do my best, けど…

Breaking down the sentence, we have:
学生 - student
で - location particle
いる - to be, to exist (animate objects only)
の - possessive/explanatory particle
が好き - is liked (set phrase)
です - copula

So, the sentence has the literal meaning of: “(The concept of) being a student is liked (by me).” Even if we didn’t know what the で particle does here, we can infer that「学生でいる」means “to be a student” (lit. to exist at student), and combining it with「が好きです」, a set phrase meaning “is liked”, we see that the full phrase is literally translated as above. According to Tae Kim, the の particle can be used as a nominalization tool, like mentioned in your post. From lesson 3.11 (page 65 of the physical version):

The 「の」 particle in this usage essentially replaces the noun and takes over the role as the noun itself. We can essentially treat adjectives and verbs like nouns by just adding the 「の」 particle to it. The particle then becomes a generic noun, which we can treat just like a regular noun.

I’ve bolded the key phrase here. What’s important is that the の particle is turning the entire phrase before it; 学生でいる, which is a verb phrase; into a noun. This is because が好き can only be used with nouns.

As a side note: I don’t actually know why 学生だのが好きです is wrong. I would appreciate it if someone with more expertise could help me out.
Edit: I just got Leebo’d, god dammit. Look at the above comment.

Hope this helped, and welcome to WaniKani!


Not clear what you mean. “to be” is a verb, in any language.

“To be” is a verb in English.

です/だ is not a verb in Japanese. It’s a thing that goes where no verb is needed, but it’s not itself a verb.


That is very useful! ありがとございます!

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Wouldn’t the で function be more like “by means of”?

学生 is not a location, and the location marker で requires a verb of action.

So 学生でいる would be like… “existing as a student.”


Interesting, but can Xで be used in general to mean “as X”?

Actually, thinking more, it might just be the copula’s て form. But as was mentioned it’s not critical to understand the function.

That’s why I’m questioning that, yeah.


Clearly it’s the animate form of である :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ll show myself out…


Frighteningly, I wouldn’t have known that that was a joke without the small text…

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Depends on which meaning of ‘to be’ you’re talking about… it’s such a messy word

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It conjugates as a verb. It takes particles as a verb. It goes in the syntactic context of a verb. It has the semantic meaning of a verb.

I understand there is wiggle room for this to be debated at a high level of linguistics but it’s misleading and not useful to bring it up as an answer to this question.

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And yet, the thing this topic is about is one aspect of verbs it doesn’t share… So shouldn’t a distinction be made?


What? It does neither of those things. What’s the causative form of です, then? And no verbs “take particles” - particles modify the word that precedes them.

Yeah, that’s what makes it the copula.

である is a verb. です is not.


the problem (and the cause of the weird でいる) is that you’re dealing with a word by word translation. i’d say 学生の生活が面白い or some such to capture what you wanted to say, because that’s what you’d use naturally.

it’s one of those cases of “we don’t say it like that” (you’ll probably hear that sentence a lot), like “trying to find my keys” becoming “looking for my keys”, or how you’d try to avoid passive voice in english, but use it a lot in japanese, for various reasons.

the sentence is ok grammatically, but a japanese person would probably ask for clarification. they’d certainly understand you, but it’s a bit strange. like all the “i’m feeling nostalgic” in bad anime subs, instead of “that’s taking me back”. not wrong


でいる does get used, like in 幸せでいてほしい (I want you to be happy), but yeah, I’ve never actually seen something like 学生でいる in a native setting.


i could get behind 学生であること, but yeah, it’s not exactly natural spoken language.


How would you say “I like being a student”, then? Or indeed, being any noun.

Or would you just say “I like studying” instead?

i’d think about what exactly it is i like about it and say that. you can say “it’s good to be the king”, but it’s not something you’d normally say without a reason attached.