LearnJapanese Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese

Special Expressions with Generic Nouns

Posted by Tae Kim

We've already learned how to use generic nouns in order to modify nouns. Now we will go over some special expression used with generic nouns.

Using 「こと」 to say whether something has happened


  1. こと - event, matter
  2. ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)
  3. 徹夜 【てつ・や】 - staying up all night
  4. 宿題 【しゅく・だい】 - homework
  5. する (exception) - to do
  6. 一人 【ひとり】 - 1 person; alone
  7. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  8. パリ - Paris
  9. お寿司 【お・す・し】- sushi
  10. 食べる 【たべ・る】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  11. 日本 【に・ほん】 - Japan
  12. 映画 【えい・が】 - movie
  13. 観る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) - to watch
  14. ヨーロッパ - Europe
  15. いい (i-adj) - good
  16. そう - (things are) that way
  17. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) - to say
  18. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) - to see
  19. ~度 【~ど】 - counter for number of times

When you combine 「こと」, the generic word for an event with 「ある」, you can talk about whether an event exists or not.


  1. 徹夜して宿題することある
    There are times when I do homework while staying up all night.
  2. 一人行くことありません
    I never go by myself.

Using the past tense of the verb with 「こと」, you can talk about whether an event has ever taken place. This is essentially the only way you can say "have done" in Japanese so this is a very useful expression. You need to use this grammar any time you want to talk about whether someone has ever done something.


  1. パリ行ったことありますか。
    Have you ever gone to Paris?
  2. お寿司食べたことある
    I've had sushi before.
  3. 日本映画観たことないの?
    You've never seen a Japanese movie?
  4. ヨーロッパ行ったことあったらいいな。
    It would be nice if I ever go to Europe.
  5. そういうのを見たことなかった
    I had never seen anything like that.
  6. 一度行ったことないんです。
    I've never gone, not even once.

Using 「ところ」 as an abstract place


  1. 所 【ところ】 - place
  2. 早い 【はや・い】 (i-adj) - fast; early
  3. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) - to come
  4. 映画 【えい・が】 - movie
  5. 今 【いま】 - now
  6. ちょうど - just right; exactly
  7. いい - good
  8. 彼 【かれ】 - he; boyfriend
  9. 優しい 【やさ・しい】 (i-adj) - gentle; kind
  10. ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)
  11. 授業 【じゅ・ぎょう】 - class
  12. 終わる 【お・わる】 (u-verb) - to end
  13. これ - this
  14. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go

ところ」() is usually used to indicate a generic physical location. However, it can also hold a much broader meaning ranging from a characteristic to a place in time.


  1. 早くきて映画ちょうどいいところだよ。
    Come quickly. We're at the good part of the movie.
  2. 優しいところあるよ。
    His personality has some gentle parts too.
  3. 授業終ったところです。
    Class has ended just now.
  4. これから行くところでした。
    I was just about to go from now.

Using 「もの」 as a casual feminine way to emphasize


  1. 物 【もの】 - object
  2. どうして - why
  3. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) - to come
  4. 授業 【じゅ・ぎょう】 - class
  5. ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)

The generic object noun 「もの」 can be used as a casual and feminine way of emphasizing something. This is identical to the explanatory feminine emphasis expressed by the 「の」 particle. Just like the explanatory 「の」 particle, the 「の」 is often changed into 「ん」 resulting in 「もん」. Using 「もん」 sounds very feminine and a little cheeky (in a cute way).


  • どうしてこなかったの?
    Why didn't (you) come?
  1. 授業あった
    (I) had class. [feminine explanatory]
  2. 授業あったもの
    (I) had class. [feminine explanatory]
  3. 授業あったもん
    (I) had class, so there. [feminine explanatory]