To Mono, or Not to Mono: “Mono” as more than a tangible object

Matthew Brien; Michigan State University; Accounting.jpg

You may already know that “tangible thing” in Japanese is “mono.” However, there are far more uses for “mono” than just this! To help you understand things better, our Japanese Language Coordinator, Minoru Aizawa-sensei, has a few pointers for you regarding the many uses of “mono.”


You have probably learned that もの (“mono“) usually means something tangible, and こと (“koto“) something intangible. While that is true in some cases, “mono” has much wider functions than you may think.

A Whole New Mono

First, let’s begin with examples where “mono” is clearly used for something tangible while “koto” for something intangible:

  • このコンピューターは、田中さんのものです。
    Kono konpyuutaa wa, Tanaka-san no mono desu.
    This is Mr. Tanaka’s computer.
  • 田中さんが本当にそんなことを言ったんですか。
    Tanaka-san ga hontou ni sonna koto o ittan desu ka.
    Did Mr. Tanaka really say that?
  • 扇子とは、どんなものですか。
    Sensu to wa, donna mono desu ka.
    What is a folding fan?
  • 私の趣味はテニスをすることです。
    Watashi no shumi wa tenisu o suru koto desu.
    My hobby is playing tennis.

Now, let’s investigate slightly different uses for “mono” below:

  • よく分からないが、声は男性のものでした。
    Yoku wakaranai ga, koe wa dansei no mono deshita.
    I’m not quite sure, but the voice sounded like it came from a man.
  • このテレビ番組は、アメリカの社会についてのものです。
    Kono terebi bangumi wa, amerika no shakai ni tsuite no mono desu.
    This TV program is the one about American society.
  • あなたの大切なものは何ですか。
    Anata no taisetsu na mono wa nan desu ka.
    What is something important to you?

As you may have noticed, “mono” in the examples above do not  necessarily mean something tangible, but rather something concrete.

Generally the mono

Lastly, let me give you further examples in which “mono” does not indicate something tangible. These examples indicate customs, responsibilities, tendencies, indirect commands, surprises, and more that are generally the case. These patterns could also showcase some of the speaker’s emotions at the same time.

In any case, these usages of  “mono”  have come a long way from the one you may be familiar with:

  • 日本では、家に入る時、くつを脱ぐものだ。
    Nihon de wa, ie ni hairu toki, kutsu o nugu mono da.
    In Japan, you remove your shoes when entering a home.
    (custom/etiquette)
  • 学生は、勉強するものだ。
    Gakusei wa, benkyousuru mono da.
    Studying is a part of being a student.
    (responsibility)
  • いやな仕事は、なかなか終わらないものだ。
    Iya na shigoto wa, nakanaka owaranai mono da.
    Undesirable work tends not to end for a long time.
    (tendency)
  • 親にそんな言葉を使うものじゃない。
    Oya ni sonna kotoba o tsukau mono ja nai.
    Don’t use those kinds of words with your parents.
    (indirect command)
  • 先生に、よくそんなことが言えるものだね。
    Sensei ni, yoku sonna koto ga ieru mono da ne.
    You don’t often hear those things from an instructor, huh?
    (surprise)
  • 私は、学生の時、よく徹夜したものだ。
    Watashi wa, gakusei no toki, yoku tetsuyashita mono da.
    When I was a student, I pulled a lot of all-nighters.
    (habitual activity/state in the past)

I hope that this short article has helped you review the basic concept of “mono” and learn some of its variations.  がんばってください!

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