I'm having some troubles with verb nominalizers

Is there an easy way to differ in how to use こと and の after verbs in plain form to transform them in nouns?
And why is it: ことができる and not のができる, is the latter form gramatically wrong? Or even のがすき or のが上手 instead of こと?

Did you see the one resource about this in the resources section of those grammar points?

I saw that, but even still I think it’s too complicated to think about all of those things everytime so I was wondering if there was an easier way to remember…

From the above I’d recommend to except these as separate grammar points, memorize and never ask this question again. There is probably not a satisfactory answer and these are so common, they will eventually sound unnatural if you were to use incorrectly.

I thought the link from @seanblue was really good but DBJG has a thorough explanation as well (if you don’t own it already). I can’t say I’ve mastered the differences either so good topic!


The often explanation is that の is more subjective and concrete(something speaker can perceive with their 5 senses, states, events), and こと more objective and abstract(general ideas, abstract concepts, thoughts).


So, there are verbs which can be used with only の or こと and MANY verbs that can be used with both.

  1. の:
  • の cannot be used as nominalizer on the end of a sentence before だ/です. (because this construction is used as explanatory)In this case, you just use こと。
  • can be used with verbs that describe perception through senses: 聞く、見る、味わう etc
  • can be used when someone gets involved in someone else’s action:待つ、手伝う、じゃまする、写す、送る 、追う、さえぎる、会う、おさえる、助ける、冷やす、直す、遅れる、止まる、やむ、などをあげている。
  • can be used with adjectives うるさい and やかましい
  1. こと:
  • can be used with verbs that express communication like 言う、書く、伝えるetc
  • can be used with verbs that express influencing someone to do something or not like: 禁じる、許す、命じる,頼むetc
  • can be used with verbs that express though process and believing: 考える、思う、理解する、信じるetc
  • can be used with some set expressions: ことができる、ことがある、ことにする、ことになるetc

When both can be used:

Everything else, like:

  • verbs that describe operations on information:
  • verbs and adjectives that describe feelings towards something:
  • with words that describe learning:

According to some Japanese speakers, in cases when both can be used, ことfeels more polite and “hard(formal)”, while の feels rougher and “soft”. Therefore when they write they tend to choose こと over の。On the other hand, some say that they do not feel a particular difference between them.
Also, even though 好き、嫌い、上手、下手 can be used with こと, however, those are most often used together with の。
In other words, depending on person the interpretation might differ.