Verb Modifying Nouns

This was originally going to be a question about helping me understand a sentence, but as I was typing this out I realized that this was just a verb modifying a noun. However, I still have a question regarding this sentence, and I guess just verb modifying nouns in general.

The sentence is:
Translated as:
Natsumi taught me to have the courage to do what I liked.

My question is - is verb modifying nouns used all that often? Or is it more preferred to structure sentences in a different way? If this is the case, how else could the above sentence be structured to mean the same thing? Or this just kind of preference of the speaker?

Thanks in advance.


In short this is very common.

Japanese is structurally built to stack words and phrases onto each other, the technical word if you want to look into it more is

a process of word formation in which morphemes, each having a relatively constant shape and meaning, are combined without fusion or morphophonemic change.

This style of grammar means that the modifying words cascade in meaning until they hit a terminal word that takes on the extra nuance provide by the preceding morphemes. This can happen in both direction in Japanese between verbs and nouns.

The eaten food.
They eat seriously.

In your sentence there are three phrases,
「夏美は」- [Natusmi]
「好きなことをやる勇気を」- [the courage of doing things I like]
「教えてくれました」- [gave me instruction]

The middle phrase has two sub phrases but it acts as one agglutinated phrase.
「好きなことをやる」- to do the things I like
「勇気」- courage
As you can see the first phrase is itself a complete sentence but that whole idea is modifying the concept of courage, giving it a context and a type or style of courage. This kinda of pattern is very common.

*note this is technically a na-adjective in English parlance but they are nearly identical to nouns in terms of this discussion. This is usually the way that nouns become adverbs in Japanese is that there are a subset of nouns that already function as adjectives and can be used as adverbs.


Thank you! This is pretty helpful.

You know it’s funny too because I was thinking that I have barely ever seen sentences structured like this, but shortly after running into this sentence I’ve already come across a few more. Although it may have been just a coincidence, but it’s still a really good feeling seeing how all this stuff we learn slowly solidifies allowing for us to recognize and eventually understand it intuitively.

There’s also a possibility that I already recognize most sentences structured like this, but this just happened to be one where I was having a harder time due to the noun being modified by a longer phrase.


Just to echo what @Sidgr said, this is extremely common in Japanese, especially written/formal language. The linguistic term for it is “relative clause.” Wikipedia has a decent description to supplement what Sidgr has already helpfully provided.

If you ever read long-form written Japanese (not manga and the like) you’ll find extensive use of relative clauses like this. It was a difficult concept for me to grasp at first, so don’t feel bad if you’re feeling that way, too.


That is exactly right!

The main point to stress is that Japanese can use relative clauses themselves as agglutinating structures for modifying verbs or nouns. That is what took so long for me to understand. That The relative clause’s meaning itself can mislead you on the meaning of the sentence if one doesn’t properly track what it is relative to.