What’s the deal with ように?

If you’re learning Japanese, you’ll undoubtedly haunted by the phrase ように (yō ni) at some point in your studies. ように is one of the most common, yet difficult phrases to master.

But why? The reason lies in its versatility.

Broadly, ように can mean “in order to” or “so that”. However, the context of the sentence it’s in can change its meaning entirely. For example, ようになる (yō ni naru) translates to “is now possible”, ようにする (yō ni suru) is “to do so that”, and のように (no yō ni) is “in the same way”.

Here are some examples of the different uses of ように. Notice how it changes in meaning depending on what words are by it:

1.) 明日早く起きるようにする
Ashita hayaku okiru yō ni suru.
I’ll try to wake up early tomorrow.

2.) それから、家に帰って子供のように寝ちゃった。
Sore kara, uchi ni kaette kodomo no yō ni nechatta.
Then I went home and slept like a child.

3.) 日本語が話せるようになりたいな。
Nihongo ga hanaseru yō ni naritai na.
I want to become able to speak Japanese.

4.) これはチョコレートのように見えるけど、消しゴムだから、食べないでください。
Kore wa chocorēto no yō ni mierukedo, keshigomu dakara, tabenaide kudasai.
This looks like chocolate, but it’s an eraser, so do not eat it.

It is often compared to ために (tame ni), which can also mean “to do” in many cases. However, ために expresses aims, benefits, and causation, whereas ように expresses ideal situations:

〇 お金を集めるためにコンサートをした。
okane wo atsumeru tame ni consāto wo shita.

× お金を集めるようにコンサートをした。
Okane o atsumeru yō ni consāto o shita.

JCMU's official mascot, Hiraku the Swan with a question mark above his head.

Confusing, right? A good way to think about it is to consider the meaning of ように as “towards a certain state”. Looking back at ようになる, you can see that it is changing something from impossible to possible.

To make a long story short, ように can be a very useful phrase if used correctly. However, it can quickly become frustrating due to its nature. But as challenging as it may seem, don’t be overwhelmed with the learning process! You can do it!

Sore de wa, obenkyō, gabatte kudasai~
And with that, good luck with your studies~

An animated raccoon character exclaiming, "Do not give up!" in Japanese

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