く Form as Noun of Time or Location

    • Adjective
    A few い-adjectives that relate to time or location can be used like nouns in their く form.

    Table of Contents

    The Basics

    Using adjectives like nouns is common in many languages, including English. Just look at an expression like “many will enter, few will win." Many and few are typically used as adjectives, and yet here they function as nouns.

    In Japanese, a limited number of い-adjectives in their く form can be used like nouns. These are adjectives that describe the characteristics of a time or place. The only addition to this is 多く, which can behave as noun despite the fact that it doesn't describe a time or a place.

    Sentence Structure

    い-Adjectives Before Particles of Time or Location

    All the い-adjectives in this group can be used before particles of time or location, such as まで (until), へ (to), に (at/in/to) and から (from).

    • 来週古くからの友達が遊びに来る。
    • Next week, a friend from old times is coming to visit.
    • 彼は遅くまで勉強しました。
    • He studied until late.

    In the first example, 古く can be understood as “old times” or “long ago” and tells us the time period of the friendship, marked with から. In the second sentence, 遅く means “a late time”, and the particle まで tells us that it is the point in time that the action continued until. Though in English we can say "until late", in Japanese まで can generally can’t be used with adjectives or adverbs.

    い-Adjectives in Other Positions

    Just three い-adjectives can be used in more of the ways nouns can be used. These are 多く, 遠く and 近く. They can be used as the subject of a sentence:

    • 多くが当選した。
    • Many won the lottery.

    They can also be used as the object of a sentence:

    • 遠くを見た。
    • I saw a faraway place.

    Finally, they can be joined to other nouns with the particle の:

    • 近くのお店に行った。
    • I went to a nearby store. (Literally: I went to the store of a nearby place)

    This is a tricky one because it looks like it’s being used like an adjective, but since only nouns can generally be attached to other nouns with の, 近くis actually behaving as a noun here.

    い-Adjectives that Can Behave like Nouns

    The list of い-adjectives that can behave as nouns is so limited, that it’s worthwhile listing them here. They are organized by whether they are used to describe time, place, or other.

    Time Adjectives

    早い (early)
    遅い (late)
    古い (old)
    若い (young)
    幼い (childish)

    Place Adjectives

    深い (deep)
    浅い (shallow)
    高い (high)
    低い (low)
    遠い (faraway)
    近い (near)

    Other Adjectives

    多い (many)