Objects and Things

I was having difficulty explaining to a Japanese person the difference between a “thing” and an “object.”

Native speakers will tend to naturally use one or the other, depending on the situation. For example:

An unidentified flying object. We wouldn’t say,  “an unidentified flying thing.”

I need to pick up some things at the store. We normally wouldn’t say, “I need to pick up some objects at the store.”

An object of art. We generally would not say, “A thing of art.”

Get your things and lets go. We wouldn’t say, “Get your objects and lets go.”

How would you explain it?

As an aside, for people not familiar with Japanese, while in English we have one word for both material things (e.g. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”) and abstract things (e.g. “Love is a many splendored thing”), in Japanese there are two separate words – “mono” for a material thing and “koto” for an abstract thing.



Objects and Things — 2 Comments

  1. An interesting question. After turning it over in my mind for a bit, I concluded that “object” is more specific than “thing”, even though both may refer to an entity that is difficult to describe in more detail. Also, I believe objects always have a material presence while things may be either material or abstract.

  2. In this case I was just referring to material things. I should have clarified that in my last paragraph.


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