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「でも、靴は何の役にも立ちませんでした。」

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「でも、靴は何の役にも立ちませんでした。」

Postby Cyborg Ninja » Thu 07.08.2010 1:40 am

I need help breaking down this sentence:
「でも、靴は何の役にも立ちませんでした。」
It's from The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen. She's had slippers when she left her house, but now, in the present for the story, she is without them. So she finds herself in a difficult situation. The translation for this sentence in the parallel text is "When she left home she had slippers on, it is true; but what was the good of that?"

I need help understanding 「何の役にも立ちません」.
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Re: 「でも、靴は何の役にも立ちませんでした。」

Postby kurisuto » Thu 07.08.2010 8:32 am

The basic expression here is 役に立つ ("to be useful"); 何の modifies 役.

The problem is that I don't know your level, and whether you already know your conjugations and things like that; did the above help you?
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Re: 「でも、靴は何の役にも立ちませんでした。」

Postby NileCat » Thu 07.08.2010 8:43 am

Hi Cyborg Ninja,

Well, the meaning of the sentence is:
"But the shoes weren’t helpful at all."

役に立つ (dictionary form) helpful, useful, beneficial, handy...
役に立ちません (negative)
何の役にも立ちません (emphasis / at all)

EDIT: Oops, kurisuto has ninjaed! (←kuristo has ninja'd me!

Guys, the following would be about a different issue.

I think I understand your confusion.
The Japanese translation sounds a little bit different from the original meaning. I googled it and found out that this translation was made by a non-profitable writer. I think he translated it with his artistic interpretation, so to speak. I'm not saying this translation is bad or something. On the contrary, I myself find it very difficult to translate this sentence directly into proper Japanese which is plain and fits for this beautiful tale.
Last edited by NileCat on Fri 07.09.2010 4:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 「でも、靴は何の役にも立ちませんでした。」

Postby Cyborg Ninja » Thu 07.08.2010 3:20 pm

Maybe I'm trying to read into it too literally. If 何の modifies 役, is that "what kind of use is..."? How does にも work in this?
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Re: 「でも、靴は何の役にも立ちませんでした。」

Postby NileCat » Thu 07.08.2010 3:37 pm

Cyborg Ninja wrote:Maybe I'm trying to read into it too literally.

You are, I'm afraid. :)
It's a kind of idiomatic expression.
も is 係助詞, if you want to specify it grammatically.
http://dic.yahoo.co.jp/dsearch?enc=UTF- ... 9309700000

(役に立つ)
役に立たない useless
何の役にも立たない useless / for anything
何一つ役に立たない useless / for (even a thing)
役立たず (one-word)
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Re: 「でも、靴は何の役にも立ちませんでした。」

Postby Cyborg Ninja » Thu 07.08.2010 5:46 pm

Thank you both so much for your help. I have to be careful not to try to make Japanese fit into my English-language boxes. That's why I had such trouble with particles years ago. BTW, I kind of like how the Japanese author translated the story. I imagine it loses that old 19th Century vibe to it, though.
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