Passive sentence makes no sense (to me)

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Passive sentence makes no sense (to me)

Post by ylime » Fri 11.05.2010 9:07 am

I'm reading through 'Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar' and looking through the beginning where it goes through grammatical terms and such. I get to passive sentences explanation and it has an example:

which is translated under as "Tarou was annoyed by Akiko's crying."

Now, I guess I kind of get it. But if I had seen this sentence without a translation I would've (incorrectly?) translated it as "Tarou was cried to by Akiko" (Akiko cried to Tarou) which would've been wrong, I think. I don't get where the 'annoyed' part comes in as I see no word for annoyed in the sentence.

Can anyone explain this to me a little better how this happens, possibly with more examples? Also if I did see a sentence like this without translation how would I know to translate it this way?

Thanks in advance

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Re: Passive sentence makes no sense (to me)

Post by NileCat » Fri 11.05.2010 10:40 am

I think it is a good question.
Your skepticism is absolutely plausible.
Let me explain from two different viewpoints.

Literally translated, the sentence means nothing but “Tarou was cried to by Akiko”
However, in many cases in Japanese, the intention of the writer/speaker can be expressed by not only the one sentence itself but also the context. In that sense, I can imagine a possible situation where the sentence does mean “Tarou was annoyed by her crying” instead of only describing the objective fact that Akiko cried. Which means, depending on the situation, the same sentence can have a meaning “Tarou felt glad (with some embarrassment) by waching her tears of joy”

The word 泣く(verb) has a couple of meanings. According to Yahoo dictionary, (with my rough translation) 泣く means;
[1] to cry
[2] to suffer sadness
[3] to accept unreasonable demand
[4] something doesn’t worth it

In your case, [2] is the one. The word does not necessarily mean to physically cry. She suffered sadness. And, what does the sentence say? She cried to him, which means that she meant the cause of her sadness was Taro. Thus, as a kind of idiomatic expression, the passive form of 泣く can mean “annoyed by one’s accusation” or “embarrassed by one’s sadness” or such.

Hope it helps.

I think there is another important point.
“Passive form” in general is used only when the writer/speaker try to convey some “nuance”. In your case, the nuance the writer/speaker wanted to add was “Taro’s emotional feeling” by using passive form. I think English grammar also has the similar concept.

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Re: Passive sentence makes no sense (to me)

Post by NileCat » Fri 11.05.2010 2:55 pm

I’ve made up an example question. :D Try.

Q) Choose appropriate word(s).

太郎は秋子に泣かれて、(  )。

a) 走った(はしった) he ran
b) 微笑んだ(ほほえんだ) he smiled
c) 驚いた(おどろいた) he was surprised
d) 困った(こまった)he was annoyed / embarrassed
e) 指輪を買った(ゆびわをかった) he bought a ring
Answer) Any of them will do.
He felt something by her action, and the feeling he felt made him do something.
"Annoyed" is only the most "likely" feeling because it is commonly used.(so-called idiomatic expression) But it is rare to see without context. Makes sense?

I’m drunk now.
For some reason, I remain unconvinced by my own answers to your question.
What is passive form in Japanese? How does your textbook explain about it?
Generally, it can convey the nuance that the fact happened against your will.
彼は私にボールを投げた vs 私は彼にボールを投げられた
The second sentence reads that he threw the ball on me without my permission.
彼は私を食べた vs 私は彼に食べられた
I was eaten by him. Hmm…I presume it wasn’t my will.
I was laughed at by him… I think I feel embarrassed or upset.

Returning back to your original sentence, it can mean that she cried against his will. How do you feel if someone burst into tears in front of you? What do you call the feeling in English? Annoyed? Well…the thing is, if I were the author of your book, I wouldn’t use the word. However, the translation in your book doesn’t sound too strange to me. Why?
彼女は彼に泣いた vs. 彼は彼女に泣かれた
The first sentence sounds a little bit off. We usually don’t use it. But we use the second very often. Is it very Japanese way of thinking?
The conclusion might be “because it is” ? I don’t know, to be honest.

Now, I think I’ll need some help from someone who is a total bilingual member.
I gotta go to bed. :wave:


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Re: Passive sentence makes no sense (to me)

Post by becki_kanou » Fri 11.05.2010 6:05 pm

Nile-cat has given you some excellent examples, and a real native view in the subject, but I'll put in my two cents anyway. This type of passive is called the suffering passive and is used when the subject is (usually) adversely effected by another's actions.

Here are some more typical examples:
楽しみにしていたケーキを妹に全部食べられてしまった。I had the cake I was looking forward to eaten up on me by my little sister.

私は誰かに財布を盗まれた。I had my wallet stolen by someone.

一郎は幼い頃に親に死なれた。Ichirou was orphaned at a young age (lit. had his parents die on him).

In each case the subject is negatively effected or suffers due to the actions of another person.

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Re: Passive sentence makes no sense (to me)

Post by ss » Sat 11.06.2010 1:33 am

Passive, causative, causative passive are very complicated grammar points. You have to be careful with the "particles", a change in particle can lead to the the change of the meaning of the whole sentence.

To add on what has been clearly explained, please also review these sentences:

左が能動態、右が受動態です。 (Left is active voice, right is passive voice)

X はYを______ → YはXに passive   (Sorry for the typo earlier, corrected)

足をふまれました → 誰かに足をふまれました
stepped on the toe → was stepped on the toe by someone

となりの猫は魚を食べました。 → 魚はとなりの猫に食べられました。
The cat next door ate the fish. → The fish was eaten by the cat next door.

(Nilecat san's sentences:)
彼は私にボールを投げた。 → 私は彼にボールを投げられた。
He threw the ball on me → The ball was thrown on me by him.

彼は私を食べた。 → 私は彼に食べられた。
He ate me. → I was eaten by him.

犬にかまれた (was bitten by a dog)
犬に(足を)かまれた (my leg was bitten by a dog)

Now, take a closer look at your sentence 秋子に泣かれた + situations given by Nilecat san.
Taro cried or was annoyed or felt gloomy (due to something, what was that?)
(Ans: Something done by Akiko.)
So, Nilecat san has given you some possible situations.

Hope it helps. I'm in a hurry, gotta run now.
Last edited by ss on Tue 11.09.2010 5:58 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Passive sentence makes no sense (to me)

Post by ylime » Sat 11.06.2010 5:14 am

Sorry for taking so long to reply, my 6 month old doesn't give me much free time. :P

But I understand much better now. Well, mostly understand but I think it'll take a bit for me to completely comprehend it.

Nilecat: The textbook explains passive form as "A sentence which describes an action by someone from the viewpoint of someone else who is affected by that action." So it didn't really explain it very well.

Thanks all of you for the examples and such it really helps me to understand it.

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