の(は) - Grammar Discussion

verb nominalizer

Structure

  • Verb + ()

[changes a verb to a noun]

View on Bunpro

In the reading section there are many examples using のが instead of のは.

Is there a difference bewteen those two? Should のが be added as alternative answer?

は versus が here is normal particle usage since the verb nominalizer is just の. So use は where you’d normally use は and use が where you’d normally use が.

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Why is は in parentheses in the structure section? All the examples use は.

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Because the nominalizer is simply の. It is often followed by は, but it can also be followed by が or を.

Perhaps they should add sentences with が and を to clear this up.

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@airblaster , @seanblue is right and this lesson will be revamped or another will be added for more types of examples.
の and こと simply allow verb to function as a noun, including functioning as subject, objects so all kinds of particles can follow it.

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I’m having trouble understanding when this would be used in English. The examples seem clunky and don’t really make sense (“that which is fun”). Could someone explain this to me?

Basically, it is used when you want to use a verb like a noun. It is sometimes called “nouning”. For example some constructions (like 好き) demand a noun.
If you want to use a verb instead, you just add の to it and voilà, you can use it.

アニメが好きです。:+1:
I like anime.

アニメを見るが好きです。:-1:
I like watch anime. (?)

アニメを見るのが好きです。:+1:
I like watching anime.

There are some cases when other nominalizer (こと) is preffered, but this is another story.

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Me too.
I’ve just had an example sentence: “You are the one who will climb Mt. Fuji”, but in my head it was much clearer if I read it as “The Mt. Fuji climbER, is you”. It’s turning the verb “to climb” into a noun, which seems to be the purpose. I’m sure this example will break down with other sentences, but it might help you toward and understanding of the idea, hopefully.

@twotwo Thank you for your comment. I have updated the examples that nominalize verbs this way to include an extra hint (e.g. “[climber],” “[reader],” “[user],” etc.). Cheers!

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Correct me if I’m wrong but I thought the nominalized form of “to climb” is “climbing” and not “climber”?

I don’t know @Anthropos888, I’m going on the understanding that “to nominalize” means “to make a noun of”. I can think of 3 nouns that have the climb root: “climb” (that was a big climb) “climber” (I am a climber) and “climbing” (we did some arduous climbing yesterday). So I think it depends on the context of the sentence. Unless there is a much more specific definition when translating from Japanese?

Yes, that’s what nominalizing means. There are many ways to nominalize verbs in both English and Japanese.

You asked for a hint like “climber” in the sentence 富士山を登るのは君だ, but I think that’s actually the only reason the meaning is dependent on context for you. You want to translate this to something like “you’re the climber”, but this distinction only exists in that specific English translation. It’s not present in the Japanese sentence. There are ways to explicitly only say “climber” in Japanese, and this is not one of them. Likewise, in English we’re not required to be this specific either.

In English, the focus of a sentence can be shifted by using a structure called a “cleft sentence”. In such a sentence, the focus is put on a specific part of the sentence by changing up the word order. This is what the English translations given by bunpro are doing. The Japanese text shows, among other things, how we can do the same thing in Japanese. (In Japanese the focus comes from the particle after the の though, so it’s not 100% the same concept.)

For comparison:

君は富士山を登る (neutral)
You will climb Mt Fuji.

富士山を登るのは君だ (focus on 君)
You are the one who will climb Mt Fuji.
It’s you who will climb Mt Fuji.

These are common ways to achieve this change of focus in English. As you can see, they can make do without the word “climber”.

It’s however not the case that the word “climber” isn’t a valid interpretation. The way some of the sentences use の is sometimes analyzed as an “indefinite pronoun の” that’s different from the “nominalizer の”. Basically, instead of understanding this as a sentence about “climbing Mt Fuji”, you could interpret the の as a placeholder for some noun to be modified by the relative clause, for example 人.

This gets us closer to using “climber” in the translation. But it doesn’t solve the context problem - because it’s not required by context. It’s still just something we can randomly decide to do when translating to English. I think “About climbing Mt Fuji: It’s you!” would be comprehensible in English too. The fact that it isn’t actually normal English is the only reason why we have to make decisions about context. It’s not because of the Japanese being particularly ambiguous.

Btw. the grammar point lists this “indefinite pronoun” as one of the interpretations too, although it doesn’t really matter whether one considers it separate from the nominalizer or just a specific use of the nominalizer. However, when it’s analyzed in this way it’s often described as an indefinite pronoun that translates to “the one”. So that’s another reason why all the English sentences are phrased in the way they are. It’s not a bunpro thing or anything.

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Thank you for the clarifications nekoyama. I have to admit that detailed discussion of grammar makes my head swim, but having grown up with two languages I do appreciate that many language concepts do not translate generally.

For what it’s worth, the interpretation was offered as a temporary detour around my own confusion - to act as a placeholder, but only until deeper understanding takes over.

It is good to see those other examples you provide, and to learn jthat there are more explicit ways to express ‘climber’. I will be keeping this in mind, thank you.

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I agree with @mattbacon that the examples have very clunky English to the point of being misleading.

Is there a reason that e.g. 本を読むのは、楽しいです。 is not translated as “Reading books is fun.”? It seems much closer to the Japanese sentence and is actually something that you would say in English.

(“The thing that is fun is reading books.” sounds like “the thing that is fun” is the topic of the sentence instead of “reading books”.)

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