Example sentence translation: passive?


The page for 「生物」(せいぶつ) has the following example sentence:


which is translated as

A mysterious creature was discovered at a dry river bed. (emphasis mine)

But 「発見した」 is not passive, so shouldn’t it be translated in the active voice, as maybe “I discovered a mysterious creature at a dry river bed”? Alternatively, the example sentence could be changed into the passive with 「発見された」. But the current sentence, and its translation, do not match.

Also: is this where these sort of things should be reported?


the japanese passive works differently from the english passive. In a passive sentence in japanese someone did something that caused the other person trouble or similar feelings. I think the sentence is correct the way it is, but you couldn’t guess that someone talks about the event happening from a different perspective but the speakers without context, so that might be confusing.


The point of the example sentences isn’t to teach grammar, but if you want you can email hello@wanikani.com


You’re thinking of the “suffering passive” which is a use of passive that doesn’t translate to English as passive. The normal passive does translate to English’s passive.


ahh, my bad. Nevermind me then.


Regardless of what the point of the example sentences is, having incorrect translations would probably be a disservice. Wouldn’t you agree?

I’ll write to WaniKani then. I guess there is no other place to report these issues.



While the Japanese sentence does use the active voice, I don’t think it is that incorrect to translate it with a passive.
It is just that the subject not being specified, without context, it’s impossible to know who did the “discovery”. You may assume it’s the speaker, but it’s not certain. So in English (but also other languages such as French or German), it may sound better to use a passive here, in my opinion.

It all depends if you want a translation as literal as possible (and then make hypotheses to fill the gaps of missing context) or if you want a sentence that sounds natural with the few elements you have.


If the original sentence used the active voice, it is saying that the subject of the verb should be knowable from the context (that’s what makes Japanese a contextual language). With no such context (like in an example sentence), the natural thing to do is to imply what that subject would likely be.

Not being able to make a decision that is guaranteed to be 100% correct does not mean that there is no decision that is more likely to be correct. And in this case, not being able to know for sure who is the subject does not mean that the best (or more natural) way to solve it is by turning it into a sentence that actively hides the subject.

If not, what would the difference be between 「発見した」 and 「発見された」?