Grammar question!>

I’ve never actally managed to come up with an answer to this question that i am hundred percent confident in. It’s quite a simple sentence/phrase structure, I just can’t wrap my head around it.
If i wanted to make a noun from the adjective ‘like’, how would i say it?
So, for example if i wanted to say ‘the movie that he likes’ , or ‘the song that my parents like’, how would i say it?
I just don’t understand where i would put the ga particles lol if someone could explain.
I appreciate that my question is so poorly worded but i hope you understand what i mean.

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Your english sentences describe the noun. In japanese you don’t do this with a relative clause but just by tacking the describing sentence before the noun. You have to know if it is a な or い adjective to know how to correctly attach it. 好き is な so your sentences would become:
かれが好きな映画えいが and 両親りょうしんが好きなきょく respectively.

Does that help?


Note that you don’t have to use ga in the relative clause here – “両親の好きな曲” is also OK.


That’s still a relative clause. The formation of it is just different to how English does it. :slightly_smiling_face:


I understand but the ga particle just doesn’t seem right… because it usually goes on the object that is being liked, but here you put it on the subject that is doing the liking. honestly i’m very confused about the ga particle in this sentence structure, but i understand your response completely

See @pm215 's response. Using の here sounds much more conversational and idiomatic to my ears.

As Cure Dolly points out, が is always present somehow in a fully formed Japanese sentence, it’s just that it’s often ommited.

Cure Dolly can take some getting used to (boy howdy) but the content is excellent. 1.25X or 1.5X speed and closed-captioning helps (and maybe a few shots of whiskey to dull the cringe). Here is her video on な and い adjectives. That should answer your question directly.


We’re only talking about the subordinate clause here, though. There’s a が in the main clause somewhere for sure, but we haven’t constructed the main clause yet.

it’s definitely correct though, and that’s how it is normally said.

if it’s confusing, you can think about が being used in this way to create emphasis. like 私が作ったケーキ。is emphasizing that I made the cake, not someone else. So in the same way 彼が好きな映画, is the movie that HE likes.

I totally understand your logic and honestly I feel the same even studying the language and living here for quite long.

If you consider the original sentence as


and rationalize it following the traditional “as for him (topic), the movie (subject) is likeable (qualification)”, the truth is


makes shit no sense. How is 彼 out of a sudden the subject if the meaning of 好き was “likeable”? This sentence has two things being likeable, right?

If you want to somehow explain it rationally you have two ways of thinking in my opinion:

The first is arguing what the は in 彼は映画が好きだ originally was.
Considering は is not a syntactical particle (it does not imply subject, object, complement nor anything) per se, we must conclude that this 彼 originally has some syntatical functionality that was covered by the use of a は. Which one would be that? One could argue the most reasonable one is a が → は case, so when we make the 彼が好きな映画 we are doing nothing more than returning it back to what it was.

This reasoning, however, leaves the 好きだ construction with two がs and I really don’t want to go down that rabbit role.
If you assume it is true you leave an open door for other 彼は〇〇が△△だ sentences following the same logic, and although given enough context 彼は花が綺麗だ is possible, 彼が綺麗な花 is clearly ungrammatical no matter how hard you try.

The second way would be arguing that 好き was originally a verb.
In it’s origin, 好き is the 連用形 of the verb 好く. So although with time common use gravitated towards 彼は映画が好きだ, originally there was a 彼が映画を好く sentence going on.

Following that logic, you could argue that 彼が好きな映画 is actually 彼が好く映画 with the 好きな hammered in because that became the standard way of using that word. However, although that explains 彼が好きな and 彼が嫌いな nicely, it doesn’t necessarily explains other similar behaving adjectives such as 欲しい or, even worse, 上手/下手.

Personally, in the end I just ran away to the good and old “languages are not logical entities per se and more often than not you just have to accept things are the way they are” and got used to it without arguing.

As a personal impression, Japanese has very diffuse borders between “subject” and “object” for copular verbs, and also between verbs and adjectives, what leads to all sorts of が/をできる、が/を食べたい、the above mentioned 彼が好きな映画、the fact the verb as an adjective clause can be used before the subject and the object without a syntactical clarification (If you can say 私が愛する彼 and 私を愛する彼、what does exactly 愛する彼 means?), etc.
So in the end I just index this whole discussion under one of Japanese quirks, but it’s totally a personal thing.

Considering I never found a grammar book or website that has a sound explanation for what would be quite a common concern in Japanese grammar studies, I’ve always assumed there is no definite “everyone-agrees-on” one. But who knows? Maybe someone will reply with some awesome link that answers it all and I’ll have to strikethrough this whole post, lol.


It can mean either of those. There’s no way to tell from that alone. But ambiguous things aren’t unique to Japanese.


Definitely. That’s exactly what I meant when I said Japanese has ambiguous subject/object and adjective/verb borders.

Cure Dolly says ga allways marks the subject. So movie is being liked and song is being liked.

Saying “always” is very reductive.

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Things can be explained in different ways. Dollys ga subject way is that always really means always. This is one of the main points she keeps repeating.

This video gave me the perfect example I needed.
I think anyone would agree the following two standard sentences share the same pattern under Japanese grammar.


As for him (topic) the watch (subject) is desirable (adjective + copula)


As for him (topic) his height (subject) is high (adjective + copula)


彼が欲しい時計 → Awesome Japanese, congratulations!

彼が高い背 → What kind of ungrammatical shit are you coming up with?

For me, unless you are willing to say the original sentences actually somehow have different structures that end looking the same, it shows that yes you have a special class of adjectives (好きな、嫌いな、欲しい、上手な、下手な、etc) that just flips the が table and couldn’t care less.

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While CD’s model, and ultimately Rubin whose model she teaches, are pretty consistent, there is no model that is going to always be consistent. Language is just like that.

And the danger is that some of the more advanced stuff tends to get shoehorned a bit to fit the model rather than allowing for the model to be flexible in that regard.

The other thing of note is that CD’s teaching style in these videos is geared towards beginners. So she will make assertions like that because it’s easier to start thinking of it as an absolute.


Experts are almost always terrible teachers because they are unwilling to be reductive.


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Mmm; I like the ‘ga always marks the subject’ model personally (I think it’s a helpful view of what the language is doing that helps to get you out of the mindset of expecting things to match English grammar and what same-meaning English verbs mark as subject and object), but it is quite close to the tautological position of defining the grammatical subject to be “that which is marked by ga” and then saying that the subject is always marked by ga :slight_smile:

The DoBJG takes a slightly different tack; its ‘ga’ entry says “In some expressions, elements which are considered to be direct objects are presented as subjects and are marked by ga” (and refers you to its ~wa~ga entry for those). I leave you to decide whether “an element considered to be an object but presented as a subject” is a subject or an object…


Oh, I agree, it’s the one I started with as well.

It’s been a while, but I think CD/Rubin sidestep this by ascribing agency to objects in order to fit the tautology you mentioned. e.g. ケーキが好き is “the cake is like-inducing”

Although I may be misremembering.

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Maybe I’m crazy, but I think in this situation it’s not a relative clause? If it is a relative clause then the confusion that ensues below would be more accurate. That is, the 彼が好き part of the sentence would mean “I like him” and somehow the “I like him” clause would be describing the movie.

This same grammar pattern could be a “relative clause” in a different sentence with a different adjective as in 満月が綺麗な夜だった。(It was a night on which the full moon was pretty…). I think 好き is just functioning attributively, unless of course, you want to argue that all na-adjectives are actually relative clauses (which isn’t that inaccurate.)

Personally, I don’t like the term “relative clause” describing much of anything in Japanese. I tend to think of verbs functioning adjectivally since Japanese doesn’t have relative pronouns to coordinate the clause… That is, I tend to think of 座っている狼 as “The sitting wolf” rather that “the wolf that is sitting.” Most of this is semantics, but I feel like the original sentence just has an attributive use of 好き. That said, as mentioned below, some adjectives are extra weird because they require a “subject” (i.e. who is the movie likable to?) to function. Idk.