Japanese people sure seem to love complicated sentences, eh?

I’ve always been warned about the length and complexity of german sentences, as I had to learn the language in school, but what nobody ever told me is how it paled in comparison to the monsters that are japanese sentences. Take this sentence from this song, for instance:


Never before had I thought that it was too damn easy to make a relative clause in any given language.

There, just had to say it.

PS.: here’s my attempt at a translation of the above sentence, with some help from other threads:

As if bound by the ancient magic of which I dreamt as a child, and with enough strength to shatter the darkness, I want to meet you as you smile.


I don’t think it’s so much that the sentence is complicated, but rather that your skill in Japanese is so new that you’re having to actually think about it. I can happily construct complicated sentences all day in English, but it still sometimes surprises me that it’s even possible to express abstract concepts in Japanese. I have to keep telling myself that it’s an actual language spoken by actual people - of course they have ways to say actual things. :stuck_out_tongue:

That said, song lyrics are weird in any language.


Eh, I don’t think I’d say that. I think with any language I’ve learned it’s a question of context (e.g. business email vs. out at a bar) and your own proficiency.

One could just as easily say “English can be really complicated!” (and indeed so) with the following sentence.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.


You are absolutely correct, you can construct egregiously complicated sentences in any language. However, how long and complicated a sentence can be while still sounding natural depends on the language. English, for instance, requires writing rather short sentences, or the whole thing sounds unnatural. Other languages, such as german, often yield extremely long and manifold imbricated sentences. It generally depends on the literary tradition of the language and how easy relative clauses are to separate from the rest. German, with its obligatory commas before every relative clause, is very readable in this regard. English not so much.

Coming back to japanese, it’s VERY easy to just pile up clauses and complements because of commas and particles, so it’d be suited for long sentences.

Now the question is, is it really a language where people write complicated sentences often? I can’t say yet, but I’ve sure already stumbled on some masterful chunks.


I still don’t understand some English sentences, such as “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, and they’re like it’s better than yours, damn right, it’s better than yours I can teach you but I have to charge.”


Eh, maybe. One of the most difficult things for me with Japanese is reverse order compared to English. E.g. “I have snacks from my friends living in Yokosuka” being almost 100% switched around to 横須賀に住んでいる友達からのお菓子があります。That takes me some time to unwind in my brain even though it’s fundamentally no different in difficulty level compared to English. Just reverse order.

But as far as real world, everyday Japanese that I’ve been thrown into for a few days in Tokyo, elaborate grammar syntax hasn’t been an issue I’ve noticed. Or at least it hasn’t been the biggest hold up - not by a long shot. Listening comprehension and breadth of vocabulary are a killer by a mile. Even then, can still get by for the most part.


With the correct punctuation, it shouldn’t be too hard, I think.

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, and they’re like, “It’s better than yours. Damn right, it’s better than yours.” I can teach you but I have to charge.

At least that’s how I’d interpret it.


Plus, y’know, like, in casual speaking, it’s possible to have a sentence that just goes, like, it’s a run-on sentence which just doesn’t stop, so it’s not really fair to, kind of, make direct comparisons between, say, Japanese that’s written on one context and English that’s written in some other context, because, y’know, that’s just comparing apples and oranges, because I’m about to hit my fifth line without ending the sentence, and while it’s a bit of a struggle to take in when written down, you’d probably have little issue if you heard it spoken.

QED, and all that.


I definitely encounter enough Japanese sentences with complicated nesting of relative clauses that I have to untangle into multiple independent clauses to give a natural translation in English to make me feel like there is a pattern of relative clauses being more heavily used in Japanese than in English, but maybe that’s just because I don’t have to think about complicated English sentences as much.

(I didn’t really intend for that last sentence to be a counterexample, but it happened, so I went with it.)

Anyway, I think a couple of factors in Japanese are:

  • Unlike English, Japanese doesn’t require relative pronouns (“that”/“who”/“where”) to clarify the clause’s relationship to the noun it modifies. Having those makes it a little easier to isolate and distinguish relative clauses in English. They blend together more in Japanese, and you have to think a bit more about what the implied subject of each clause could be. (Although fluency probably helps a lot with that.)
  • It’s reasonably common to modify weird stuff like pronouns with relative clauses in Japanese (飢えた僕は、ピザを食べた). You can do that in English, sort of (“I, who was hungry, ate pizza”), but it’s usually a lot less natural.
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You’re probably joking, but I still want to deconstruct it :grin:

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard - she has something (probably sexual) that draws guys to her.
and they’re like it’s better than yours, damn right, it’s better than yours - those guys then say, presumably after trying the milkshake that her’s is better than the milkshake of other girls.
I can teach you but I have to charge - she then says to the other girl(s) that she can teach them what she does to attract guys, but she’s gonna charge it.


Take that back! There’s nothing sexual about Kelis or that song!


Is it a real ice cream shake? :thinking:


mmm, that’s some nice milkshake

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As I understand it, Japanese has a relatively low information to word density, so sentences end up being a little long.

Also, I’m kind of proud of myself for recognizing the song from the lyrics :smiley:

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Congratulations! Do you know that song from PMMM too?

Also, while I can’t say with certainty that japanese loves complicated sentences, I can for damn sure say that Kalafina does.

From the same song:


Yep, that’s the anime :smiley:

Also I can sing along to most of it, which is pretty cool. Actually, Japanese songs (and PMMM’s in particular) were what first inspired me to learn the language, because I wanted to sing along. Though, I don’t think Magia is the song from the franchise I understand best. That’s probably either Hikari Furu or Kimi no Gin no Niwa.







Honestly, it’s exciting to listen to these and recognize things come together bit by bit, and they can help you with remembering if you can connect vocabulary to a bit of song (like me with かたち in Kimi No Gin No Niwa).

The complicated sentences thing still stands, though :stuck_out_tongue:

I love ひかりふる. It’s mah favourite.


Yup! What confuses me the most about japanese, though, is not sentence complexity, it’s not even vocabulary, it’s how fuzzy particles can get. For instance, I’m.not quite sure how to interpret your sentence. Any pointers?

オン 2019年4月23日 0:27, SeleneTsukiko via WaniKani Community < wanikani_community@discoursemail.com > は書きました。

Those are song lyrics. My main pointer for interpreting song lyrics: assume it’s going to be extremely poetic, and not something you’re going to use in regular daily life.


Urban dictionary agrees!

Fortunately, I was able to find lyrics to @plantron 's favorite song which also happens to counterpoint the thread title.

Dare I say the Japanese reads easier than the English translation or at least more concisely though I didn’t know 魔法 or 闇 yet. Lyrics can get weird. Just for fun, do you have an attempt in German?

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