What does it mean when (relative clauses question)

There’s a trend I’m noticing in articles on NHK Web easy where sentences will have a verb combined with 人.

For example: 耳がきこえない人

Example 2: 新しい コロナウィルスがうつうった人


The clause that comes before it qualifies 人.
耳がきこえない人 is “a person that can’t hear” (presumably a deaf person)


What @Kumirei said. Also, it’s called a “relative clause”, in case you wanted a searchable term.

Some linkz so you don't actually have to search



My brain just exploded. Stand-by as we try to run from backup…


The important things to know:

  1. English has the same concept.
  2. It’s simpler in Japanese.

The really high level explanation is that everything before the 人 acts as an adjective

(新しい コロナウィルスがうつうった)人


Ah, it’s only simpler in that English has it sometimes before the noun and sometimes after, while in Japanese, it’s always before.


I’m a native English speaker and usually dont have to think of what kind of clause I’m using before I use it.

Now I have to figure it out in Japanese, wheeeeeeeee. (皮肉)

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I think it’s also simpler because you can get rid of the pesky “that”'s or “who”'s etc making the sentences a lot less clumsy.

今まで会ったこともない私を助けてくれてありがとう (thanks for helping me, who you haven’t even met before)

Especially when you’ve got several of these

分からない人を責める者が一番許しがたいと思う私が、そんなことをするわけがないよ。 (there’s no what that I who find those who blame people who don’t understand the most difficult to tolerate, would do such a thing!)

Sorry, for the cumbersome sentence (which I hope is at least passable grammatically), but it was kinda necessary to illustrate my point :slight_smile:

Literally just started this in Japanese class last night (lesson 22 in Minna No Nihongo!)

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Japanese clauses are basically Satan for me and I recently grasped why.

English is pretty flexible BUUUT generally you lead with the important stuff and then tack on detail after. Which works great if you’re blundering into a sentence, arms waving and breathless, trying to get the most important thing out.

Japanese likes to build up to the good stuff, so it’s like “hey, so remember when your sister got that really short haircut, and your parents got you that thing that you fixed and have been using ever since, which is your car? OH BY THE WAY IT’S BURNING.” I mean, you could skip the detail and go straight to “CAR IS BURNING” and hope they figure out that it must be a car that’s pretty relevant to them because otherwise why would you mention this? - but my point is, doing it the Japanese way takes a lot of planning.

Part of that is just familiarity, I guess. I can put together a sentence like “I’m thinking of buying a driving around town looking cool car”, which is kinda how the Japanese would do it, although it doesn’t come quite naturally. But sometimes I’ll hear Japanese dropping little packets of word-and-particle like they were comma-delineated, and I think “lol, they can’t make their own sentences either”.


That’s the funny part, they dont really use commas like what I’m used to. I dont even know what their commas are used for.

It doesnt make sense to me. Just looks like one big runon.

Commas basically just for setting clauses apart. You don’t need them for lists since Japanese has particles for that. They’re also used with conjunctions like in English.

The main reason they don’t get used much is that they don’t have a use in vertical writing, which is still pretty prevalent outside of the web.

As you get better at reading, you’ll be able to pick out the particles pretty easily and mentally parse the divisions. Some will still be pretty weird, but at that point it should be fairly intuitive.

What makes you say that?

This is a random page I flipped open to from a book I happened to have on my desk.


They do still get used for lists though, since connecting everything with と just looks bad. They are also used in places where you don’t use particles, for example after temporal adverbs like 今日、今 and so on.
Also I don’t see a reason why you would only use commas in horizontal writing?


Guess I was wrong on all counts. ごめん

Sorry @rabite30, I probably shouldn’t have generalized based on the stuff I’ve come across. @Leebo and @Myria make some great points.

You even have a list of vegetables separated with commas at the end of the page there :smiley:


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