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This is probably fairly basic but, not being a native speaker, I'd like to confirm if my understanding of grammar of the following sentence (from 中上級日本語, Feb'14) is correct and what is natural.

In the following sentence I would have expected the subject to be the speaker and the object of the transitive verb 受け入れる (to requite), to be their feelings (気持ち), however their feelings take が and are therefore the subject:


Is this possibly because もらう is in potential form (?) or is it possibly because the sentence is nominalised by こと (?) what is the norm here and when would を be appropriate?

1) "An Introduction to Adv Jse Spoken Jse" tells us that for expressions of desire,mentioned in the comments, for the ~たい construction が is "normative" but "を" is also used in actual conversation.
2) Makino's Dictionary of Basic Jse Grammar tells us that for ~たい form of transitive verbs either is fine but が is preferred if the degree of desire is high (perhaps a similar principle applies here?).

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「私の気持ちが相手に受け入れてもらえないこと。」 is not a sentence. –  l'électeur Mar 21 at 14:11
"his feelings take が and are therefore the subject". Do textbooks really teach that? How do they explain りんごが食べたい? 食べたい means "to be the object of desire to eat" or something? –  dainichi Mar 21 at 14:29
@TokyoNagoya: The sentence (phrase) appears as an explanation of 失恋. I thought the use of the colon ":", which includes a full stop, would have made the following phrase/sentence stand on its own merit(?) –  Tim Mar 21 at 14:51
In listings like that, you can't really expect full sentences. In this case, it's explaining the meaning of a noun with a noun phrase. –  dainichi Mar 21 at 14:58
@dainichi:you prompted me to go back to my textbooks but (ざっと見て),を does not seem to be prima facie wrong... –  Tim Mar 21 at 15:05

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are probably people that teach that が can only mark subjects. I don't like that theory, since it makes it really hard to explain some other things.

So I will proceed under the assumption that が can also mark objects of stative verbs (adjectives like 好き, verbs like 分かる, the ~たい form and the ~える・れる potential form etc). In fact, it seems that が and を are in competition in these positions.

りんごを食べたい - りんごが食べたい

I personally prefer the が version, but it seems that many speakers (mainly younger ones) like the を version.

In the given example, I personally like を better, and I think it's because 気持ち is not really the object of the stative verb もらえる, but of 受け入れて (i.e. 気持ち attaches to 受け入れて before the whole thing attaches to もらえる).


But I suspect that for some, the power of the potential form is so strong that it forces the が. Or maybe they parse it thus:


Sorry for the vague answer. But in many cases, different native speakers will use particles in slightly different ways.

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I agree with your logic although but not sure about terminology: I would have said that if を is taken then を is still the object marker but the subject of the sentence is the actor but not sure if that is technically correct. (Possibly worth separate question on whether the ~が〜をVたい construction is grammatical?) –  Tim Apr 1 at 0:49
My understanding was that things like 好き and 分かる described the status of the noun that would be the object in English. I.e. if これ is the noun and 分かる is the verb, "kore is understood" would be a closer English translation after accounting for the structure of the verb. This passivitiy is also also why it's possible to use に to mark the person who understands something: 私にはこれが分かる, "this is understood by me." For 好き and ~たい, these describe aspects of the noun -- desirable, liked, etc., similar to how ほしい modifies the noun, rather than being a verb with a direct object. –  Eiríkr Útlendi Jun 3 at 16:45
@EiríkrÚtlendi There are a number of reasons not to consider these constituents subjects, and to consider them objects instead. See The Oxford Handbook of Japanese Linguistics, p.142-146 for five arguments, along with an argument that they are not passive. –  snailboat Jun 3 at 16:50
@snailboat: Passivity would apply to 分かる alone of these examples, yes? One can't really have passive/active when it comes to stative verbs. :) About passivity, I expressed it badly in the English, but my take on 分かる is not as a passive verb, but as an intransitive: compare classical 分く and modern 分かる, 分ける. And thanks for the link, but I find I quite disagree with a number of things in their analysis. –  Eiríkr Útlendi Jun 3 at 17:41
@EiríkrÚtlendi, I don't agree with everything in the linked explanation either, e.g. the ungrammaticality of 8b, but some of the other arguments are quite convincing. I think the etymology of 分かる is a red herring. It seems clear to me that at some point the verb was reanalyzed so the understander is the subject, thereby allowing subject honorification on the understander only, not the understandee. –  dainichi Jun 4 at 1:51

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