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In the book I'm reading (「キッチン」 by 吉本{よしもと}ばなな) I have found the following sentence:


I guess it can be translated to something like (sorry for a quite literal translation): "Behind (me) Yuuichi was wiping the floor with a cloth using his hands".

This sentence has two を. One of them (床をふいてくれていた) I understand as marking the direct object (floor) of the verb (wipe).

I cannot understand what the other を is doing there (ぞうきんを). What meaning does it have? What grammatical pattern is used in here?

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up vote 24 down vote accepted

You usually can't have two をs in one clause, so when you see one, most commonly one of the following is true:

  1. It's part of a 〜を〜に(して) construction in which して is left out.

    AをBに → AをBに(して)

    You can recognize this one by the distinctive 〜を〜に pattern, often with a comma.

  2. A repeated verb has been left out ("backward gapping"):

    XがAを、そしてYがBを買った → XがAを(買い)、そしてYがBを買った

    Unlike English, in Japanese the last verb is retained rather than the first.

  3. The を links to a verb in a subordinate clause.

    Aを [ BをCして ] Dする

    If you see two をs in a row like this and they don't seem to suggest the same verb is coming up, it's usually a signal that the speaker has started a subordinate clause. Each を links to a different verb.

In this case, I suppose it's probably #1:

うしろで雄一が ぞうきんを 手に(して) 床をふいてくれていた。

Yuuichi was wiping the floor with a cloth in his hand.

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Thanks! I wasn't aware of #1 and that makes sense. I knew #2 and #3 but they didn't make sense in this sentence. – Szymon Jun 4 '14 at 0:07
Seems similar to how "cloth in hand" can act as an adjunct in English. Not sure how perfect that analogue is though. – Darius Jahandarie Jun 4 '14 at 1:28
Good answer! Wouldn't have known how to word it, myself. – istrasci Jun 4 '14 at 5:12

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