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A sentence from JapanesePod101.

私たちは、離陸するまで二時間、飛行機の中で座っていた。
We sat on the airplane for two hours before it took off.

The general meaning of the sentence is not in question, but is 離陸するまで modifying 座っていた or 二時間 (i.e. the two hours until the plane departed)? My instincts say it's the former, but that comma is throwing me off.

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Hint: 離陸するまで can only modify a verb phrase, not a noun. –  l'électeur Jun 22 at 14:17
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That's effectively an answer! –  Viridian Jun 22 at 17:46

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

私たちは、離陸するまで二時間、飛行機の中で座っていた。
We sat on the airplane for two hours before it took off.

Apparently, all 離陸するまで, 二時間 and 飛行機の中で directly modifies 座っていた in the sentence in question. 離陸するまで二時間 does not form a complete noun phrase by itself.

Instead you have to say 離陸するまで*の*二時間 if you want it to modify 二時間 and mean "the last two hours before takeoff."

私たちは、離陸するまでの二時間、飛行機の中で座っていた。
for the last two hours before takeoff

And 離陸する modifies 二時間前 in the following sentence, too:

私たちは、離陸する二時間前に、飛行機の中に入った
two hours before it took off

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