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震災で家族を亡くしたOtoyaは、売られた奉公先で暴行されそうになったところを、家の跡取りである一威(Kazui)に助けられる.

I was thinking that since 暴行 can be a する verb, that maybe され had something to do with that, but I'm really not sure. Can someone explain?

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Your assumption is correct. It's the passive form of する. So he received/was subjected to violence after being sold into indentureship. But I'm not sure about the そうになったところを construct. I don't know if he was actually subjected the violence or was on the verge of it before being saved by Kazui. Maybe someone else can clear that up too. –  Louis Nov 16 '11 at 13:38
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What the heck is the context of this sentence!? It's so odd with all this different information in it. –  istrasci Nov 16 '11 at 15:22
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@istrasci: I agree that the sentence is odd, but it is a real excerpt from the synopsis of a book except that in the synopsis, the proper names are written in Japanese. You can find the book by googling the sentence excluding the names in English. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 16 '11 at 15:35

1 Answer 1

Yes your intuition is correct. It has something to do with する.

  • される is the passive verb form of する.

What does the passive-form do?

Compare:

AはBをぶつ - "A hits B"

AはBにぶたれる - "A gets hit by B" (The verb ぶつ is in the passive-construction)


Now why is it され and not される?

  • され is the 連用形 of the passive construction of the verb する for which auxiliaries such as ~そう, ~ます etc. may be appended to

Let's examine what 連用形+そう does:

~そう is an auxiliary construction that presents what the verb is expressing as a conjecture of the speaker concerning a present state or a future event based on the speaker's observation.

Compare:

雨が降る "It is raining"

雨が降りそうです "It looks like it will rain"

Now we're left with combining そう with ~になる "to become~" in past tense; ~になった "became ~", to form the expression ~そうになった which is roughly means:

Literally: became the state of "appearing to be ~"

Natural Translation: almost/nearly did ~


The next step is putting all the parts together step by step:

  • 暴行する - "to assault"

  • 暴行される - "to get assaulted"

  • 暴行されそうです - "looks like will get (or is being) assaulted"

  • 暴行されそうになった - "became the state of "looks like will get (or is being) assaulted" "

Then we try to naturally understand the last step and end up with:

"to almost get assaulted"


Now 暴行されそうになった is followed by ところを (which I imagine is derived from ところ + を + Elided Verb) (I'm not really sure where ところを comes from and also deriving it would be out of the scope of this question)

  • ところを means something like "in the midst of" and is quite similar to ときに (Their difference would also be out of the scope of this question)

Their combination, 暴行されそうになったところを would roughly mean "In the midst of almost getting assaulted"

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This answer is replete with good explanations, but it seems like you "over-answered" and included things the OP didn't ask for (or possibly even need answered). Therefore, it was somewhat confusing to read all of this. –  istrasci Nov 16 '11 at 15:20
    
I actually considered a shorter answer, but felt that it was not useful. If I were just to answer what "され" does (as requested in the question), the answer would be "It is the 連用形 of the passive construction of the verb する for which auxiliaries such as そう, ます etc. may be appended to" –  Flaw Nov 16 '11 at 15:24
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Actually, the extra explanation is very much loved. Thank you Flaw! –  Kyou Nov 16 '11 at 15:29
    
@Kyou You're very welcome =) –  Flaw Nov 16 '11 at 15:34
    
@Flaw -- touché –  istrasci Nov 16 '11 at 22:01

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