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This clause is from a book that I'm reading called "日本人が知らない世界の歩き方". It's the first clause of the first sentence in the book and coincidentally the first one that I'm having trouble with. In particular, there are two things that I don't understand:

  1. What does the を before 歩く mean? How is it possible for an intransitive verb to have an を particle? If this usage of the particle を is different than its usage as a direct object, can you please explain this alternate usage in depth?

  2. What does it mean for のは to be preceded by a verb in the past tense? I understand that when の follows a present tense verb, it forms an infinitive or gerund (i.e. 歩くの = to run or running), but I don't understand what this means when it is applied to a verb in the past tense.

*edit: I just learned from the particle-wo tag that the particle can sometimes mean the course of a motion verb. So 外国を歩く means "walk around a foreign country" or "traverse a foreign country"? What English preposition is a good approximation for this particle? And is 歩く meant to literally mean "to walk", or is it a more general type of motion like "to traverse"?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted
  1. Xを歩く has the meaning of walking along X. See this and this related question.

  2. のは has exactly the same meaning as when used with a present tense verb. の nominalizes whatever verb precedes it, and は makes this nominalized verb the topic of the sentence...

As it stands the sentence is incomplete, so the only way is to translate it freely. I would say something like

(About) How I started to walk on foreign territories...

but it really depends on the text. A freer translation might fit even better.

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I still don't understand what it means to nominalize a verb in the past tense. –  Ataraxia Sep 30 '12 at 22:24
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@phoenixheart6 Nominalizing a verb allows you to use the verb as the subject/topic of a sentence. E.g. "I like drinking beer" ビールを飲むのが好きです. Or, in the past tense, バイトをして自身を持てるようになったのは、仕事で頑張れるのにとても大事なことでした "The fact that I had gained self-confidence during my part-time job was really important for my motivation at work". (Actually, the nominalizer の appears twice here.) –  Earthliŋ Sep 30 '12 at 22:43
    
Ok, so when used in the past tense it's "the fact that"? I think I understand then. I was confused because I normally think of nominalizing as turning it into an infinitive or a gerund. Thanks for your answer. –  Ataraxia Oct 1 '12 at 14:32
    
@phoenixheart6 Yeah, I do, too. There is no past tense gerund, though. Sometimes the perfect tense fits well, and then you can use the gerund for the auxiliary. If there were a past tense gerund, it would be the way of translating it. The concept in Japanese is really the same. –  Earthliŋ Oct 1 '12 at 15:25
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