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While reading, I came across this sentence:

「上官が上官なら部下も部下だな」

What does this 「XがXなら、YもYだ」 pattern mean? "Like X, like Y"? "X will be X, and Y will be Y"?

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just change the tag to grammar as this seems more like a legit grammatical pattern than a translation. –  Mark Hosang Jun 9 '11 at 8:58

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

“XがXならYもYだ” means that X is bad in some sense and it explains that Y is bad in the same way. Therefore 上官が上官なら部下も部下だ can be translated as “like officer, like his subordinate,” but it is only used to mean the similarity in something bad.

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I think that sentence has the same nuance as 「この親にしてこの子あり」. 「上官が上官なら部下も部下だな」is a more offensive tone. I have seen "Like father, like son" in my homework book.

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Is this similar to the (neutral) English pattern, "As X goes, so goes Y," or does this Japanese pattern always imply that X influences Y in a bad way? (I suppose Tsuyoshi already answered this, but are there any exceptions?) –  Derek Schaab Jun 9 '11 at 15:25
    
I think this pattern can be used in a good way in defferent contexts. http://dic.search.yahoo.co.jp/search?ei=UTF-8&p=此の親にして此の子あり –  Kentaro Masa Jun 10 '11 at 8:07
    
I don't think it necessarily implies causality between the officer's badness and the subordinate's badness. It somewhat depends on the context, but in this case, it could just be saying they're both rotten. The phrase is sometimes used to point out that, while X is more visibly bad, Y is not exempt from blame. In this case, X and Y are independently bad, possibly due to some larger institutional corruption. That said, the phrase can also be used when there is more implied causality, like 親が親なら子も子だな. –  SuperElectric Jul 7 '11 at 15:38

In my understanding, that mean

They all are the same

I would translate 上官が上官なら部下も部下だな as

Officer do (whatever they like), and also subordinates do the same thing, they all are the same finally.

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