So I learned that ながら means doing things are the same time, but is a certain activity specified as a main activity or the first activity? My textbook always puts the second activity first in the translation.

For example: 「音楽を聞きながら運転するのが好きです。」

Does this mean: "as I listen to music, I liked to exercise?"

Or: "I like to exercise as I listen to music?"

Or: "I like to listen to music as I exercise"

Or: "I like to exercise and listen to music at the same time?"

They are different because the first one specifies that you are listen to music kind of as the main thing and exercisng on the side. While the second one specifies that you are exercising as the main thing and listening to music as you exercise.

Does the 好き apply to both 音楽 and 運転?

  • 3
    I believe you have a typo. 運転する means to drive. 運動する means to workout / exercise. Jul 6 at 3:01
  • opps, yeah I meant to write 運動
    – Infernoboy
    Jul 6 at 20:50

1 Answer 1


Japanese is a nearly completely head-final language. This means a modifier almost always comes first and the main part comes last. Also in 音楽を聞きながら運転する, 音楽を聞きながら is a modifier that modifies the main verb, 運転する. So in English, it's "to drive while listening to music". (Note that 運転 is "to drive", not "to exercise").

I like6 driving5 while4 listening3 to2 music1.

English is a strongly head-initial language. See how the word order is almost completely reversed except for the subject.

  • You say Japanese is "nearly" completely head-final. Do you by chance have any examples where Japanese is not head-final?
    – Kaskade
    Jul 6 at 9:46
  • @Kaskade Unfortunately, no. I just repeated what Wikipedia says...
    – naruto
    Jul 7 at 10:10
  • @Kaskade For ordinal numbers, there are constructions NUMBER-COUNTER-目 and 第-NUMBER-COUNTER. I think that constructions with 第 are not head-final. (This 第 is borrowed from Chinese grammar.)
    – Arfrever
    Jul 25 at 16:29

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