I am reading the Japanese translation of Matilda by Roald Dahl. Spoilers ahead.

Mr. Wormwood has just finished explaining how he cheats his customers at his second hand car store. He fills the engine with hay to get rubbish cars to work again!

Matilda (his daughter) then asks him:


to which he replies:


I interpreted 買ったやつ to mean "the guy who bought the car". Mr. Wormwood is rather impolite and would have no problem referring to his customers as such.

However, others have cast doubt on this interpretation. An opportunity to learn presents itself! Which is more likely to be correct here?

After this debacle I looked up the original English, here it is:

"How long will it run like that before it starts rattling again?" [Matilda asked him.]
"Long enough for the buyer to get a good distance away,"

  • I totally agree with naruto's explanation, but even if the structure allows, it would more likely to mean "what I (=Mr. Wormwood) bought" rather than "what was bought" or "what someone/the person bought".
    – rk03
    Nov 14 at 17:44
  • What does the original English mean? Is he saying the buyer will be too far away to come back to him to complain when they realize he cheated?
    – aguijonazo
    Nov 14 at 20:42
  • @aguijonazo The English means the same as the Japanese, pretty much exactly (is the conclusion as I understand). Your suggestion is also the implication I understood. It's a children's book, putting hay in the engine also wouldn't fix anything. You just have to suspend your disbelief a little ;)
    – doliphin
    Nov 14 at 20:48

1 Answer 1


This 買ったやつ is "the person who bought it", so your initial interpretation is correct.


The car can run [until the 買ったやつ goes quite far away].

The implied topic of the sentence (the subject of 走れる) is obviously the car, and this sentence specifies a different subject in its subordinate clause (the まで-clause) using が. This means 買ったやつ refers to something other than the car itself. If it referred to the car, you wouldn't have to specify the subject here.


The car can run until it goes quite far away.

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