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その後ろ姿を、コートをかけられたエルメスがフィールドの出入り口で見ていた

google and deepl translate this as

"Behind him, a coated Hermes watched from the doorway of the field."

And that makes sense from the context too. But I read it as

"A coated Hermes watched a figure behind him from the doorway of the field."

I know I'm wrong but I don't understand why the first を is not a が in this case.

Can anybody explain? Thanks!

Update: Oh wait! Is this the "suffering passive" thing?! So literally "Hermes, the figure behind, that got a coat hung on him, watched from the entrance"?! The figure is the object of the 'verb' had-a-coat-hung-on? Phew. This is getting difficult.

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  • This is an example of what is called 掻き混ぜ操作, 'scrambling'. In the unmarked word order, the object その後ろ姿を would come directly before the verb 見ていた, but Japanese allows movement of certain constituents of a sentence to the 'left periphery' of the sentence, which is the normal place for a topic, hence it is focussed.
    – N. Hunt
    Nov 21, 2023 at 5:52

1 Answer 1

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If the sentence were

姿をエルメスが見ていた

would you understand it better?

If the sentence were, per your suggestion,

姿がエルメスが見ていた

you've then got two subjects.

It's not clear to me what その refers to. It could be Hermes. It could be someone else. We'd need more context to be sure.

But matters of その aside, we can begin to add back parts of the sentence and ask ourselves whether we can make sense of it.

フィールドの出入り口で

This just tells us where the observation occurred: at the entrance to the field.

コートをかけられた

This is a relative clause modifying Hermes.

Hermes, who had a coat hung on him

At least according to the additional context you provided in the comments.

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  • Thanks so much for the answer. Yeah my way would result in two subjects! That's a good point. Oops.
    – Keverick
    Nov 20, 2023 at 17:20
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    the その refers to someone else from the sentence before :) And hermes is a talking motorbike, so not actually wearing a coat, just having it hung on him. I think that might be confusing! Sorry. I will add more context next time! But I think I get it now. Thanks!!!
    – Keverick
    Nov 20, 2023 at 17:27

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