I came across this sentence:


I'm parsing this as "I was taken prisoner" but I'm not quite sure about the grammar behind that を, it's the first time I'm seeing something like that.

As this is clearly not a 非情受け身 nor a 間接受け身 nor a 持ち主受け身, can を replace が in cases like this to stress the unwillingness of the object?

  • 2
    Who’s the subject of the sentence? Isn’t it someone who suffers from “me” being taken hostage?
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jan 11 at 15:42
  • @aguijonazo the subject is 私, they suffer from being imprisoned but were not being imprisoned by a prisoner. Does this make sense?
    – Barcia
    Commented Jan 11 at 16:23
  • 2
    Can you put the whole sentence?
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jan 11 at 17:01
  • If the subject (sufferer) is really 私, one possibility is that the 私 in the sentence figuratively refers to something like privacy, personal life, or “self” that belongs to the speaker. We will need more context to determine if this is the case.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jan 12 at 4:24

1 Answer 1


This sentence is technically ambiguous, but it is typically interpreted as an indirect passive sentence with some implicit subject. Let's assume the implicit subject is 父親, and compare your sentence with a typical indirect-passive sentence:

  1. 私は財布を盗まれた。
    I had my wallet stolen.
  2. [父親は]私を取られた。
    [My father] suffered on account of me being taken. / [My father] was deprived of me.

A sentence like 1 should be found in any textbook. And this is why を is used instead of が here. The subject of this sentence is not 私 but someone else mentioned in the previous context!

Note that に in 人質に is almost certainly a role marker rather than an agent marker in your sentence. This part requires common sense rather than grammar; it is unusual for a hostage to kidnap someone.

  1. 私は財布を泥棒盗まれた。
    I had my wallet stolen by a thief.
  2. [父親は]私を人質取られた。
    [My father] suffered on account of me being taken as a hostage.
  • 1
    It might be helpful to be extra literal with the suffering of the father in the English translation because the first instinct for me when reading "had me taken" is that the father hired someone to do it.
    – Leebo
    Commented Jan 12 at 1:43
  • @Leebo Thanks. Is there a good way to phrase this in the form "My father [verb] me..." without implying the father arranged this?
    – naruto
    Commented Jan 12 at 1:49
  • 1
    Trying to keep it relatively close to the structure, I suppose "My father (negatively) experienced me being taken as a hostage"? I'm not sure what's best, sorry.
    – Leebo
    Commented Jan 12 at 1:52
  • 1
    I think a more natural way to say this in English would be something like, "My dad suffered on account of me being taken hostage". This is, I think, one of those things that's just easier to say in one language (Japanese) and awkward in the other (English). But I think "experienced me..." is just very weird English. It makes the point, but sounds strange.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Jan 12 at 2:11
  • 2
    It just isn't a natural expression pattern in English for this specific context, I think. But there are enough attempts at approximating it here, that I think any native English speaker should be able to understand it clearly. Commented Jan 12 at 4:35

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