This is probably fairly basic but, not being a native speaker, I'd like to confirm if my understanding of grammar of the following sentence (from 中上級日本語, Feb'14) is correct and what is natural.

In the following sentence I would have expected the subject to be the speaker and the object of the transitive verb 受け入れる (to requite), to be their feelings (気持ち), however their feelings take が and are therefore the subject:


Is this possibly because もらう is in potential form (?) or is it possibly because the sentence is nominalised by こと (?) what is the norm here and when would を be appropriate?

1) "An Introduction to Adv Jse Spoken Jse" tells us that for expressions of desire,mentioned in the comments, for the ~たい construction が is "normative" but "を" is also used in actual conversation.
2) Makino's Dictionary of Basic Jse Grammar tells us that for ~たい form of transitive verbs either is fine but が is preferred if the degree of desire is high (perhaps a similar principle applies here?).

  • 「私の気持ちが相手に受け入れてもらえないこと。」 is not a sentence.
    – user4032
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 14:11
  • "his feelings take が and are therefore the subject". Do textbooks really teach that? How do they explain りんごが食べたい? 食べたい means "to be the object of desire to eat" or something?
    – dainichi
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 14:29
  • @TokyoNagoya: The sentence (phrase) appears as an explanation of 失恋. I thought the use of the colon ":", which includes a full stop, would have made the following phrase/sentence stand on its own merit(?)
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 14:51
  • 1
    In listings like that, you can't really expect full sentences. In this case, it's explaining the meaning of a noun with a noun phrase.
    – dainichi
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 14:58
  • @dainichi:you prompted me to go back to my textbooks but (ざっと見て),を does not seem to be prima facie wrong...
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 15:05

1 Answer 1


There are probably people that teach that が can only mark subjects. I don't like that theory, since it makes it really hard to explain some other things.

So I will proceed under the assumption that が can also mark objects of stative verbs (adjectives like 好き, verbs like 分かる, the ~たい form and the ~える・れる potential form etc). In fact, it seems that が and を are in competition in these positions.

りんごを食べたい - りんごが食べたい

I personally prefer the が version, but it seems that many speakers (mainly younger ones) like the を version.

In the given example, I personally like を better, and I think it's because 気持ち is not really the object of the stative verb もらえる, but of 受け入れて (i.e. 気持ち attaches to 受け入れて before the whole thing attaches to もらえる).


But I suspect that for some, the power of the potential form is so strong that it forces the が. Or maybe they parse it thus:


Sorry for the vague answer. But in many cases, different native speakers will use particles in slightly different ways.

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    My understanding was that things like 好き and 分かる described the status of the noun that would be the object in English. I.e. if これ is the noun and 分かる is the verb, "kore is understood" would be a closer English translation after accounting for the structure of the verb. This passivitiy is also also why it's possible to use に to mark the person who understands something: 私にはこれが分かる, "this is understood by me." For 好き and ~たい, these describe aspects of the noun -- desirable, liked, etc., similar to how ほしい modifies the noun, rather than being a verb with a direct object. Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 16:45
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    @EiríkrÚtlendi There are a number of reasons not to consider these constituents subjects, and to consider them objects instead. See The Oxford Handbook of Japanese Linguistics, p.142-146 for five arguments, along with an argument that they are not passive.
    – user1478
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 16:50
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    @snailboat: Passivity would apply to 分かる alone of these examples, yes? One can't really have passive/active when it comes to stative verbs. :) About passivity, I expressed it badly in the English, but my take on 分かる is not as a passive verb, but as an intransitive: compare classical 分く and modern 分かる, 分ける. And thanks for the link, but I find I quite disagree with a number of things in their analysis. Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 17:41
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    @dainichi: Sorry for confusion, my main point was that 分かる is intransitive vs. the transitive 分ける, similar to many such -aru, -eru verb pairs. One can analyze multi-が sentences by viewing the が clause closest to the intransitive or stative verb phrase as bound to that verb phrase, with any subject honorifics applying to the noun in the preceding が phrase, without having to resort to grammatical innovations such as nominative objects or transitive adjectives. Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 15:41
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    @dainichi, it's not just the etymology. Every JA dictionary I've looked at that makes a trans/intrans distinction lists the modern verb 分かる as 自動詞, i.e. intransitive (except apparently in a possibly dated idiomatic sense that has to do with receiving money). It takes が, not を. It can be used in passive constructions such as (人)に(こと)が分かる. I see talk in English about it being transitive, but English speakers have an inherent conceptual bias in that this is expressed (along with ideas such as "like" or "want") as transitive in English. But as you say, this might boil down to how one shaves. :) Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 0:17

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