I'm puzzled by the bold part of the following paragraph which occurs in my Japanese learner's version of 雪女:


My current understanding of this の+copula construction (my textbook calls it "extended predicate") is that it explains an action or statement based on the current context. So in this context perhaps it makes the storytelling more lively by directly answering a hypothetical question that the reader will ask after reading the first sentence ("but how will they get back?"). Is that the purpose of this construction?

A related question is: why is the sentence not written as follows?


After all, the action (receiving transportation) took place in the past, and the story is read in the present. Or it the case that the extended predicate always "captures" any past tense of a preceding verb?

  • 1
    I like this question. I think のだ and のだった are more or less used as kind of 終助詞s. They are used differently and have little to do with the actual tense. のだった is often used for 詠嘆 in novels. I'm waiting for others' answers.
    – Yang Muye
    Mar 23, 2014 at 23:39
  • I like it too. I was tempted to say the style is a variation on the use of plain form in novels but I am still struggling to get to grips with that and offer slightly different guess: It may also be just a way to make the narrative more interesting. Rather than just largely repeat the first sentence the writer explains that they [always] came back the same way on the return journey, hence ~もらうのだった. If he had used もらった then apart from being repetitive, possibly the のだ would have been redundant.
    – Tim
    Mar 24, 2014 at 1:29
  • "もらうのだった" is 詠嘆 emotional narrative in storytelling. It is a naration not an answer to some hidden question. Where "の" indicates noun-clause like English word "that". There are imaginary parentheses "( 渡し守に...運んでもらう) のだった". On the contraly, "運んでもらったのだ" is a simple explanation or answer.
    – user4688
    Mar 24, 2014 at 10:49
  • WWWJDIC translates {詠嘆}[えいたん] as "exclamation; admiration". Are you saying that もらったのだ is similar in meaning to a sentence with an exclamation sign in English in this context? Since Japanese is a left-recursive language, I feel like many constructions effectively wrap a predicate on the left side into parentheses, to which some grammatical "operation" is applied. e.g. (...)かもしれない. Is this case any different? Mar 24, 2014 at 21:20
  • By the way, feel free to create an answer :) Mar 24, 2014 at 21:21

1 Answer 1


As noel_lapin mostly answered, this form of sentence does not assume any implicit question. I don't know the grammatical classification that describes this use, but "もらうのだった" has a sense of repeated occurrences that became customary, that they have always done so, not just in this particular occasion. It is a particularly common form of speech for old story telling, so much so to the point that whenever I hear it it mentally plays in my mind in and old man's voice of 日本昔話 TV series :-)

As for your second part of question on why "もらったのだ" wouldn't do, "のだ" adds a sense of emphasis, that you are absolutely positive that it had happened. It is natural if the speaker was present at the scene, but does feel a bit odd if the speaker is telling a story that happened hundreds of years ago somewhere. In addition, you lose the sense that two men always relied on 渡守 to bring them back. I'm not sure if I can call this use wrong, but its meaning does change considerably.

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