This is the "sentence":

暴力は悪*だと非難する| condemn violence as evil

Sounds simple? The English translation does not give a subject so I wonder are either が or をcorrect if I modify the sentence as follows:

彼らは暴力 [が/を] 悪だと非難した |They condemned violence as evil.

I think を is consistent with the pattern in the following two sentences so I suspect that is the natural choice and although が is also grammatically correct it is not used.

彼らは彼を無能だと非難した| They blamed him for incompetence

彼は私を不注意だと批判した| He criticised me for being careless

If が is the natural choice then I anticipate this will relate to the nature of the combinations of 暴力&悪;彼&無能:私&不注意 but I'd be grateful if someone could explain this.

All these came from プログレッシブ英和・和英辞典.

*As a secondary question is this 悪 read as あく or わる?

  • 1
    It should be あく; わる is the stem of the adjective 悪い and can't really be used on its own.
    – Zhen Lin
    Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 8:08
  • 1
    @ZhenLin: 悪 appears in this dictionary as a word eg 悪をする|do bad things
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 8:29
  • 2
    About わる and あく: We talked a little bit about this on chat, and Choko had some comments: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/511/conversation/and-
    – user1478
    Commented Jun 15, 2014 at 7:57

3 Answers 3


(Answer based on information received in chat on 15 June 2014)

In the examples given either を or が would be correct.

In Japanese, linguists call certain verbs (like 言う) "exceptional case marking verbs" (ECM verbs), and these verbs allow "raising to object", where the subject of the と-clause becomes the object of the main clause. For example:

花子は [ 彼が   嘘つきだ ]-と 思っている。
花子は   彼を [ 嘘つきだ ]-と 思っている。  ← SUBJECT is "raised" out of the と-clause to OBJECT of the main clause

This is also referred to as "subject raising".

A number of theories have been put forward to explain how/when this can be done but it remains a matter of discussion. The are summarised in the paper "Semantic constraints on the subject-to-object raising (ECM) construction in Japanese" (Link: http://vsarpj.orinst.ox.ac.uk/files/horn.eals.pdf)

(Re: わる vs あく; see link in 3rd comment below question from Snailboat.)


Whether it contains the subject or not, it's natural to mark 暴力 with は because it's a general statement to say that violence is evil. Otherwise it (especially が) would connote that violence being evil is occasional or violence is more evil than the other things. (If that is the case, it's natural on its own.)

  • That is an interesting comment on why は is used but you are not answering the question.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 15, 2014 at 7:46

What we have here is a case of embedded sentences using the quotative particle と. The first sentence is as follows:

暴力は悪だ Violence is evil.

The speaker's intent is to condemn all violence, so the use of は here is appropriate. Looking at the other part separately, we get:

Xと非難する to condemn X

While we usually think of the particle と in combination with the verbs 話す, 言う, and 思う, the truth is that it can be used with any verb where you are acting on a full or partial expression (e.g. 暴力は悪だと分かるんだが・・・). In these cases, the use of は or が does not change to fit the larger sentence because the particle と is shielding it from the larger sentence's influence.

As to the question about 悪, it's typically read as あく when it stands alone as a noun. As ZhenLin pointed out in the comments, わる most often appears in 訓読み compounds (e.g. 悪気【わるぎ】 "ill will") or other stem-related derivatives (e.g. 悪さ【わるさ】 "badness").

  • Thank you but I think you missed my question: Is 暴力 an object, probably marked by を or a subject marked by が (or possibly even by some definitions, and objected marked by が)? There is an ambiguity. Re:悪、I am fairly sure it is わる but wanted to check. There is some interesting chat on all this.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 15, 2014 at 7:53

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