I would like to reference a question I have about this thread that I asked a few days ago: 「思っているようです。」or 「思っている。」 for describing another person's opinion That question was clearly answered. This follow-up question results from my studying the given answer.

I wrote this as an example sentence:
(1) Bobさんによれば、株価が高いと思っているようです。

However, this was correction offered by 2 native speakers:
(2) ボブさんによれば、XXさんは物価が高いと思っているようだ。

I translate as:
(1) _According to Bob's research, someone is thinking that the price of the stock is high.
(2) _According to Bob's research, Mr. XX is thinking that the price of the stock is high.

Given my intended meaning, the subject of #1 is in fact a meaningless, "no-op", word that must be there only to conform to the sentence structures of English. I had to have some subject, even if it is meaningless. In Japanese, I feel like I have some freedom with regard to sentence structure.

As these sentence are more about "based on whose analysis were stocks evaluated (ie. Bob)", and not about "who was doing the thinking about the stock price (ie. someone)", could I just get away with not having any subject at all? Doesn't that allow the native speaker to sense an implied (not relevant to the meaning of the sentence) subject? Would not having any subject in Japanese break the grammar? Make the meaning confusing?

  • 1
    I don't like using the word "subject". While English grammar has a strict definition of "subject", Japanese does not. So, as you suggest, talking about the "subject" of a Japanese sentence is not productive.
    – user312440
    Jul 30, 2014 at 0:03
  • My interest is the "actor / action" relationship. My goal is to maximize the inferred information in every sentence (that sounds like natural Japanese to me). With no surrounding context, in one sentence, can I create an inferred actor when the action is in the active voice? The actor would have to be like "someone", "anyone", "some unknowable group of people", "an undefined person", etc. Can I have action without clearly stating who the actor is?
    – user312440
    Jul 30, 2014 at 0:17

1 Answer 1


If you don't care about who is doing the thinking, then why not make it much more natural and use the passive voice?

According to Bob, the stock price is thought to be high.

Also do you mean: 株【かぶ】価【か】 stock price or 物価【ぶっか】 cost of living?

If you want to omit the subject you do need context I'm afraid.

A: あの会社の株、XXさんはどんな風に考えている?
B: ボブさんによると、高いと思っているそうだ。
A: How's Mr. XX feel about the companies stock price?
B: According to Bob, he thinks it's high.

  • So, you think that, when a native speaker hears of an action, he/she always considers who the actor is and looks in the sentence itself and surrounding context for that actor? Without using passive voice, can you think of one sentence, without any surrounding context, that has an inferred actor/subject? (it's not a quiz :-), just curious about techniques for inference in Japanese.)
    – user312440
    Jul 29, 2014 at 17:19
  • yeah. I totally like this answer. As you suggested, if subject/actor inference is not possible, then hiding it with passive voice is the way to go. thanks.
    – user312440
    Jul 29, 2014 at 23:51

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