I don't have a Japanese sentence example of something long, but let's say I have to sentence that has two clauses that are separated with a が followed by a comma. You feel that this second clause that sounds more natural in English when translated to be at the front of a sentence than towards the back. Is it possible to move stuff around within the complete sentence or should I treat two clauses as separate parts when I'm translating it.

Right now I've only been reading simple sentences like:

彼女は、学生じゃなくて、先生だ。 She is not a student, she is a teacher.

Apologize ahead of time if this question seems vague.

Edit: How about a sentence like this: 嫌がらせの可能性も、山口さんは捨てきれなかったが。

The last が in the sentence I thought perhaps it could be a colloquial way to trail off in a sentence like "but..." More like it's seems better to say Unfortunately or Although at the beginning of the sentence.

Although Yamaguchi-san couldn't discard the possibility of also being harrassed.

So, is it perfectly possible to move the second half of this sentence to the front of if translated in an English sentence and first half towards the end?

I been usually just been keeping both halves separate where they are and not moving words around much from where they are between the clauses if that makes any sense.

  • 1
    You're right, this question is vague. Please give an example sentence and be precise about what you mean by "move stuff around".
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 21:39
  • I'm not quite certain what you mean, but if you're talking about word order, you might take a look at this question: does-word-order-change-the-meaning-of-a-sentence. Perhaps also this: varying-word-order-for-stylistic-effect
    – blutorange
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 21:46
  • So essentially, your question is how close one needs to keep to the original Japanese text with respect to word order when translating it into English?
    – blutorange
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 1:56
  • 2
    When Japanese is translated into English, it often ends up roughly backwards.
    – user1478
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 11:11
  • blutorange - Yes, I guess what I'm trying to say.
    – Shido
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 21:59

1 Answer 1


Your question is about ordering of phrasing in translation, at least that's how I interpret it.

It's a good question. Here are some foolish examples:


Destination Verb Subject が Object Verb.

In English, we can render it naturally like:

Subject Verb Destination, Verb Object.

roughly, for sake of illustration:

The me that went to Tokyo bought a new shirt.

As you can tell by the breakdown of grammatical pieces, they are pretty much entirely reversed (by clause). You can find numerous examples of situations where live-interpreters have to wait until the very end of a long sentence to hear the verb being used, before they can start to translate into English (or whatever).

So feel free to switch the clauses around if it sounds natural. The word order is not exactly "anything goes" but "backwards" or "inverse" might be a good term to describe the changes one can make (really what one should strive for) when translating complex sentences from Japanese to English.

So, is it perfectly possible to move the second half of this sentence to the front and the first half towards the end?

Precisely so my friend.

  • Thank you for taking the time to write the explanation out. I would vote this up but my rep isn't as high yet apparently.
    – Shido
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 19:41

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