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彼の別荘は後ろに山を控えている

Translates into:

There is a mountain behind his country cottage.

Understood literally: speaking of his country cottage, a mountain is located behind. 控える locates something with を, if I understood it correctly.

Does the same apply generally to verbs that can "spread" an object? E.g.:

山を背後に広がっている古い和風の住宅地

Would translate into an old Japanese-style housing district with a mountain spreading in its background?

Have I understood this correctly? Does this work with other intransitive location verbs?

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控える is special. It can be used both an intransitively as well as a transitively.


As for 控える: It comes with few different senses that may not seem similar. The relevant sense is listed in dictionaries as transitive:

控える

《二》[他動詞]

③距離的・時間的にすぐ近くにある。「このホテルは近くにスキー場を控えている」「試験を明日に控える」

Perhaps its basic meaning could be explained as "keeping sth. inside"※※.

Let's take a look at its usage:

双方の言い分を聞くまで判断を控えます. I will suspend judgement until I have heard both sides

Think "keep judgement within my my mind, not letting it out"

たばこ[酒]を控える refrain from smoking [drinking, alcohol]

Think "keep the urge/desire/wish to smoke within myself"

糖分[塩分]を控える avoid taking too much sugar [salt]

Think "keep within a certain limit (or common sense)."

The "locative" use:

北に琵琶湖を控えた土地 an area which has Lake Biwa behind it to the north

lit. "keep/possess Biwa as (a special or worthy-to-mention-now) part to the north". Note that English does pretty much the same: "Have Biwa to the north".

And finally,

彼の別荘は後ろに山を控えている

The English translation could be rephrased as:

His country cottage【subject】

has got【verb】

a moutain【direct object】

behind it."

This should (I hope) make the transitive usage easier to relate to for English speakers.


※ The word combination を背後に広がる is possible, but as in

林間の木道を抜けると、穂高連峰を背後に広がる田代湿原に到着。

林間の木道を抜けると、穂高【ほたか】連峰を背後に広がる田代【たしろ】湿原に到着。

or

大型ホテルや高層ホテルを背後に広がる人工ビーチ。

The hotel is to the back, the beach is what stretches out.


※※ Mnemonic. This is my attempt to help you understand the different senses. I do not claim it actually means that, nor am I aware of its etymology.

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