In this sentence


the adverb まったく uses の to modify ひとりぼっち (which I'm assuming is a noun in this context. I'll come back to that.) How do you know when an adverb can be used in this way? I've seen the same thing done with たくさん.

On a side note I'm confused about the sentence as a whole. I think ひとりぼっち translates as loneliness or solitude and I'm assuming that the で here is the -て form of the copula (だ). So the first half of the sentence becomes

I am complete loneliness, and ...

which doesn't quite make sense. Thanks.

2 Answers 2


Some words can be combined with の. These are called の-adjectives. Many are adverbs that become adjectives. The most common ones that can be used with の are たくさん、多い、and ほとんど. 多い is special. When used before the noun it changes to 多く


1)車がたくさんあります。There are a lot of cars.

風でたくさんの木が倒れました。Due to the wind, many trees collapsed.

2)人が多いです。 There are many people.

多くの人は親切です。Many people are kind.

3)前に勉強したことをほとんど忘れました。I forgot almost everything I studied before.

ほとんどのりんごは赤いです。Most apples are red.

The で is the sentence does not translate into "and". It has a few uses. It can be used to link sentences, similar to our use of a semi-colon ";". It can also be used in situation meaning "by means of". But this is not stated when translating the sentence.

Thus is can be "I am completely alone; no one is here." or "(By means of) Being completely alone, no one is here.

一人で is the same. "(by means of) being one person". i.e. by myself/alone

  • I can't convince myself that "by means of" works in this context. I'm happy to treat で as a semicolon in this case, but that means the first clause must have a verb (which must be "to be"). But then we get a sentence talking about "being loneliness" rather than "being alone". That's what's confusing me. Mar 21, 2015 at 9:47
  • たくさんの車は白い is as awkward as almost ungrammatical (some will say it's just ungrammatical), while sentences like たくさんの車が白かった are marginal.
    – user4092
    Mar 21, 2015 at 15:45
  • @user3856370 As you start to learn more advanced Japanese it becomes harder to do a literal translation. Things become more intuitive. This is one of those sentences. It becomes implied that the action of existing is done "by means of" being alone. It's easier to wrap your brain around 一人で first and then apply it to "一人ぼっちで”. For example: 一人で勉強します。I study alone. The action of studying is being done "by means of" (being) one person. The で makes the noun 一人 (one person) into an adverb. So similarly, 一人ぼっち (loneliness) turns into "alone" when the で is added.
    – ku204
    Mar 22, 2015 at 5:31
  • @user4092 Thank you for noticing that. I changed my example in the original post.
    – ku204
    Mar 22, 2015 at 5:40
  • @ku204 So, I understand your example about studying alone. But suppose I just wanted to just say "I'm completely alone" without the rest of the sentence. Would that come out to be 僕はまったくのひとりぼっちで だ? My gut tells me that I would drop the で in that case. It sounds weird otherwise. Maybe another example sentence would help me. How would I say "because I am completely alone I am sad"? My guess would be something like 僕はまったくのひとりぼっち だからかなしい。Would that sentence need で? If there is no で then I get back to the original problem of "being loneliness" rather than "being alone". Thanks for your patience. Mar 22, 2015 at 13:40

So you might be familiar with the fact that adjectives in Japanese come in a few flavors: Na-adjectives, i-adjectives

You can now add "no-adjectives" to your list. It is not official as far as I know, but thinking it over I think it will be easy and clear to you:

Some examples before I get to your sentence in question:

"adj before noun"
爽やかな 風 が 感じました (sawayaka + な)

大きい帽子をかぶっていた (ookii + (nothing), but ends in い)

たくさんの人が来ました (takusan + の)

When you want to modify a verb with "adjectives" they change in this way:

"adj before verb"
さわやかなように 触った (~なように sawatta)

うまく出来た (umai -> umaku)

まったくない (no special change)

So that's how you can connect adjectives/descriptive words on a basic level. You might call them adverbs once you connect, but the word choice in English doesn't apply 100%/ひゃくぱ.

As for boku (me), 
Completely/utterly ひとりぼっちで,

In [the] surroundings, nobody [was].

You're right that ひとりぼっち means alone/solitude/loneliness. The same could have been said by saying ひとりで but that just means "by oneself/myself" instead of "totally alone"

So your sentence, put together, means something like

 I was completely alone; nobody around.

Japanese does not start with the assertion of an "I" or a "subject" that is modified by verbs and adjectives like in English.

Often people will translate things like this by saying "Okay, there is an Identity, and then the rest of the sentence modifies the identity"

Actually, it is quite the opposite in Japanese, we simply state the situation as clearly as possible. Whether or not there is a subject involved is usually irrelevant or delegated to context. So for example,


If we remove 僕は we have

Completely lone, surroundings containing [absolutely] no one.

When translating and interpreting, I encourage you to read every statement as a situation, instead of as a subject verbing. You will see this sort of aspect most readily in statements for hunger and thirst:

お腹 が すいた
Stomach が Empty/Hungry

のど  が 乾いた
throat が dried/thirsting.

If there is a relevant "part" it will be stated, but otherwise, we are simply painting a scene with a brush that cuts through identity.

Hope that answered your question and gave you some food for thought.

Edit: "When can an adverb use の to modify a noun?" All the time provided it has no -i or -na counterpart (which would be used instead)

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