5

I was wondering if there is any ambiguity with sentences that have adjectives qualifying a noun, especially regarding the が particle.

For example:

1.) 僕が好きな人

Can this sentences have an ambiguous double meaning of "The person that I like" and "The person that likes me"?

Likewise

2.) 僕が食べたい魚

Can this mean either "fish I want to eat" or "fish that wants to eat me"?

to make the meaning of this sentence clearer would

3.)僕を食べたい魚-

ONLY mean "fish that want to eat me" as the only interpretation?

Is there a go to interpretation for qualifications like this or does one have to identify exclusively via context unless there are further details provided?

For example, more detailed, clearcut sentences

4.) 僕が好きなところ - This sentence would ONLY mean "The place that I like/My Favorite place"

or

5.) 野菜を食べるのが好きな人 - In this sentence the only interpretation could be "People that like eating vegetables"

Thanks

  • yes, it could mean both, it depends on the context. for example 2, there must be a context around it. yes for 3-4-5 – WKx Apr 7 '15 at 5:54
  • For 3,4,5, yes as in those have just one interpretation? – mattb Apr 7 '15 at 6:07
  • only 1 interpretation. sorry for short answer, someone with more time may explain better. – WKx Apr 7 '15 at 7:38
  • 1
    This is not for learners, but if you feel like staring into the abyss, see 頭が赤い魚を食べた猫, which can be interpreted in five ways. – naruto Apr 7 '15 at 8:03
2

1.) [僕]{ぼく}が[好]{す}きな[人]{ひと}

Can this sentences have an ambiguous double meaning of "The person that I like" and "The person that likes me"?

First, that is not a sentence; It is only a noun phrase (or a relative clause). "The person that I like." is not a sentence in English, either.

The answer is affirmative. It can mean both, but to mean "The person that likes me.", it is more natural to say 「僕のことが好きな人」.

2.) 僕が[食]{た}べたい[魚]{さかな}

Can this mean either "fish I want to eat" or "fish that wants to eat me"?

Strictly speaking, no. It can only mean "the fish that I want to eat".

In Japanese, we DO NOT say 「~~たい」 to talk about a third party's desire (in this case, the fish). We say 「食べたがっている」. This is a common mistake among J-learners.

「僕(のこと)を食べたがっている魚」 = "The fish that wants to eat me"

See here for details: Aren't がる and たがる the same thing?

to make the meaning of this sentence clearer would

3.)僕を食べたい魚-

ONLY mean "fish that want to eat me" as the only interpretation?

It is missing 「たがる」 as I mentioned above. You need to use it to talk about the fish' desire.

Is there a go to interpretation for qualifications like this or does one have to identify exclusively via context unless there are further details provided?

Depends on the phrase. As I stated, 「僕が食べたい魚」 can only mean "the fish I want to eat" with or without further context, but the phrase would be ambiguous if one did not know about たい vs. たがる.

Context is important as Japanese is a most contextual language, but your own knowledge of the grammar and such is equally important.

  • 僕が食べたい魚 for "fish that want to eat me" is not entirely impossible in narratives though it's still uncommon. I personally mind excessive use of たがる. – user4092 Apr 7 '15 at 8:41
  • you are giving wrong advices... for 2. strictly speaking YES, it can mean both, I mean grammatically(of course it makes no sense, a fish eating a human). Also maybe you might have seen grammar book that say you have to use たがる, but we actually use this kind of sentence (with たい) all the time ! example : ビールが飲みたい人, 真実が知りたいあなた... Actually japanese just use たい more often than たがる in conversation language – WKx Apr 8 '15 at 14:53

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