I self study Japanese and among the things I do is reading easy NHK news articles.

Here is one article I read. In the article appears the word 首都 capital city. Hovering over it would give the following sentence:


If I am not mistaken this sentence should mean something along the lines of:

City with a public office becomes the capital and the center of the country.

Now, whether the above translation is correct or not, I have not idea how this sentence works, I can't wrap my head around it. I understand each part (word, particle, verb, etc.) separately (to a certain degree for I can't understand this sentence) but, I can't understand how those individual parts integrate and form this sentence.

With that said I would like to receive your help with translating this sentence and helping me understand it, the sentence structure, word order, grammar and any other thing that would help me understand the sentence and how it was created.

Unless you have to please refrain from using rōmaji in your answers.

  • 1
    I would like to say that that is not a sentence, but a noun phrase. It's mean there's no pradicate verb. If you want to read it as a sentence, you will need to add a subject (首都とは) and a predicate verb(である).
    – marasai
    May 2, 2015 at 6:42

2 Answers 2


You should read the sentence in this way:

  NP(その国) POSS(の) NP[ NP(議会) 
                          NP(中心になる役所) ] } 

, where NP{} is the subject of the sentence modifying 'city'. It's not a full parse, but I hope you understand the point here.

OP seems to have a problem reading NP[], which is a simple conjunction of two noun phrases: 'parliament' and '中心になる役所'. You should note that (に)なる here does not mean 'becoming', it's more like 'playing a role of'. So 中心になる役所 translates into 'government offices playing central roles' or more naturally 'important public offices'.

  • 1
    I still don't understand this part: 中心になる役. We art talking about a city 都市 where situated(exists) ある the country's(the country wherein the city is located) その国の parliament and (using や for it is an incomplete list of things) 中心になる役所. 役所 is a gouvernment office so I guess it means gouvernment offices that plays central role(in the country). Can you further explain this part.
    – user9979
    May 1, 2015 at 12:33
  • Oops, you're right. 中心になる役所 is 'central/important government offices'. I mistook it for 場所.
    – krim
    May 1, 2015 at 13:13
  • Great! Where can I find such smart marks as NP{}, NP[] , POSS(), SUBJ() and the way of expressing the sentence structure which are used in your answer?
    – user20624
    Jun 3, 2017 at 2:37

A city that has government offices. Due to が -> の conversion, this is the equivalent to 役所がある都市. Credit to @snailboat

Becomes (things like) central and congress. In this case, this is not a one time thing, or a future occurrence - it is in the present. This basically means it is being/doing. Another example of なる meaning "to be/to do" is ご覧になる, which is simply defined as "to look" despite literally meaning "to become looking." The common definition "to become" is really closer to the future tense of this verb, which is why it is much more flexible in Japanese than in English.

Of that country

A city with government offices that are currently the congress and center of that country.

I tried to make it make sense in English while sticking as close to the literal translation as possible. I read NHK Easy frequently, and I always read those hover definitions as well. I hope this helps!

  • 1
    I do not think the ある in this clause is 或る.
    – istrasci
    May 1, 2015 at 2:50
  • Why not? It says のある, not にある.
    – Darcinon
    May 1, 2015 at 16:33
  • I don't think there is that much difference between "a certain/some city" and "a city that exists" in English anyway, except that the former sounds better. Regardless, to my eyes it seems like ある isn't connected to any preceding particles, so it fits the pattern of 或る(noun) quite well.
    – Darcinon
    May 1, 2015 at 16:47
  • 2
    istrasci is probably suggesting that it's [ 役所のある ] 都市 rather than 役所の [ ある都市 ], which would mean that the particle の is from が-の conversion: [ 役所がある ] 都市
    – user1478
    May 1, 2015 at 17:17
  • What @snailboat said.
    – istrasci
    May 1, 2015 at 18:05

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