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So I was signing up for an account at a website, and I came across this line:

写真があった方があなたがどんな人なのかわかるし、フレンドも作りやすくなります。

I have never come across a sentence with 3 が's in it, much less one with 3 of them placed consecutively like that. How do you even make heads or tails of this!?

By the second が, the sentence had already lost me... If が marks the subject of a sentence, what on earth is going on in this sentence?

Questions:

  • How would you parse this sentence?
  • Is there a less confusing / better way of phrasing it?
  • (写真があった)方が(あなたがどんな人なのか)わかるし、(フレンドも作りやすく)なります。 I don't parse it. I just read and understand it. You can't parse it simply because you don't understand it. Computers can parse any sentences in dozens of ways, which is not useful at all. – Yang Muye May 21 '15 at 0:58
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    This ~方が is basically the same as 「医者に行った方がいいよ」 or 「大阪より東京の方が大きい」. – marasai May 21 '15 at 6:11
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「[写真]{しゃしん}があった[方]{ほう}があなたがどんな[人]{ひと}なのかわかるし、フレンドも[作]{つく}りやすくなります。」

is a perfectly normal sentence with a fairly simple sentence structure.

It says "Condition A will bring Result #1 and Result #2".

Condition A:「写真があった方が」

Result #1:「あなたがどんな人なのかわかる」

Result #2:「フレンドも作りやすくなる。」

In 「写真があった方が」, 「方」 is used to compare (implicitly) two situations.

Situation 1: 「写真がある

Situation 2: 「写真がない

It is saying that Situation 1 is "better", "recommended more", etc. (than Situation 2). = "If there existed a photo, ~~" ⇒ "If you pasted a photo, ~~"

「あなたがどんな人なのかわかる」 = "(Others) will get to know you (better)."

「フレンドも作りやすくなる。」 = "It will be easier (for you) to make friends."

Is there a less confusing / better way of phrasing it?

As I stated at the beginning, the sentence is very simple and it could not be made any simpler. It is already "good", too.

The kind of sentence that you would better understand (even though I have no idea what it would be like) would probably not be a very natural sentence for the native speakers.

  • It's probably due to my lack of experience with sentences with multiple が's that stumped me for a bit. It really is understandable once properly broken down. – akj May 21 '15 at 2:04
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Actually, there is no definite way of "parsing" a sentence, i.e. distinguishing the components : it depends on the context. See for example this very funny twitter thread about the sentence, where native speakers try to find all possible interpretations :

頭{あたま}が赤{あか}い魚{さかな}を食{た}べた猫{ねこ}

However, it should be obvious that in a given context, only one sentence is acceptable. In your example, the first thing to notice is that 「写真があった」 is a proposition that modifies the noun following it, i.e. 方.

People who have a (profile) picture.

The next が shows that 方 is in turn subject of the next clause. The next verb being わかる, we need to find the function of 「あなたがどんな人なのか」. Well, this would be the object of わかる. It is an indirect or embedded question : meaning that people will understand the answer to the question 「あなたがどんあひとなの」.

This sentence ends with 「し」, here showing a reason among others. Thus :

One reason that it becomes easy to make friends 「フレンドを作りやすくなります」, is that people can understand what kind of person you are if you have a profile picture.

This is obviously subject to interpretation, and we lack context but in this case, I do not see any other way of splitting the sentence in parts that make sense.

「写真があった方」が「あなたがどんな人なのか」わかるし、フレンドも作りやすくなります。

My guess would be that people who see your profile picture would get a better understanding as of who you are !

And no, I do not see another "less confusing" way of writing this sentence. It is true that it contains nested propositions, but this is very common in Japanese.

  • That's a terribly interesting link! But as this shows, that phrase can be parsed. I believe that any language, even slang, can be parsed. If not, it doesn't follow a grammatical rule, and what is language without grammar? The ability for humans to parse language is different from a machine's ability to do that in that a person could tell that certain ways or parsing the sentence is utter nonsense, even if grammatically correct. – akj May 21 '15 at 1:38
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    Yeah, I think it's reasonable to use the parse metaphor when discussing how we should break down sentences, whether we do it consciously or not. And I think your sentence only has one likely parse, @akj. – snailboat May 21 '15 at 1:40
  • Also, I don't believe that context matters as much as semantics when dealing with that sentence. – akj May 21 '15 at 1:40
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    With this particular, I indeed only see one way of interpreting it, but keep in mind that in Japanese (as in a lot of languages) you will encounter undecidable sentences. Btw, I used "parsing" as I use it in my software sense : building an abstract syntax tree. you can always separate the components, ut building the hierarchy is the problem ;) – Urukann May 21 '15 at 1:53
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    I am afraid you are clearly reading 「方」 incorrectly. – l'électeur May 21 '15 at 2:03

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