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I just finished Japanese level 2 in college, which as I have come to understand is ~the most important~ and I came away with quite a lot of questions.

We learned about relative clauses and something my teacher referred to as a "sentential modifier" and they seem very similar, but clearly have different functions. Hoping someone could help.

コーヒーを飲んでいる男の人です。

the man drinking coffee

So as I understand this is an example of a relative clause (i.e. the preceding clause modifies the noun). However, when my sensei brought up a "sentential modifier" she kind of glossed over it. But here was the sentence

これは私が使う水です。

That is the water I use.

So, these things are pretty similar, but I was hoping someone could clarify this for me. Both sentences use the short form of verbs and no particle between the verb and the ~leading~ noun.

If these are both correct, how commonly are clauses/sentences like this used? Are there any "rules" about use of particles in these instances?

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  • By "short form" do you mean "verb form without 〜ます"? I think the usual term for "leading noun" is "head noun".
    – user1478
    May 26, 2015 at 1:57
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    Sounds like they're just 2 names for the same thing. If you're asking why one has ~でいる, while the other has ~う, that's a bit more complicated to explain.
    – dainichi
    May 26, 2015 at 3:04
  • yes. i should have said dictionary form, but i always think of that as "the shortest form" and yes, as i was writing this out i was curious as to why the first sentence took to the present progressive, and the second sentence remained more general. any information on this would be excellent! 私がここで習いまよ!
    – kickbokser
    May 26, 2015 at 21:01

3 Answers 3

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  • S1.  コーヒーを飲んでいる男の人です。 == Here's a man (who is) drinking coffee. ( a relative clause ? )

  • S2.  これは私が使う水です。 == This is the water [that I use].

The latter is said to contain a "sentential modifier" because instead of [that I use], it could be [that Peter uses] or (based on) any elaborate sentence.

e.g.  「これは、頭が赤い魚を食べた猫と私が飲む水です。」

I think the main difference is whether the [relative clause] contains a subject or not -- (I mean "subject" in the sense of English grammar.)

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    (If I get enough points, I'll continue.) <- enough for what?
    – Chocolate
    Aug 2, 2016 at 2:01
  • (If I get enough [reputation] points, I'll continue.)
    – HizHa
    Aug 2, 2016 at 2:06
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    Why do you need to get more reputation to continue writing and complete your answer?
    – Chocolate
    Aug 2, 2016 at 2:11
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I may not understand your question exactly but I try to answer.

If a sentence or a phrase modifies a noun, a postpositional particle isn't necessary like コーヒーを飲んでいる男, 私が使う水.

If a noun or noun phrase modifies a noun, a postpositional particle の is necessary like 男の人, 図書館の本, 大きく成功した会社の社長.

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I can't (at least instantly) think of any relative clause which use special particle to connect to the noun.

So I suppose answer is:

  • They are both commonly used grammer
  • No. There is no Japanese grammer which use special (or, dedicated...?) particle to connect a relative clause to a noun.

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