Consider the main premise as follows,

A boy borrowed a pen from a girl. 男の子は女の子にペンを借りました。

Now consider the following additional premises, each with a different conclusion:

  1. The boy is Suzuki Shin.


    The boy who borrowed a pen from a girl is Suzuki Shin. 


  2. The girl is Hayashi Aimi.


    The girl from whom a boy borrowed a pen is Hayashi Aimi.


  3. The pen is expensive.


    The pen that a boy borrowed from a girl is expensive. 



  1. I am not quite sure the second case above is correct, what do you think?

  2. Can we use a passive form in relative clauses? For examples:

    • The pen that was borrowed by a boy from a girl is expensive.


      Warning: I am not sure this passive form is correct.


3 Answers 3


Q1: Yes, I think those three sentences using active voice are correct, including the second one. And they seem natural, too.

Q2: Yes, we can definitely use passive voice in relative clauses.


This sentence can be (at least technically) rewritten using passive voice in two ways:

  • A: ペンは女の子から男の子に借りられました。 (with ペン as the subject)
  • B: 女の子は男の子にペンを借りられました。 (with 女の子 as the subject)

The sentence A may seem tricky because I suddenly used から instead of に. "By X" can be translated as "Xに", but 「ペンは女の子に男の子に借りられました」 is obviously strange, so I had to rethink the particle choice. Do you know that, in the active version, we can also say 「男の子は女の子からペンを借りました」? Knowing this, you can make the former version straightforwardly.

The sentence B is often called 迷惑の受け身, and it implies the girl is bothered by the situation (i.e., she didn't want the pen borrowed). Actually this sentence is not very good because it happens to be ambiguous and can also mean "A girl could borrow a pen from a boy". (借りられる also means "can borrow", as you know) If there's enough context, this won't be a large problem, and we can quickly fix this by using the subsidiary verb しまう to clarify the feeling of 迷惑.

  • B2: 女の子は男の子にペンを借りられてしまいました。

I think most people would say this sentence is natural, although the 迷惑 feeling is added which was not in the original active version.

Now we have the correct passive sentences, we can construct relative clauses from them. With the sentence A:

→ 女の子から男の子に借りられたペンは高いです。

Although understandable, this sentence is unnecessarily complicated, and we don't usually say this. Stick to the active version 「男の子が女の子[に/から]借りたペンは高いです」 unless you have a good reason.

And with the sentence B:

→ 女の子が男の子に借りられたペンは高いです。
→ 女の子が男の子に借りられてしまったペンは高いです。

I think the last sentence is natural if 迷惑の受け身 is intended.

  • 1
    For the sake of completeness, please confirm whether or not the following attempts are correct. A: ペンが男の子に借りられた女の子は林愛美です。 ペンが女の子から借りられた男の子は鈴木伸です。 B: 女の子がペンを借りられた男の子は鈴木伸です。 男の子にペンを借りられた女の子は林愛美です。 Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 8:33
  • Ah, that reminded me that these sentences are ambiguous because れる also can mean 'can'! But sorry I don't have time for now, I will edit my answer later.
    – naruto
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 8:41
  • I think it becomes ambiguous whether passive or potential only for the second group (~る ending dictionary verb). I can change the verb to 貸す to remove the chance of ambiguity. Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 8:52
  • A:ペンは女の子から男の子に借りられました doesn't make sense to me. B:女の子は男の子にペンを借りられました means that a person who the boy borrowed a pen from is not the girl.
    – user4092
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 16:23
  • 1
    ペンが借りられる is a potential sentence.
    – user4092
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 21:57

Before answering your question, I have to point out that the base sentence does not sound right. You would say:

  • 男の子は女の子からペンを借りました。 or
  • 女の子は男の子にペンを貸しました。

Note you borrow(借りる) from(から) someone. You loan(貸す) something to (に) someone.

  1. sounds right except に needs to be replaced by から, i.e.:


  1. is correct as it is, since no に is used at all. I can't find a better way to preserve the notion of "from" explicitly in this sentence construct.

  2. 女の子が男の子に借りられたペンは高いです。

This is possible but very unnatural because of the use of "借りられた". To Japanese ear (I'm native Japanese speaker), it almost sounds as though ペン had its own soul. It sounds like a translated sentence. A more natural way of saying this might be:


With regard to 高い vs 高価, I agree "高いです" sounds a bit strange, but "高価です" doesn't sound too natural either. To make it sounds more natural, I would put もの (thing) as:


  • 2
    「<人>に<物>を借りる」 という表現は普通に使うと思います。
    – naruto
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 15:15

You might want to say "The pen a girl lent a boy is expensive."

高いです sounds colloquial.
I prefer 高価です in formal situations.

I hope this helps you.

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