It seems like this is a remnant of (or reference to) older forms of Japanese. Is that all there is to it, or does it have special meaning?

Examples from songs:

歌声 笑い声 満ちる大空 目指すは憧れ

(DuDiDuWa*lalala - KOTOKO)

吹きやまぬは残り風 [...]

(残り風 - いきものがかり)

And lastly, the same with が:
(At least I suspect that it's not the "but" kind of が. Feels like the subject particle for some reason.)

巡り逢ったが 運の尽き


2 Answers 2


This construct was common in classical Japanese, but now it is archaic or poetic. In classical Japanese, the attributive form of conjugating words can be directly followed by particles which attach to nouns (without inserting の). 目指すは would become 目指すのは in modern Japanese, 吹きやまぬは would become 吹きやまぬのは or 吹きやまないのは, and so on.

  • Ah, I just realized that my last example wasn't in plain/attributive form. Is it the same idea, or just が acting as "but"? (Hmm, almost a new question at this point...)
    – Hyperworm
    Sep 1, 2011 at 1:00
  • 1
    @Hyperworm: It is the same structure. た in 巡り逢った in that example is the attributive form of 過去の助動詞「た」 (the auxiliary verb た meaning past). Sep 1, 2011 at 1:06

Tsuyoshi Ito has already answered this question, but I'd like to add one detail:

I think I see 目指すは〜 a lot more than other verbs followed by は. Although I can't find it in any dictionaries, from personal experience I think it might be common enough to be considered something like a set phrase, or possibly a holdover from when this grammar was more common.

Searching The Balanced Corpus of Contemporary Written Japanese (BCCWJ) for 目指すは, I find 73 results, of which 4 look like false positives (they matched はず rather than the particle は). So that's 69 results, and given the size of the corpus, I think that's a fairly large number. For comparison, the corpus has 194 results for カタツムリ.

A lot of the corpus results for 目指すは look something like this:


And that's more or less how I'm used to seeing this phrase used. Searching for the same phrase on Google gives a lot of similar results.

In any case, I think it's worth learning as a pattern of its own.

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