An N5 vocabulary question I'm having trouble understanding:

わたしの となりの (   ) を かけた ひとは すずきさんです。

1 くつ   2 かぎ   3 めがね   4 でんわ

The answer is 3: わたしの となりの ( めがね ) を かけた ひとは すずきさんです。

Which I construe as The person beside me who wore glasses is Suzuki-san.

However, what is stopping 4 from being a valid answer?

わたしの となりの ( でんわ ) を かけた ひとは すずきさんです。

I interpret this to be The person beside me who made a call is Suzuki-san.

A Google search of phrases in this question doesn't bring up anything helpful for me. The book's explanation doesn't cut it too: 「となり 電話を かけている ひとは~」は◯。 Why must and かけている be used?


2 Answers 2


かけた as Current State

This question is testing whether you understand how the seemingly past tense かけた can actually be describing the current state of a person. This kind of verb usage happens a lot with articles of clothing.

The correct translation is not “who wore glasses”, but rather:

The person beside me who is wearing glasses is Suzuki-san.

めがねをかけている人 or めがねをかけた人 most often means the person who has glasses on, and not the person who is in the process of putting on glasses, nor the person who has put on glasses at some point. Similarly, 青いコートを着た人 usually just means person in a blue coat, not person who wore a blue coat.

かけた as Past Action

In contrast, the かけた in でんわをかけた人 clearly has a past tense meaning, i.e. person who made a phonecall.

As you point out, the でんわ choice is not ungrammatical per se (even though the context may be harder to imagine). However, the big hint is choice #2, かぎ. This noun acts similarly to でんわ, in that かぎをかけた人 means person who locked (a door). Since you cannot have multiple correct answers, these choices can be ruled out. Sadly, multiple choice questions often involve this type of sleuthing and mind-reading.

Why must で and かけている be used?

The textbook probably wanted to say that, in order to describe the person's current state and not an action done by them in the past, it must be 電話をかけている人 (person who is making a phonecall). Changing the となり to となり is not necessary, although the meaning will be altered a bit:

  • 私のとなりでんわをかけている人 [person beside me] who is making a call
  • 私のとなりでんわをかけている人 person who is [making a call beside me]
  • I still interpret 私の隣の電話をかけた人 as ''The one next to me who made a call" like when explaining to a 3rd person who also saw him calling.
    – Derpius
    Dec 5, 2015 at 15:16
  • This has been most helpful; thanks! I have read about て いる being used for state continuation for quick actions like wearing clothes or glasses. So is it right to say た fulfils this function too? learn-japanese-adventure.com/…
    – rhyaeris
    Dec 5, 2015 at 15:18
  • @Derpius I agree, it is grammatical and totally makes sense in some situations, as is the case with choice #2.
    – mirka
    Dec 5, 2015 at 15:29
  • @rhyaeris Yes, but only when used in a noun phrase (e.g. [something]を着た[somebody]). So you can say コートを着た背の高いのが私です to mean “The tall one wearing a coat is me”, but 私はコートを着た will mean “I wore a coat” and not “I'm wearing a coat”.
    – mirka
    Dec 5, 2015 at 15:41

I think No.3 is better because I guess わたしのとなりの ~のひと means the situation of the person.As you said 隣で電話をかけている人 is no problem because the action comes after で like 公園で電話をかける.

However I think it is difficult to judge the difference between the action and the situation.I think 私の隣で電話をかけた人、私の隣で眼鏡をかけた人(the action of sporting a pair of glasses) are no problem.

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