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I was just wondering, because in English we can say "This story begs the question" etc. The wording for English is very versatile, and I was wondering if Japanese has this as well, for example in this sentence:

このゲームは質問を頼む

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    A good question, but in this case "to beg the question" is more of an idiom, no?
    – Brandon
    Feb 24, 2016 at 18:12
  • Can you give a more detailed example? What question does it beg?
    – Locksleyu
    Feb 24, 2016 at 18:48
  • But what does "begs the question" mean here? To raise the question? To dodge the question? To make a circular reasoning? Feb 24, 2016 at 19:54
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    @broccoliforest forest makes a good point - the actual meaning of "to beg the question" refers to a logical fallacy; what people sometimes (mistakenly) mean when they say it is "raise the question."
    – Kurausukun
    Feb 24, 2016 at 23:08
  • The short answer is No. That won't work. It is only guessable to those who know the English idiom. "this begs a question", and then be able to extrapolate that an English speaker is trying a word-by-word translation.
    – Jun Sato
    Sep 4, 2023 at 16:12

1 Answer 1

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In English, it's common for an inanimate object to serve as the subject of a sentence, almost as if they have its own will. In Japanese, this construction is much less frequently used, making some English sentences sound unnatural when directly translated into Japanese.

This is an important difference between English and Japanese, and Japanese Wikipedia has a page for this. Japanese students explicitly learn in English class that these kinds of sentences are common in English, and are given plenty of exercises to practice translating such sentences into natural Japanese.

Below are some examples taken from the Wikipedia article. English sentences are followed by a literal Japanese translation marked with a to indicate that the translation may be understandable but is not natural. The alternative, more natural Japanese translations are provided after the .

  • The book will teach you the basic conversation of Spanish. (△その本はスペイン語会話の基礎を教える。)
    → By reading the book you can learn the basic conversation of Spanish. (その本を読めばスペイン語会話の基礎が学べる。)
  • The airplane enables you to reach Los Angels tomorrow. (△飛行機はあなたを明日ロサンゼルスに着くのを可能にする。
    → Thanks to the airplane, you can reach Los Angels tomorrow. (飛行機のおかげであなたは明日ロサンゼルスに到着することができる。)
  • The heavy snow prevented him from going home yesterday. (△大雪は彼の昨日の帰宅を妨げた。
    → Due to the heavy snow, he could not go home yesterday. (大雪のため、彼は昨日家に帰れなかった。)
  • This photo reminds me of my childhood. (△この写真は、子ども時代をわたしに思い起こさせる。)
    → When I see this photo, I recall my childhood. (この写真を見ると私は子どもの頃を思い出す。)

In these revised versions, the subjects are living beings, which aligns better with common Japanese sentence structure.

Likewise:

  • This story raises a question. (△この物語は疑問を引き起こす。)
    → When you read this story, you'll have a question.(この物語を読むと疑問に思うだろう。)
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  • And the reason why there's preference in choosing the subject is that the listener often has to speculate what the subject is while it's omitted.
    – user4092
    Feb 25, 2016 at 2:49

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