If a Japanese person wanted to say something like:

I don't understand the phrase "I am flabbergasted"

then I think

「I am flabbergasted」という意味が分からない

would be okay.

I was wondering if you could just say

「I am flabbergasted」は/が分からない

without having to explicitly use a word like 意味. More generally, is it permissible to attach any particle other than と to a direct quote?

  • 5
    "「I am flabbergasted」という意味が分からない" >> "「I am flabbergasted」 意味が分からない" のほうがいいと思います・・・
    – Chocolate
    May 5 '16 at 19:05

Your "sentence":

「"I am flabbergasted."という[意味]{いみ}が[分]{わ}からない。」

is not grammatical and for native speakers to understand it, we would have to guess as to what the speaker/writer is trying to convey. Fortunately, the guessing part is not very hard in this case, but that sentence will still have the listener/reader guessing for a second.

For you to use the phrase 「~~という意味」 correctly, the ~~ part would need to be the meaning of a word/phrase/sentence, etc. in question, and not the word/phrase/sentence itself. This is why the quotative 「と」 is used with 「意味」("meaning").

To say what you want to express grammatically and naturally using 「~~という」, you could say:

「"I am flabbergasted."という文の意味が分からない。」 [文]{ぶん} = sentence

「"I am flabbergasted."という表現の意味が分からない。」 [表現]{ひょうげん} = expression

Informally, however, you could simply say as @chocolate stated:

「"I am flabbergasted."意味が分からない。」

Finally, your last sentence:

「"I am flabbergasted."は/が分からない。」

can be used in informal situations.

With 「は」, you can say something like:

「"Sod off!"分かるけど、"I'm flabbergasted"分からない。」 ← Contrastive 「は」

With 「が」, you can say:

「"Sod off!"分からない。このページの[他]{ほか}の表現は[全部知]{ぜんぶし}ってるけど。」

TL;DR: Just remember that whenever you are directly attaching a "particle + verb phrase" to a quote, that expression would usually be informal.

In formal speech, placing 「という + 文/表現/ことわざ」 right after the quote would be the usual way to talk about the quote. (ことわざ = proverb)


Yes, you need a ーと after the direct quote, before a verb that takes that quote as its object. For your example, the correct translation is: 私は"I am flabbergasted"という言葉の意味がわからない。'I don't understand the meaning of the expression "I am flabbergasted" '.

Other instances For「言う」'say' and related verbs such as「ささやく」'whisper' 「叫ぶ」'say loudly, scream' etc. , 彼女は「おはよう!」と言った/ささやいた/叫んだ。'She said/whispered/yelled "Ohayo!" '. *彼女は「おはよう!」を言った/ささやいた/叫んだ。 (* = unacceptable)

Hope this helps. RS

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.