In the following sentence, ”だったが" is used in an unfamiliar way to me.


I've seen things like "今回の問題なんですが" used in the sense of "今回の問題は", in other words to introduce a topic. Is だったが in the above sense used in the same way, to introduce Robin? If so, why is past tense used?

1 Answer 1


I feel this topic-introductory use of 「だったが」 is licensed by the relative clause 「12世紀後半、父への反発心から獅子心王リチャード率いる十字軍遠征に参加した」 modifying the topic word(s) 「(英国貴族ロックスリー卿の息子の)ロビン」. Here, what is being introduced is not merely a person, 「ロビン」, which in itself lacks specific temporal reference, but a person and his action in the past (or "the past of the past"), described by the relative clause, namely that of having enlisted in the Crusade. (This piece of information is very important in the sentence, and as much a part of its topic as 「ロビン」, I think, since without having done so he wouldn't consequently have been captured by the Muslims and been awaiting execution.) Hence the 「だったが」.

However, perhaps despite everything I have explained so far, a plain old 「だが」 can replace the 「だったが」 here, and the sentence remains perfectly fine (though possibly with some very subtle differences in nuance.) To wit, the following two sentences are grammatical (I stripped away the parts I deemed hard to come up with good translation for irrelevant and cumbersome):

(1) 十字軍遠征に参加したロビンだが、ムスリム軍に捕らわれ、処刑を待つ身となっていた。

(2) 十字軍遠征に参加したロビンだったが、ムスリム軍に捕らわれ、処刑を待つ身となっていた。

And I see no problem in translating them both as:

(1,2) Robin, who had enlisted in a/the crusade, had been captured by the Muslims and was now awaiting execution.

But without the relative clause 「十字軍遠征に参加した」:

(3) ?ロビンだが、ムスリム軍に捕らわれ、処刑を待つ身となっていた。

(4) *ロビンだったが、ムスリム軍に捕らわれ、処刑を待つ身となっていた。

(3) seems marginally okay (though I would prefer 「は」 to 「だが」 here, or something like 「ロビンのことだが(×だったが)、彼は...」 but this sounds too colloquial, like you are talking to someone in conversation), but (4) sounds plain wrong to me.

  • Thanks, great answer. So why do you think an author would prefer だが or だったが to は in a situation like this? Maybe it separates things more cleanly?
    – Locksleyu
    Jun 28, 2016 at 22:14
  • Besides serving to introduce a topic, だったが (or だが) carries some of its "but" sense here, emphasizing the contrast between his gallantly joining the Crusade and the hopeless captive state he is in now. Using a は should be as grammatically natural a choice, but would mean the author opted not to or didn't care to overtly call the the reader's attention to that contrast. (My preference of は over だが is in regard only to the sentence (3) in my answer, not to the original, in case I was unclear. Now I looked at it again (3) seems less than okay... I'll change it to "marginally okay" or somethin.)
    – goldbrick
    Jun 29, 2016 at 1:52

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .