I came across this Japanese sentence:


But am not really sure about its meaning in English.

My translation will be "The man heard that his face resembles his mother more than his father".

But then, I don't quite understand why and how いう話 is being used here. I know that "どういう意味ですか" means "what does it mean" in English. But I can't seem to understand how いう is applied in both sentences. Can someone help me here?

2 Answers 2


という is a very common construction which has many meanings and causes me endless confusion. But in this case it's straightforward.

という in this context simply means "saying that".

story/conversation saying that xxx

I heard a story saying that boys' faces resemble their mother rather than their father.

  • Your English translation is for "男の子の顔父親より母親に似てい".
    – naruto
    Jul 6, 2016 at 19:10
  • @naruto I've fixed the verb tense but I'm afraid the は/が distinction is too subtle for me to understand. Jul 6, 2016 at 20:35
  • 3
    @user3856370, I'm not a native either, but I believe the sentence expresses a general rule rather than a particular man's face. I.e. が+似ている would refer to a particular face that resembles ("is resembling") as we speak, while は+似る implies that any boy's face will resemble...
    – kroki
    Jul 6, 2016 at 21:40
  • @kroki Sounds convincing. I've adjusted accordingley. Thanks. Jul 6, 2016 at 22:02
  • Sorry I didn't explain. Just as kroki said.
    – naruto
    Jul 7, 2016 at 2:35

“という(話、こと)” is one of the most frequently used turn of Japanese phrases you come across everyday, and its verbatim translation is “the story to the effect of ….” You can simply apply a relative pronoun, “that” to “という〈話、こと〉”

It can be used as in the following examples:

  • 彼、会社を辞めるっていう話、本当かい?- Is it true that he is leaving the company?

  • 彼がそんなに金に困っていたという話、初めて聞いたよ。信じられない - I heard it for the first time that he's been in such a financial trouble. It's incredible.

  • 今度の人事異動で、田中が製品開発マネージャーに抜擢されるという話だ – I heard that Tanaka is gonna be promoted to the Product Development Manager in the next personnel changes.

  • そういう話は聞きたくない – I don’t want to hear that kinds of story.

  • そういうことだ。これ以上は言うまい - That’s it. I won’t say any more.

  • あの会社は潰れるという噂が飛んでいる - The word is that that company is gonna be bankrupt.

  • 工場を来年3月末までに福島に移転させるという趣旨の通知を受け取った - We received a notice to the effect that the company will relocate the plant to Fukushima by the end of March next year.

  • 要するに、僕の話は聞けないということだね - In short, you're saying that you don't agree with me, hah?

  • いったい何と言うことだ! - What is this? How could it be?

  • 「You can simply apply a relative pronoun, “that” to “という〈話、こと〉”」 >> 文法的には、「Is it true that +文」「I hear that +文」「You're saying that + 文」等のthatは、関係代名詞(relative pronoun)ではなく、名詞節を導く接続詞です
    – chocolate
    Jul 8, 2016 at 5:58
  • Thanks for your usual comment. I wanna tell you that I'm not a grammarian nor English language teacher. I am just an average or possibly below-average level native Japanese speaker, who happen to be dawn to this site and ammused. How you take "that" in gamatical terms is all up to you. Jul 8, 2016 at 6:51
  • それでは、そこはそのままにして、タイポとフォーマットだけ直させてくださいね。
    – chocolate
    Jul 8, 2016 at 6:54
  • @chocolate. Please do it. I'm an awfjul writer and speller, and appreciative of your corrections. Jul 8, 2016 at 10:33

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