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One line examples rarely have enough context to infer. What about this sentence that needs an inferred subject?

田中さんは部屋に入ってきたかと思うと、いきなり窓を全部開けた。

"開ける" is transitive, so how would a proper translation deal with the lack of an explicit subject in the main clause?

  1. Just as Tanaka entered the room, Tanaka opened all the windows. (given what ~ かと思うと... means this does not sound correct.)
  2. Just as Tanaka entered the room, someone (who we've already talked about) opened all the windows.
  3. Just as Tanaka entered the room, all the windows opened. (a paraphrase using "to open" intransitively)

For a translation, #2 makes sense to me but I don't like that empty inference of someone. For a paraphrase, #3 is better because then nothing is inferred; the missing subject is hidden. What do you think?

2 Answers 2

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You should parse the sentence this way:

田中さんは[部屋に入ってきたかと思うと、]いきなり窓を全部開けた。
(≂ 部屋に入ってきたかと思うと、田中さんはいきなり窓を全部開けた。)

The subject of the main clause (= いきなり窓を全部開けた) is 田中さん because it's marked with は.

部屋に入ってきたかと思うと is a subordinate clause, and the subject of a subordinate clause should be marked with が, as in 田中さん部屋に入ってきたかと思うと. To mean "Just as Tanaka entered the room, someone opened all the windows", you'd say 「田中さん(not 田中さん)部屋に入ってきたかと思うと、XXはいきなり窓を全部開けた」 or 「XXは、田中さん部屋に入ってきたかと思うと、いきなり窓を全部開けた」.

As you might know, ~たかと思うと means ~やいなや or ~とすぐに, "as soon as ~~" "right after doing ~~"

So your sentence means #1 "Just as Tanaka entered the room (or, On entering the room / Right after he entered the room), Tanaka opened all the windows."

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  • But does it feel strange? Does 「~と、いきなり...」 make it feel as though 田中 didn't expect his own action? The conditional-と is such that what comes after is uncontrollably true right? So for that reason I feel that the window opening was not an action controlled by 田中.
    – Flaw
    Nov 4, 2016 at 4:50
  • Here, いきなり shows that the speaker of this sentence or someone who was present at the scene didn't expect the action by Tanaka. The subject of the 思う is also the speaker or someone present at the scene, not Tanaka. The conjunctive particle と, when used as "when~~" "at the same time~", can be used like this: 「挨拶を終えると彼は椅子に腰を下ろした。」(デジタル大辞泉「と」2⃣接続助詞1例文)「彼は家に帰るとすぐにテレビをつけた。」「そう言うと彼はそのまま黙り込んだ。」 so you can say 「田中さんは部屋に入るといきなり窓を開けた。」
    – chocolate
    Nov 4, 2016 at 23:42
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How to translate such a small snippet of text depends a lot on why you're translating it --

  • Who is the intended audience? Will they know that this snippet is too short to handle well? What will they expect?
  • What is the intended purpose? Is this for conveying the general gist? Is this for accurately conveying what is said?

That said, my personal preference would be #2 -- it's closest to the original meaning, and (especially with the parenthetical comment) it clarifies that there is more information implied by the source text than what is actually there in the words. #1, reworded slightly to avoid redundancy -- replacing the second "Tanaka' with "she" or "he".

(Note: Don't translate when super-tired and in a rush. :) See chocolate's post about the は・が distinction. That said, my above points on "why are you translating this" are still relevant.)

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