In an N2 mock paper, the following letter was given, with a very confusing sentence within (bolded below). The answer was 1, but several native Japanese people I asked were confident it was 2.

  • Which is correct?
  • What is the nuance of the bolded sentence - to change all 200 ramen cups (option 1) or only the defective ones (option 2)?


20XX 年8月11日

営業部 鈴{すず}木{き}一{いち}郎{ろう}様


仕入部 食品課長


1 すぐに、太陽カップラーメン200個を新しい商品と取り換えてほしい。

2 すぐに、破{は}損{そん}した全商品を新しい商品と取り換えてほしい。

3 すぐに、破{は}損{そん}した商品の一部を新しい商品と取り換えてほしい。

4 すぐに、10日に入荷した全商品を新しい商品と取り換えてほしい。

Note: the alignment of the date and sign-off has been altered (from align right to align left).

  • 1
    「破損のあった食品の全商品」 is the most ambiguous way to tell something in this context IMO. It should deserve 作問ミス if it were センター試験. Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 11:01

2 Answers 2


It's indeed confusing even to native speakers. So if you received a letter like this, you should ask for clarification...

But as a native speaker, logically thinking, I think the option 1 is the correct answer.

「破損のあった食品」 refers to 「太陽カップラーメン」, that is the name of one of the three foods. So 「破損のあった食品の全商品」 is equal to 「太陽カップラーメンの全商品」, and 「太陽カップラーメン200個」.


The reason why I think the correct answer is 1 is totally by logical thinking.

The key is 「食品」 in 「破損のあった食品」, and the letter says 「貴社より入荷の商品(食品3種類)」. So the 「食品」 in 「破損のあった食品」 should refer to one of 「食品3種類」.

To mean the answer 2, it should be 「破損のあった商品」. As 「破損のあった商品の全商品」 is weird, it would be 「破損のあった全商品」.

  • Ah, so if the line 貴社より入荷の商品(食品3種類)のうち... was absent, then option 2 would be the answer?
    – rhyaeris
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 4:58
  • 1
    Then there would be no hint for logical thinking, so it would be just weird and ambiguous.   In other words, this question provides us the minimum hints to guess the answer... Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 5:05

Actually I feel the bolded sentence is ambiguous, and I don't think this is a good question. But I feel the request could be much simpler if Ito-san wanted to get only the defective ones replaced:

  • 破損のあった食品の取り替えをお願い申し上げます。
  • 破損のあった全商品の取り替えをお願い申し上げます。

The object is "(all) the defective items" (i.e., only some of the 200 cups).

But he says instead:

  • 破損のあった食品全商品の取り替えをお願い申し上げます

This somewhat lengthy phrase feels like "complete replacement of the items in which defect was found," which would be likely to mean 1. In this context, 破損のあった食品 refers not to "defective ones out of the 200 cups" but to "太陽カップラーメン out of the three kinds of items".

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