I'm trying to make sense of this phrase to me

Kimi o shiawase ni dekiru nowa boku dake da to shinjite imashita.

which I found translated as

I always believed I was the only one who could make you happy.

"kimi o shiawase ni dekiru" is "be able to make you happy" or something like that

shinjite imashita is "believed"

"boku dake da" , "I just am" (I suppose)

Question is, is the "who" given by some word or particles (such as nowa) or is it just the structure of the sentence who puts a "who" when translated there , and which meanings/functions have the "nowa" and "to" particles here?

2 Answers 2


The 'no' in 'nowa' can be thought of as the pronoun 'one'. Your familiar with phrases like 'aoi no ga hoshii desu' = 'I want the blue one' right?

This 'one' pronoun is modified by the relative clause 'kimi o shiawase ni dekiru'. And then the whole lot is made into a topic with 'wa'. So "The one who can make you happy" is the topic of the sentence.

'kimi o shiawase ni dekiru' kind of works like the adjective 'aoi' in that it modifies 'one' and tells you what kind of 'one' the person is talking about.

We could have translated the example as "I want the one which is blue", to which you might legitimately ask 'where did the which come from?. It's the same with 'who' in your example.

If you still can't see where the 'who' comes from try this link, or just check out 'relative clauses' in general.

For the last part of your question, the particle 'to' translates to 'that'.It marks quotes (direct and indirect). "I believed that I was the only one ...".

  • Not sure I'm using the word 'pronoun' correctly. My English grammar is rubbish. Hope it doesn't confuse you. Mar 14, 2017 at 16:58
  • Probably a very good answer but it raised me more questions not only about japanese but also about english and about my own language, spanish. I just realized in spanish we dont use "who" but "what" , and I dont know why, and in spanish I'm not sure we would consider "the only one" as something similar to the subject of the sentence
    – Pablo
    Mar 14, 2017 at 17:52
  • @Pablo FYI English "what", "who", "why" etc. were originally declensions of a same word too. Each specific form that differed in gender or case become a distinct word as English has gradually lost its inflections. Mar 15, 2017 at 5:16

The main (outermost) structure of this sentence is:

I had believed that ~.

So this と is the plain old quotative particle.

The remaining part (his "belief") is:

It is only me who can make you happy.

This の is a nominalizer, but this construction has a special name called a cleft sentence. This is a typical cleft sentence made from:

Only I can make you happy.

That "who" after "one" is called a relative pronoun, and you will not find its direct equivalent in the Japanese translation. Japanese relative clauses are much simpler, as you probably know.

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