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So, there's this sentence:

弟のもっといいお手本になりなさい!

And the translation given is:

Set a better example for your brother!

But I simply cannot understand why it is composed like that.

Specifically:

  • Why is there の in there? Isn't it expresses possession or relation?
  • Why is there に at the end? I'd think that に should be precisely where there is の currently. Although, the only way I can see it could work is "you should become better example" so the に there. Doesn't explain の, though.

2 Answers 2

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I think you might be misled by the non perfectly literal translation.

Ok, so let's try to break down the sentence.

Since the ~なさい indicates an imperative (some sort of order or exhortation to o something), we can safely assume that the subject here is the listener so there would be an implied "あなたは" before 弟の...

This might help to clarify the の a little bit. In fact, it's just the usual possessive particle: (you) become your brother**'s** better example = a better example for your brother.

に here is just the particle that is used when a change, expressed through the verb なる, (in this case conjugated as なりなさい) happens. In particular, "change into something" (in this particular case there is に because 手本 is a noun)

You can look up about に + なる here for example.

So, to sum it up, there is really nothing fancy about either of the particles in this sentence. This should be clear if you try to translate the sentence literally and you consider as I mentioned before that there is an implied subject in the beginning:

(あなたは)弟のもっといいお手本になりなさい

To break it down further ask yourself the following:

  1. Who's the subject? あなたは
  2. What is the action? An order to become a something (...になりなさい)
  3. What's that something? もっといいお手本.
  4. To whom is that related? To the subject's younger brother
  5. How? As possession: 弟の

All together: (you) become your brother's better example.

That in English renders much better as: become a better example for your brother.

I think the confusion here is in that this sentence is asking you to become actually "a better example" as that's a thing. What I'm saying as that probably you are focusing on that "for" rather than a possessive "'s".

PS: also more on なる here.

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  • I'm certain your answer is correct, but could it also be interpreted where 弟のもっといい is a relative clause and が has become の? This would be an instruction to 弟 telling him to become the best role model. "Become a role model where you (弟) are better". Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 7:51
  • Hm. just thought a bit more and that's a bit of a tautology. So I guess it can't be right. But maybe it still works grammatically. Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 7:53
  • Sorry I'm not sure I follow.. you mean as the "young brother" would become the better model? For whom though, himself? In general?
    – Tommy
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 7:58
  • 1
    Thank you for the detailed answer! It is much clearer now that you have broken it up like that!
    – NewProger
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 8:33
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    @Tommy that's the one ankiweb.net/shared/info/1696628291 but keep in mind that it is full of mistakes and inconsistencies since it was scraped from the site using automated scripts. I'm currently fixing all of these problems as I progress with the deck, and when I'm done I'm planning to upload the corrected version. In a few months or so I guess.
    – NewProger
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 8:50
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手本 is a copybook, so the sentence is literally composed of

  • 弟 Little brother
  • の possessive particle (↑Little brother's)
  • もっといい more good (better)
  • お (honorific prefix)
  • 手本 copybook
  • に into
  • なりなさい! please become! (なる + なさる in imperative form)

お手本 is usually used figuratively to mean an example or a role model.

Why is there に at the end? I'd think that に should be precisely where there is の currently.

に means that the one this command is directed at should "become a copybook", as in to set an example. I can't think of a word that would fit in the place of お手本 so that に could be used in place of の.

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  • Is it my impression or we're often replying at the same time recently? lol
    – Tommy
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 6:48
  • @Tommy I don't think that we have answered the same question that often (if at all), but I remember commenting on your questions and answers :D
    – siikamiika
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 6:51
  • Well yeah actually that's more what I meant, didn't express myself well. lol
    – Tommy
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 6:53
  • ちなみに,oletko suomalainen? :D
    – Tommy
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 6:55
  • @Tommy なっ?! Kyllä vain! Luulin olevani ainoo täällä. (but better to stick to English and Japanese in case there is some rule against other languages here)
    – siikamiika
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 6:57

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