Whenever I read a long multi-line article written in Japanese, the hard part for me is that a lot of the long sentence like clauses suddenly end as a noun-phrase, making it a relative clause.

This really confuses me, you know, throws me all out of wack. So I'm wondering, while I'm sure parsing it comes naturally to Japanese people, I'm just wondering if they can spot a relative clause in advance, before actually reaching its punctuating noun-phrase?

You know, are there things that make a clause look like a relative clause in a way that doesn't make it one, but hints that it is by its presence?

So, can they? And if so, by what trends and patterns?

  • 2
    Show us some examples.
    – user20624
    Jun 2, 2017 at 23:50

1 Answer 1


If a subject is marked with の, it may work as an indicator of a relative clause. Other than this, probably there is no way to know whether it's a relative clause or a main clause. Of course native Japanese speakers don't think about this, at least consciously.

A good(?) news is that Japanese is a very consistent language in this regard. Modifiers almost always come before the modified word. See: Head (linguistics). But probably you need a lot of reading practice until you'll get comfortable with this. (English relative clauses may be one of the most difficult grammar for Japanese students who learn English as the second language...)

  • What about English RCs are hard for Japanese people to learn? Just curious, what causes them trouble?
    – Tirous
    Jun 3, 2017 at 17:51
  • Also, do most Japanese people even notice RCs when reading? Or are they just invisible to the untrained (Japanese) eye?
    – Tirous
    Jun 3, 2017 at 17:52
  • 1
    @Tirous Because, just like you, they haven't got used to parse relative clauses coming after the nouns. Jun 4, 2017 at 2:46
  • 1
    @Tirous The English language sometimes uses long modifiers that modify the following noun like Japanese, but we have nothing similar to English RCs. Another trouble is relative pronouns (which, that, when, etc), which do not exist in Japanese. Common mistakes Japanese speakers make are "the place that I was born", "the time which I woke up", "the pen he wrote the novel", etc. For details this is a good reading. Unsurprisingly, most Japanese "know" nothing about how Japanese RCs work.
    – naruto
    Jun 4, 2017 at 3:01
  • Cool, thx m8s :D
    – Tirous
    Jun 4, 2017 at 4:04

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