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a) 2つの事件で13人が亡くなって、52人がけがをしました。
In the two events 13 people died and 52 people were injured.

b) 彼女はけがをした
1) The girl was injured
2) The girl injured herself

The meaning of a) is unambiguous -- a third party was responsible for causing the injury.

In b) I don't know which of my two translations is correct. Can they both be valid? Is it just context dependent?

The reason for my confusion is that I would expect sentences like a) to be written in passive form: 52人はけがをされました。 Presumably if I wanted to explicitly say who did the injuring it would have to be in passive form?

I'm further confused because 52人 is the subject (が), so this definitely makes it sound like the 52 people are doing the injuring, i.e. they injured themselves, which, from the context, is clearly wrong.

  • 1
    +1 but 「52人はけがを*されました*」 is only honorific speech; It is not passive voice (or anything else). – l'électeur Jun 12 '17 at 0:07
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b) 彼女はけがをした

「けがをする」に対{たい}して「けがをさせる」という日本語があるのは承知{しょうち}しています。 しかし、「彼女は自分で転{ころ}んでけがをした」や「彼女は後{うし}ろから押{おさ}されてけがをした」という表現{ひょうげん}はありますが、文法的{ぶんぽう}には正{ただ}しいのでしょうが「お前{ま}が急{きゅう}に俺{おれ}を押{お}して俺{おれ}にけがをさせる」という表現{ひょうげん}は普段{ふだん}あまり使{つか}ったり聞{き}いたりしません。これは犯罪{はんざい}です。また、「大{おお}きな木{き}が倒{たお}れてきて(私が)けがをする」という表現{ひょうげん}はありますが、「木{き}が倒{たお}れてきて私にけがをさせる」という擬人法{ぎじんほう}的{てき}な表現{ひょうげん}あるいは翻訳{ほんやく}のような表現{ひょうげん}もほとんど目{め}にしません。

これは「けがをする」という表現{ひょうげん}に対{たい}する原因{げんいん}や責任{せきにん}の把握{はく}あるいは追及{ついきゅう}に対する両{りょう}言語{げんご}、さらにはその言語{げんご}(/言葉{ことば})を使{つか}う人々{ひとびと}の認識{にんしき}に差{さ}があるためだと思います。 日本人は「けがをする」ことには関心{かんしん}があっても、何{なに}が原因{げんいん}でけがをしたかには英語を使{つか}う人ほど関心{かんしん}がないので、言葉{ことば}を2[種類]{しゅるい}用意{ようい}してこなかったのかなとあらためて思{おも}います。

どうしても原因{げんいん}を明確{めいかく}にしたいときには、「彼女は自分{じぶん}で転{ころ}んでけがをした」や「彼女は後{うし}ろから押{お}されてけがをした」という具合{ぐあい}に、原因{げんいん}に相当{そうとう}表現{ひょうげん}を追加{ついか}するような気{き}がします。 こうしてみると、日本人は、原因{げんいん}が自分{じぶん}であっても他人{たにん}であっても、「けがをする」という現象{げんしょう}だけに着目{ちゃくもく}しているように思{おも}います。

b) 彼女はけがをした

1) The girl was injured

2) The girl injured herself

日本人にとって、「b) 彼女はけがをした」という表現{ひょうげん}は、「けがをした」という原因{げんいん}に無関係{むかんけい}な表現{ひょうげん}なので、それに対する英語が1) なのか2) なのかは、前後{ぜんご}の情報{じょうほう}がなけれが判断{はんだん}できないと思{おも}います。

a) の表現{ひょうげん}に対しても、原因{げんいん}は外部{がいぶ}からだということは明白{めいはく}ですが、「52人がけがをしました」はごく自然{しぜん}日本語ですが、「52人はけがをされました」あるいは「52人はけがをさせられました」という表現は不自然{ふしぜん}です。
同様{どうよう}の表現として、「52人は負傷{ふしょう}しました」というのがありますが、「52人は負傷させられました」は不自然ですので、使いません。

English

b) 彼女はげがをした

I know there is an expression "けがをさせる", that is a causative form of "けがをする". But I've rarely heard or used the expression "お前が急に俺を押して俺にけがをさせる" though it must be grammatically correct, while we think the expression like "彼女は転んでけがをした" or "彼女は後ろから押されてけがをした" is a natural Japanese. The action of the phrase "お前が急に俺を押して俺にけがをさせる" is considered to be a crime. We might say "大きな木が倒れてきて(私が)けがをする", but we seldom see the phrase "木が倒れてきて私にけがをさせる", because it sounds unnatural or sounds like the personification of a tree that attacked to injure me or it sounds a literal translation of English phrase.

The reason why we feel like this is that there must be, I think, big difference between the two languages and further more between the two people who use these languages on the matter of how much they would mind the cause or responsibility for the result of "けがをする". We Japanese would mind the phenomenon of "けがをする", but I guess we would less mind the cause of "けがをする" than the natives of English would do, so we have not needed to prepare two kinds of expressions of how to "けがをする". Even though, if we want to make clear the cause of "けがをする" we would say like "彼女は自分で転んでけがをした" or "彼女は後ろから押されてけがをした" by adding the phrase that could express the cause of "けがをする".

Judging from these things, we Japanese seem only to place importance on the phenomenon of "けがをする", whether the cause of "けがをする" is done by themselves or by others.

b) 彼女はけがをした

1) The girl was injured

2) The girl injured herself

We Japanese couldn't specify which one of 1) and 2) means "b) 彼女はけがをした", because we consider the phrase has nothing to do with the cause of the injury unless otherwise we get the context of the phrase.

As for the phrase a), we know clearly that the accident was caused by the others but we think "52人はけがをされました" and "52人はけがをさせられました" are unnatural even if they have passive forms, while we think "52人がけがをしました" is a very natural Japanese.

  • In the Japanese mind, is it possible that the unspecified subject of (彼女は)けがをした is always the event that caused the injury? That would explain why (to my English mind) けがをされた could make sense but perhaps not be natural. – G-Cam Jun 12 '17 at 14:01
  • @G-Cam: Don't think it by the English grammatical construction. Though it seems strange, けがをする is nothing to do with the cause, only the expression of a certain phenomenon. – mackygoo Jun 12 '17 at 14:15
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    @G-Cam: If I think けがをする in the Japanese grammatical construction, it is the same as 血を流す (to shed blood) or 涙を流す (to shed tears). – mackygoo Jun 12 '17 at 14:25
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Grammatical difference between English and Japanese

I know there still remains uncomfortable feeling in the questioner, G-Cam and many English speakers even after having read my previous answer. So I'm going to answer the question from the other standpoint.

I'll show you some examples having the same grammatical construction between English and Japanese.

 Subject – Verb – Object   Subject – Object – Verb

1.  I  catch a cold.    私は  風邪{かぜ}を  引{ひ}く。

2.  I  shed my blood.  私は  血{ち}を   流{なが}す。

3.  I  shed  tears.   私は  涙{なみだ}を   流{なが}す。

4.              私は  けがを  する

We have the same grammatical construction in the fourth example just as in the rest three in Japanese. But you have not the same grammatical construction in the fourth one in English. Here is the answer of the original question! You use a so-called reflexive verb "to injure" here instead of a normal transitive verb that takes a direct object unlike subject.

Here is an explanation of a reflexive verb as:
In grammar, a reflexive verb is, loosely, a verb whose direct object is the same as its subject, for example, "I wash myself". More generally, a reflexive verb has the same semantic agent and patient (typically represented syntactically by the subject and the direct object). For example, the English verb to perjure is reflexive, since one can only perjure oneself. In a wider sense, the term refers to any verb form whose grammatical object is a reflexive pronoun, regardless of semantics; such verbs are also referred to as pronominal verbs, especially in grammars of the Romance languages.

I think it is reasonable you feel uncomfortable to use けがをする for "they are/were injured" in the sentence "52人がけがをしました" caused by or in the traffic accident.

If you want to be comfortable with using an expression for けがをする in English, you have to invent new expressions without using a reflexive verb like:

  • I experienced injuries.
  • I caught injuries.
  • I developed injuries.
  • I threw injuries.
  • (I sustained injuries.)

Of course I know these newly and forcibly coined phrases but the last one are funny, but I hope you feel the difference of nuance of the expressions in two languages that are shown in the original question.

1

けがをする means to be injured.

けがをさせる means to cause injury to someone else.

Don't be deceived by the English grammatical construction that translates the Japanese.

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