I read a sentence in Naruto that challenged some of my ideas about how Japanese works, and I'd like to try and clear this up. I can only assume that アナタがピンチの時 means "when you're in a pinch". naruto #52

First of all, it looks like a relative clause modifying 時, but why isn't there a verb? Usually, when something is marked with が, that thing is the subject (or something) of a particular verb. Here, there's a verbless subject. Is the copula implied?

Secondly, could you say アナタがピンチな時 instead? How is な used in relative clauses?


3 Answers 3


The most straightforward way to analyze this is to regard の as a 連体形{れんたいけい} form of copula, which only comes after nouns (and の-adjectives).

あなたがピンチだ you're in a pinch
あなたがピンチの時 when you're in a pinch

明日は雨だ tomorrow it will rain
明日が雨の場合 if it rains tomorrow



A pinch/crisis, noun.


At the time of a pinch crisi. If ピンチ was a な-adjective, then you would say な時 instead, but since it's a noun, you must say の時.


Subject introduced, At the time of your pinch/crisis, or to make a smoother (slightly off) translation; When you are in a crisis. The whole clause before the は is still a noun phrase though, so that there's no verb or copula is ok.

Sorry for the dumb answer at first, I think I got it right after this edit. ;)

  • If あなたが is the subject of ピンチ, doesn't it have to combine with ピンチ first to create あなたがピンチ?
    – user458
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 13:54
  • I'd rather see it as あなた being the subject of ピンチの時, which ought to be at least one correct way of interpreting it since you can always(?) switch a simple noun for a noun phrase, but correct me if I'm wrong.
    – gibbon
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 15:01
  • is there any way to use a phrase of the form あなたが〇〇だ (where the circles are some "no-adjective") to modify a noun, like 時, where the copula is explicit, or somehow present? or is the "pinch" example the normal/only way of doing that?
    – Axe
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 5:26
  • 1
    It is the normal way of modifying a noun, such as 時. With verbs you use short form (読める人), with adjectives you use short form and apply な for な-adjectives (楽しい事 / 元気な犬), and with other nouns you use の (私の車). I can't give you a reason as to why, but there is no explicit copula in your sub-clause simply because there shouldn't be one. See sawa's comment about small clauses.
    – gibbon
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 16:15
  • ah thanks!!! that answers my question! i wasn't looking for a reason why, i was just sort of confused if that's what was happening or not. so if i'm understanding right, "the time when you were a teacher" would be あなたが先生の時?
    – Axe
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 20:54

Easy one:

It does not look like a relative clause, because it is not a relative clause (in Japanese nor in English). If you really must give it a grammatical label, it is a subordinate clause linked to the main clause by the subordinate conjunction "when".

As long as you don't try to make this a construct that it is not, I think it is fairly straightforward to understand:

あなたがピンチ の時は...

[When/In times where] you are in a pinch, [main clause]

  • 1
    アナタがピンチの時 is a subordinate clause as you say, but I think OP is referring to the relative/appositive/adjectival (not sure how/if these are distinguished) clause アナタがピンチの, which modifies 時
    – dainichi
    Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 0:53

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