I'm trying to read a children's book and had some trouble with one sentence. As I understand the story so far, it's about a depressed snail. But I don't quite understand what's going on here.

でんでんむしは おともだち でんでんむし ところに やっていきました。

I feel like this should say something like "the snail went to live with his friend" but the order of "friend" and "snail" in おともだちのでんでんむし is backwards if that is the case. (It's also possible that I'm way off. This is a children's book so it has no kanji, and I've already mixed up homonyms once.)

What am I missing here with の? Is my translation even close?


「でんでんむしは おともだち でんでんむし ところに やっていきました。」

The first の is appositive and the second の is possessive.

「おともだちでんでんむし」 means "(his) snail friend" = "his friend who is also a snail".

In meaning, 「おともだちでんでんむし」=「でんでんむしおともだち」. Why so? Because the 「の」 is appositive. The おともだち is a でんでんむし.

"The snail went to his/her snail friend's place/home."

If there were no context at all, 「おともだちでんでんむし」 can also mean "(my) friend's (pet) snail" and 「でんでんむしおともだち」 can mean "a snail's friend". In these cases, the 「の」 will be possesive.

Japanese is a most contextual language, the exact same phrase can mean completely different things depending on the context it appears in. Therefore, we keep asking questioners to provide more context.

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  • Ah I hadn't considered "his friend who is also a snail" that makes a lot of sense. Thanks! – Shirik Dec 30 '17 at 16:23

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