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In this sentence:

彼女はお姉さん着るのと同じ種類の服着る。

She wears the same variety of clothes as her sister wears.

Why is the が particle used to mark the sister as the subject, when the one doing the action of wearing を着る is 彼女?


If my understanding is correct, the が particle always without exception marks the noun (the subject) that is doing or being something:

走る The dog is running (doing)

赤い The flower is red (being)

I also understand that the subject doing the action can be implied and not included (zero pronouns).

The zero pronoun Ø takes the equivalent of "it", "I", "she", "he" etc. which is included in English but omitted in Japanese.

The は particle is the topic and does not indicate the noun that is doing or being (the job が already does).

私は (Ø) 日本人です。

As for me, (I) am Japanese. (Øが means "I")

Ordering food in a restaurant:

彼は (Ø) 天ぷらです。

As for him (it) is Tempura. (not he is a Tempura) (Øが means "it")

If I am misunderstanding this concept please correct me.


But in the first sentence above I am not confident when applying these concepts.

彼女は (Øが)姉さん着るのと同じ種類の服着る。

As for her (she Ø) wears the same type of clothes her sister wears.

My questions are:

  1. Am I correct in putting (Øが) in the sentence? Does (Øが)mean 彼女が in this case? And does 彼女が indicate that she is doing the action of wearing 着る?
  2. Is the second が in 姉さん着る used to indicate that her sister is doing the action of wearing her own clothes? Would this be a second が different from this first invisible が?
  3. But if 着る is a transitive verb, why is this second が used instead of を? お姉さん着るのと同じ種類の服 Edit: disregard this question.
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    Why would the sister be the object of 着る? お姉ちゃん着る服 would mean "the clothes that wear her sister" instead of "the clothes that her sister wears"... – Ben Roffey Mar 21 '18 at 14:18
  • This sounds like the explanation of は versus が described in Jay Rubin's book Making Sense of Japanese. He uses the idea of the "zero" pronoun to help explain a Japanese grammar concept that does not exist in English. I doubt actual Japanese speakers think of the above sentence as having an unstated subject that should be marked with が. – G-Cam Mar 21 '18 at 15:30
  • @G-Cam I think it's because he doesn't know that が is not neutral for a subject in a sentence (instead of a clause) that he thinks that way. – user4092 Mar 21 '18 at 19:35
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It's not a good idea to assume there is always ~が (explicit or implicit) along with ~は in Japanese sentences. 私は私が日本人です is plain "ungrammatical" rather than "redundant" or "wordy". Japanese people don't interpret Japanese sentences in that way. If your first language is English, imagining an implicit ~が may help you better understand certain sentences like 私は天ぷらです, but that's nothing more than that.

Am I correct in putting (Øが) in the sentence? Does (Øが)mean 彼女が in this case?

If you put 彼女が in that place, the sentence would look awfully wrong. This sentence is complete as-is.

Is the second が in 姉さんが着る used to indicate that her sister is doing the action of wearing her own clothes? Would this be a second が different from this first invisible が?

Yes, this が after 姉さん is a plain subject marker in a relative clause. I would say there is no such thing as "first invisible が" in the first place.

if 着る is a transitive verb, why is this second が used instead of を?

Because が marks the subject of 着る (i.e., who wears), を marks the object of 着る (i.e., what to wear). 姉さんを着る means "wear her sister" rather than "her sister wears".

In case you you did not know relative clauses, please learn them first. 姉さんが着るの is "ones her sister wears". ~と同じ種類 is "the same kind as ~".

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お姉さんが着るの is a noun phrase where の is been using as a pronoun. The sister is the subject of this noun phrase and is marked with が. As in English, a sentence in Japanese can have more than one subject. Consider:

I like the same clothes that my sister likes.

"I" is the subject here and "the same clothes that my sister likes" is the object. However, the object of this sentence isn't a simple noun; it's a noun phrase which also contains a subject (my sister).

In the Japanese sentence:

彼女はお姉さんが着るのと同じ種類の服を着る。

I think you're overthinking the "absent subject" concept. Subjects in Japanese are often marked with は; it's just that the element marked with は isn't always the subject. In other words, the topic can be the same as the subject, or not. In this case, it is.

お姉さんが着るの

This means "the ones that (her) elder sister wears".

お姉さんが着るのと同じ種類の服

This means "the same type of clothes that her elder sister wears" (or more literally, "the same type of clothes as the ones that her elder sister wears"). It could be the answer to the question 彼女はどんな服を着る? The key here is to understand that you have a noun phrase with another noun phrase embedded in it. (This is a relatively complex sentence!) The clothing that 彼女 wears is the clothing represented by this noun phrase. Compare:

彼女は鮮やかな服を着る.

The structure of this sentence is exactly the same as the original: 彼女は[NP]を着る.

I hope this makes sense!

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