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まるで腹を空かせた野良犬が飛び掛るかのように、性急で品性に欠けた仕草が目立った。

All I can translate is: "Just like a hungry dog she jumped about...." and maybe "a gesture that stands out" at the end.

As for the questions: 1) why is 腹を空かす used with the potential form? 2) I don't understand this part "性急で品性に欠けた". A character that lacks impatience? It should be the other way around, so I must get it wrong.

  • 1
    I'm also puzzled by the last part, but that's the verb 空かせる in the first half, which is a variation on 空かす; not sure which is more common. jisho.org/search/%E7%A9%BA%E3%81%8B%E3%81%9B%E3%82%8B – mamster Mar 26 '18 at 15:43
  • I see. Actually, the only entry I found is 腹を空かす so I thought it wouldn't work with 空かせる – Ushiromiya Mar 26 '18 at 15:48
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Um, looks like you have almost forgotten that が is a subject marker... 野良犬飛びかかる means "a stray dog leaps", not "she leaps". 仕草目立った is "the motion stood out", not "the motion that stood out."

  1. 空かせる is the causative form of 空く ("to become empty; to become less crowded"). 腹を空かせた犬 is literally "a dog that have made its stomach empty", thus simply "a hungry dog". You can also say 腹が空いた犬.
  2. 性急で and 品性に欠けた both modify 仕草. Keep in mind that 性急 is a na-adjective, and that で connects two verbs/na-adjectives but not two nouns. This cannot be interpreted as "lack impatience".

まるで腹を空かせた野良犬が飛び掛るかのように、性急で品性に欠けた仕草が目立った。
(Literally) Like a stray dog that made its stomach empty leaps (on something), (her?) hasty and dignity-less motions stood out.

  • About the が particle, I have no problem with it. I just had a hard time formulating parts of the sentence when I couldn't grasp everything. Anyway, what I don't understand is, how does "a dog that has made its stomach empty" make sense? Why is it used in causative form? I'm not sure how to interpret this, I guess this a difference between Japanese and English, because we'd tend to say "a hungry dog". I see, I thought 性急 was included with に欠けた (Lack impatience and dignity.) – Ushiromiya Mar 26 '18 at 16:02
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    @Ushiromiya Japanese causative form can describe various levels of forcefulness. ~せる can mean "to make", "to get", "to let", "to allow" depending on the context. Maybe "the dog that has allowed its stomach to get empty" makes more sense in this case? Anyway 腹を空かせた can be memorized as a set phrase. (And I knew you know が... sorry if my answer looked harsh.) – naruto Mar 26 '18 at 16:10
  • Not at all, I was just answering to your remark. I understand that the causative form is often use to indicate the fact you allow/make someone do or don't do something, but in this case It doesn't make any sense to me. Why would one need to "allow" his stomach to get empty? Isn't it a whole different meaning that the one we usually see in, for instance, させていただきます? – Ushiromiya Mar 26 '18 at 16:19
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    @Ushiromiya 明鏡国語辞典 defines this usage of せる as "物を放置して、不本意な状態にする意を表す。「野菜を腐らせてしまう」". No one wants a rotten vegetable, but you can say this. So 腹を空かせる describes how the stomach has been left unfilled before someone becomes hungry. The same phrase can be used also when you get hungry intentionally (e.g., 腹を空かせてパーティーに行く). – naruto Mar 26 '18 at 17:09
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In regards to your first question, in this context 空{す}かせる is the causative form of 空{す}く.

As for your second question, it is important to realize that the word 仕草{しぐさ} is the subject of the sentence, and is modified by everything that came before it.

So, let's start with

仕草{しぐさ}が目立{めだ}った

It means, "the gestures stood out/were conspicuous." What kind of gestures?

性急{せいきゅう}で品性{ひんせい}に欠{か}けた仕草が目立った

The gestures are impatient (性急) and (で) lacked dignity (品性にかけた). The sentence is made even more vivid with a simile:

まるで腹を空かせた野良犬が飛び掛るかのように、性急で品性に欠けた仕草が目立った。

  • What I don't understand is, why is it conjugated in the causative form? So, 品性 means dignity? I don't understand why it's not showing up in jisho. – Ushiromiya Mar 26 '18 at 15:54
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    In regards to the causative form, I agree with naruto's comment above. 品性 means (moral) character, but can also mean dignity or grace depending on the context. Jisho's one-word definition of 品性 is, to say the least, inadequate. It is important to consult native resources when translating. If you are not fluent enough to read native dictionaries, I recommend finding a copy of Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English dictionary, a.k.a. the Green Goddess. – user27918 Mar 26 '18 at 16:17

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