From this article:

The images were taken from the sky using a drone.

Whilst the meaning is clear, I find this sentence very awkward. I can't write the sentence in a natural way in English using the active voice. If I had to write it in the active voice it would be:

A drone took the pictures from the sky using a drone.

which obviously sounds ridiculous.

Presumably the topic of the sentence 映像 is intended to be the object of 撮る. That leaves us with ドローン as the implied subject of 撮る. But this subject is only introduced in the previous clause ドローンを使って, so it feels very premature that I should imply it as the subject in the following verb.

I'm struggling to express my confusion. Can someone correct any errors in my grammatical understanding or offer a more illuminating viewpoint on how to parse the sentence?

I know there's no good reason why I should be able to force the voices to match between the two languages, but I would certainly never have been able to formulate this Japanese sentence myself. Any insights would be appreciated.

  • I don't understand why you assume ドローン would be the subject. Is there any context you can add? – snailboat Apr 1 '18 at 18:24
  • I added a link. What else would take the images? This is clearly where my understanding is going wrong. – user3856370 Apr 1 '18 at 18:27
  • 1
    In fact I think it would be bizarre if ドローン were the implied subject, given the presence of ドローンを使って. Looking at the article, I think even in English this might be left ambiguous like "The pictures were taken from the sky using a drone". That said, if you absolutely must insert a subject realistically it's probably 施設のスタフ. – Mindful Apr 1 '18 at 18:31

I don't think ドローン is the implied subject. In fact, there is no specific implied subject; the article never specifies who took the pictures using a drone.

In English, we can't leave out the subject in a main declarative clause. Your intuition is probably telling you to use the passive because that lets you avoid specifying the agent in English, and it's not specified in Japanese. But in Japanese the subject can be omitted from an active clause as well, so the original sentence is fine in the active voice.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.