I was reading over this article about Midsummer Day of the Ox and selling eel. I'm wondering about the use of が in this sentence


Roughly: This year the company decided on selling things like beef steak, also many items like basket clams with added vitamins

Why is the が not a で? A part of me reads this as: Vitamins have many basket clams. Which definitely does not make sense

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  • yeah, I think you can safely say "duplicate". At least, that entry should perfectly answer @Tylersansan 's question. Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 15:04
  • @Chocolate Sorry, I'm not sure I really understand still. So based on those links I believe ことにしました makes this a 'gap less' relative clause sentence. Unfortunately, I still am not seeing why this stops が from being で. The only other thing I can think of that kind of makes sense is that the が is being substituted for の. But even then why would you not just leave it as の? Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 17:57
  • @Tylersansan No, ビタミンが多いしじみ is the gapless relative clause in question. By the way how did you understand here that で is suitable (how will that part be translated)? Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 18:26
  • @broccoliforest I'm not really sure using で is actually suitable or not. I'm just wondering why it wasn't used. To be honest I didn't even know this sentence had a relative clause. Anyway, assuming that で could be used here I would still translate it to: basket clams with vitamins. As since to me the で would translate to 'with' in my mind. I'm not sure if this is correct though Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 19:35

3 Answers 3



The problem is that you are not correctly parsing this phrase.

× many items like basket clams with added vitamins
× vitamins have many basket clams
vitamin-rich basket clams

Why is that?

  1. 多い does not substitute "many"
    It's often said Japanese 多い means "many", but it's not true grammar-wise. The correct statement is 「Xが多い」 = "there are many X", that means 多い's lexical meaning, if I'm forced to put it in English, is "a large amount of X exists". And vice versa for 少ない.

  2. 多い cannot modify しじみ alone
    Due to the aforementioned semantic feature, 多い is not able to move before the noun, as Japanese adjective attribution is actually forming relative clauses. Consider, how could you form a relative clause headed by "people" from "a large amount of people exists"? For this reason, 多いX which is transformed from Xが多い is almost nonsense. Even when you apparently see such construction, it's usually some implicit subject (nominative) hidden.

    多い時期は1日1000人 = (観光客が)多い時期は1日1000人 1000 people a day during the season when there are many (visitors) [= high season]

    多い日も安心 = (経血が)多い日も安心 no worry even on a day where there are much (flow) [sanitary pad ad cliche]

    The situation is quite contrastive to English many, which cannot stand as predicate i.e. "many people" → *"the people are many".

  3. ビタミンが多い modifies しじみ
    Thus you can only interpret the clause ビタミンが多い ("there is much vitamin" or "vitamin is abundant") modifying しじみ. Japanese relative clauses allows any kind of relations between the head noun and the clause, thus you can understand it virtually as "basket clams in which vitamin is abundant".

    More grammatically correctly, the original sentence before relativization was a topic-comment structure that accepts a complete sentence in the place where English grammar only expect a predicate. This type of construction typically describes such content you use possessive expressions to convey in English.

    As for basket clams, there is much vitamin or basket clams have much vitamin

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    – chocolate
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 14:39
  • @Chocolate 謹んで訂正いたしますm(_ _)m Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 17:56


が makes what is before be directly related to the verb/adjective. If it is a verb, then it tells us that what is before the particle is the performer of the action, if it is an adjective, then it tells us that it will be what is being qualified by the adjective. Example:

私が書いた手紙 : A letter that I wrote

女が好きな男 : A guy who likes girls

In your sentence, replacing が by で would change the sentence's meaning:


In this sentence, ビタミン could be seen as a cause/reason (unlikely) and that would make the sentence mean something like "because of the vitamins, we decided to...". It could be seen as a with (method) (unlikely) which would make the sentence mean "We decided to sell 多いしじみ etc. too, with vitamins". It could be seen as the 連用形 of だ (very unlikely) which would make the sentence mean "It is vitamins, and we decided to sell 多いしじみ as well".

None of these でs would make sense in this sentence.

In my opinion, here, で and が cannot mean the same thing, but it is kind of ambiguous because of 多い which is an adjective and not a verb. If it had a verb with it like in the phrase below:


I feel like it would be "more grammatically correct". And even if it was correct to use で with an adjective in this kind of sentence pattern, the fact that で can mean so many different things would make it too ambiguous for people to choose で over が.

  • Why is this downvoted? This answer is not particularly wrong.
    – user4092
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 11:27
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    @Breton Loïc Thanks for the explanation! Also thanks for going over a lot of reasons why you thought で wouldn't make sense. I would have never thought about those. Thanks again! Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 14:09
  • しじみを売る
  • しじみがビタミンが多い

When you synthesize these sentences, you get ビタミンが多いしじみを売る.

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