Seeing 「欲しいが仮眠する」* by a non-native for "I want to take a nap" I thought it is plainly grammatically wrong, but then after encountering 可愛いが in a video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVmv_wyU-Ug&t=389) I googled and there were quite a few results for 欲しいが. Lot of them were 欲しいが見つかる, not sure what if that's something idiomatic.

If correct my guess is that it would be a case of an omitted generic pronoun の or a nominalizer の.

Is the original sentence correct? Is が after i-adj correct and grammatical in general? Or just in specific instances (perhaps like せざるをえない)?

*) never encountered 仮眠する before I don't know if the word choice it ok. And even if the overall structure with が would be ok I'd still think there should be another nominalizer at the end but at this point I'm not sure

  • 1
    You can see this pattern with verbs also, such as the expression 思うがまま. In my understanding, が makes what is followed acts like a noun, I don't think it emphasize it but I feel like it makes the sentence look like an expression – user31974 Nov 21 at 20:20
up vote 7 down vote accepted

欲しいが仮眠する is plainly wrong if it's intended to mean "I want to take a nap". It can mean "I want it, but I'll take a nap (for now)" depending on the context.

However, the following sentences make sense:

  • アズリムが可愛いんじゃない、可愛いがアズリムなんだ
    It's not that Azulim is cute, but that (being) cute is (being) Azulim! (i.e., Azulim is the only person who deserves the word cute.)
  • 欲しいが見つかる
    You can find your "I want it"! (i.e., You can find items you'll want.)

In these examples, an adjective is used as a noun or "the word itself". 可愛い here refers to the concept/idea of kawaii itself. 欲しい refers to your want. English speakers can do similar things using italics (e.g., "The word big is an adjective"). The Japanese language does not have italics, so there may not be any obvious indicator. You can always enclose it with brackets to make it more readable, but that's not really necessary.

  • 「可愛い」がアズリムなんだ!
  • “欲しい”が見つかる

You may know how to turn an i-adjective into a noun using さ. But 可愛さがアズリムなんだ and 欲しさが見つかる make little sense in this case because さ has the nuance of "the degree of X-ness". Here 可愛い refers to the concept of cute itself, not the degree of cuteness.

Some more examples:

  • 強いと偉いは違う。 = 強いことと偉いことは違う。
    Being strong and being great are different.
  • ちょっと高いが高すぎるになった。
    The price went from a little expensive to too expensive.
  • Thank you for elaborate answer! May I ask - is this construct OK for a formal proper grammar? Without brackets it sounds more like a shortcut but once they are added it starts to look ok, but since brackets afaik may just be implied/invisibile it's hard to say. If so, this would make numerous sentences that seem ungrammatical actually ok... – NoxArt Nov 22 at 8:41
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    @NoxArt It depends. While this appears more often in short catchphrases and colloquial sentences, it is used in formal sentences. I somehow feel this is a bit like long hyphenated modifiers in English; It's short and nice, but we should use it sparingly especially in formal settings. – naruto Nov 22 at 23:04
  • Great! Thank you again – NoxArt Nov 22 at 23:13

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