This question is a follow up to この道をまっすぐ行ってください。Why “を” and not “で”? posted earlier.


道で転ぶ = fallover on the road

ボールが道を転がる = a ball rolled along the street

〜を転がす = roll something (他)

How do we say:

"I rolled a ball along the street from the police station to the second traffic lights?"

Is it:


[I want to capture the movement along the direction of the street and we can't have two をs. I have only just remembered the expression に沿う]

  • 1
    "道に沿って交番から二番目の信号までボールを転がした" sounds very natural. I don't understand the sentence in your question: "I want to capture the movement along the direction of the street and we can't have two をs" What do you mean?
    – Teno
    Sep 21, 2012 at 17:11
  • The particle を can be used to indicate rolling along the street (道を転がる)or to roll the ball (ボールを転がす)but we can't put both in the same sentence (道をボールを転がす). Glad to hear it sounds natural. May I ask if this is your view as a native speaker/just certainty from your proficiency in the language - I think it is ok but I am not sure.
    – Tim
    Sep 21, 2012 at 17:49
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    I see. I'm a native Japanese speaker. So don't worry about my Japanese but you should worry about my English though.
    – Teno
    Sep 21, 2012 at 22:09
  • Thanks for this and the answer below. Very helpful. One comment: Possibly 「道の上を転がる」means "rolling along the surface of the street" rather than "rolling onto the street", which suggests it rolled out somebody's front door onto/into the street? (I have to be careful here. Whereas the Americans have "stores ON Main St" the British have "shops IN the High St"!)
    – Tim
    Sep 22, 2012 at 10:46
  • I'm glad it helped. Since 「上」 indicates a position above something, maybe it is clearer to say "rolling on the surface of the street." If onto implies there is a connection between the current and the previous position, then simply on should be it. To think it as free translation, I don't see a problem to say 「道の上を転がる」 means rolling along the surface of the street. However, if it needs to be more precise and catch the literal meaning of 「の上を」, I would avoid including along in the translation since 「上」 does not have a meaning of along.
    – Teno
    Sep 22, 2012 at 11:45

1 Answer 1


"I rolled a ball along the street from the police station to the second traffic lights?"

Let's make it clear that along is a preposition(前置詞) in this sentence, not an adverb(副詞).

"rolling along the street (道を転がる)"

rolling along the street would be better translated as 「道に沿って転がる」 rather than 「道を転がる」. 「道を転がる」 is a shorter version of 「道の上を転がる」. So it means "rolling onto the street".

And with this phrase, the subject is a thing that actually rolls by itself such as a ball. (e.g. The ball rolled along the street.) On the other hand, the subject of 「ボールを転がす」 is not a ball but a person or a kind of force that rolls the ball. (e.g. The wind/I rolled the ball.)

「転がる」 and 「転がす」 are different kind of verbs. The former is an intransitive verb(自動詞) which does not require an object(目的語). On the other hand, the latter is a transitive verb(他動詞) and requires an object(目的語).

So "道をボールを転がす", which sounds really odd to the natives, appears that "ボールが道の上を転がる" and "私がボールを転がす" are said at once in one clause of a sentence.

  • "ボールが道の上を転がる" How is this a correct sentence? Since "上を" is a direct object, how can it be used with "転がる", an intransitive verb? Sep 21, 2012 at 22:55
  • @phoenixheart6 I don't see why you say "上を" is a direct object. 転がる is an intransitive verb.
    – Teno
    Sep 22, 2012 at 6:17
  • I know 転がる is an intransitive verb. Doesn't を indicate a direct object? Sep 22, 2012 at 6:26
  • Now I see why it's confusing for non-natives. does not always indicate a direct object. In 「道を歩く」「橋を渡る」「~を通る」, the verbs are intransitive while 「食べる」 in 「ご飯をたべる」 is transitive.
    – Teno
    Sep 22, 2012 at 6:40
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    @phoenixheart6: The Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar gives several uses of を (ie >2), I can't remember them all off hand, partly because I was always happy to consider most as just the marker for a direct object of a transitive verb but the use discussed here was the exception. It is referred to as "spatial".
    – Tim
    Sep 22, 2012 at 10:35

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