I know that a relative clause and main clause are formed when you have a construct of [sentence/verb] + noun in Japanese. While attempting to translate the following sentence, I found three of the above construct as denoted by (1) (2) and (3), where the relative clause and main clause meet.


Number 3 seemed suspicious to me and not quite right to be a instance of the relative-main clause construct, so I did some research. This answer says that はず (in most cases) is a 形式名詞 ("formal noun"), which made me wonder if it is possible to make relative-main clause constructs using formal nouns as opposed to normal nouns.

And if the answer is 'yes', is the above instance of はず making a relative-main clause construct? If not, why (in the case it is a formal noun in the above instance, but still fails to make a clause)?


1 Answer 1


The short answer is yes. You can even say 形式名詞 is always preceded by a modifier, which is usually a relative clause (and sometimes an attributive like それ, あの). Some 形式名詞 like とき work without a modifier, in which case they are not called 形式名詞.

  • 彼が猫を見るとき when he watches a cat
    (↑ This とき is a formal noun)
  • ときは来た。 The time has come.
    (↑ This とき is an ordinary noun)

It is important to understand that 形式名詞 are very often translated to English without using a noun. Still, syntactically speaking, they are Japanese nouns, and thus accept relative clauses. Your sentence indeed has three relative clauses marked by (1), (2), and (3).

Other examples of relative-clause + 形式名詞:

  • 試験に合格するために勉強します。
    I will study to pass the exam.
  • 地球が丸いことを彼は知らなかった。
    He did not know the fact that the earth is round
  • 言われるまま払った。
    I paid as I was told to.
  • テレビを見るが好きです。
    I like watching TV.

The last example is also known as a nominalizer, but の is a perfect 形式名詞, syntactically speaking.

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