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)?


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.

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.