In the sentence 深淵に臨むが如し why is there a particle が after the verb 臨む? Shouldn't it be 深淵に臨むよう?

3 Answers 3


I suppose the simple answer is that the grammar of the past is different.

First of all, in Classical Japanese 臨む would be the 連体形 (basically dictionary form). Unlike in modern Japanese, the 連体形 doesn't have to be nominalized to be used with が.

Secondly, the classical が worked a lot like the modern day の to attribute things. From 大辞林 (emphasis mine):

④ 連体修飾格を表す。「の」と同じ。現代語では文語的表現のみに用いる。多く、所有・所属・同格などの関係を表す。 「我-校の名誉」 「梅-香」 「己(おの)-分を知りて/徒然 131」

⑤ 「ごとし」「ままに」「からに」などに続いて、連用修飾語を作る。 「山は人の無力をあざわらう-ごとくそびえている」 「たけき河のみなぎり流るる-ごとし/徒然 155」

Lastly, ごとし is the classical way to say ~よう. Again from 大辞林 (emphasis mine):


①似ているものに比べたとえる意を表す。…のようだ。…のとおりだ。 「涙、雨の脚のごとくこぼる/宇津保 吹上・下」 「おごれる人も久しからず、ただ春の夜の夢のごとし/平家 1」

② 同類中の一例として提示する意を表す。…のような。 「黒き革籠三合を置けり。すなはち和歌・管絃・往生要集ごときの抄物を入れたり/方丈記」

③ はっきりと断定しないで、婉曲・不確実にいうのに用いられる。…ようだ。…ようである。

One other note: The thing before ~ごとし must be in 連体形 or a 体言 (basically nouns). And then after those, there can be an optional が or の for emphasis.


如し is an archaic Japanese adjective used like modern (の)ようだ. It takes a noun followed by either の or が. This is still used in some set phrases and archaistic sentences.

  • 夢の如し。 = 夢のようだ。 = (It) is like a dream.
  • 龍が如く戦へり。 = 龍のように戦った。 = (He) fought like a dragon.

This が is not a subject marker. が was used for the possessive meaning just like modern の in archaic Japanese. See: 「が」vs「の」 with possessives

深淵に臨むが如し "(It) is like facing the abyss" is also an archaistic expression. In archaic Japanese, instead of a nominalizer (こと/の), the attributive form of a verb is used to nominalize a verb. The attributive-form looks similar to the plain/dictionary-form in modern Japanese. See: Plain Verb followed by がよい and <動詞の辞書形> + がよい ― How is this allowed?

You can possibly say 深淵に臨むの如し and 深淵に臨むことの如し, too, but the latter would look like an unnatural mixture of modern and old styles. Practically, you can remember attributive-form + が如し as a set phrase.

A similar example of this is んがため.


臨む is 連体形 so the particle between it and ごとし has to be が.

Still, 深淵に臨むよう and 深淵に臨むが如し is same meaning. Only the latter is saying difficulty and cool.

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