A is a commoner right now. B is a high ranking commander. A ceremony just finished, involving A getting bestowed a role by the queen/殿下 as a reward for some good deeds. B was in the audience and was a very brief acquaintance of A, this is their first real conversation. The 殿下 had defended A during the ceremony against criticism from some of the nobility, and demanded that there will be no objections to A's new role.







  • All eyes naturally should be looking at A during the ceremony and A was only looking and replying to the 殿下. So あなたに can only be indicating the direction if that were the case, and not the agent doing "向けられる". So it seems the 謁見/選民意識の高い貴族 are the ones be doing the 向ける, as is described. But then how is it grammatically correct to use the passive form here? compare to "あなたに向ける視線が選民意識の高い貴族のものばかり" for example

  • Ending the with 殿下が判断されたのではないでしょうか, who is doing the 判断 here then? What did happen was a definitive ruling by the queen that A will get the role/job without further debate. But since it was not written as "殿下に判断されたのではないでしょうか", does that mean the queen herself is being "judged" by B's interpretation? That would a very sacrilegious thing to say in this context.

I look at the sentence as:

"[多分あなたに向けられる視線が選民意識の高い貴族のものばかり]ではマズイ" と 殿下が判断されたのではないでしょうか

... but depending who is actually doing the actions, that may make no sense.



1 Answer 1


There are two kinds of passive happening here: straightforward passive, and honorific passive.

Straightforward passive

This is your basic, garden-variety passive: something is being done.

Your analysis of the に in あなたに向けられる視線が is correct: this is not the instrumental に, but rather the directional に.

However, your analysis of the verb isn't quite right. We can't say あなたに[向]{●}[け]{●}[る]{●}視線が, because that means that the 視線【しせん】 is the one doing the 向ける-ing. This doesn't make any sense, because 向ける is a transitive verb, and 視線 here is marked with the subject particle が, such that the 視線 would grammatically have to be 向ける-ing some unstated object.

Instead, the 向けられる is the straightforward, garden-variety passive. A more idiomatic English translation that maintains this passivity might be, "the gazes [that were] turned towards you..."

Honorific passive

When speaking about someone in an outside or otherwise status-elevated social context, speakers in Japanese often use honorific constructions. In this kind of context, using the basic verb する, I might talk about myself 致【いた】す-ing (using the humble register for myself), whereas I'd talk about the status-elevated person as される-ing (using the honorific register for the "exalted other").


Years ago, I visited Kyōto as a tourist. I was reasonably fluent in Japanese after having lived in the Tōhoku and then the Kantō for a total of, perhaps, four years or so. In the taxi cab from the station, the driver asked us, どこから[来]{●}[ら]{●}[れ]{●}[ま]{●}[し]{●}[た]{●}か, which confused me initially, as I wasn't used to the honorific passive. Later in the conversation, he also asked, どこへ行かれますか. At this point, my memory of earlier studies kicked in, and I realized more clearly what he was saying: どこから[来]{●}[ま]{●}[し]{●}[た]{●}か, and どこへ[行]{●}[き]{●}[ま]{●}[す]{●}か, only in the honorific register, using the passive honorific.

Back on point

In your sample sentence, you have 殿下が判断[さ]{●}[れ]{●}[た]{●}. We see that 殿下 is marked with the subject particle が, so we know that she's the subject of the verb. This could grammatically be the straightforward passive, but as you note, that doesn't make sense in this context -- the queen is not being "deemed" or "judged" in one way or another. Rather, the queen herself is doing the "deeming" or "judging" here. And because she's the queen of the speaker, the speaker is using the honorific register, and thus we see instead the honorific passive.

How to tell which passive?

Generally speaking, if the passive construction would be truly ambiguous, people will find other ways of saying things to avoid that ambiguity. Perhaps instead of the honorific passive, they might use a different verb altogether, perhaps なさる. As with many things in language, context is key.

  • 2
    “This doesn't make any sense, because 向ける is a transitive verb, and 視線 here is marked with the subject particle が, such that the 視線 would grammatically have to be 向ける-ing some unstated object.” < But the role the head of a relative clause plays in the matrix sentence has nothing to do with the role it plays in the relative clause... ??? In fact あなたに向けた視線(が必要以上に怖かったかもしれない, etc) could easily have 視線 play the object in the relative clause Sep 17, 2019 at 0:56
  • I was trying to come up with a reply before reading yours, so to check my understanding of the grammar involved, but the central part of the bold sentence - 選民意識の高い貴族のものばかりではマズイと - baffles me; what does it mean? (Hoping it's ok to ask this way and not in another question, sorry if it's not; I'm still getting the hang of SE working.)
    – Mauro
    Sep 17, 2019 at 7:09

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