I would like to understand the meaning and usage of those two sets of particles in here.

左の腋窩と右の脇腹に箆深く射された矢がなかったなら、 それはともすると羅馬の競技者が、 薄暮の庭樹に凭って疲れを休めている姿かとも見えた。

ともすると: I've read it works as an adverb "[subject] tends to/is prone to... [verb]". It's composed of とも, which basically means "even if" and could be replaced with やや as in ややすると, and すると "if [it is] done", just as すれば, in ともすれば, and したら, in ともしたら. I would like, however, a more literary translation of this adverb.

かとも: I think it has, not a conjunct, but a separate meaning, that would be [dubitation] + [conjunction-quotation] + [inclusion], and so, it can't be effectively translated. It marks a response to なかったなら in the first sentence.

1 Answer 1


For the nuance of ともすると, please see this. This is a very old fixed phrase, and basically you should remember it without analyzing it too much. But according to the link, this と means "like this/that", and も is "even", so it literally means something like "if things go even like this".

かとも is, yes, か ("may", "can it be") + と (quotative) + も ("even"). So ~かとも見えた can be translated like "(without the arrow, the person) even might have looked like ~".

  • Good, that's what I though. Now I'm a little confused with 羅馬の競技者が, because I think が is used here as の, which is weird because this novel is writen in Standard Japanese and not Kagoshima or Historical Japanese, so それはともすると羅馬の競技者が、 薄暮の庭樹に凭って疲れを休めている姿かとも見えた could be translated as "it tends to... seem even that [it] might have been a figure... of a roman athlete". I don't know how rare is the use of が as a noun conector or how rare is a relative sentence between those nouns.
    – Daniel
    Dec 7, 2019 at 16:00
  • @Daniel "羅馬の競技者が(snip)疲れを休めている" is modifying 姿 as a relative clause, and this が is a plain old subject marker. It can be safely explained with the standard Japanese grammar.
    – naruto
    Dec 8, 2019 at 4:45
  • But how can 羅馬の競技者 be a subject of this relative clause? That's what I found confusing. Unless 姿 and 羅馬の競技者 are the same subject, that is, roughtly, "it tends to seem even that [it] might have been a figure that rested the fatigue that a roman athlete leaned in a dusky garden tree".
    – Daniel
    Dec 8, 2019 at 14:36
  • @Daniel I think this is a gapless relative clause. You can see several similar examples here.
    – naruto
    Dec 8, 2019 at 14:46

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