6

仰向けになったままで、ハリーは今まで見ていた夢を思い出そうとしていた。
Became face up ???, Harry tried to recall the dream he'd been having.

まま is one of those things that fills me with dread whenever I see it in a sentence. I know that it roughly indicates that a state remains the same, but I really struggle to understand how to use it properly, or how to translate it.

This example is even more perplexing because なる indicates that a state is changing and まま indicates that it is staying the same. How should I understand the clause in bold.

Does anyone have a good way to understand まま in general?

8

仰向{あおむ}けになったままで、ハリーは今{いま}まで見{み}ていた夢{ゆめ}を思{おも}い出{だ}そうとしていた。」

First of all, the 「仰向けになった」 part suggests that Harry had already been lying for some time in some kind of non-face-up body position, correct? Then, he turned around on his back. 「~になる」 would describe that position change.

「仰向けになったままで + Mini-Sentence」 means "He did something while he was lying on his back (or 'lying face up')".

To use 「まま(で)」 correctly, a certain action must take place first and then the "new" state brought by that action must also continue for some time. 「まま(で)」 is used to describe another action that takes place while that new state lasts.

Exceptions to the above, however, exist and that is when 「まま(だ/です/である, etc.)」 appears at the end of the sentence. For instance:

「あの人は5年前{ねんまえ}にインドへ渡{わた}ったままです。」 means:

"That guy went over to India 5 years ago and he has not returned."

Japanese-speakers will know that he has not returned home without you saying it directly. The 「ままです」 says it all for us.

In translating 「仰向けになったままで」, I myself would not translate the 「になった」 part literally by using a form of "to become" because it would only make the TL look clumsy. Therefore, I would simply opt for:

・"While lying face up, Harry ~~~." or

・"Now, lying on his back, Harry ~~~."

That is to say if one of those fitted at all in the context.

2

l'électeur posted a superb answer already, but I would like to add on this part.

まま is one of those things that fills me with dread whenever I see it in a sentence. [...] Does anyone have a good way to understand まま in general?

So far, the model that helped me the most to understandn まま, as a learner, is the one that follow. Note that this model is quite opiniated, and native speakers and linguist probably have one much more nuanced, but for learners I think it's an effective first approximation.

  • まま is a noun. Probably the key takeaway of this model. It's not a weird part of speech or exception, it does not break the grammar of japanese, it's not scary, it's just a noun that work almost like every other noun.
  • This noun means "unchanged condition". Everytime you see まま you can replace it by "unchanged condition". ("unchanged state" is also ok.)
  • The で after まま can be seen as the te-form of the copula. But まま is a bit special and the で can sometimes be also dropped.

Let's test this model. If まま is a noun, then like every other noun まま can :

1) Be qualified by another noun : nounのまま

自然のままの森。」

Nature's unchanged condition's forest. A forest in the unchanged condition of nature.
In more natural english, a forest it its natural state. Unspoiled woods.

そのままでお願いします。」

being in this unchanged condition, please.
Just like this, please. As is, please.

Very useful sentence to use in combini. When buying food, the cashier will usually ask if we want them to warm it, or if we need a bag, chopstick etc. If we need nothing, if we want the food as is, in its current unchanged state, we want it そのまま. In this unchanged condition.

2) Be qualified by an i-adjective

「いつまでも若いままでいたい。」
Being in the unchanged condition of forever young, I want to exist.
I want to be young forever.

The literal translation is very clumsy in english, but in japanese it's just a regular i-adj+noun 若いまま.

3) Be qualified by a complete cause

テレビをつけたまま寝てしまいました。」

Being in the unchanged condition of TV turned on, I felt asleep.
I felt asleep while leaving the TV on.

Note that the qualifying clause ends often with a verb in the ta-form, because the action of turning on the tv is already complete. We are in the unchanged condition of this action done.

仰向けになったままで、ハリーは今まで見ていた夢を思い出そうとしていた。

仰向けになった = lying on his back. Well, literally it's "became face-up". Instead of focusing on the state, like the english does, the japanese focus on the change from "not on one's back" to "on one's back". But if you changed to facing up, now you are currently lying on your own back.

being in the unchanged condition of became face-up...
While/still lying on his back...

And about the example mentioned by l'électeur :

あの人は5年前にインドへ渡ったままです。」

With this model, this sentence is analysed very simply as a regular "qualifying clause + noun + です"
It's the unchanged condition of "that guy went over to India 5 years ago".

Because まま is an unchanged condition, he is still in India.

By the way there are also some extended meaning of まま, like in 思いのまま, わがまま, but it's out of scope here.

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.