I'm currently doing some N4 sample papers to prepare myself for the exams and I came across this questions;


It's the second sentence which gets me. I pretty sure it means " What did the students do when visiting the factory" , but the placement of '何' before the use of the gerunds is stumping me a bit. If I were to say this phrase, I would probably structure it as follows


Would this sentence make sense or am I missing something here?

Thanks in advance kind people!



1 Answer 1



This 何 is the object of 作る, so the basic question here is "making what?" rather than "doing what?" The subject of 見学をする is 学生, and the (implicit) subject of 作っている is the workers of the factory.

Thus a literal translation would be "The students will visit (the factory) when (the factory workers) are making what?" This should look a little broken in English, so you can rephrase it to "What are they manufacturing during our visit to the factory?"

Your attempt is semantically incorrect, but also note that 見学を作る makes no sense in Japanese. Although you can say "to make a visit" in English, the verb you need to use with 見学 is always する or 行う. English has many set phrases that have "make" ("make a mistake", "make a complaint", "make a joke", etc), but you have to be careful when you translate them into Japanese. See this, too.

  • I still find this sentence really confusing. I'm normally happy with embedded questions, but this one seems weird. If I replace なに with a noun (tinned tuna) then the sentence is still well formed, but it is a question about whether the students will actually make the visit or not. Somehow replacing tinned tuna with なに moves the question from the main clause to the subordinate clause. Apr 10, 2020 at 8:09
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    @user3856370 Would it make more sense to you if the words are reordered? 工場で何を作っているときに、学生は見学をしますか。I personally find this more easily understandable.
    – Sweeper
    Apr 10, 2020 at 9:09
  • @Sweeper Thanks for the suggestion, but I'm afraid that doesn't help me. In fact it enhances my problem. We now very clearly have a part (学生は見学をしますか) asking whether the students will attend the factory, and yet this is not the question. The students very definitely will attend; the question is what will they see when they go. Can you see my confusion? Apr 10, 2020 at 9:20
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    @user3856370 Okay... Maybe it makes more sense to me only because my native language is Chinese then... Your problem seems to be simply that you have parsed it wrong. The か indicates everything before it is a question, not just the bit immediately before it.
    – Sweeper
    Apr 10, 2020 at 9:24
  • @Sweeper I think your right. The more I think about it the less convincing my original thoughts seem to be and the more natural this sentence sounds. I guess I'm happy. Thanks. Apr 10, 2020 at 9:45

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