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I saw this sentence in my review today:

母はいつも、単身赴任中の父のことを案じている。

No pronouns, but easy to understand. One way of translating this sentence would be

My mom (A) is always worried about my father (B) moving away for work.

In other words, there is a first person talking about (A) and (B). Now, what if the sentence was written this way:

My mom is always worried about her husband moving away for work.

The meaning is still the same, but this time, instead of showing how the first person is related to (A) AND (B), it shows first person's relationship to (A), then (A)'s relationship to (B). Thanks to the use of pronouns, ambiguity is avoided. Japanese has a tendency to avoid pronouns as much as possible, so I think this sentence doesn't sound natural:

母はいつも、単身赴任中の彼女の夫のことを案じている。

母 can be repeated twice to remove ambiguity but it sounds awkward.

母はいつも、単身赴任中の母の夫のことを案じている。

Is there a way to translate the sentence "My mom is always worried about her husband moving away for work." without using pronouns?

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  • whose husband are we talking about? whether in english or japanese the pronoun doesn’t really add clarity. it seems strange to say “my mom” and then “her husband” unless somehow she’s talking about someone else’s husband or her husband isn’t your father. so i know this is a comment, but i’d say omit the pronoun (though in that case it might sound like you’re saying “my husband”). – A.Ellett Jul 25 '20 at 4:00
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This speaker is calling his/her own father 母の夫 or 彼女の夫, but it sounds really awkward at least in Japanese. While it's grammatical, the listener will probably think the speaker has some complicated reason not to call his/her own father father.

The first sentence looks perfectly natural and there is almost no ambiguity. If you really care, you can make it more explicit simply by saying 母はいつも、単身赴任中の私の父のことを案じている. As you know, we do not say 私の commonly in Japanese, but it's still much better than saying 母の夫.

In rare cases where your mother is worried about your grandfather, you can say something like 母はいつも、まだ現役で単身赴任中の祖父のことを案じている.

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  • Thanks. Yeah, I agree. It sounds awkward (as if the father-child relationship is strained) and can be disrespectful. Thanks too for including the sentence with the grandfather in it. I was to ask this question too, but left it out in the end. (You always think one step ahead, huh?) Basing on your answer, the best way is to write sentences from a single person's point of view and if that's not possible, use a pronoun as a last resort. – rebuuilt Jul 25 '20 at 12:40

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