Here's a small thing I never thought about for too long as I always kinda dismissed it due to the context usually being clear enough, but now I've gotten curious and I figured I'd ask away:

Let's take the example from the thread title「酒を飲ませる人」: Can this generally be understood as both "the person, who makes/lets somebody else drink alcohol" and "the person, who's being made/let to drink alcohol"? Same question with「命令する人」: "The person who gives orders" and "the person who receives orders"?

I'm not really sure how I'd go about googling this particular question so I apologize if this is a very simple one.

Thank you very much in advance!

1 Answer 1


Yes, 酒を飲ませる人 is ambiguous. In general, this ambiguity can happen in Japanese relative clauses typically when a verb takes two or more human arguments (~が, ~に, ~を, etc). Here are similar questions:

Usually the surrounding context can tell the intended interpretation. To disambiguate this without any further context, you can simply fill one of the missing arguments.

  • 彼女酒を飲ませる人: the person who she gives alcohol to
  • 彼女酒を飲ませる人: the person who makes her drink alcohol
  • Alright, good to know that I was on the right track. Thank you for clarifying!
    – Boolicious
    Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 12:20

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