I recently discovered that Relative clauses are mostly made with dictionary form verbs/adjectives, but [the answer here]says my “... sentence indeed has three relative clauses marked by (1), (2), and (3)” Seeing as (1) and (3) are both made from past tense verbs, I’m uncertain as to whether they are relative clauses or not. And if not, what are they, and how is this unknown construct (D) translated? This, in addition to confusion over whether a te-form verb + noun construct forms a relative clause or a continuative clause has me overwhelmed. Therefore, I am reviewing what I know and what I don’t know or am uncertain of in the list below to see which forms can make relative clauses.

(A) 私は右手に同じようなナイフを握っている。 - Known to form a relative clause using the な-adjective 同じような, and a noun, ナイフ.

(B) 私は右手に光るナイフを握っている。 - Known to form a relative clause using the Godan verb 光る, and a noun, ナイフ.

(C) 私は右手に込めてナイフを握っている。- Known to form a continuative clause using the same verb + noun format as a relative clause?

(D) 私は倒れた鉄骨の上に散歩する。 - Once thought to have been a relative clause, now unknown construct of past tense verb plus noun.

  • Where did you see that relative clauses are only made using dictionary form?
    – Leebo
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 21:40
  • I said "the dictionary form can (form a relative clause)" but not "only the dictionary form can" :)
    – naruto
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 23:02

1 Answer 1


A short answer is that the ta-form can modify a noun as a relative clause, too.

  • (A) 同じような is not even a verb, so this is usually regarded as a simple sentence with only one independent clause called the main clause. No relative clause here.
  • (B) 光る modifies ナイフ as a relative clause ("a knife that is shining" or simply "a shining knife")
  • (C) This is a weird sentence because 込めて doesn't have an object. Did you want to say 右手に力を込めてナイフを握っている? Anyway, there is no relative clause in this sentence because te-form is not attributive (see below).
  • (D) 倒れた modifies 鉄骨 as a relative clause ("a steel frame that fell" or simply "a fallen steel frame"). Also note that you have to say 鉄骨の上散歩する.

I didn't want to overwhelm you, but the fact is almost all Japanese predicates (verbs and adjectives) have both the continuative form (連用形) and the attributive (noun-modifying) form (連体形). Almost all 連体形 can form a relative clause (="noun-modifying clause"). See this table.

Here are examples of relative clauses with various attributive forms:

  • それを食べる人 people who eat it
  • それを食べたい人 people who want to eat it
  • それを食べた人 people who ate it
  • それを食べるべき人 people who should eat it
  • それを食べられる人 people who can eat it
  • それを食べさせる人 people who make someone eat it
  • それを食べない人 people who don't eat it
  • それを食べそうな人 people who seem to eat it

Note that:

  • All of these verb forms of 食べる are modifying 人 as a relative clause.
  • Almost all 連体形 look identical to 終止形 (dictionary form or predicative form). See this discussion for why these have different names.
  • The te-form and the masu-stem are not included in the list above because these are not attributive ("noun-modifying") forms.

You don't have to remember everything in the linked table now, but please confirm that 連用形 and 連体形 are always different for each patterns. This is exactly how Japanese people tell whether a certain expression is 連用 ("verb-modifying" or "continue-to-verb") or 連体 ("attributive" or "noun-modifying"). 出し is a 連用 form, so it never forms a relative clause.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .