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One assignment for my Japanese class is this Japanese elementary reader, which contains the story of Kenta and his dog, Koro. They are playing catch with a ball, and the previous sentence I translated as:

In the field, whenever Kenta throws the ball, Koro happily runs and catches it.

Now, the sentence in question is the next one:

何回目かにボールを投げたときのことです。

I get the basic idea on how to break this down:

  • 何回目か is the amount of times in a sequential order, made as a question clause with か; this entire clause is targeted by the verb [clause] with に.

  • ボールを投げた時のことです is "when the ball is thrown [general event]." The last part makes the "when" clause a relative clause able to be ended with a state-of-being (です). the former portion is just a clause using when with とき.

However, the use of 何回目かに confuses me, as I have not a clue how to relate it to the second part of the sentence. How should I understand its usage? Why is the 目 relevant to add? How should I comprehend the sentence as a whole, since 何回目か is the target, and an important part of the sentence?

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何回 = how many times

As usual, adding か makes us a noun with some uncertainty:

何回か = several times

Then we add 目 (I don't know why it comes before か) to get an ordinal expression:

何回目か = the several-th time = the umpteenth time.

Altogether we have:

何回目かにボールを投げたときのことです。
It was when he had thrown the ball for the umpteenth time. ...

I'm guessing that in the next line Koro doesn't fetch the ball for some reason.

| improve this answer | |
  • Oh yes; Kenta sprains his foot. Thank you very much. – BigRigz Sep 3 at 20:21

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