I've read online that という is translated as : called, that, like.

But how does this sentence translate:


There are two instances of という here and the first instance I don't really understand why that's there. The second usage at the end translate to "felt like."

How would the first part of the sentence translate with という. I don't understand where the "like, that, called" comes into the translation.

I guess I'm asking what is the function of という in the sentence :


Is という in this case perhaps categorizing the idea of wanting to become a pianist as a dream?

  • 3
    It's apposition. This might help. Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 10:45

2 Answers 2


There are a few ways という is used.

First, it can be literally mean と+言う as a direct quote:


It can also be used to define something:


This is also where the commonly taught phrase to introduce yourself comes from:


Instead of defining, you can also use the same pattern to ask for a definition:


While nothing directly is said in these instances, there still is some connection to 言う in the sense of "If you were to talk about this, then you would say this".

The final usage of という is so abstract, that thinking of it in terms of the verb 言う is pointless. It might be better to see it as a set construct or even a sort of particle. It takes the preceding sentence and wraps it up to allow you to say something about it as a whole.

To take your sentence as an example:

コンサート・ピアニストになりたい という 夢は終わった。

The sentence 「コンサート・ピアニストになりたい」 is wrapped by という. Now whatever follows (「夢は終わった」) applies to this sentence as a whole.

In general there are many ways this last form of という is used, but the idea always is to take a sentence and wrap it up to allow you to attach further grammar to it.


I used to be confused a lot by this usage (i.e., the first instance in the OP question) of という because I always thought of という as only a quotation marker. The Basic Dictionary of Japanese Grammar defines という as:

a phrase marking information which identifies or explains the noun following the phrase. called; that says ~; that.

The example sentence in the BDJG that fits this usage is:


I have the feeling that I have to keep hanging in there.

In sum, in this usage, という plays the same role as "that".

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