We can say something like this, using a passive verb at the end of a sentence:


But when we put verb before a noun to modify it, which of the following could you use, or would be correct?




1 Answer 1


You can safely put a passive verb before a noun to form a relative clause. 世界中で話されている英語 means "English which is spoken all over the world".

But please note that 子供に与えられる玩具 is ambiguous; technically it means both "the toy given by the child" and "the toy given to the child" depending on the context (although in this case the latter is more likely for obvious reasons). See: The meaning of ”あれは魔術師に与えられた祝福” and this answer. On the other hand, 子供に与える玩具 only means "the toy someone gives to a child".

Ambiguous relative clause happens with non-passive relative clauses, too. See: Ambiguity when describing with verbs, e.g. 酒を飲ませる人 and .

  • Re: ambiguity, I think that only happens with either passive or causative (or the combined causative-passive), due to the semantics and grammar of these constructions and the multiple possible ways of interpreting agency in these contexts. Are there any similarly ambiguous constructions with plain (non-passive, non-causative) verbs? Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 17:37
  • 1
    @EiríkrÚtlendi How about this and this?
    – naruto
    Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 17:50
  • Interesting, yes. The first link is about 好き rather than a verb, but that and the 惚れる discussed in the second link both share a similar ambiguity about agency / application when used in relative clauses. From those examples, I recognize that various other "passive-light" and "ability" verbs likely fall into this same area -- things like 分かる and 出来る, potential/realis/stative verbs like 惚れる or 切れる. Thank you! Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 18:05

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