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In this multiple-choice grammar question:

(  )、この本を読むどころではなかった。

A. 来客があって
B. 字が小さくて
C. 眼鏡がなくて

Why does (A) sound more appropriate here than the other choices? I feel like I am missing a nuance with ~どころではない. These all seem like equally valid circumstances that make reading not possible in this situation.

Source: 新完全マスター:文法(N2)

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  • 1
    I googled this question initially and found that it was asked on this website as well: lang-8.com/990283/journals/… which seems to suggest that the question itself is poorly constructed. Although I wanted to get a second opinion here by another expert.
    – octosquakk
    Dec 29 '20 at 0:04
  • Although I don't know if it technically has an answer, none of those sound "outstandingly more (un)natural" than others for me naively. Dec 30 '20 at 10:27
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どころではない is used when you have some other thing to worry about and cannot focus your attention to what you want to or are supposed to be doing. Of the three options, only (A) involves such an external distraction, namely a guest. Small letters and missing glasses in (B) and (C), on the other hand, are very much part of the reading itself.

Having said that, though, (B) and (C) are not totally wrong. They may make sense if the smallness of the letters distracts you so much that you cannot focus on the content of the book, or if you are too busy looking for your glasses to sit and enjoy the book to begin with.

I would say the best choice is still (A), though.

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どころ(ではない):

Definition by Jisho.org - the place for; the time for; the level of​ (usu. with neg. sentence; indicates that what precedes it is at odds with the seriousness or true extent of the situation)

So basically どころではない(じゃない, etc) means This is not the place to be doing xx, and it comes with a bit of a self-restraint(我慢) because of the environment or social status of the place, or the people around you (IMO).

So let's first analyze the two "wrong" sentences.

B) 字が小さくて、この本を読むどころではなかった。- The book was small, so it wasn't the right thing to read it.

This does not make sense to me, as the reason to why it was a bad idea to read the book.

C) 眼鏡がなくて、この本を読むどころではなかった。 - I did not have my glasses, so reading this book was not the right thing to do. (it was no place to read).

This sounds more like being "incapable" of reading, rather than the self-restraint nuance that this construction carries, so it doesn't fit. Something 「眼鏡がなかったので、本が読めなかった」would've made sense instead.

Now the correct answer:

A)来客があって、この本を読むどころではなかった。I had a visitor, so it wasn't the right place for me to read this book.

Here, the social norm dictates that it would be impolite to be reading the book because you would be ignoring the visitor. Which makes the person self-restraint and not read the book.

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  • Thanks for the input. How would you square this "self-restraint" nuance with this other example (same source): 隣のテーブルの人たちがうるさくて、ゆっくり食事を楽しむどころではなかった。
    – octosquakk
    Dec 29 '20 at 9:10

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