Back to basics. I have heard sentences similar to these ones online that attest the same structure





Why に? In all of these sentences isn't the subject 「私」? The agent of the action is the other party, and 「もらう」determines the subject is the benefector of the action. What am I missing here? There seems to be a function fusion of indirect object with subject of sentence.

  • 2
    Isn't it just that the 私 in each example is the indirect object of 教える or 貸す?
    – Leebo
    Apr 8, 2021 at 5:22
  • @Leebo I guess so. I think that's why this construction didn't sound particularly out of place to me at first. But people also say things like 「先生に教えてもらいました」where にmarks the indirect object/patient. My issue with the examples, in other words, could be with the confusion that comes with the presence of both に and もらう. (Or maybe the function fusion of indirect object with subject of sentence?)
    – Eddie Kal
    Apr 8, 2021 at 5:29
  • 1
    Remember that に also marks the agent of the action: think of its use with the causative.
    – A.Ellett
    Apr 8, 2021 at 13:20

1 Answer 1


As noted in the comments by Leebo, Eddie Kal, and A. Ellett, the に marks the agent of actions in certain constructions. We sometimes use by in English in a similar fashion.

In the ~てもらう construction, consider that the agent of the verb もらう is getting (もらう) something done (the ~て verb) for them. This is, in some ways, not far from the passive, where に is also used to mark the agent (the doer of the action) and は or が to mark the patient (the receiver of the action).

  • Passive:
    • [は]{●}先生[に]{●}教え[ら]{●}[れ]{●}[た]{●}
  • "Getting":
    • [は]{●}先生[に]{●}教え[て]{●}[も]{●}[ら]{●}[っ]{●}[た]{●}

We might express this in English as:

  • Passive:
    • I was taught by the teacher
  • "Getting":
    • I got taught by the teacher

Note: In English, the two are so close that they are essentially fusing in modern colloquial usage. The "getting" sense of "receiving" is thus often expressed in a slightly wordier fashion, to avoid ambiguity:

  • "Getting" with explicit "receiving":
    • I got the teacher to teach me

The key point to remember for ~てもらう constructions is that they are similar to the passive, and the agent (doer) of the ~て verb generally takes に.

  • 1
    This really helps clear things up! Just so happens I am actually in the process of revising the question and trying to crystalize the grammar aspect that I was having trouble with. I'd be grateful if you could also address the things I am going to add to the question (in a bit).
    – Eddie Kal
    Apr 8, 2021 at 17:38

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