I was reading up on how quotes are done in japanese, but I can't find anything about how far the quoted part of a sentence extents.

For example this site makes a good example for what I mean:


This should translate to

I heard from the teacher that there is no class today.

But why isn't it:

I heard that there is no class today from the teacher

Like, this particular teacher is not doing the lesson today, but maybe someone else is doing it.

1 Answer 1


The second interpretation is not very likely in this particular example because 先生から授業がない makes little sense. That idea would probably be expressed as 先生の授業がない.

先生から授業がある works better.


This could be translated in two ways.

  1. I heard from the teacher that there will be a class today.
  1. I heard that the teacher will give (us) a class today.

However, without enough context, the second interpretation is still less likely than the first. That’s because of 今日は. It is clearly part of the quotation. If 先生から is also part of the quotation, it would most likely be placed after 今日は.


But this makes the first interpretation much less likely (unless, of course, 今日は is a worthy topic of the whole sentence).

If you take out 今日は altogether, the sentence becomes more context-dependent.


This could go either way.

If you need to make it clear that you heard the news from the teacher, you can say:


This completely disambiguates the meaning.

So, it depends on word order and context.


Although it’s definitely much better than 先生から授業がない, even 先生から授業がある sounds a bit awkward. I guess 授業 is not the kind of noun that makes you think of its direction, which から indicates, especially when it’s not given. 〜から〜がない works better with some other nouns. For example, 先生から説明がない sounds as natural as 先生から説明がある.

  • Any ideas as to why, being both expressions akward, 先生から授業がない is even more akward than 先生から授業がある ?
    – jarmanso7
    Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 22:15
  • 1
    @jarmanso7: 授業がある literally means “there is a class” and this itself has no concept of direction. However, when you hear it, you create a mental image where someone is teaching something to a group of people, and this idea could be expressed with から as you see something move from one point (the teacher) to another (the students). This doesn’t work when there is no class. You would only think of a vacant classroom. 説明, on the other hand, directly refers to the thing that moves from one point to another (if given), rather than a setting like 授業 where such a movement might happen.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 1:38
  • @jarmanso7: I’m not sure if this is related, but when I was learning English as a young student, I wondered why a plural form is sometimes used to talk about something that doesn’t exist.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 1:39
  • So in general there is no rule, which says what parts are included in such a quote. It depends on the context and how the sentence is structured. In this case 授業 does not work well with から, since 授業 has no good concept of the kind of movement から requires (This is not the case in English, where "lesson from" is a common phrase). But since から works very well with 聞く, you assume that it is not part of the quote anymore.
    – mic
    Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 8:22
  • @mic: That’s correct. In the hypothetical sentence 先生から聞いたと聞いた, から would be associated with the first 聞いた, because it’s closer, unless the context suggests otherwise.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 9:52

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