I'm trying to understand this sentence: 言ったのは少女のひとりだった。, which is translated as "It was one of the girls who said it.".

I've understood the first 2 parts:

  • 言ったの = noun-ified (past tense of talking) = the talking that happened in the past
  • 少女のひとり = a singular girl

However, I don't understand the function of the だった.

Tofugu says だった is a past tense marker, but here 言った is already past tense, so I don't see the purpose.

Tae Kim says だった means "something was something" but that interpretation doesn't make sense here.

What is the purpose of the だった here?

  • 3
    Looks like this happens in english too- "What he said was....", that has two past tenses like your sentence
    – OtheJared
    Jul 18, 2021 at 18:52
  • だった="it was"; 言ったの="who said it".
    – A.Ellett
    Jul 18, 2021 at 18:54

1 Answer 1


言ったのは少女のひとり is also a valid sentence. It is understood as a statement of a fact about a past event. 言ったのは少女のひとりだった means the same but it somewhat sounds like it is describing the situation at the time when that event happened.

This is partially related.

A similar question could be asked about the tense of a cleft sentence in English. I found this but it is closed as “too basic”. I don't think it is.

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