In the ASK Graded Reader ゴン狐, the following sentence appears:


I have seen that using を。。。と言う is like saying 'to call somebody something.' My issue is that there is a だ at the end of the clause. I would expect it to be either おれが。。。だと or おれを。。。と, but the two together confuses me.

How does this make sense? Would it not be correct to say おれが泥棒だと言った?


3 Answers 3


This 言う is a member of this verb group, so だ before と is optional. (This reminds me of the "optional being" in English, as in "to regard me as being a thief" vs "to regard me as a thief".)

I would say this type of と is not quotative-to because the part marked with と is a simple noun (phrase) rather than a sentence.

俺が泥棒だと言って would tend to be taken as "saying 'I am the thief'" (i.e., the 魚売り is calling himself a thief).

  • What about 俺に? How would that affect the meaning?
    – frog
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 11:39

The speaker is saying 'The fishmonger, calling me a thief..". (It seems the line is adapted, but the speaker seems 兵十. Cf. the original.)

と in 泥棒だと言って is clearly 引用の「と」, and requires a 終止形 ending for the preceding verb (or words that conjugate).

[Edit] Maybe naruto is right - this is not a 引用, but still it requiring a 終止形 should be the same. I found a seemingly relevant article.


  • その女の子をかわいいと言って : saying that the girl is pretty
  • その女の子をきれいだと言って : saying that the girl is beautiful
  • その女の子を美少女だと言って : saying that the girl is a pretty girl

All the bold words are in 終止形.


A simpler (no) explanation is that the acceptable particles are determined by the verb. If this sounds fair enough, just remember it as pattern:

  • call N1 N2 = N1N2呼ぶ / N1{を,が}N2だと言う.


  • {俺が泥棒だ, 俺を泥棒だ, ?俺は泥棒だ, ?俺を泥棒}と言って are all possible with (?) being less natural, but
  • 俺を泥棒と呼んで is the only option.

In short, だ in the question exists because いう (tends to) requires it.


FYI: ごん狐 is possibly one of the few non-fairy-tale stories that close to everybody knows in Japan (as long as s/he learned from standard textbooks in primary school).

  • While I appreciate the rigour of your response, as a person working on a graded reader targetted at N4 students, this answer is wildly inaccessible.
    – frog
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 1:30
  • See the edit. I admit I cannot give a full explanation. BTW probably you should have included more context so that those who don't know the story can answer.
    – sundowner
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 2:58
  • I removed largely the first part of the answer. Probably best understood as the verb requiring the use of だ. You should refer to the posts linked in naruto's comment.
    – sundowner
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 7:04

魚売りは、おれが泥棒だと言って sounds like the fishmonger is calling themself the thief, which seems a bit unlikely, but as per the comments below, it could be understood as intended too.

In 魚売りは、おれを泥棒だと言って, the quoted part is just 泥棒だ. If you want to say, The fishmonger called me a thief and capture "me" within the quote, then the sentence should have been おまえが泥棒だと言って

Keep in mind that Japanese does not have indirect speech like we do in English. Japanese only has direct speech, the fishmonger said, "you're a thief"

  • Without quotation marks and/or further context, I would understand 魚売りは、おれが泥棒だと言って as meaning the fishmonger said the the speaker was the thief. If I wanted to say the fishmonger declared himself to be the thieve, I would probably say 魚売りは、自分が泥棒だと言って to avoid ambiguity.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 23:27
  • @aguijonazo should i remove the answer then?
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 23:28
  • No. I just think the “speaker” in the first line should be “fishmonger”. That interpretation is very much possible. It would be a case of direct speech without quotation marks.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 23:35
  • So then why is this not おれに? >>He said to me, "you are a thief"?<<
    – frog
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 1:27
  • @frog. I'm not sure why you're asking that. Do you believe おれに is necessary? Japanese is very context dependent and such an addition seems like it would be overkill (even in English, which demands a pedantic insistence on details).
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 2:19

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