I'm trying to parse the sentence below.


Book translation: I didn't know what to do because everyone was staring at me


Here's my reasoning:

The sentence is in indirect passive because the verb 見つめられて is the te-form of 見つめられる, which is the plain passive form of 見つめる as it wouldn't make sense to consider it to be in potential form, and, assuming 見つめられて inherited the intransitivity of the main verb, 困った, there's no direct object, so it cannot be a direct passive sentence.

The performer of the action, みんな, is marked by に and the understood subject, I, is omitted.

I don't think the translation is completely accurate, though. 困った is in plain past form and so is 見つめられて. Therefore, it should be translated as the following: I didn't know what to do because everyone stared at me. However, the meaning is basically the same.

  • 1
    It's fairly trivial to think up similarly structured sentences where the verb in て form couldn't be intransitive (such as 趣味に合わない物をもらって困った). Or is that somehow different from the scope you were envisioning?
    – Leebo
    Oct 5, 2021 at 3:06
  • @Leebo I see, it goes both ways then.
    – Nameless
    Oct 5, 2021 at 3:11
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    What made you think the transitivity of the verb of the dependent clause is affected by the verb of the main clause in the first place?
    – aguijonazo
    Oct 5, 2021 at 4:38
  • 1
    I can tell the sentence has no object. I’m asking what object would make sense to you if the verb were in the active form 見つめる.
    – aguijonazo
    Oct 5, 2021 at 5:28
  • 1
    Yes, then isn’t it natural that I becomes the (hidden) subject in a passive sentence? Why do you expect を to be there?
    – aguijonazo
    Oct 5, 2021 at 13:57

1 Answer 1


I think you may be confused. A verb in 〜て form is just that verb, in the 〜て form. て-ness has no effect whatsoever on transitivity.

In addition, with few exceptions (notably, 〜ている), a verb in the 〜て form followed by another verb represents two separate actions. In the expression 「見つめられて困った」, there are two verbs, both of equivalent "main"-ness. The 困った on the end has no effect whatsoever on the transitivity of the 見つめられる.

In another addition, you exhibit more confusion in the statement, "困った is in plain past form and so is 見つめられて." While 困った is indeed in the plain past form, 見つめられて is not in the plain past form -- it is instead in the conjunctive 〜て form.

And to add on one more thing, note that any text in translation is exactly that -- a text in translation. Depending on context, intended audience, grammatical differences, and other factors, various and sundry things may differ between the translation and the source. The translated form does not necessarily have anything informative to tell us about the grammar and nuance of the source form.

Looking again at your question:

Do verbs in て form inherit the intransitivity of the main verb?

In short, no. There is no "main verb" in your sample text, and no inheritance of any transitivity.

  • By 困った is in plain past form and so is 見つめられて, I meant that the tense of 困った affects the tense of 見つめられて.
    – Nameless
    Oct 5, 2021 at 14:41
  • @Nameless, 見つめられて has no tense at all. Tense for this verb only appears in translation. Oct 6, 2021 at 21:09

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