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昨日ここへ来たのはだれですか

Book translation: who is the one who came here yesterday?

My understanding is the following: 「昨日ここへ来た」 is a relative clause modifying the pronoun 「の」 to mean "the one who came here yesterday", then は marks it as the topic. Because the interrogative word だれ is used, "the one" must be a person, so we use "who".

Now, can we replace 「の」 with 「者」? If so, would it be redundant because 「だれ」 is used?

昨日ここへ来た者はだれですか

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    Oct 22, 2021 at 0:35

1 Answer 1

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Syntactically, this の is a noun, and everything before it is a relative clause. But I think it's best to treat this の as "some special noun working as a placeholder". It's also different from what we usually call a nominalizer (which turns 見る "see" to 見るの "seeing", etc.).

Your sentence is a cleft sentence, a special construction to focus a certain part of a sentence. This の roughly corresponds to the "placeholder it" in English cleft sentences like "It's John who ate the cake". You can see that this it is specially referring to a person, which is odd outside of this construction. Likewise, の in a cleft sentence is a special noun which is used in place of many things including 者/人, 物, 場所/所 and 時/時間, and it is unlikely to be an abbreviation of any particular word.

  • 昨日ここへ来たはだれですか?
    昨日ここへ来たはだれですか?
    Who was it that came here yesterday?
    (This can be rephrased as "Who was the person who came here yesterday?", but that does not mean this it is short for person.)
  • 彼がここへ来たはいつですか?
    彼がここへ来た時間はいつですか?
    When was it that he came here?
  • 昨日彼が来たはどこですか?
    昨日彼が来た場所はどこですか?
    Where was it that he came yesterday?
  • 昨日彼がここへ来たは何故ですか?
    Why was it that he came here yesterday?
    (For this one, I don't know how to rewrite this using a normal noun and a normal relative clause)
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