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I'm reading this story and am trying to understand the use of the causative in this sentence:

あの人{ひと}のマントをどちらが早{はや}く脱{ぬ}がせることができると思{おも}う?

According to textbooks and this answer, the "causee" (the agent being caused to take the action) is marked with を for intransitive verbs and with に for transitive verbs. 脱ぐ (to take off) is transitive, and を is being used to mark its object (the cloak), so the causee would be marked with に. There's no に, so the causee doesn't seem to be specified. According to this answer, the causee can be omitted if it can be inferred from the context. So my first question is:

Am I right in thinking that the causee has been omitted because it's clear from the context that it's the person?

The site translates the sentence into English as "What do you think, which of us can make the person take off his cloak earlier?". Elsewhere, it says: "We have written English translations with Japanese grammatical structures. Therefore, some of them may not be natural in terms of English grammar." But it seems to me that this translation is actually how the sentence would be phrased naturally in English, and its structure doesn't correspond to that of the original, as it doesn't contain the phrase "the person's cloak". In fact, it seems to me like a faithful translation of the sentence obtained by replacing の with に:

あの人{ひと}にマントをどちらが早{はや}く脱{ぬ}がせることができると思{おも}う?

So my second question is:

Is this a proper Japanese sentence (and if so, is it more or less natural than the sentence as written in the story)?

The structure of the sentence as written can't really be imitated in English, since the causee can't be omitted in English in this active structure, but I was wondering (third question) whether this passive construction comes closest to faithfully rendering the original:

What do you think, which of us can cause the person's cloak to be taken off earlier?

I'm aware that the verb isn't formally passive in the original, but I wonder whether this phrasing captures the effect of specifing the direct object of the action (the person's cloak) with を and omitting its subject.

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The "full" sentence would be あの人あの人のマント脱がせる, which is a textbook example of the causative usage of a transitive verb. However this obviously looks very redundant, and you have two options to fix this:

  • Make あの人に implicit: 「あの人マントを脱がせる」
  • Make あの人の implicit: 「あの人マントを脱がせる」

In this case, both are perfectly fine and natural, and these are interchangeable in most similar situations (because we know adults normally take off their cloaks on their own). But of course, depending on the context, あの人のマントを脱がせる might have a different implicit causee (agent), and あの人にマントを脱がせる may refer to a cloak someone else is wearing.

(In English, you cannot omit the direct object of the causative-make, so you always need to say something like "can you make that person take off his cloak" rather than "can you make take off that person's cloak". In Japanese, the causee can be safely omitted if it can be inferred from the context. Each language has its own restrictions that make word-by-word translations difficult.)

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Although 脱がせる is causative in form, it also describes an action that the subject does to someone else directly, as in the case of a parent taking clothes off an infant.

娘の靴を脱がせた。
I took shoes off my daughter.

In a case like this, the wearer is embedded in the direct object of the verb with a possessive の. A more literal translation would be:

I took off my daughter’s shoes.

In your example, too, the sun and the wind see themselves as the active agents of the action, although they are not going to touch a finger on the person (if they have one).

Replacing の with に makes the sentence sound very odd.

あの人マントをどちらが早く脱がせることができると思う?

あの人に being far away from the verb may be part of the reason, but the reordered sentence below still sounds awkward.

どちらが早くあの人マントを脱がせることができると思う?

If the sentence has to begin with あの人にマントを, some native speakers, including me, would be inclined to use the double-causative 脱がさせる (the causative form of the short causative verb 脱がす), although this is probably considered grammatically incorrect.

あの人マントをどちらが早く脱がさせることができると思う?

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