I'm not sure what I'm missing here, but



Aren't those 名詞節? Is the rule about は not occurring in subordinate clauses lax with 名詞節?

Note on terminology:

I am aware that snail in this answer refers to this type of clause as "gapless relative clauses", but 『日本語文法入門ハンドブック 著者: 加藤重広』, also recommended by snail, calls it 名詞節, which seems to make more sense because it often corresponds with content clauses in other languages.

  • Are all nominal clauses "content" clauses?
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 3:04
  • @aguijonazo I believe so. My understanding is "content clause" is synonymous with "noun/nominal clause". But there does seem to be a discrepancy in terminology between Japanese and English grammar. It seems some もの/こと-ending clauses are relative clauses while others are close to noun clauses in English, at least semantically (i.e. when translated into English they form sentences with noun/content clauses).
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 3:28
  • 1
    Let me test my understanding. For example, 彼が言ったこと could be either nominal or adjectival. The former is the case when it is translated into something like “the fact that he said it/so.” The Japanese sentence could be rephrased to 彼が(そう)言った(という)こと so this meaning is clearer. The latter is the case when it is translated into “what he said.” In Japanese, this is the case when 彼が言った adjectivally modifies こと. If this understanding is correct, it seems to me that not all content clauses allow が to be changed to は because 彼は言ったこと sounds odd unless, of course, 彼 is put in contrast to someone else.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 3:56
  • @aguijonazo That distinction makes perfect sense. That's what I was reaching for but failed to arrived at. So am I correct in thinking the two sentences included in the question are 名詞節 as opposed to 連体節/修飾節? Also is it possible the answer I linked in the question made a mistake in claiming 東京に行ったことがない is a relative clause not a noun/nominal clause?
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 4:37
  • 1
    I have never been completely sure what exactly the term “relative clause” refers to when it is applied to Japanese. It sometimes seems to be used for any 連体修飾. As that answer suggests, there are two types of 連体修飾 in Japanese. They are called 内の関係 and 外の関係. What it explained as “gap-less relative clauses” corresponds to the latter. 連体修飾節 in 外の関係 seems to be also known as 内容節 or 同格節. I guess 内容節 here is the direct translation of “content clause.” 連体修飾節 in 内の関係, on the other hand, is known as 関係節, and this seems to correspond to “relative clause” in its narrower sense.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 4:59

2 Answers 2


It may be banal, but the simple answer is that there are always exceptions to rules.

The following are excerpts from 中上級を教える人のための日本語文法ハンドブック p326-


It gives two cases of exception to this rule:


  • 彼の本は面白いからきっと売れるよ


  • 明日{は/が}定休日だから今日は混んでるでしょう

It gives further examples and some grammatical explanations, but basically the second example in the question is the case of 主節と従属節の主語が同じ and the first example should be understood as an example of the second exception above (although it is not a 判断の根拠, essentially it is an independent sentence. To me, サッカーは・が are both possible without changing the nuance).

There is even a book on the subject, cited by the handbook.


In the first case, サッカーは年齢じゃない is not a nominal clause, but a quotation. In such clauses, は is acceptable, for example:

先生は [テスト火曜日だ] と言った。

In the second sentence, 我々 is not the subject of a nominal clause, but the main one.

我々 [お荷物じゃない] ことを証明しよう。

This being said, there actually are cases of は occurring in nominal clauses. It is only appropriate when は is used as a contrast marker, not as a topic marker.

[昨日ここにあった]本が今日はない。 (The book which was here yesterday is not here today.)

  • 1
    我々 in the second sentence is almost certainly the topic of the relative clause that modifies こと. Unless a contrastive meaning (i.e., "although others don't prove, at least we prove") is clearly intended, saying 我々は in the main clause is pointless.
    – naruto
    Commented Mar 12, 2022 at 2:46
  • @naruto When the subordinate and the main clause share the same subject, it is normally omitted in the subordinate one. The version without ellipsis would be 我々は [我々がお荷物じゃない] ことを証明しよう. There's no such thing as a topic in a relative clause. If は appears in one, it's always the contrastive は, not a topic marker.
    – kinai
    Commented Mar 12, 2022 at 5:30

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