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威嚇のつもりかアサルトライフルを抱えた兵を二人も従えて、いかにも軍服に着られた貧相な士官が顎をしゃくる。どうでもいいが、後ろの兵のライフルは安全装置がかかったままで、しかも初弾が装塡されていない。それぞれの立ち位置も近すぎるから、やろうと思えば撃たせる前に全員制圧できる。意味がないのでやらないが。

86─エイティシックス─

安里アサト

Why is the bold part passive form? How can you be worn by uniform?

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  • Reads to me more like the author is saying that the officer was "being worn by the uniform" -- as in, they don't seem that much like a proper officer, just a poseur. This basic intent seems to be corroborated by the rest of the sample text. Apr 28 at 21:12
  • @EiríkrÚtlendi I could have sworn we said similar things in English too
    – Angelos
    Apr 29 at 0:03
  • @Angelos: I also feel like there are similar turns of phrase in English, but I can't think of any examples that quite match this Japanese passive construction 100%. Apr 29 at 0:04
  • There are some specific expressions, like Sundowner mentions where the alcohol drinks you, but I don't think "being worn by the clothes" parses out well as English -- it sounds funny, even if the sense comes across. Apr 29 at 0:06

1 Answer 1

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It is a rhetorical use of passive voice. 服に着られる basically means the person in the clothes gives a funny impression, e.g. the size is too big, it simply does not go well, etc.

(Added) It is less common than the two below, but e.g. 制服に着られている is typically used for a boy who entered junior high school ( ≒ 13 years old), for which it is first required to wear uniforms (near Tokyo). It means the uniform does not fit the boy, not just physically but also in the sense that the overall impression does not feel right somehow.

There are not many verbs that are used in this way, but two other typical cases are:

  • (酒を)飲む/(酒に)飲まれる

酒は飲んでも飲まれるな is a common phrase which literally means even if you drink alcohol, don't be drunken by it. Possibly this makes some sense in English as well. Basically it means it's ok to drink, but not too much.

  • 金を使う/金に使われる

This is even more literal. The latter means to be used by money, which basically means that someone is worried too much about money and sort of manipulated by money itself.

So the basic connotation of this kind of passive is that the person does not have control over the object (服, 酒, 金) which s/he should have.

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