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I was recently watching となりのトトロ and came across this. What does it mean? I feel like I do somehow understand the grammar in here, but as a whole, it doesn't make much sense to me.

For more context, dad and his daughter are talking on the phone, and the dad says this sentence to her. So my reasoning is "Get (someone) to let you stay here"? I don't really know. Or, "Give yourself the permission to stay here"? - Does that really make sense in this context?

2 Answers 2

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I think you are close.

First consider

  • そこで待たせる = let/make (somebody) wait there.

The sentence is appended by X(し)てもらう, which means have (somebody) do X with implied benefits to the receiver. So literally

  • そこで待たせてもらう = have (somebody) let (somebody2) wait there.

Now by context, somebody = the people of the house where the girl is calling and somebody2 = the girl. Thus a literal translation would be: Have them let you wait there. Basically it says "Ask them a favor and wait there".

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I would, respectfully, add a caveat to sundowner's answer.

X(し)てもらう, which means have (somebody) do X with implied benefits to the receiver

I would replace that with

X(し)てもらう, which means have (somebody) do X with implied benefits to the person talking (or someone in their group)

It is a very important nuance for a learner. For instance,

×あんな不良はここで待たせてもらったなんて、許されない。×

is weird, I don't see a context where it would mean something.

!あんな不良はここで待たせてもらったなんて、信じられない。!

is weird too. But one could imagine an heart-felt apology, where the no-good person is the talker's son, and the talker is very mad at his son and very impressed with the listener's indulgence. "I can't believe you would let this no-good son of mine wait here !"

{息子・僕}はそんなに豪華な所で待たせてもらって、信じられない!is natural. "I can't believe {I・my son} got to wait in such a beautiful place!"

It is also important to note that the causative+もらう form can be used more generally for polite/indirect requests/thanks.

ここで待たせてもらえますか。 "Can I please wait here?" ここで待たせてもらえて、ありがとう。 "Thank you for letting waiting me here."

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    Why do you switch back and forth between は and が in those examples?
    – aguijonazo
    Sep 18 at 21:50
  • Well, it should be が for あんな不良 and 息子 because they are subjects in a subordinate clause. は works fine for 僕 but it would be interpreted as the (topicalized) subject of 信じられない in the main clause.
    – aguijonazo
    Sep 18 at 22:40
  • @aguijonazo that was a mistake. At the very best が instead of は would radically change the meaning, indeed. However, あんな不良にここで待たせてもらったなんて、信じられない。 "I can't believe you let this no-good son of mine wait here, thank you!" あんな不良をここで待たせてもらったなんて、信じられない。 "I can't believe you made this no-good son of mine wait here (and thus saved his life), thank you!" {息子・僕}にそんなに豪華な所で待たせてもらって、信じられない!"I can't believe {I・my son} got to wait in such a beautiful place!" {息子・僕}をそんなに豪華な所で待たせてもらって、信じられない!is really dubious, I think.
    – Stephane C
    Sep 18 at 22:44
  • @aguijonazo I think you're right. I should probably delete my answer altogether, but I feel you put the finger on something I've been misunderstanding for a long time. The strictness of the difference between grammatical subject and semantical topic. Thank you.
    – Stephane C
    Sep 18 at 22:50
  • に would be ambiguous at the best because it usually marks the benefactor (i.e. the giver if benefits) with もらう. を would also be ambiguous because it could be understood as marking a direct object of 待つ. I don't think you need to delete your answer.
    – aguijonazo
    Sep 18 at 23:22

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