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白い箱はカウチの上に緑のランプは机の上にあります。

This sentence looks like it has two topics in it. But when I try to translate it, it doesn't make sense (to me obviously). My direct translation is: A white box on top of the couch a green lamp is on top of the desk. Obviously, that's not gonna work. To me, it's like the first phrase is missing a verb. What am I missing?

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    Is there a comma missing in there, like 白はkはカウチの上に、緑の~? I believe generally you'd need a verb after that 上に, like 上にあって or 上にあり, but it looks like it's just saying where each of those two things is with a single verb.
    – ssb
    Dec 4, 2012 at 5:19
  • @ssb It's a straight copy. I've made no alterations.
    – dotnetN00b
    Dec 4, 2012 at 5:22
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    I think the two part are sharing a verb.
    – fefe
    Dec 4, 2012 at 5:36
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    A straight copy from where? From something that might be a bit loose on punctuation?
    – dainichi
    Dec 4, 2012 at 5:43
  • @fefe Is that normal?
    – dotnetN00b
    Dec 4, 2012 at 5:53

1 Answer 1

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As ssb and fefe wrote, the sentence consists of two clauses which share the main verb あります. In this particular case, it would be easier to read if the author put a 読点 (“、”) in the sentence:

白い箱はカウチの上に、緑のランプは机の上にあります。

However, unlike commas in English, 読点 in Japanese is rarely (if ever) grammatically required. Authors are free to use 読点 wherever they feel that it makes sense to make a pause when pronounced. (But see this post by snailplane for an example where omitting 読点 would make a sentence ungrammatical.)

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  • The lack of strict rules for 読点 make it rather difficult for foreigners to understand at times. Thanks for clearing this up.
    – Chris
    Dec 4, 2012 at 20:37

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