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ハリーはその子の鼻の頭がまだ汚れたままなのに気づいた。
Harry noticed that end of the boy's nose was still dirty.

I continue to be confused by まま. Why is it needed in this sentence? I know the broad idea that something is left in a certain state, but isn't まだ performing that duty here?

Can I omit ままな from this sentence? If not, why not? How would it change the meaning?

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  • @naruto Hm, good question. I wouldn't say it was wrong, but it feels a bit awkward to me. Jun 9, 2023 at 15:06
  • Is this Harry the Potter by any chance? :)
    – yk7
    Feb 17 at 9:58

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To describe the same situation without まま, you would say:

ハリーはその子の鼻の頭がまだ汚れているのに気づいた。

There is nothing wrong with this sentence. As you say, we can tell from まだ that the nose was in the same state earlier. However, it doesn’t quite say it has remained that way all this time. It’s more like a snapshot of the current state with a hint that it was like that earlier, too.

まま makes it explicit that the nose has been left in that state. So much so that I feel the following sentence with まま but without まだ is closer to the original sentence with both in it than the sentence above without まま is to either.

ハリーはその子の鼻の頭が汚れたままなのに気づいた。

So if anything is redundant, it would be まだ, which is an adverb after all. An aspect marker is more powerful than an adverb in describing an aspect. But まだ serves the function of adding emphasis as a good adverb.

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  • A little bit off-topic, but could you also say "ハリーはその子の鼻の頭がまだ汚れていたのに気づいた。" (with "汚れていた" instead of "汚れている")? In other words, how is relative tense handled in clauses nominalized by の?
    – Kaskade
    Jun 9, 2023 at 20:48
  • @Kaskade - It would be weird in this case because Harry realized what he did as an ongoing thing. You should use the present form to express this relative present-ness. If he recalled something he had seen earlier (in the relative past), you should use the past form like 汚れていたのを思い出した.
    – aguijonazo
    Jun 9, 2023 at 21:37
  • Isn't the part with まま kind of weird grammatically? まま is supposedly an adverb here, but it follows a verb. And maybe acts as a な-adjective. Or maybe it acts like a verb suffix (word that appends to a verb and changes its meaning, not sure if there's such a term), and まま together with the verb act as a な-adjective. まま must be some sort of a special adverb, mustn't it? Can you explain this part from the grammatical perspective?
    – yk7
    Feb 17 at 0:27
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    @x-yuri - This まま is grammatically a noun.
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 17 at 2:17
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    @x-yuri - I mean まま is a noun relative to what comes before it. If what comes before it ends with a verb, that verb needs to be put into a plain form. There is nothing weird here. However, the resulting noun phrase can be used as a な-adjective, as in 思ったままに行動する. When this に is omitted, 思ったまま would be working as an adverbial phrase. So you are not wrong. よう works in similar ways. They are called 形式名詞 (dummy nouns). The に in 〜なのに気づいた is necessary simply because the verb 気づく requires it, as in 異変に気づく.
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 17 at 10:45

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