Discussion in '日本語 (Japanese)' started by Robin`, Apr 8, 2013.

  1. Robin` Member


    Ex. 私としてはこの作文がよく書けた

    How does the potential verb work here. I thought that it expressed ability. But that doesnt seem to be the case in this example.

    Also, what about using the passive in this context like この作文はよく書かれた
  2. YangMuye

    YangMuye Senior Member

    I think rather than to express ability, potential form is more often used to express something like “思うとおりにできる/なる”“目標を達成する”.

    "この作文は英語で書かれた" seems to be ok.
    But in this case, Japanese seems to perfer 書けた.
  3. Tonky Senior Member

    We traditionally tend to avoid passives with non-human subjects.
    With 書かれた in Japanese, maybe "suffering passive/迷惑の受身" might be reminded to many of us, which may be the cause of this awkwardness I get from この作文はよく書かれた.
    (such as 雨に降られた, 車にひかれた, 弟に食べられた...etc.)

    Actually, maybe the cause of the awkwardness is coming from 尊敬 instead of 受身... anyways, we prefer using 可能動詞 instead when we can.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2013
  4. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    It's somewhat left-handed but I think here the potential form expresses ability confirmed by achievement. In more practical terms, the potential form is common when evaluation is attached to the action (here, よく is an assessment of how well the act of 書く has been performed).
  5. YangMuye

    YangMuye Senior Member

    I think 受身 is quite frequently used in both classic and modern Japanese. It's just that, the passive form doesn't usually appear together with the original actor if the subject is an object.

    Actually, 「この作文は○○書かれた」 is perfectly acceptable, where ○○ can be (時間)に,、(道具)で、(ため)に、(場所)で、(方式)で、(様子)に、(人)によって、(もの)として、(材料)によって、(範囲)について、(紙)に……

    書けた is only prefered when よく、うまく is used, as said by Flaminius-san,
    But how will it be if the evaluation is not good?

    うまく書けなかった (I think it's ok.)
  6. Robin` Member

    Thanks for the replies.

    I am still a bit confused about this use of the potential though. I think its because in English there is "this composition is hastily written" and things like "I was able to write this composition quickly." Are they both この作文が早く書けた in Japanese?

    Since I understand that the passive is out now, how about just 私としてはこの作文をよく書いた for the original example.
  7. YangMuye

    YangMuye Senior Member

    私としてはこの作文をよく書いた doesn't seem ok to me.
    Nor does この作文はよく書いた which sounds like the composition is writen by yourself. (and よく here will probably mean “often” here.)

    I'm not sure the exactly meaning of your english sentence. (I'm not good at English)
    But I think it might be something like
    この作文は急いで書かれている (you use this, for example, you are reading the compositon, or you get the conclution after you read it.)

    この作文がはやく書けた seems ok.

    The “was able to write” in English seems to suggest that the action (write a composition) has actually taken place. (isn't it ?)

  8. Robin` Member

    It seems like やすく答えられた質問 is no good either?

    Is this use of the potential really only good for expressing how well you think something was done.

    I am also curious about negative evaluations.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2013
  9. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Good point, YangMuye. If you want to use the potential form in these sentences the results such as めちゃくちゃ and 誰にも読めない should be regarded as in accordance with the intention. In other words, you need to count them as positive achievements.

    Even though the adverb is wrong, the structure is fine. I would say:
  10. YangMuye

    YangMuye Senior Member

    I think the intention is the key. You don't really need an adverb.
    ご飯を作ろうとする - is going to cook

    作っている - is cooking

    ①できた - is ready/ finished
    ②作れなかった - tried, but failed
    ③作らなかった ?? didn't cook at all
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2013
  11. Tonky Senior Member

    aw, I guess I was a bit too late to reply, but anyways,
    Ah yes, but it is one of the influences we got from translation works. I was only mentioning the habits being rather traditional, and the tendency of us picking other forms instead of "受身 with non-human subjects" when we can, to make it sound natural. There are many lines now that are not translatable (or translatable but awkward-ish) without using 受身 with non-human subjects, such as このビルはxxx年に建てられました, but quite often it is easier for us to switch the sentence structure. It's about preference I'm talking here. (e.g. I would most certainly prefer この作文は急いで/慌てて書きました to この作文は急いで/慌てて書かれました, just as I prefer この作文はよく書けています to この作文はよく書かれています.)

    sorry, to OP, if it's considered off-topic after all the explanations available above now.
  12. YangMuye

    YangMuye Senior Member

    Tonky-san, I'm a little confused. This is my understanding, and it may be wrong. i would appreciate it if you could confirm it. Thank you.

    The actor of ① must be 私 and the actor of ② must be 他の人, no matter how the context imples.

    If the actor appears in a sentence, then you can use passive voice and the actor can be eithor first person or not.

    If you use passive voice, the actor must not be first person, and it must be followed by によって rather than に. This expression might sound literary/formal.

    The actor can be anyone, and cannot appear as a part of the sentence normally. It can be known through the context though.

    I know it sounds unnatural, but I don't know why.
    Maybe it's because よく has too many meanings or because it's not idiomatic.
    Does この作文は上手く書かれている sound as unnatural as この作文はよく書かれている? (despite of the difference in meaning)



    Last edited: Apr 10, 2013
  13. Tonky Senior Member

    That is how it sounds in Japanese, yes. But since I sometimes hear that someone saying "This (code) was programmed by me", even though "I programmed it" may be more common, (or maybe those who say such are just non-natives, I myself cannot tell), I had both lines with 私 in mind as the actor.

    It sounds literary/formal because it is influenced by "translation" works, and not 'originally' Japanese-grammar-friendly sentence, just like Kango sounds more formal or literary in a document. And as you stated, we would not use first person in Japanese.

    Actually, this 書けた is rather awkward itself. It's either first person or second, as in, "I" wrote it or a teacher praising a student in person 「よく書けたね!」 I would rather say よく書けている and then it can take any actors.

    Hm, うまく書かれている does not sound as unnatural as よく書かれている to me now. But I've been staring at these lines too much and my brain is starting to go weird a bit.:p I need to ponder some time on this.

    I just realized you had edited this in. 書ける is somewhat considered static(the status of ability), I think.
  14. Robin` Member

    Do you mean for the verb here to be the potential?

    Because this doesnt seem to be about intention.
  15. Tonky Senior Member

    「簡単に答えられた質問」 uses a passive in English, as in "a question (that is) easily answered", but this someone who 'answered it easily' had "the ability" to do so. 答える is a ru-verb, or Group2, and its potential form takes the same form as passive, stem+られる.
    Of course, I think there is a case that this gets translated as passive and not potential, for example, when the one who gave the question did not want the others to answer, a suffering passive/迷惑の受身. You might have meant this.
    I meant to give a tough question, but (to my disappointment) had/got(?) it answered easily.

    I think what Flaminius-san said about intention is applied when you use the potential form with negative achievements.
    簡単に答えられる is a positive achievement for those who could answer (proving how well they have studied), and it is usually the potential (even though it takes the same form as passive), unless it has certain context.

    Negative achievement examples.
    ・You want to pretend that you are bad at Japanese for some reason, and say this on purpose/intentionally.
    「初心者のように話せました。」 I could speak like a beginner.
    ・You want to fail an exam, maybe you do not want to go to the uni your parents want you to enter, and say
    「数学でひどい点がとれました。」 I could get a bad mark on math.
    You actually tried to do something badly and succeeded. An intentional negative achievement.

    (please excuse me if i have over-explained.)


    I've been pondering on this all day long today and come to think this way. うまく書かれている does not sound as awkward as よく書かれている maybe because it is a passive with a hidden potential meaning? The subject (not the actor) of the action is not writing itself but rather about descriptions, scripts(codes), portrayals, depictions... or whatever you name it.
    Of course these imply the one who wrote had the ability to do so, but it does not seem to focus on the actor or its ability as the potential 書けた does.

    On the other hand, when よく書かれる is used, it is definitely a passive (or polite) form with よく turning into "often" rather than "well". And it has nothing to do with the actor's ability.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2013
  16. frequency

    frequency Senior Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    Robin, I see two cases.
    The question you/sb could answer easily.
    The question that is answered easily. (Readers don't know who answered, because it isn't mentioned.)

    Only when you select either, your intention is required;) And context matters of course.

    I see This essay is (the one) well written, or This is a well-written essay. Readers don't know who has written. That's all!
  17. YangMuye

    YangMuye Senior Member

    I simply think it's because よい has too many meaning and this usage is not idomatic.

    (classic Japanese) 能(よ)く言ふ (be good at speaking, speak well or can speak)

    Its meaning is very sensitive to the way it is used.

    うまい is more clear and less confusing.

    One of the ways to express ability/posibility in Chinese (能) is to say “(always) do something well”.
    I have heard that there are some dialects which still use よー or えー, which came from よく, to express ability.
  18. Tonky Senior Member

    能言 is, If I'm correct, Classic Chinese rather than Classic Japanese, and it is coming from our Kundoku-reading, not original Japanese. (The most famous phrase is 能行能言 from a Buddhism script called "山家学生式", a part of "天台法華宗年分縁起" by 最澄, a Japanese monk who wrote in Chinese to teach Buddhism. refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saichō or its Japanese page.)
    When we read this, interestingly, we distinguish 能~ and 不能~.
    We distinguish the difference between "doing something well" and "being able to do something".
    You can notice we use 能(あた)ふ/能(あた)はざる which is できる/できない in modern Japanese when we talk of potentials instead of degrees of the abilities. In Japanese, the translation is not "speaking well while not acting well" as those Chinese characters look to mean. (Underlined in case it should be different in Chinese or any other languages.)

    All these examples seem to show that it is about "the degree/level of the ability" versus "can/cannot".
    「よく(も)言えたな」 is like "How dare you could say that?" and very different from 「よく言った」 "Well said!"
    「うまい」 itself is always about the degree of the ability here, so it could fit with 書く without sounding awkward?

    Many of us living in the western part of Japan still use this. I don't really think this よー is from よく though, it's more like えうand it's coming from え~ず in Classic Japanese. When I say 「よーせん」 it always means "cannot", never "not well".
    (But some do say it's derived from よく, and I'm not sure if there is any proof to insist otherwise.)
  19. YangMuye

    YangMuye Senior Member

    Although things written below seem quite off topic, but I think knowing the orign might help beginers who want to understand the potential form Japanese.

    Yes, I think so too.

    I said "能" is only one of the ways to express ability.
    And Yes, you can only use it in affirmative statements in Japanese.

    Another way to express ability in Classic Chinese is to use the negative form of a verb which expresses something happens. (you can call it 瞬間動詞、自動詞、非意志動詞、or whatever you like)
    So we can say something like this in Classic Chinese: 視而不见,聴而不聞,求而不得
    “will not see/will not be seen” and “can not see/cannot be seen” become the same.

    I think (but without any evidence), 能(あた)ふ was the 自動詞/受身動詞 of 与(あた)ふ, which orignally meant “be given = 得る”.
    So 能はず means 得ず. (will not be given/will not get=cannot get)

    Using the affirmative form of 能ふ or other 自動詞・受身(助)動詞 to express ability/posibility is a relatvely newer usage. べし is usually used instead to express posibility in affirmative statements.

    The history of 可能動詞 is even shorter (no longer than 200 years, if I recall correctly).

    I think it is the main reason.

    Last edited: Apr 12, 2013

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