When I run into a sentence that, at first glance, seems difficult to me, such as, to pick a not so random example, this one:
I like to break it down in the hope that it will help me to understand it. Previously, I tended to break them down word for word. However, following an idea from kotobites, I have decided to work phrase by phrase instead.
So, after a first look, it seems to me that the sentence breaks down readily into three parts:
Part (1) is set off by a comma, and a quick look indicates that it is a precursor to the actual sentence, so it looks like the meat of the sentence is composed of parts (2) and (3), and, because it’s Japanese, part (3) must have the verb in it, so I’m going to start there.
And now I have to look at it a little more closely.
すっかり – completely, thoroughly
変わってしまう – to change (because it is the てしまう form, this either indicates a complete change or an unintended change)
などいうこともある – there are things, as well (it is the も that adds the “as well” part) – there’s no need to break a known phrase down word by word
So perhaps this is something like things such as that are completely (or unintentionally) changed
Okay. So far so good, I think. Some things are getting changed. What are these things? That leads me to part (2).
Part (2) looks like it has two halves joined by の
そこ – there, that place
を – direct object particle
利用する – to use
人 – people
People who use that place
服装 – clothes, clothing
や – and indicating that the list is not complete
様子 – state, appearance
まで – until, to, something along those lines. This is clearly connecting this phrase to something else, so I won’t worry about it right now.
And, as I said earlier, the two parts are joined by の indicating possession
So this all becomes the clothing and appearance (and so on) of people who use that place
So that is what is completely changed. Cool. We’re making progress.
Now for part (1)
古い – old
駅 – station
が – subject particle
きれい – clean or pretty
になると – to become
An old station becomes pretty
So, putting everything together, I am going to translate this as:
When an old station becomes clean and pretty, the clothing and appearance of the people who use it completely change as well.
I am now pretty confident that I understand the sentence. So, some notes on how I chose to translate it. I decided to use both clean and pretty for きれい just because it seemed to me to suit the idea better than using just one or the other. I also left out the and other things part that is implied by the use of や instead of と because I felt that it wasn’t necessary for the sense of the sentence, and including it would have made the thing rather clunky.
As your Japanese level rises, you encounter longer and more complicated sentences, and you have to develop the ability to understand them. Honestly, when I started writing this post, I was confused by the sentence, so you just watched me work out what it means and improve my technique for breaking sentences down.
Thanks to nathan for help understanding a sentence in a previous post, to kotobites for the phrase-by-phrase breakdown method and to Lady Caladium for her comments about translation.
We’re all in this together, so let’s help each other out whenever we can!