Please Explain

Japanese is an endless source of frustration delight to me because of the way in which sentences are constructed.  I am once again reminded of the saying (which I think came from Tae Kim and his grammar guide) that, if you don’t already know how to say it in Japanese, then you don’t know how to say it in Japanese.

To a westerner, Japanese grammar can seem a bit…um…idiosyncratic.

A case in point:  Verb + ような + noun means “Noun such as verb”.

Let’s see an example:


(Yamadasan ga motte iru youna kaban ga hoshii desu.) (If someone shows you an example sentence and it has Kanji in it that you don’t recognize, it can be a little frustrating, so here’s your Romaji translation.  Having said that, you definitely want to get away from Romaji and start using the Kanji as soon as you can.)

Okay.  In this case the noun is かばん (bag), and the verb (phrase) is 山田さんが持っている (Yamadasan has) all wrapped up with 欲しいです (which we’ll translate here as I want) which finally brings us to I want a bag such as Yamadasan has or, of course, I want a bag like Yamadasan has or even I want a bag like Yamadasan’s).

So far so good.  It’s a little complicated, maybe, but okay.

And then I came to this one:


(Kodomo demo wakaru youna kotoba de setsumeshite kudasai.)

Now, let’s break this one down.

The noun is 言葉 (word or words) and the verb (phrase) is 子どもでも分かる which we will translate as even kids understand.  That leaves us with で as in using or by means of and 説明してください which gives us the polite command to “please explain”

Finally, we can put it all together and get “Please explain by means of words such as even children understand” which we can clean up a little to become “Please explain using words even children understand”.

Now, for me, breaking the sentence down like that, it makes perfect sense.  At this point, however, if I wanted to say something like “Please explain using words even kids understand” my mind would not readily spit out the “Noun such as Verb” construction that I just learned.

The best thing for me to do would be to take all the sentences in my homework that follow this pattern and break them down just like I did above because, when I first looked at the sentence 子どもでも分かるような言葉で説明してください, it seemed ridiculously complicated but, when I broke it down, it was perfectly clear.  So, if I can eke out the time, I’ll do that.




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