595 - ~られる ([negatively affected by])

You've been studying ~られる in all of these lessons recently:

- [NDL #379] - JLPT N4: ~られる (possibility)
- [NDL #380] - JLPT N3: ~られる (-able)
- [NDL #588] - JLPT N4: ~られる ([passive])
- [NDL #589] - JLPT N4: ~られる ([passive for possessions])
- [NDL #590] - JLPT N3: ~られる ([naturally] thought, felt, etc.)

You're, like, obsessed with ~られる.


Well, you're gonna love this, then:

JLPT N4: ~られる ([negatively affected by])

As you may have noticed in lessons 588 and 589 linked to above, the passive form in Japanese is often used to describe undesired things that happened to the speaker (or someone close to the speaker).

In this lesson, we're looking at how the passive form is used to describe undesired things that other people do which indirectly affect the speaker in a negative way.

An example will make this a lot clearer.

For example, let's say that you're going on a 6-hour road trip with your friend. You're driving, and she is in the passenger seat. As the designated navigator, it is her job to give directions, play rad music, and hand you snacks. And most importantly, to talk to you and keep you entertained. Instead, though, she sleeps the whole time! You could say...

じょしゅせき の ゆうじん に ねられて、 どうちゅう ずっと たいくつ だった。
My friend in the passenger seat fell asleep on me, so it was a really boring trip.
Literally: “passenger seat + の + friend + に + get slept on (and), + the journey / along the way + the whole time + boring + was.”

Unlike the passive form we looked at in NDL #588, this action is not happening to the speaker. Also, unlike the passive form we saw in NDL #589, the action is not happening to something that the speaker owns, either. Rather, it is simply an action that someone else does that negatively affects the speaker.

We say the same thing in English sometimes, so maybe this grammar point isn't too confusing. For example, we could have written, "I had my friend in the passenger seat fall asleep on me, so it was a really boring trip."

I have noticed that we use the preposition "on" quite a bit in English when expressing similar things. For example, maybe you can imagine a doctor yelling at a dying patient, saying, "Don't you quit on me!"

Note that this form of the passive can be used with both transitive and intransitive verbs (他動詞 [たどうし] and 自動詞 [じどうし], which we talked about in this lesson).

For example, 寝る (ねる // to sleep; to go to sleep), which we saw above, is an intransitive verb, but 捨てる (すてる // to throw away), a transitive verb, is used in the following sentence:

いえ の まえ に そだいごみ を すてられて、 ひじょうに めいわく している。
Someone left some oversized garbage in front of my house, and it has been a real hassle for me.
Literally: “house + の + in front of + に + over-sized garbage + を + get thrown away (and), + extremely + annoyance / trouble + is doing.”

By the way, there is no simple way to translate 粗大ゴミ (そだいごみ) into English, I think. Some examples of 粗大ゴミ would be a broken TV or keyboard, an old couch or bed frame, and so on. In other words, "big garbage."

Throwing away 粗大ゴミ in Japan is a nightmare. In fact, the entire trash system in Japan is a puzzle that any foreigner living in Japan is more or less guaranteed to have a hard time with. I guess they need to have a complicated system in order to keep Tokyo from drowning in garbage, though... although I've heard that some experts say Japan's garbage separation rules are rather inefficient.

Anyways, the action of "throwing away" the garbage in the above sentence was not done directly to the speaker. Rather, it simply had a secondary, adverse effect on the speaker.

There's not much left to explain for this particular grammar point, but there are still a handful of sentences packed with useful vocabulary that are worth working through...

しんせいじ の むすめ に いちにちじゅう なかれて、 じぶん の こと が なにも できない。
My newborn daughter has been crying all day long, so I can’t get anything done.
Literally: “newborn baby + の + daughter + に + all day long + get cried on (and), + self + の + thing + が + nothing + cannot do.”

さくや の けんか が げんいん で つま に でていかれて しまった。
My wife left because of the fight we had last night.
Literally: “last night + の + fight + が + cause + で + wife + に + (unfortunately) had leave (on me).”
Note: For example, maybe the wife went and stayed at her sister's house after their fight. Maybe she'll come back; maybe she won't.

ゆうのう な しゃいん に しごと を やめられて、 かいしゃ の みんな が かなしんだ。
We had a really skilled employee quit, and everyone at the company was sad about it.
Literally: “capable / skilled + employee + に + job + を + have quit (on us) (and), + company + の + everyone + が + was sad.”

レストラン で となり の ひとに たばこ を すわれて、 せっかく の がいしょく が だいなし に なりました。
The person next to us at the restaurant was smoking, and it ruined our whole meal.
Literally: “restaurant + で + neighbor / next to + の + person + に + tobacco / cigarettes + を + is smoked (and), + long-awaited / precious + の + eating out + が + was ruined (=ruined / spoiled + に + became).”

It is extremely hard to translate the word せっかく into English. Sometimes it translates nicely as "expressly" or "going to the trouble of (doing)," but neither of those work very well in the above sentence. The nuance is that this "eating out" was something that the speaker valued or perhaps looked forward to. It was something special for the speaker, but it was ruined by this person smoking.

Here are some sentences with せっかく that we've seen in other lessons:

せっかく みずぎ かった のに…
I even went to the trouble of buying a swimsuit... (This sucks!)
Literally: “with trouble / for the sole purpose of / at great pains + swimsuit + bought + のに…”

せっかく たかい パソコン を かった けれど ぜんぜん つかいこなせていません。
I spent all this money on an expensive computer, but I’m not able to use it to its full capabilities.
Literally: “especially / at great pains + expensive + PC + を + bought + けれど + not at all + have not been able to master the use of.”

せっかく の おさそい です が、 つごう に より さんか できません。
That was very considerate of you to invite me, but I’m afraid I’ll be unable to join.
Literally: “expressly / specially + の + invitation + です + が (=but), + circumstances + に + due to + participation / joining + cannot do.”


Just. Two. More. ~られる. Lessons.


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