A woman is my mother

Taro de Japon   Wed Aug 01, 2007 10:01 pm GMT
Hello guys

How do you find the sentence as follows? "A woman cleaning my room is my mother".
I'm asking this because I found the sentence is given as an -ing using example in several Japanese web pages for English education.
Does it sound natural to you? If you find it odd, please tell me the reason(s).

Thanks in advance
¡   Wed Aug 01, 2007 10:30 pm GMT
Shouldn't it be THE woman?
Gator   Wed Aug 01, 2007 11:11 pm GMT
The way it sounds here is like an alternative definition of 'my mother' as a person cleaning ones room. Either someone wanted to be very funny or had no concept of articles. Since I haven't got any clue about Japanese humor I'll opt for the latter.
beneficii   Wed Aug 01, 2007 11:54 pm GMT

It is incorrect use. It should be, "The woman cleaning my room is my mother." This, I guess, is in response to someone asking who the woman cleaning the person's room is. You say "the" instead of "a" here because it is referring to a specific woman already named in the conversation. If, however, she was not brought up before, then perhaps it could be correct, but I can't think of any situation in which it would arise.
Davidab   Thu Aug 02, 2007 12:42 am GMT
In 'The woman cleaning my room is my mother' 'cleaning my room' is a reduced adjective or relative clause. If the verb in the relative clause is in present simple or present progressive, the relative pronoun and the verb are reduced to a participle.

In the examples below adjective/relative clauses between ( ), parts of the clause that reduce between [ ]

In active voice the present participle (-ing form) is used:

The man ([who lives] next door) is French
The man ([living] next door) is French

The woman ([who is cleaning] my room) is my mother
The woman ([cleaning] my room) is my mother

In passive voice the past participle is used:

The pipe ([that was broken] yesterday) has been fixed
The pipe ([broken] yesterday) has been fixed
furrykef   Thu Aug 02, 2007 3:01 am GMT
<< Either someone wanted to be very funny or had no concept of articles. >>

That's a little harsh... I can imagine the indefinite and definite article being difficult for Japanese people, as their language has no articles at all. It's difficult to define the difference concisely and precisely... we have such a strong intuition about how they're used that we're mystified by the idea that it may not be obvious at all to speakers of other languages. So I'd cut them some slack. Maybe they have an idea of when to use which, but they don't have it exactly right.

For the subject of a sentence, though, I believe that in Japanese, "The woman..." would usually be "女は…" and "A woman..." would usually be "女が…" (forgive me if I didn't use the right word for "woman"... I don't know whether it should be 女 or 女性 or 女の人 or something else in this context...)

In Japanese, which would you use for that sentence? Would it possible to use "ga", or would "wa" be obligatory?

- Kef
Taro de Japon   Thu Aug 02, 2007 3:37 am GMT
Thank you all for the quick replies.

Kef, you are quite right. Most of us Japanese have problems in the choice between A/AN and THE, because our language lacks articles. Although the teachers (I mean the producers of those web sites) are saying this English sentence could be put into "部屋を掃除している女性は私の母親です" in Japanese, I feel as if it is saying "Any woman who cleans my room is my mother".

Anyway, one of the problems we have in English education in Japan is that teachers cannot make correct English sentences.
M56   Thu Aug 02, 2007 8:04 am GMT
the woman

And why couldn't they have written "my mother is cleaning my room"?
furrykef   Thu Aug 02, 2007 11:07 am GMT
Well, of course they could have, but the meaning is slightly different. It depends on what idea they wanted to communicate... unfortunately, I don't know nearly enough Japanese to even attempt to interpret the nuances of Taro's sentence above.

- Kef
M56   Thu Aug 02, 2007 2:11 pm GMT
<in Japanese, I feel as if it is saying "Any woman who cleans my room is my mother". >

How would you translate "A publisher who is pulling my leg is no teacher" in Japanese?

Gator   Fri Aug 03, 2007 4:10 pm GMT
<<That's a little harsh...>>
I didn't mean to be offensive. It's just that I get a bit 'intolerant' when I hear these things from language learning sites, as this is the place where students go to learn a language. To my opinion, the maintainers of such sites shouldn't bother to ask someone who knows. After all, this is the internet.
Said enough. At least it was grammatically correct.
Gator   Fri Aug 03, 2007 7:37 pm GMT
...shouldn't hesitate to ask...
That's what you get when you edit your sentence and press the submit button without re-reading it. Sorry.
K. T.   Fri Aug 03, 2007 9:10 pm GMT

I would translate it into English in one of two ways (without any context):

The woman cleaning the room is my mother.


The lady cleaning the room is my mother.
K. T.   Fri Aug 03, 2007 9:12 pm GMT
BTW, Taro de Japon, why don't you join us in the language forum? If you are bilingual or multilingual we would love to have you join us.