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xminus1

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Hi, everyone! 🙂y:

I have two quick questions after reading Minna No Nihongo's Beginner 1 Reader, chapter 23.
The sentence is:
所で、コーヒーは体に悪いと思っている人はいませんか。
I could understand the gist within the overall context of the paragraph, but I wasn't sure why the construction ませんか was used. At this point in the Minna textbook, ませんか has only been discussed as being used for invitations. Google translate renders this sentence as: "Is there anyone who thinks coffee is bad for your health?", in which case ませんか is used as a sort of rhetorical question. I've tried to find something in my Dictionary Of Basic Japanese Grammar but I must have missed it somewhere.

So my first question is if anyone would care to explain the use of ませんか in this sentence?

Second question is the use of 人は if います is indicating "existence of such and such". Why wasn't が used, particularly if コーヒー is the overall topic (and not the subject of the と clause)?

Sidebar comment: I've noticed that my Minna books very occasionally will use constructions that they haven't yet fully explained. This might be intentional on the part of the authors so that readers get used to trying to make sense of things in real life situations they are unfamiliar with. (Which for beginners in real life would be 90% of everything they encounter...)

Thanks in advance for any help!:emoji_pray:
 

Buntaro

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X,

It is the same as, "Would you like some coffee?" vs. "Wouldn't you like some coffee?"

So, you could translate 所で、コーヒーは体に悪いと思っている人はいませんか as

"By the way, is there anyone who doesn't think coffee is bad for your health?"
 
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xminus1

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X,

It is the same as, "Would you like some coffee?" vs. "Wouldn't you like some coffee?"

So, you could translate 所で、コーヒーは体に悪いと思っている人はいませんか as

"By the way, is there anyone who doesn't think coffee is bad for your health?"

Hello! I think your explanation is very insightful. At first I tried to understand the construction as just a literal question, i.e. "is there not a person who thinks coffee is bad for health?" but that didn't make sense to me. Your example of asking someone if they'd like coffee by actually asking them if they wouldn't like coffee is a perfect example. Thank you so much!

Would you have any further help on the perennial wa/ga situation? 🙂:
 

Buntaro

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X-san!

It is due to using は for negative sentences. For example,

ここにドイツ人がいますけれども、フランス人はいません。

“There are some German people here, but there aren’t any French people.”
 

xminus1

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X-san!

It is due to using は for negative sentences. For example,

ここにドイツ人がいますけれども、フランス人はいません。

“There are some German people here, but there aren’t any French people.”
Ah-ha! Wow, I have learned quite a bit for such a short sentence, thanks to you, Buntaro-sama. お陰様で
どもすみません!!!
 

Toritoribe

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1)
The conjunction ところで is usually written in hiragana.

2)
コーヒー is not the main topic of the whole sentence. The question is asking about the existence of 人, not コーヒー, i.e., the core of the sentence is 人はいませんか, and not コーヒーはいませんか. コーヒー is the topic of the quotation.

3)
Even if it's an affirmative question ところで、コーヒーは体に悪いと思っている人はいますか。, は is also used. Remember that the focus is put before は and after が, thus, "whether there is anyone ~ or not" is what the questioner is asking about in this case.

The reason why は is often used in a negative sentence is because it usually connotes that other thing is affirmative, e.g., "French people don't exist, (but other people exist)". Thus, you can think that this は is the contrastive marker.
 

Buntaro

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...すみません!

Don't touch my mustache! (And if you can figure out the meaning of "don't touch my mustache", you get ten points of extra-credit.)
 

xminus1

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Toritoribe-sama, thank you so much for your detailed explanations. You have made subtle points, (subtle to me anyway), very clear.

Now I can see how I was so obviously wrong about コーヒー...in the beginning I wondered why コーヒー wasn't marked by が because I thought it was the subject of the quoted/subordinate clause. But you have made me see that 人 is clearly the overall topic.

I would be a bit frustrated with the Minna-folks if I didn't have this forum and the knowledgeable, generous experts here to help me out. I'm sure Minna will eventually explain everything in its own good time, but the authors do like to open up the kimono ever so slightly in the meantime.

Buntaro-sama...I'm a bit slow, so I had to google your moustache question! I don't deserve the bonus marks, but you did make me laugh!! Thanks again!
 

Toritoribe

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Ooops! I've just realized that I did a terrible mistake.
the focus is put before は and after が
It should be the focus is put after は and before が. Sorry for that!

Now I can see how I was so obviously wrong about コーヒー...in the beginning I wondered why コーヒー wasn't marked by が because I thought it was the subject of the quoted/subordinate clause.
は can't be used in a modifying clause, but this rule doesn't apply to quotations, and not to all subordinate clauses. Whether は can be used or not differs depending on the dependency/subordination(従属性) of the clause. For instance, the clause for the reason/cause is usually strongly connected to the main clause semantically, so は can't be used, but coordinate clauses that end with し or が are closer to an independent sentence, so は can be used.
e.g.
今日は暑いと彼は言った。
(今日は暑い is a quotation.)

彼女がいれたコーヒーはおいしかった。
×彼女はいれたコーヒーはおいしかった。
(彼女がいれた modifies コーヒー. は can't be used here.)

コーヒーがおいしかったので、おかわりした。
(コーヒーはおいしかったので、おかわりした。 is valid, but は works as the contrastive marker, i.e., it connotes that something other than coffee (tea, juice, etc.) was not good.)

コーヒーはおいしかったし、紅茶もおいしかった。
コーヒーはおいしかったが、紅茶はおいしくなかった。
(The two は in the last sentence work as the contrastive marker, too.)
 

xminus1

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は can't be used in a modifying clause, but this rule doesn't apply to quotations, and not to all subordinate clauses.
ありがとうございました、先生!
 
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