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Thread: "that is why..."

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    Senior Member kamukamuume's Avatar
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    Default "that is why..."

    I'm talking to my teachers, and I realized that most of them think that "that is why" equates perfectly with だから. I can't find anything online that explains this, but let me give some examples.

    (While talking to someone next to you) "I want to see lots of places in Japan. That is why I came here."

    (To someone who doesn't know your mother at all) "My mother was born in Korea. That is why she speaks Korean well."

    I think the first example is fine, but the second one sounds very awkward and that the "that is why" should be changed to "because of this." Is it just me? I feel like "that is why" phrases shouldn't introduce new information. In the first example, your convo partner clearly knows you're in Japan already, but in the second, there has been no information that'd lead the other person to know that your mother speaks Korean.

    Someone help me out here!

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    Burasuto from the pasuto. Wanderlust King's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingmongkut View Post
    I'm talking to my teachers, and I realized that most of them think that "that is why" equates perfectly with だから. I can't find anything online that explains this, but let me give some examples.

    (While talking to someone next to you) "I want to see lots of places in Japan. That is why I came here."

    (To someone who doesn't know your mother at all) "My mother was born in Korea. That is why she speaks Korean well."

    I think the first example is fine, but the second one sounds very awkward and that the "that is why" should be changed to "because of this." Is it just me? I feel like "that is why" phrases shouldn't introduce new information. In the first example, your convo partner clearly knows you're in Japan already, but in the second, there has been no information that'd lead the other person to know that your mother speaks Korean.

    Someone help me out here!
    I think both of those sentences sound a little unnatural and textbookish, to be honest.

    In both situations, I would say instead:
    - "I came here because I want to see lots of places in Japan."
    - "My mother speaks Korean well because she was born in Korea."

    I'm trying to think of situations when I ever really use the format you're talking about with your teachers, and I can't really think of any examples. It just sounds so much more natural to put the effect first, cause second.

    EDIT: I know that doesn't exactly answer your question, but it might be bad practice for them to be equating だから to something in English that isn't used very much and is kind of awkward to begin with, regardless of context.
    Last edited by Wanderlust King; April 22nd, 2009 at 10:42.

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    Default Re: "that is why..."

    Yeah I think there is a logical leap they're making in the second sentence which might be more cultural than anything. In the US we are used to people not necessarily speaking the language of the country they were born in. Like, Meelynn was born in Korea, however she does not speak Korean well. Your teacher is obviously making the assumption that someone born in a country speaks the native language of that country unequivocally, in which case their grammar is fine. The assumptions behind it are at fault.

    EDIT - what Wanderlust said. It's one of those things I find a lot of my JTEs doing. They suck at complex sentences so they just tack on fragments after the fact. It's bad practice, and I had to edit out about 6 fragments from a one-page paper my JTE had me correct for him once. It's a DISEASE.
    Last edited by katsudon; April 22nd, 2009 at 10:46.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kingmongkut View Post
    I'm talking to my teachers, and I realized that most of them think that "that is why" equates perfectly with だから. I can't find anything online that explains this, but let me give some examples.

    (While talking to someone next to you) "I want to see lots of places in Japan. That is why I came here."

    (To someone who doesn't know your mother at all) "My mother was born in Korea. That is why she speaks Korean well."

    I think the first example is fine, but the second one sounds very awkward and that the "that is why" should be changed to "because of this." Is it just me? I feel like "that is why" phrases shouldn't introduce new information. In the first example, your convo partner clearly knows you're in Japan already, but in the second, there has been no information that'd lead the other person to know that your mother speaks Korean.

    Someone help me out here!
    would 'so' fit?

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    Burasuto from the pasuto. Wanderlust King's Avatar
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    Default Re: "that is why..."

    would 'so' fit
    If by that you mean:
    1) I want(ed) to see lots of places in Japan, so I came here.
    2) My mother was born in Korea, so she speaks Korean well."

    Then yeah, that would work if you want the structure of "cause first, effect second." Probably the best way for the OP to equate it, even though it's by no means going to work all the time.

    http://jisho.org/sentences?jap=dakara&eng=so

    Here are some example sentences that match up with that pretty well.

    春先だから客もあまりいませんでした。
    It was early spring, so there weren't many customers.

    これは法律だから、全ての人に当てはまる。
    This is a law, so it applies to everybody.

    彼女は大人だから、それ相応に扱うべきだ。
    She is an adult, so you should treat her accordingly.
    Last edited by Wanderlust King; April 22nd, 2009 at 11:16.

  6. #6
    Senior Member kamukamuume's Avatar
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    Default Re: "that is why..."

    Quote Originally Posted by Wanderlust King
    EDIT: I know that doesn't exactly answer your question, but it might be bad practice for them to be equating だから to something in English that isn't used very much and is kind of awkward to begin with, regardless of context.
    I agree with you. I am actually in a unique situation where I am just checking journals that a couple of classes wrote over spring break. I never visit the classes and am in no way involved in their language learning; I just figure that as long as I'm checking their journals, I may as well point out a mistake almost all of them are making. I agree with you that the "I came to Japan because ..." is much more natural most of the time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Katsudon
    Your teacher is obviously making the assumption that someone born in a country speaks the native language of that country unequivocally, in which case their grammar is fine. The assumptions behind it are at fault.
    I was actually wondering something slightly different: is it incorrect to introduce new information after a "that is why" phrase? Here's another example, pulled from an essay where a girl was introducing her sister: "My sister goes to school by bicycle every day. That is why she is very tired."

    妹は毎日自転車で学校に行きます。ですから、とても疲れます(疲れています)。

    It sounds almost like "that is why" is trying to explain a condition that has been noticed/pointed out before. I'm pretty sure that the Japanese translation is okay (but I'm not sure how the final verb should go), but the "that is why" doesn't translate so well. Both of my teachers, who have excellent English, were surprised when I pointed out that it might not work.

    Basically, putting aside whether it's stilted or not (if you really want to make such English sound natural, this job will drive you insane), I'm wondering whether semantically it's incorrect English. I have a feeling it is, but..
    Last edited by kamukamuume; April 22nd, 2009 at 12:05.

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    Default Re: "that is why..."

    Interesting that your variant finds those utterances awkward. Both of those examples are perfectly acceptable to me. The only thing that sounds strange to me is the use of non-contracted "that is why" instead of "that's why". In regards to something that isn't used in English, The BNC and a few quick googles show that "That is why" is perfectly acceptable and its usage is widespread - this is definitely a case of something that might not be acceptable in your variant, but is acceptable and understandable in many.


    In my experience "That's why........" is also used as a response to a statement or action by someone else, often in a chiding or scolding manner:

    "We're out of ink for the printer"
    "That's why you have to let the secretary know when you put in the last cartridge!"

    *Children run into each other in the hallway*
    "That's why you don't run in the hallway!"

    *Hearing about an awful dui crash on the news*
    "That's why you don't drink and drive"

    etc etc

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    SENIOR MEMBER Neb's Avatar
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    Default Re: "that is why..."

    For those two examples, rather than start a whole new sentence, I'd just put a comma between the two... putting "That's why" at the beginning of a sentence just seems strange/unprofessional...

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    Quote Originally Posted by kingmongkut View Post
    "My sister goes to school by bicycle every day. That is why she is very tired."

    妹は毎日自転車で学校に行きます。ですから、とても疲れます(疲れています)。
    Yeah... In this case, "that is why," seems to answer the unasked question of "WHY is your sister tired?" If you've never met her sister before, you couldn't possibly even ask that question. I agree that the sentence sounds strange, but I'm not sure if it's "wrong." If it's wrong, it's not that bad of a mistake. Sounds nitpicky to me.

    The students are just thinking like Japanese speakers, though, and they can't change the way they think overnight. Most English speakers would just swap the order and say, "My sister is usually tired because..."

    Anyway...

    Natural non-stilted way:
    "My sister goes to school by bicycle every day, so she is very tired."

    Maybe a more literal way:
    "My sister goes to school by bicycle every day. Therefore, she is very tired."

  10. #10

    Default Re: "that is why..."

    Yes, you're right - semantically the second one is incorrect if the listener has no knowledge of the speaker's mother having Korean. The difference is that in the first sentence the listener may reasonably expect an explanation of why the speaker came to Japan, while in the second example it would be unreasonable to think the listener expects an explanation of why your mother speaks Korean well.

    "That's why" is better in the first example because of the listener's expectation, but "so" is better in the second example because of a perceived lack of expectation.

  11. #11
    Senior Member kamukamuume's Avatar
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    Default Re: "that is why..."

    Marissey and violetessence, thank you! That is exactly the question I was asking, and I'm glad to see that some other native speakers have similar intuition about the issue.

    violetessence, I'm not exactly sure how serious of a problem it is, but this is a very high-level class I'm dealing with (though as I said, I never teach it), with at least a decent portion of them aiming for national universities. with lower classes, I let a lot more stuff slide (including mistakes from the JTEs).

    Quote Originally Posted by bobbityjimbob
    In my experience "That's why........" is also used as a response to a statement or action by someone else, often in a chiding or scolding manner
    I feel like that's a different grammar point, perhaps even colloquial to an extent. not sure, though.

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    Default Re: "that is why..."

    I was responding to the statement that someone couldn't think of using "That is why" in any cases, and just pointing out probable uses they might have overlooked. I misread your first post, thinking you were saying that "that is why" was simply no longer really in use.
    Last edited by jimbobobb; April 22nd, 2009 at 14:39.

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    Али Димаев AliDimayev's Avatar
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    Default Re: "that is why..."

    I think *sore de* is more of a THIS IS WHY meaning compared to DAKARA. But when it cdomes to this, and languages in general, you can't get bogged down in the translation details.
    <a href=http://www.ithinkimlost.com/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=3134&dateline=1245615339 target=_blank>http://www.ithinkimlost.com/image.ph...ine=1245615339</a>
    Quote Originally Posted by Hyakuman View Post
    As usual, you all (Aliを除く) have your heads up your asses.

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