Translation:First, you pass by a small bank.
You could sort of think of it as if the word "by" was a place/noun referring to the place occupied "by" a location. So:
ぎんこうのそば = the "by" of the bank
そばをとおります = pass the "by"
ぎんこうのそばをとおります = pass "by" of the bank
I dont understand what in this sentence means "you" because i keep getting it wrong thinking its "I"
"I" should also be fine. Although it's about directions, so the assumed context is probably that you explain someone how to get somewhere, hence the "you".
Though rarer, I believe one could also be describing something like the route they take to work. "First, I pass by the small bank. Then I turn left, walk three blocks west, round the corner, cross the street, and I'm at the office."
If imperative form, the Japanese sentence should be 「はじめに、小さなぎんこうのそばをとおってください」 or 「はじめに、小さなぎんこうのそばをとおりなさい」. Reported on Oct. 28, 2017.
How should I think about the "no" particle in this sentence? Is it still used to indicate possession?
In the possessive case, AのB typically means "A's B" or "B of A". We also see の used to couple nouns to postpositions, and you're wondering if this is a different usage case. Well, 机の上 (つくえのうえ) means "on top of the desk" (B of A). テレビの前に is "in front of the tv". 銀行の側 (ぎんこうのそば) sort of means "the vicinity of the bank" or "the bank's vicinity" (A's B). I could be wrong, but I believe that the particle follows the same rules here as it does with possession.
So if you want to think of the の particle as serving a possessive function in postpositional phrases, I don't think it could hurt. Just know that in sentences like "the cat is under the table", it's still テーブルの下に猫がいます, even though there's no explicit possessive relationship between "table" and "under" in the English sentence (i.e. "the table's underside").
There seems to be a number of ways to say "first"(,I do so and so)". Can someone explain the difference between 初めに and まず for instance.
How would you say "This is my first time passing by a small bank"? Because that's what I thought it meant initially.
Why is it 小さなぎんこう but not 小さいぎんこう? Is the latter one valid? What is the difference?
It's one of those rare adjectives that can be both. It used to be a な adjective and turned into an い one within the last century. If you use な it sounds smarter/more poetic.
I don't know for sure, but I think that may mean that you enter the bank on your way to somewhere else
Why doesnt そば have to include the idea of near ? You is not specified but implied by the context of giving directions How can you know if you pass a bank nearby or pass nearby a bank ? Context not provided
In case you also have this problem. The two sentences ....pass by big/small hospital are inverted meaning you will always have those two incorrect in the 'Tap what you hear' exercise. It is correct when the two are presented in an other form/layout. I reported it.