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"Two birds are flying in the sky."


December 19, 2017



If the birds are flying in the sky, shouldn't it be で instead of を?


Not in this case. そらをとぶ is a fixed expression meaning 'to fly the sky' or simply 'to fly'.
In English this direct translation might not sound natural. We, however, have the expressions 'sail the sea', 'swim the channel', 'fly the friendly skies', etc. While we can also say 'swim in the channel' and 'fly high in the sky' the intention of the phrase is different.

It might be better to imagine this as 'fly across the sky' instead. On the other hand, attaching a defined counterpart word in English is not necessarily the best way to learn Japanese.


But why ”二羽の鳥が空に飛んでいます” is not accepted? I think it should be accepted in the same way as"空に何が飛んでいますか?".


To me, the first sounds like "flying to the sky." Not sure exactly what the second one means, but maybe having 空に precede the question is significant.


Also curious about this discrepancy


Is this "to fly the sky" expression why we haveを being used with the normally intransitive verb 飛ぶ?


Intransitive verbs of motion are "transit"ive with regard to what their paths go along or through. 道を行く, 歩道を走る, 川を泳ぐ are probably valid examples.


So shouldn't it accept "fly the sky" when asked to translate to English? It doesn't even do that.


Because I learned in another lecture o means across or through, de would mean in.

Anyhow I guess you are right


Is my sentence really wrong : 空を鳥が二羽飛んでいます ?


If I had to guess I'd say that since「空を飛ぶ」 is a fixed expression, 空を must be as close as possible to 飛ぶ ... But I am not a native speaker.


There's no rule that fixed expressions must remain unbroken. A word or clause can be inserted without affecting the meaning of that expression. As を works to link the preceding noun to the following verb there is no problem with comprehension.「空を長時間飛ぶ」「空を鳥が飛ぶ」are but a couple examples that exist in reference materials.


Looks fine to me, albeit being different in construction from what most textbooks will teach.


12/09/2020 This answer was accepted for me.


I found an explication in "A Semiotactic Approach to Modern Japanese, page 70 , thesis" saying that this translation should be wrong. In short, they explained that "空を飛ぶ" (そらをとぶ=sora (w)o tobu) means "to fly through the sky" and that "to fly in the sky" has to be translated by "空で飛ぶ" (そらでとぶ=sora de tobu) which is not accepted by the site. "空に飛ぶ" is also a possible form but not for this case because it means "to fly to the sky" and thus not being in the sky. This is also taken from a book from "Kumo, Susumu" written in 1973 "The structure of the Japanese language. Cambridge, Mass, ... The MIT Press, pages 96-102" as said in the thesis. But i do not have this book and i cannot verify.


It's Kuno (久野) Susumu, not Kumo, if anyone wants to find it. English speakers aren't likely to say about birds that they "fly through the sky." Japanese speakers aren't likely to say about birds that they 空で飛ぶ. I'd say Duolingo has this one right.


Yes, you are right, his name is Kuno, sorry for the typo... But "aren't likely" does not mean that it is wrong and instead of refusing it, it could be better to accept and explain what you said about japanese usage because it is grammaticaly correct and means the same. On the opposite way (tranlating japanese to english), as the aim of this test is to learn japanese and not english, i thing that (all, as much as possible) gramatically correct english sentence that have the same meaning whithout considering if english speakers are or not likely to use it should be accepted, because here what seems essential is to verify if you understand japanese and not if you are using the sentence commonly used in UK/US or not. In the "learning english" test it may be different, but not in the "learning japanese" test. But I understand that it cannot be exhaustive.


I dont understand the にわのとり part. I get what とり is but 二わの.


Japanese often uses 'counters' to indicate the number of something. Flat objects use まい, long and thing objects use 本, and in this case birds (along with rabbits) use わ.

1 bird 一羽(いちわ)のとり

2 birds 二羽(にわ)のとり

There are many counters and resources can be found to memorize them. Suggest you start here for some background.


But why does this counter come before the word while the others came after?


It's arbitrary. It can come before, in the form 二羽の鳥 or after, in the form 鳥二羽. Due to the fact that にわ can also mean garden, it might sound like you are saying 'bird garden' if you place the counter after 鳥. Thus, the example sentence sounds more natural.


It gets worse with "Niwatori" that means Chicken. An example sentence would be: に羽の鶏の庭にはに羽の鶏がいます. Niwa no niwatori no niwa ni wa ni wa no niwatori ga imasu. There are two chickens in the garden of the two chickens.




Both are acceptable.


Why has the counter changed? Up to this point I've only seen the ひき counter used for birds (in Duo, anyway)


Well, 匹 is wrong. As there is a specific counter for birds and rabbits (羽), using it is the best idea.


二わ の 鳥 , is the の necessary here? I thought it was allowed to leave it out, but Duo doesn't accept this answer. Now I'm confused...


It is necessary. In particular, countable nouns are normally separated from other nouns by the particle の when the counter precedes what is being counted. You can think of it as similar to the function of 'of' in English.

When the counter follows what is being counted, the の can often be dropped. 二羽の鳥 = 鳥二羽. That being said, 鳥の二羽 would also be fine grammatically, but as there is little possibility for confusion, the の would normally be dropped.

Finally, にわとり (鶏) means chicken. 二羽鳥 would seem to read as 'two-feathered/two-winged bird'. The separation created by の helps to clarify the fact that these two nouns are separate.


My answer was: 「鳥は空を二羽飛んでいます」 (tried with and without kanji), and I'm still not clear what was wrong with it.


空を飛ぶ is a set expression, meaning to fly (the sky).

を normally occurs directly before the verb, to mark the direct object (Throw→the ball / Fly→the sky). If there is another word between を and the verb, it would usually be marked with another particle, such as で to mark the words function (Throw→the ball→with one's right hand / Fly→the sky→on two wings).

二羽 can mean either two (birds, rabbits, etc.) or it can mean 'two wings', depending on context and grammar. Your 二羽 combines with the verb 飛ぶ to make the composite noun-phrase 'two-wing flying' (二羽飛び). As it is now a noun-phrase, the conjugated form would incorporated into a sentence as 二羽飛びをする, where (again) を marks the object (To do two-winged flying). On the other hand, you could insert で, and have 二羽で空を飛ぶ or 空を二羽で飛ぶ, which would mean 'fly the sky on two wings' , which would not be the correct translation.

To use a similar structure:

①二人の男が/ボールを/投げます。Two males / throw / a ball.

②男は/ボールを/二人で/投げます。The male(s) / throw / a ball / as two (together)

③男は/二人で/ボールを/なげます。The male(s) / as two (together) / throw / a ball.

④男は/ボールを/二人投げ/します。The male(s) / a ball / together-throw / do.

As you can see in sentence ④, the action has been changed from 'throwing a ball' to 'playing catch', where 'playing catch' is considered a noun-phrase. In this example the distinction is subtle, but the meaning is different and is more noticeable when discussing flying birds. Simply by adding a particle (compare sentence ④ to sentence ②) and of course correcting the conjugation, the meaning can change quite a bit.

*I don't know whether this is more helpful or confusing. Hopefully the former:)


I know this answer is rather old, but I had to respond because I'm pretty sure this is really wrong in several ways.

First, 空を飛ぶ is not particularly a fixed expression, any more than many other constructs with motion verbs which take direct objects (which most can), and there's no requirement that it needs to be kept together in the sentence. It is, perhaps, a bit more commonly said that way, but that's it.

More importantly, however,「二羽」(にわ) does not mean "two wings" (at least not in Japanese). That would need to be「二つの羽」(ふたつのはね). Even if it did somehow mean that,「二羽飛び」would still not mean "two wing flying", because for that you would need a particle (で), which is not present. (And actually,「二羽飛びをする」is even more grammatically wrong in yet different ways (as is「投げします」, for that matter), but I won't even try to get into all of that right now..)

In short:

"Birds are flying with two wings"

"Two birds are flying"

Putting 二羽 in front of the verb like this is perfectly fine, and this sort of thing is done all the time, for example:

鳥があそこに二羽います -- "There are two birds over there"

This is because 二羽 is a counter expression, and counter expressions can function either as の-adjectives or as adverbs, so you can either attach them to another noun using の, such as「二羽の鳥」("two birds"), or you can use them as an adverb modifying the verb, as in「二羽飛び」("two (of the birds) fly"). When used as an adverb, they can technically go almost anywhere in the sentence (but right before the verb is the most common place to put them).

So there is actually nothing wrong with「鳥は空を二羽飛んでいます」, and as far as I know no reason why this shouldn't be accepted as well.

(The one nitpick I might make here is the use of は basically makes it seem to say "As for birds, two of them are flying in the sky" (or possibly "Two of the birds are flying in the sky"), suggesting that you were previously talking about birds, or something. It would probably be slightly more natural here to use が in most situations, if you were just bringing up birds for the first time (「鳥空を二羽飛んでいます」-- "There are two birds flying in the sky").)


Also why can't we write « とりの二わがそらをとんでいます»?


I can't find any answers that accept "...鳥が二羽飛んでいます", but surely that's a standard way of expressing two birds flying?


Your (truncated) sentence looks fine to me. It might just be that they haven't added that grammatical structure or all of the relevant kanji to the accepted answer range.


If I want to separate the number from the birds, how do I do it in this sentence? Is this wrong?



Nothing wrong with your sentence per se.


"wa" is the counter for birds, or flying things, right? would it be wrong to use "piki" as a counter for birds? They are an animal.


the 'counter' really does confuses the heck out of me. i remembered one of the sentence puts the counter as 犬の二匹 but in this case its 二羽の鳥


It feels weird to use を here, but what makes it better is thinking of the sentence "walk the park" which is a real English sentence that means walk around/about the park.


Can you end this in とんでいる? I'm trying to understand how casual works vs formal. Also can you leave out を in this instance? (In casual speech)


Yes and yes. The casual form would be more appropriate for your in-group, aside from superiors in more formal situations.


And sora o tori ga ni wa tondeimasu?


Grammatically fine. Meaning is intact.


That's what I got marked incorrect for too! Kokawa1 suggested it a year ago, but they haven't seen fit to change the ruling.


Is 鳥の二羽が空を飛んでいますacceptable?


That was the answer I put in, and it was accepted.


So, my input method refuses to do "二羽” for "にわ" for some reason.


That's odd, but you could just use the IME 'add word' function. You might want to learn about it.


How come 二羽の鳥は空を飛んでいます isn't accepted?


Sounds too much like what "the two birds" are doing, rather than what is happening in the world.


2羽鳥 is not acceptable?


As mentioned above, 2羽鳥 or 二羽鳥 sounds like a complex(?) noun stating the qualities of an individual bird (a two-winged bird). It also sounds too much like 鶏(にわとり) , which means 'chicken'.

Just insert a の, like the sentence example suggests and you'll be fine.


Luckily I somehow just assumed that そら お とぶ was a thing, so no-one had to teach me a thing!


Why isn't 空をused when asking what is flying in the sky


Why do you think it isn't (or couldn't be)?



Why is this incorrect?


Odd separation of 鳥 and 二羽. 鳥が二羽 and 二羽の鳥が make sense.


it accepted 鳥が二羽空を飛んでいます。 im not sure if i wrote the sentence the way it wanted though


Obviously not their first choice, but this is one of the cases where they recognize alternative correct answers.


Why isn't 空 first? Another sentence with 犬 and お店, お店 was first. Isn't location always first in japanese? Sometimes the word order does not make sense.


If 空 was first, then how would the sentence work? The verb is always last in a sentence, and since 空 is directly connected to it, I don't see how it could be at the start.


If I use は instead of が, isn't it fine? I mean, it just changed that the main topic become flying in the sky. But it should be fine as just a statement right?


Or to put it another way, as it stands the unstated topic of the of the sentence is something like what's going on in the world around me. There's a couple birds flying overhead. With your は the topic becomes two birds, and the sentence tells about the two birds. "As for the two birds, they are flying through the sky."


One important thing to understand about は vs が is that (pretty much the same as saying "as for" in English), the topic (は) can only be used for things which are already in the "realm of discourse". That is, for things which have already been previously mentioned or which people would logically expect to be something to be talking about in this case. So if you use は here, it basically means "As for birds (in general, which we were previously discussing)", or "Regarding the birds (which had previously been mentioned)", or possibly "As for birds (in contrast to something else we had been discussing, like, say, dogs)"

But if you hadn't previously been discussing birds, and there's no obvious reason to be talking about them based on previous context, then は doesn't really work.. it's like just saying "As for the birds, ..." out of the blue in English. A listener is likely to be thinking "Wait a minute, what birds? Did I miss something somewhere?".

So if you're just bringing up birds for the first time, you need to use が here instead, which basically says "There are two (previously unmentioned) birds flying in the sky".


Someone please tell me how to differentiate between に and を for translating this english sentence.


If に was used here, it would mean "two birds are flying to the sky", not "two birds are flying in the sky" like how it would be with を。If you're wondering why を is used instead of で、then I recommend scrolling to the top of the discussion to see some good answers to that.


Also accepts, "空を鳥がニ羽飛んでいます。"


Can someone explain the different pronunciations of/accents on words that the hover hints don't provide, such as how 空 is being pronounced here differently (not as そら (sora))?


If I click the audio button at the top of this thread, 空 does appear to be being pronounced as そら.. what pronunciation are you hearing?




Get rid of the horribly out-of-place を!


should 空で鳥をには習がいます be accepted?


So I think there are a whole bunch of problems with this sentence, and I'm not sure where exactly to start:

  • The use of を with 鳥 says that something is being done to the birds (by someone else), not that the birds are doing something (that should use が (or possibly は)).
  • The には particle (which is a form of the topic particle は) cannot be placed after を. I'm wondering if this was actually supposed to be 二羽 (にわ) instead? (には and 二羽 are pronounced the same, but mean completely different things)
  • I have no idea what 習 even is. From what I can tell, that (by itself) is not even actually a Japanese word.
  • There is nothing in this sentence that has anything to do with flying at all.

So this sentence, as best I can piece together, says something akin to "In the sky, as for at/by (something being done to) birds, 習 exists."


How would you read it, and what would it mean? Especially what is 習がいます and how would you do it to a bird? foogod points out that 二羽 would be にわ in kana nowadays. I automatically took には to be "two birds," partly because that is how it was written in kana in my early days with Japanese, partly because it couldn't be particles after を, where も is the only particle that commonly occurs there. A few others, such as だに and さえ(さへ to my old eyes), might be found there occasionally, and ば used to be common, but that was before even my time.


could you say 「空で鳥を二羽飛んでいます」?


With 鳥を you have to change the verb to 飛ばしています. "I'm flying two birds in the sky."


Even if you did, it still wouldn't really say quite the same thing. It really says more "(I) am letting loose two birds to fly in the sky", I think.. (or possibly, "(I) am hurling two birds into the sky"(!) )

Anyway, yeah, it needs to use が to say that the birds (subject) are the ones doing the action (flying in the sky). However, you can actually also say:


(personally, this feels to me a bit more like saying "There are two birds which are flying in the sky", instead of just "Two birds are flying in the sky", but it's only a subtle difference, and I'm also not a native speaker so I may be wrong on that point anyway)


I tend to agree but would drop the "which are." "There are two birds flying in the sky." I might also add a は after 空で. But Duo's version seems more natural.

Belatedly it occurs to me that your first paragraph might be directed at my comment. If so, I strongly disagree with that part.


It also occurs to me that if one were to use「飛ばす」then it should also be using「空に」instead of「空で」. 「空で」would imply that you are located in the sky while you are letting/making the birds fly (I suppose this could work if you were somehow riding on the birds and piloting them, but that's the only case I could see where it would make sense to say that).


Sure, I was just telling KyooyaOotori that he'd have to change 飛んで to a transitive verb if he was going to make "birds" accusative. I wasn't worried about where he would be.


Well, really "There are two birds flying in the sky" could be a translation for either form, depending on the context.. (but then "There are two birds which are flying in the sky" could be translated a couple of different ways in Japanese too).. it's a little tricky to explain these sorts of nuances with sentences out of context..

But my point was really that I think that using 二羽 as an adverb in front of the verb puts a bit more emphasis on the "there are two of them" (not one, not three, etc) part of things (but it's not a really huge difference, just a slight difference in feel).

My first paragraph actually was directed at your comment, yes. 「飛ばす」does not really mean "to fly". It means "to make fly" or "to let fly". Therefore I think if you were to use that verb, in this case it would probably be interpreted as meaning releasing birds (so that they could fly in the sky), or possibly somehow "piloting" birds in some way (but you would probably need some context to explain how that would work). However, it is also used to mean "to throw/hurl/launch/etc" something, so it could also potentially be interpreted as propelling birds bodily into the sky in some way, etc, depending on the context. In any case, it really would not mean the same thing as「飛ぶ」does, and would not be a correct translation of this sentence, IMHO.


You seem to be fluent in English, so it's odd that you don't seem to understand that "flying a bird" like a kite or a plane is not actually something that would actually make sense to do in most situations, so people would not actually say that.

Without context, therefore, that sentence would likely not be interpreted that way. It would more likely be interpreted in the "releasing" sense which is a thing which people sometimes do.

Please read what I wrote. I did actually say that it could imply piloting the birds somehow, but you would need a particular context to make it mean that.


You seem to be fluent in English so it's odd that you've never heard of flying a plane or a kite. Try 飛行機を飛ばす.

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