914 - によって (by)

JLPT N3: によって (by)

We've already seen how によって can mean "depending on" or "through."

Here we are looking at how it can be used to mark the agent performing the action of a passive verb.

The what performing the what of a what?

I'll explain. Let's say you're reading an article written in 2018 that says: "Whole Foods was acquired by Amazon last year."

In this sentence, "was acquired" is a passive verb. If it were an active verb, the sentence would be written like this: "Amazon acquired Whole Foods last year."

The agent performing the action of "acquiring" is "Amazon." In other words, "Amazon" is the one doing the "acquiring."

In English, we can mark the agent performing the action of a passive verb with the word "by:"

"Whole Foods was acquired by Amazon last year."

The によって that we're studying in this lesson is performing a similar function to the "by" in the sentence above:

Whole Foods は昨年、Amazon によって買収された
ホールフーズ は さくねん、 アマゾン によって ばいしゅう された。
Whole Foods was acquired by Amazon last year.
Literally: “Whole Foods + は + last year, + Amazon + によって + acquisition / buy-out + was done.”


によって is marking the agent (=NOUN) of a passive verb.

 

If you're up to speed on your N4 grammar (i.e. if you've read this lesson), then you might be wondering why we wouldn't just use instead of によって here. After all, is typically used to mark the agent performing a passive action:

昨日、医師うつ病と診断されました
きのう、 いし に うつびょう と しんだん されました。
Yesterday, my doctor diagnosed me with depression.
Literally: “yesterday, + physician + に + depression と + diagnosis + was done.”


So, why wouldn't we use every time and just forget about によって altogether?

The answer: It is common to use によって instead of when the subject of the sentence is not a living being (e.g. not a person, animal, etc.).

In our original example sentence, the subject (=Whole Foods) is not a living being (unless we're speaking figuratively, of course), so によって is used to mark the agent (=Amazon) of the action:

Whole Foods は昨年、Amazon によって買収された
ホールフーズ は さくねん、 アマゾン によって ばいしゅう された。
Whole Foods was acquired by Amazon last year.
Literally: “Whole Foods + は + last year, + Amazon + によって + acquisition / buy-out + was done.”


I really don't like using the word "subject" when talking about parts of speech in a Japanese sentence. If you've read my lessons on "the subzero particle" in Bunkai Beast, you'll know why. So, instead of saying "the subject," let's say that the entity receiving the action of the verb is not a living being.

Whole Foods は昨年、Amazon によって買収された
ホールフーズ は さくねん、 アマゾン によって ばいしゅう された。
Whole Foods was acquired by Amazon last year.
Literally: “Whole Foods + は + last year, + Amazon + によって + acquisition / buy-out + was done.”


In the sentence from the N4 lesson shown above, the entity receiving the action of the verb is the speaker (presumably a living, breathing human), which is why is appropriate instead of によって

昨日、医師うつ病と診断されました
きのう、 いし に うつびょう と しんだん されました。
Yesterday, my doctor diagnosed me with depression.
Literally: “yesterday, + physician + に + depression と + diagnosis + was done.”


Ahhhh... my brain. It hurts.

 

Here are a few more examples in which によって is marking the agent of a passive verb, the action of which is being received by a non-living entity...

この建物は、とても有名な建築家によって設計されたそうです。
この たてもの は、 とても ゆうめいな けんちくか によって せっけい された そうです。
Apparently, this building was designed by a very famous architect.
Literally: “this + building + は, + very + famous + architect + によって + design / plan + was done + そうです (=[hearsay marker]).”


発酵食品の健康効果は、世界各国の研究機関によって研究が進められています
はっこう しょくひん の けんこう こうか は、 せかい かっこく の けんきゅう きかん によって けんきゅう が すすめられています。
Our understanding of the health effects of fermented foods is being advanced by research organizations all around the world.
Literally: “fermentation + foods + の + health + effect + は, + world + each country + の + research + institution / organization + によって + research + が + is being advanced.”


この国では、人々が得られる情報政府によって厳しくコントロールされています
この くに で は、 ひとびと が えられる じょうほう は せいふ によって きびしく コントロール されています。
In this country, the information available to the people is heavily restricted by the government.
Literally: “this + country + で + は, + people + が + can obtain + information + は + government + によって + strictly + control + is being done.”

 

Maybe that was a bit rough, yeah?

Sorry...

The goods news is that we're now halfway there...

☑ によって (depending on)
☑ によって (through)
☑ によって (by)
☐ によると (according to)
☐ によっては (some)
☐ によって (because of)