Breathing a sigh of relief with tokoro datta

by and

Mō sukoshi-de kuruma-ni hikareru tokoro-datta. (He very nearly got run over by a car.)

Situation 1: Mrs. Shiba talks to her husband about their young son, Jun.

妻:今日、保育園の帰りに、じゅんが急に私の手を離して 大通りに飛び出したの。もう少しで車にひかれるところだった。


Tsuma: Kyō, hoikuen-no kaeri-ni, Jun-ga kyū-ni watashi-no te-o hanashite ōdōri-ni tobidashita-no. Mō sukoshi-de kuruma-ni hikareru tokoro-datta.

Otto: Abunai-nā. Kodomo-wa shunkanteki-ni nani-o suru-ka wakaranai-nā.

Wife: Today, on the way home from nursery, Jun suddenly let go of my hand and rushed out into the road. He very nearly got run over by a car.

Husband: How dangerous! You can never know what children might do at any moment.

Today we will introduce the meaning and usage of the patterns Xところだった and Xはずだった, which indicate what might have happened but in fact didn’t. When X is a verb in dictionary form, Xところ shows that action X has not been realized yet, and Xところだった shows the speaker’s relief that it did not happen after all. Thus, 車(くるま)にひかれるところだった expresses that the child was about to be run over by a car but luckily wasn’t. あやうく(“nearly/barely”; literally, “dangerously”) or もう少(すこ)しで (almost) are often used in this pattern. The former communicates that something undesirable nearly happened, but the latter is also used for desirable outcomes, as in もう少しで1位(いちい)になるところだったのに (I’m bothered that I just missed coming in first). When talking about positive possibilities, のに is attached to the end of the sentence to express regret that something didn’t happen.

Situation 2: At a meeting, department chief Yamani makes a speech about their product.


Yamani: Surari-byūtii-wa, waga-sha-o daihyō-suru shōhin-ni naru-hazu-deshita. Shikashi, yosō-ni han-shite uriage-wa teichō-desu.

Yamani: Surari-Beauty was supposed to become our company’s flagship product. However, contrary to our expectations, it hasn’t sold well.

The phrase X(verb in dictionary form) はずだった indicates that the speaker expected X should naturally happen based on objective reasons or circumstances, but in fact, it did not. This pattern is usually used to express the speaker’s regret that his/her expectation was not realized, using the particle のに at the end of the sentence.

Bonus Dialogue: Mrs. Okubo chats with her mom on the phone.








大久保夫人:[ひとりごと] お母さんったら、若(わか)く見(み)えても、やっぱり年(とし)なんだなあ。

Mother: Yesterday, the machine very nearly took a great deal of my money.

Mrs. Okubo: What happened?

Mother: Dad did ¥30,000 worth of Internet shopping and he had me go to the bank to make the payment. There, every time I did something, the ATM kept asking me, “Are you sure you want me to do that?”

Mrs. Okubo: That’s the bank’s warning to you not to fall victim to bank transfer scams.

Mother: As it’s so annoying, I just pushed “yes,” “yes” every time, but at the last moment, I noticed that I’d added an extra zero. I very nearly transferred ¥300,000.

Mrs. Okubo: It’s easy if you pay by e-money.

Mother: I’d rather fill in a transfer slip and hand it over to the teller.

Mrs. Okubo: [To herself] Mom looks young, but I realize now that she’s actually quite old.