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Breathing a sigh of relief with tokoro datta

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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。

夫:あぶないなあ。子供は瞬間的に何をするかわからないなあ。

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.

ヤマニ:「スラリビューティー」は、わが社を代表する商品になるはずでした。しかし、予想に反して売り上げは低調です。

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.

母:昨日、機械(きかい)に、もう少しで大金(たいきん)を取(と)られるところだったのよ。

大久保夫人:どうしたの?

母:お父(とう)さんがネットで買(か)い物(もの)した代金(だいきん)3万円(さんまんえん)を、私(わたし)が振(ふ)り込(こ)みに行(い)ったんだけど、操作(そうさ)をするたびにATMがしつこく「それを実行(じっこう)してもいいですか」と聞(き)くの。

大久保夫人:「振り込め詐欺」にだまされないように、銀行(ぎんこう)が注意(ちゅうい)してくれているのね。

母:めんどくさいから「はい」「はい」とボタンを押(お)していったら、最後(さいご)に、ゼロを1(ひと)つ多(おお)く入力(にゅうりょく)していたのに気(き)がついたの。あやうく30万(さんじゅうまん)円(えん)も振り込むところだった。

大久保夫人:Eマネーで払(はら)えばかんたんなのに。

母:私は銀行(ぎんこう)の窓口(まどぐち)で振り込み用紙(ようし)に記入(きにゅう)するのが一番(いちばん)いいわ。

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.