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I am trying to translate Osamu Dazai's essay 如是我聞(Thus I heard from the Buddha) into English.

The original text belongs to the public domain: http://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/000035/files/1084_15078.html

You can read about the author here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osamu_Dazai

You can read parts of my translation here: http://lang-8.com/1483508

Here is a part of my translation:

http://lang-8.com/1483508/journals/9913466692196417769822852313093409740

To tell the truth, I lied to him. I had a girlfriend at that time. I didn't want to leave her. That's why I declined the proposal with a fake reason. I had big troubles with this girl later, but I don't regret my decision. I even think that having troubles together with a poor stupid girl is more difficult and nobler an enterprise than going abroad.

My question is about the following sentences in the above.

I had a girlfriend at that time. I didn't want to leave her.

Someone told me that these should be rewritten as follows.

At that time, I had a girlfriend, whom I didn't want to leave.

I wonder which is better.

Remark The previous paragraph of the above is as follows. http://lang-8.com/1483508/journals/215960620314216056838140082359796270126

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    As a native speaker, I don't really see a real difference between the two options. I will say that hardly any native speakers use whom anymore, and instead use who for both the objective and subjective cases. In this case whom is used correctly, just contrary to typical style of native English speakers. – Todd Wilcox May 9 '16 at 0:35
  • Since your question involves translation, why not add the original passage (in Japanese) that is the source of your translated paragraph? There may be some hidden meaning. However, in a storytelling timeline, "At that time" is often used as an introductory phrase. – user3169 May 9 '16 at 2:50
  • having troubles together with a poor stupid girl -- it is not clear what you mean to say by "having troubles together". Are boy and girl united and facing a challenge together, or is each having issues with the other? I think you probably mean the latter, in which case we would not use the word "together". – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 9 '16 at 10:18
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    also more difficult and nobler an enterprise strikes my ear as ungrammatical. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 9 '16 at 10:20
  • @TRomano "also more difficult and nobler an enterprise strikes my ear as ungrammatical." Interesting. I wonder why no native English speakers corrected it in Lang-8. – Makoto Kato May 10 '16 at 7:25
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I prefer your wording over Someone's alternative. Yours is simpler, more direct, and fits better with the overall tone of the paragraph. If you wanted, you could make it a single sentence by using conjunction:

I had a girlfriend at that time and didn't want to leave her.

Another possible improvement (although improvements, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder) would be to change at that time to at the time; at the time is a standard adverbial phrase meaning:

at the time at the particular point when something was thought of or done

So, you could also write:

I had a girlfriend at the time and didn't want to leave her.

In this case, though, I'd disregard the advice you're getting from Someone.

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To me, "I had a girlfriend, whom I didn't want to leave" sounds awkward. I prefer either your original two-sentence version, J.R.'s rewritten version using "and," or a version without the comma:

At that time, I had a girlfriend who(m) I didn't want to leave.

I'm struggling to figure out why I prefer this. I assume you've heard the general "rule" about using a comma before relative clauses: it is used before "non-defining" relative clauses, but not before "defining" relative clauses.

While it seems logically possible for this to be a non-defining relative clause, it doesn't sound right to my ears. I think it has to do with "a girlfriend" being an indefinite noun on its own.

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  • I don't know why you find 'whom' awkward. It sounds pretty normal to me. – cst1992 May 9 '16 at 13:03
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I don't see any reason to prefer Someone's wording. It seems more ... awkward ... to me. It's not wrong, but your version isn't wrong either.

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