Japanese Grammar Lesson 10: Transitive and intransitive verbs

If you have read a couple of sentences in Japanese, you may have noticed that sometimes the same verb appears in different patterns. Not the past/future/etc. patterns, but the transitive/intransitive patterns.

A transitive verb (他動詞, たどうし, tadoushi) has an active agent, while an intransitive verb (自動詞, じどうし, jidoushi) doesn’t, and the action “happens by itself”. For example:

Transitive pattern -> 冷蔵庫にバターを入れた (れいぞうこにバターをいれた, reizouko ni bata- wo ireta) – I put the butter in the refrigerator;

Intransitive pattern -> 家に入った (いえにはいった, ie ni haitta) – I entered the house.

As you can see, it has a thing in common: the kanji. Therefore, the meaning as well, which is “to put something inside another thing”. In the first case, the butter goes inside the refrigerator, and in the second case, the subject goes inside the house.

These two patterns have different dictionary forms, which are 入れる (いれる, ireru) (T) and 入る (はいる, hairu) (I). There is not a direct way to get both patterns, it’s a matter of memorizing. Sometimes they resemble each other though.

So I leave here a short list of some verbs in both patterns:

入れる (いれる, ireru) to put in, to insert 入る (はいる, hairu) to get in, to enter
出す (だす, dasu) to put out, to deliver 出る (でる, deru) to get out, to exit
落とす (おとす, otosu) to drop 落ちる (おちる, ochiru) to fall
壊す (こわす, kowasu) to break (something) 壊れる (こわれる, kowareru) to break
開ける (あける, akeru) to open (something) 開く (あく, aku) to open
閉める (しめる, shimeru) to close (something) 閉まる (しまる, shimaru) to close

We are almost entering the intermediate level! Prepare yourself! 😀


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