JLPT 4 – transitive and intransitive verbs

October 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

In the first lesson of Japanese grammar of JLPT level N4 we are going to learn about Transitive and Intransitive verbs. In other words, we are going to learn how Japanese people describe a situation or condition which has taken place automatically or naturally or has taken place due to some activity done purposely by someone.

// Transitive verb is used when someone has done an action purposely for a particular situation to occur. Intransitive verb is used to describe situations which have occurred automatically or naturally without any purpose. E.g. the sentence “window is open” can be said in two different ways in Japanese. One would be by using transitive verb which would mean that someone has opened the window due to some reason. The second way would be by using intransitive verb which would imply that the window has opened automatically due to wind. Both these ways finally bring us to the same conclusive condition that the window is open just now. 

Transitive verbs are called “Tadoushi” in Japanese. Intransitive verbs are called “Jidoushi” in Japanese. There are a huge number of pairs of Jidoushi and Tadoushi verbs in Japanese language. There is a small hint of recognizing whether the verb used is transitive or intransitive. Almost all the jidoushi verbs end with a “u” sound On the other hand almost all the tadoushi verbs end with “e-ru” sound. In addition if you are to change a verb from jidoushi to tadoshi then just replace the “u” endind consonant to “e” ending and add “ru” to it. On the other hand, in case you want to change tadoushi into jidoushi verbs then remove “ru” and replace the “e” ending consonant to “u” ending consonant. Be very careful with the exceptional pairs of verbs in the following list. Following is the table having the pair of verbs which are very commonly used.

Japanese Transitive and Intransitive verbs  

Now that we have learnt about transitive verb and intransitive verb and have come to know how they are made also the way in which we can change them, it is time now to know their uses in Japanese grammar. We will learn the sentence pattern in which these two forms of verbs are used. We will also learn the minute details like which particle is to be used when, while using transitive and intransitive verbs. There are two sentence patterns which we are going to see now along with examples of each.

  1. In this sentence pattern [te arimasu] is used in the similar way [te imasu] to describe a condition or result which has occurred due to some event. However there are two differences between the uses of these two phrases. The first one is that when we use [te iru] we clearly know who the subject in the sentence is or who is the doer of an action. On the other hand, when we use [te aru] it is not necessary that we should know or have the knowledge of who the subject is. The second important difference is that, if in a sentence we use an intransitive verb then the particle used before the verb or to indicate the action is always “ga” and not “wo/ o”. On the other hand if we use transitive verb or Tadoushi then the particle used before the verb or to show the action is always “wo/ o”.Example: 1Japanese transitive verbs

    English Version:

    Rin: Mr. Sari, have you opened the window?

    Sari: No, I have not opened. It is closed.

    Rin: Are the curtains also closed?

    Sari: No, the curtains are not closed. They are already open.

    Example: 2

    transitive Japanese verbs

    English Version:

    The door opened because of the wind. The door is opened.


  2. In Japanese grammar there are few verbs which are originally intransitive and we cannot change them into their respective transitive form. Therefore, these verbs are used in their original form. Few examples of these verbs are kaku (to write), haru (to affix/ paste), suru (to do), oku (to place) etc. An example of this type of verbs is as follows:Japanese Version:Intransitive Japanese Verb

    English Version:

    Teacher: Is there anything written on the black board?

    Student: Yes, there is something written.

    Teacher: What is written?

    Student: Hiragana script is written.

    Teacher: who has written it?

    Student: I don’t know who has written it.


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