(Example Sentence) Why did my mother stabbed my father and not my father my mother?

Given this example sentence from WK:
The provided translation is
My mother stabbed my father with a dagger and he died.

Unfortunately, I translated it the other way around and am still not quite sure, where my error is.
That is why I am turning for your help =).

I guess my error lies in misunderstanding the に-particle after 母 here.The particle belongs to the first verb 刺す and symbolizes the direction of this stabbing happening. By the direction is kinda reversed? Not stabbed to mother but stabbed by mother?

I am clearly missing something. Please help me solve this case.


刺されて is the passive form, where に denotes the agent (ie the one doing the action, in this case stabbing). The topic is the one that is having the action happen to them (the one suffering the consequences, in this case the father).

A more direct translation would be “As for my father, (he was) stabbed with a dagger by my mother, and (he) died”.


+1, it’s the passive form. 刺される is “to be stabbed,” not “to stab.” If you want “to stab,” it’s 刺す. You can look up the passive forms on any grammar website, but for group 1 verbs the nutshell is to take the dictionary form and make the -u ending into -areru, and voila, “to ~” becomes “to be ~”.

Since the verb is now “to be stabbed,” the father, with は, is the subject – the person “being stabbed” – and the mother, with に, is doing the stabbing.

The sentence you are translating it as, “My father stabbed my mother with a dagger,” would be:


if you want to do it as an active sentence. Adding the “and she died” is a little trickier in this case, because if you tack it on the same way, 刺して死にました, it’s the father who’s dying again. “My father stabbed my mother with a dagger and died.” I can think of several constructions to get the correct meaning instead, but not sure which would be most natural. Or, of course, to get the opposite meaning you could just switch the nouns in the WK sentence, but that probably doesn’t help with grammar understanding. :wink:

(edited to clarify)


This is a really good explanation. I am not this far yet in my grammar but this made sense. But I can’t find the bookmark button on my phone

@lambdawarrior @Dwarsen
Thank you both for your explanations and clarifications!
I was not aware of the passive rule yet, just that they are transitive and intransitive verbs.
Are the rules applied to intransitive verbs too (as, are they already passive)? Can they be “doubled passive”?

上がる - to be raised → is 上がられる a thing and if so, what would it mean?
上げる - to raise → is 上げられる the same as 上がる?

Intransitive and passive are not identical, even if they overlap a bit. And no, the intransitive verb is not equivalent to the passive version of the transitive verb. For example:

ボールが落ちた - the ball fell
ボールを落とした - (I or someone else) dropped the ball.
ボールが落とされた - the ball was dropped (by me or someone else)


don’t forget the indirect passive

I had my ball dropped by him (outside of my control).

Unlike the direct passive (e.g. ボールが落とされた) it works with intransitives too.

I experienced him coming over to my house (outside of my control / I didn’t necessarily want him to).

There’s no English equivalent so it’s kind of hard to translate. If we did have this kind of grammar structure it might be something like “I got camed to my house by him” but as it is that’s just nonsense in English.


Intransitive verbs are not passive, they are just often translated that way.

An “intransitive verb” – as in, the meaning of the term – is the same thing it is in English, i.e., a verb that doesn’t take an object. We have them in English, too. For example, “I threw the ball” = threw is a transitive verb because it takes the direct object “ball.” But “I run” = intransitive verb because I’m not “running” anything; I’m just running. There’s no direct object.

An example of an intransitive->intransitive translation is 雨が降っている, which we would translate as “the rain is falling” in English – because in this case English does have an intransitive verb which works. You’ll notice that in WK, intransitive verbs are not always translated as “to be ~” if they have a good intransitive equivalent in English – 降る is just “to fall,” not “to be ~”.

But other intransitive verbs don’t have nice English intransitive equivalents like this, and that’s why WK uses the “to be ~” translation. (And not just WK, that’s a very standard way of translating them.)

The problem with translation is, there’s often not a one-to-one correspondence between the intransitive verb in Japanese and an equivalent intransitive verb in English. So we get as close as we can using English grammatical structures, which sometimes requires using a (in English) passive construction / past participle to show a state of being, even though the Japanese sentence is NOT passive grammatically in any way.

Here’s another example – 消えます, which is intransitive. Depending on the sentence, 消えた (active in Japanese) might be translated as: “disappeared” (active in English), “went out” (as in, “the candle went out”) (active in English), “was erased” (passive in English), “was turned off” (passive in English), etc… The way the translation is rendered (active/passive) doesn’t affect the fact that the original sentence in Japanese is active. The tl;dr is that translation sometimes/often does not preserve grammatical structures in a one-to-one way.

Intransitive verbs can indeed also be made passive but it’s not something I see very often – 彼は雨に降られた would be, for example, “he was rained on.”

One more note, the passive form is also written the same as one type of honorific form, so if you see it in a sentence where it looks like it’s clearly active, it may just be someone being polite.


Yeah, I didn’t want to complicate the explanation. And also, I only have a rudimentary understanding of that grammar point and wouldn’t be able to properly explain it.

I believe it should be


〜に刺す has different a connotation.

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"Why did my mother stabbed my father and not my father my mother? " sound like the name for a book

You are all the best! Thank you very much for all your explanations!

@KatuGT Go ahead, write the book! Just thank me in the foreword and gimme 5% if it becomes a bestseller ;).

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