Giving and Receiving Verbs

Little over a month until the JLPT test for those tests not cancelled…

I need to study and figure explaining this will help myself and others.

Giving and receiving in Japanese. First we have to remember that which verb we use will be dependent on the social status of the giver and receiver. We have 3 levels in this case. The upper one is for social betters such as doctors, teachers, and bosses. The middle is for people in the same social level as us, like friends or coworkers. The third is for social lessers, which you can use for people, but depending on the case, it can be very rude. It’s often used with animals.

In my diagram, the upper level 目上(めうえ) is represented with 上司(じょうし) (boss), the same level has (わたし) (you the speaker) and your friend(s) 友達(ともだち), and the lower level 目下(めした) a (ねこ) (cat).

The verbs are written out along the arrows. Who takes the が particle (or is the doer) for each verb matches with the color of the verb. For example, for もらう, you, the speaker, take が which is written in gray/pencil while 友達(ともだち) takes が for same level くれる. The direction of the arrows indicate who gives what to who. This might get confusing with translations, but if you can conceptualize it in just Japanese, I think that will make it much easier to understand. For both いただく and くださる the boss 上司(じょうし) gives something to me, the speaker.

So how can you use this chart?
You can plug an play to make sentences. We’ll make examples with (さかな) as the object being given.


I gave my boss a fish.


The cat gave (to) me a fish.


I received a fish from the cat.


I gave the cat a fish.

Using a particular verb form can show humbleness and be polite. That’s why you ask for things with ください and when you receive things (especially edible ones) you humbly receive them with いただきます. It can be rude to say things in other sorts of ways, so it’s probably best to consider where you stand with the other person.

About Word Order

You can play around with the word order so long as the verb is last and the particles correctly attached. However you sort will most likely be grammatical, but can sound weird. Just like you can say, “To me, my cat gave a fish,” in English, changing the word order might sound similarly strange in Japanese. In general the preference seems to be が に を [verb]. Often you can drop the が, especially when it’s describing the speaker.


I’m intending to make this legible and a useful resource for others and myself. If you have any feedback or recommendations, especially with phrasing, please share.

Side note, Jisho says you can use やる with people of equal status, but given my Japanese Professor’s opinions when first explaining this to our class, I’m given the impression that it’s the kind of talk you’d use with a friend that you’re close enough to casually curse with in English.

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Just checking, but 親分 as “boss” is like “kingpin” or something. The head of a crime syndicate or the like. Is… that what you meant? It’s not a generic boss.


Rip, no, I meant like a regular boss :skull:
Should it be 上司(じょうし) or a different word?


Yes, 上司 is a neutral word for the person who works above you in an organization.

Another common way to frame these generic relationships is 目上 and 目下.


Thank you very much! I’ll add that into my physical diagram and once I reupload that picture, I’ll change the typed wording. I really appreciate it!

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Why’s the centre of the diagram あなた instead of 私? It’s kind of a bit different when あなた gets involved, because you’d need to take into account where they stand in contrast to the speaker.


I was thinking you, as in the reader who will be saying/writing stuff, but I’ll change that too then, thank you!

Thank you for taking the time to create and share this @CDR-Strawberry, it’s quite insightful!
Despite me being in a very early stage (haven’t gotten a lot of grammar under my belt yet whatsoever) I could understand it perfectly with your explanation.

If I may ask a beginner’s question, these variations among the verbs to give / to receive are not related to “transitivity”, right? Are there other types of verbs that might change according to social status? Sorry if this is too elementary haha

Verbs in Japanese are so complicated to me :confounded: Thanks again for the nice diagram!

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I’m glad I can help!

Well, yes and no. The short of it is that all of these verbs are transitive.

longer explanation

This chart wasn’t made with transitive/intransitive pairs in mind. However all of these verbs imply a certain level of transitivity. Transitivity in Japanese usually relates to whether or not the takes a direct object, often marked with を, but here can also be marked with も or は. These particles mean different things, but it’s still implied there is an object of the verb. You also have a doer が and a direction に. You can leave either or both of these out sometimes, but they’re still implied to be there. Like if a child sees you have candy and says ください, it’s implied あなたが(わたし)にキャンディをください.

There are 3 levels of transitivity in Japanese
1- the verb takes が only. Like

Mt Fuji can be seen (from here).

2- the verb takes が and を

I see Mt Fuji.

3- the verb takes が, に, and を just like our giving and receiving verbs here

I was shown Mt Fuji by the tv.

I get the feeling that these verbs don’t have a version with a different level of transitivity, but I could be wrong, so hopefully someone will chime in.

There are other verbs that change with social status and they’re semi-frequently used. Typically people complain about them when someone is speaking in keigo, a certain level of politeness. Whenever you enter a store the employees will typically use keigo on you. You can reply on a neutral level though as the customer. For example, there’s several levels of “to go”
まいる (humble)
()く・()きます (neutral)
いらっしゃいます (honorific)
I’m not the best person to ask about these since I typically try to talk neutrally with people unless they’re my boss.

Actually, when you want a faster or more in-depth answer, the short grammar questions thread or the short language questions thread have many helpful people watching them. :slight_smile:

Thank you again! I hope it’s useful.


Thank you for the further explanation! It sure is useful.
I only asked about transitivity because I’ve been regularly coming across this concept as I progress in WK and general studying, and at first I thought that was the idea behind the giving/receiving verbs you mentioned. Fully understood now!

Reply on the transitivity matter

That got me confused a little. I was on the understanding that 見える was an intransitive verb (and from the example sentence, ふじ山が見える sounded, to me, an intransitive clause with no object at all (Mt. Fuji is the subject which does the action “can be seen”, which takes no object)). If by that you meant that there is an idea of transitivity in that type of clause, then disregard this. :grin:

In any case, with all this, I’m going way off the “giving/receiving” topic, and it’s not my intention at all!

I’ll keep those links in mind for future struggles I’m sure I’ll stumble upon. I’m fairly new to the forum so I’m discovering new features all the time, thanks for pointing that out! And thank you for going out of your way to provide all this extra explanation on a different subject. Truly appreciated! :slightly_smiling_face:

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No problem! I’m glad I could help again. :slight_smile:


Transitivity depends on the number of “arguments” (linguistics term) that a verb requires.

Intransitive verbs can only take one argument, which in Japanese is pretty much only an element that uses が or は depending on how the speaker sets up the sentence. ()える only takes one and only one argument, so it’s intransitive.
The other two levels, which take 2 and 3 arguments respectively, are both transitive. If there’s a special name in regards to verbs that take 3 arguments, I don’t know it. There probably is, but I don’t know it.

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I’m pretty sure this sentence actually means

I showed Mount Fuji to the television

The way you are wanting to use the に particle is the way it is used when the verb is in passive form:


Although みえるseems way more common than みられる、and means the same thing.

See example sentences here:見せる-miseru-to-show/


I missed the を so thank you for catching that typo. And that に should be a が.


Would be “I showed Mt Fuji to the tv,” instead of “The tv showed Mt Fuji (to me).”

They don’t actually mean the same thing. My ex explained this one extensively to me, but I can’t find the notes I wrote down on it. It’s a bit of nuance that I will almost definitely get wrong if I try to explain from memory.

JLPT Sensei is an alright resource, but he’s not a native speaker and his examples are sometimes overly simple.

Really? I’d be interested in the details, if you ever come across your notes.

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It was something along the lines of if you one or the other with a tv show that you didn’t see, one implied that you missed it because you were late/elsewhere etc while the implied that it was cancelled or mis-aired iirc.

I can’t find it in either my email or phone notes. I’ll try checking the notes on my last phone though :thinking:

I’m feeling like my JLPT test is going to be cancled… damn Covid

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I found a PDF explaining the difference that I can’t figure out how to link to. It’s in Japanese, but if I’m reading it right, it’s pretty similar to what you said:

見える means it’s possible to see something. Like, it’s visible.

見られる means your attempt to see something is fulfilled. …
Actually, come to think of it, that’s not the passive voice, that’s volitional, (which sounds the same) Hmmm…

Well, I haven’t read the whole 13 page document, so maybe there’s more.

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It’s potential. Volitional is 見よう.

But yeah, basically 見える = it’s possible to see it, it’s visible; 見られる = you can see it from where you’re standing.


Or other potential form situations that don’t relate to physical visibility. Like あしたは映画が見られない “I can’t watch a movie tomorrow” (because I’m busy, or some other reason)