How do I remember the difference in meanings between 下げる and 下がる?

I can rememer that out of 下げる and 下がる one of them means “to lower” and one of the means “to fall” but I always get them wrong when they come up and can’t for the life of me remember which is which, how do I stop mixing them up and start being able to consistently get them right on tests instead of it just being guesswork?


I’m sure some people will have better answers than me but I did notice that for the “transitivish” verbs like to lower… something, the vowel sound before the u sound is often e, for the intransitivish one, to fall (you don’t fall something, you just fall), the vowel sound is a.

I’m not saying this is always true but it’s often the case.


you can associate the vowels to the corresponding english words.
下げる --> to lower
下がる --> to fall


This kind of thing is actually going to come up a lot. Most people try to relate them to the english transitive/intransitive verbs, but my favorite youtuber came up with another approach. This video explains it pretty well. I really wish WaniKani had some of these explanations built in.


Usually verbs with an “e” are transitive (meaning you are the one to do the action), and verbs with an “a” are intransitive (meaning that they happen on their own). So for “sageru,” it means you or someone else physically lowers something, but for “sagaru,” something falls down on its own.


In transitive-intransitive sets like that in Japanese, the intransitive version usually takes a vowel other than え, while the transitive version takes え. (Lots of あ, え pairs specifically for three-character words. But in two-character words you have things like つく, which is an intransitive “to be attached”, and つける, which is a transitive “to attach.” The general pattern is that the え syllable marks the transitive version.)

There are exceptions where that’s reversed, but they’re infrequent enough can be remembered as such. “Oh, this word is one of those weird opposites.” (Ex. 抜く, to extract (among … a lot of other meanings), and 抜ける, to be extracted.)

The presence of exceptions means you’ll never know for sure, until you look up the word. But remembering the え syllable rule will give you like a 90 percent accuracy rate guessing blind.

  1. Say 上がる
  2. Stand up.
  3. Say 上げる
  4. Raise your right hand.
  5. Say 下がる
  6. Sit down.
  7. Say 下げる
  8. Lower your right hand.
    Repeat this a few times and it should stick. Feeling silly while doing it will also help it stick. As will saying it in a sing-song voice. Preferably to the tune of Yakko’s World.

Check out this thread for more hints: 下がる 下げる 止まる 止める 上げる etc

One of my references has also been this twitter thread:

But, as he also says, there Will be exceptions almost always, but it’s a good starting point

I’ll try to give a more precise version of the general rule that everyone else has set out above, to which I believe there are no exceptions: for an eru/aru pair, the eru verb is transitive, and the aru verb is intransitive.


Also there’s a corresponding post for this video here.

In short though:

  1. 〜す = always transitive
  2. /aru/ and /eru/ pairs = /aru/ always intransitive and /eru/ always transitive
  3. /u/ and /eru/ pairs = the transitivity flips

Sooooooo… for point 3:

  • 〜む>〜める = 〜む is intransitive and 〜める is transitive
  • 〜ぶ>〜べる = 〜ぶ is intransitive and 〜べる is transitive
  • 〜つ>〜てる = 〜つ is intransitive and 〜てる is transitive
  • 〜せる is always transitive

That just leaves you 〜く>〜ける、〜ぐ>〜げる、〜う>〜える、〜る to think about transitivity.


I found that same link very useful a few weeks ago when I was trying to remember the same vocab as the OP. But I think Cure Dolly’s “Second Law” is even more general than what you stated:

  1. If the verb ends in /aru/ it is always intransitive (and it means not just ある-ending words, but words ending with any kana in the あ-row + る).

It doesn’t matter if the partner transitive verb ends in /eru/ or something different (they give an example of 包まる kurumaru – “to be wrapped” → 包む kurumu – “to wrap”).

This 2nd Law is the important one for the original question in this thread:
下がる ends in an /aru/ sound so it must be intransitive, i.e. there is no direct object, so it means “to get lower” or “to fall”. If you can remember that its partner is 下げる (/aru/ → /eru/ being a common pattern) then you can deduce this must be transitive and means “to lower something”, i.e. it acts on a direct object.


Yeah that’s exactly what I meant! :smile:

When you write letters between / x / it is just shorthand for phonetic sounds, that’s why I wrote /aru/ /eru/ instead of 〜ある・〜える. :slight_smile:

I should have been more clear though.

The mnemonic I came up with is that for 上がる and 上げる, you look at the A. agAru means “to rise” because the A snuck into the word, so there’s no a left for raise. ageru means “to rAise” since there’s no A in ageru. Then for 下がる and 下げる , you just remember that it follows the same transitivity pattern as the upper versions.

Once I came up with that pattern, I never messed up the transitivity for those two pairs.

What’s the point of making a more general rule if you then also introduce a bunch of exceptions. The other one has no exceptions I’m aware of.

I mean, you solve that by just not saying “always” but then I guess you wouldn’t sound like you had come up with as great a rule.

For instance, all of the following words break that rule. That is, they are transitive verbs that end in an ある sound. I stopped looking after about 3 pages of results, but I could have kept going. Not all of these are words beginners will know, but none of them are rare words.


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Ha, I think you’re right and maybe that Cure Dolly article needs to make it clearer (or I should have read it a bit more closely). I haven’t been studying Japanese that long so I’m learning this too.

There’s a disclaimer on those “rules” by the author that it only applies where there are transitive-intransitive pairs. If the word doesn’t have a pair then it doesn’t apply as per some of your examples. Not much use if you’re just starting out and don’t know if there’s a pair :sweat_smile:

Similarly the “third law” (-u to -eru pairs) overrides the second apparently. :confused: I think that covers your remaining examples. Definitely not a simple topic.

I did read the Tofugu article on transitive-intransitive pairs very recently and they basically say don’t bother with rules, just try to rely on context. That’s fine, except in Wanikani reviews there is no context as the word is presented alone, so you more or less have to rely on memorisation.

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No problem, I got what you meant. I was just trying to generalise it a bit further (as per my third paragraph). I think I just took it too far as James pointed out above.