How to distinguish the meaning of between上がる and 上げる and also 下がる and 下げる

こんにちは! Topic has my Question in there. Whenever Im doing my revies and i get either of those Vocabs I always have to guess which one means “to raise something” or “to be raised”, same thing with “to drop” or “to be lowerd” pls halp

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verbs that end with ~がる are always intransitive, just like verbs that end with ~す are always transitive (or at least that’s how it works for the verbs I encountered so far)

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~がる are always intransitive, just like verbs that end with ~す are always transitive

I have to respectfully say that this is wrong. Here’s a brief overview of transitive vs intransitive verbs: Transitive and Intransitive Verbs – Learn Japanese

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I don’t see how this is wrong, perhaps you misunderstood my post, I didn’t say all intransitive verbs end with ~がる, just that if a verb ends with ~がる (~ある generally speaking) you can be absolutely sure it’s intransitive.

one more time for stupids pls, so intransitive verbs are things like “to be raised/to be cut/ to be dropped” and so on and transitive verbs are things like to cut to drop to raise?

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There are so many ~がる ~げる intransitive/transitive verb pairings that exposure to them will let them come naturally. Personally I didn’t bother with neumonics for the pairings because the variations that exist can be counted on two hands and there are thousands of verbs.

The only tricky ones are the ~く ~ける pairings because whichever one ~く is depends on which transitivity variant was likely to get a word first, then the other variant followed with ~ける. So literally it’s “which word feels lilke it was invented first?”, then that word is the ~く variant a large majority of the time.


Yes. The page Malts posted provides an excellent explanation, and you could also read Japanese Transitive and Intransitive Verbs , it goes more in depth.

The link was more for the benefit of the OP, sorry for the confusion. Anyway, there are ~がる verbs that are transitive (for example: kagaru -

Yes and no. In WaniKani things like “to be cut” and “to be dropped” are intransitive verbs, but what you gave examples of are actually passive voice forms of transitive verbs. It would probably be better to add user synonyms for these so you don’t confuse intransitivity with passive :slight_smile:

Instead of “to be dropped” you could use “to fall”, because fortunately there is an English equivalent. For “to be cut” and others I have no clue.

It’s important to know that in Japanese when a verb is intransitive, the executor of the action performs that action on itself, regardless of which object the verb takes and which particle it uses.

In the case of the がる/げる pairs you mentioned in the title, the げる verb is the transitive one of the pair.


True, but not the best counterargument since the garu isn’t okurigana in that case. How about something like 可愛がる or 召し上がる perhaps @idleshell

And 射す for the su part.

Most of the time the garu and su thing will be true, but certainly not all of the time. Always be very careful about any absolutes when it comes to Japanese, since for most things that follow a general pattern, there will be a handful of exceptions.


An intransitive verb can only take a subject as an argument. In English, a word like “live” is intransitive. You can say “I live”, but you can’t say “I lived a ball.” A transitive verb is one that takes a subject and an object, usually a direct object. For example, “I bought a house” makes sense, but “I bought” doesn’t. Of course there’s other things you can add on, and in linguistics this topic gets a bit more complicated but that’s the gist of it.

The tricky part comes in the fact that English verbs are often flexible and can either be used in a transitive or intransitive way, depending on how they’re used in a sentence. For example, you can say “I teach an English class” (transitive) or you can say “I teach.” (intransitive) In Japanese, most verbs are strictly transitive or intransitive, and many come in pairs where you have to pick the right one depending on whether you want a transitive or intransitive meaning. For example, 壊す means “to break” in a transitive sense e.g. 道具を壊した “(I) broke the tool”, while 壊れる means “to break” in an intransitive sense e.g. 道具が壊れた “The tool broke.”

Wanikani uses “to be (verb)ed” to mark intransitive verbs because often the transitivity of verbs does not match up between English and Japanese, and the passive voice is one way that English has to turn a transitive verb into an intransitive one. (Read more about valency on wikipedia)


This may or may not be helpful to you, but I had to figure out a cheat based on English, Rise vs Raise. In a ge ru the ge sounds like the a sound in “raise”, so a ge ru is to raise (something). A ga ru is the other one, not raise–to rise. (Wow you type those out enough, both rise and raise look like nonsense words…). I also had a visual that a comes before e, so a ga ru is visually rising up yourself first, and a ge ru is reaching down to raise someone else up once you’re up. Whatever works for you!

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I’m only just learning these words now myself, but the little hack I’ve been using is to associate the “ka/ga” with the particle “ga” in that the action of 上げる 分かる 下がる are happening to the speaker/subject (generally intransitively as idleshell mentioned), while the ke/ge forms of these words are being performed by the subject onto something else (raising it, seperating it, lowering it)


OP you may be interested in these videos on transitive/intransitive pairs.

Cure Dolly’s and Misa’s


You’re probably right! I think I might’ve added unnecessary confusion, apologies!

I meant it from personal experience, because to me as a learner it was bothersome to use passive voice forms of verbs when regular intransitive forms are available. 変わる is to me still a top offender and because of that, a leech, because I never bothered to add “to change” as a synonym (or perhaps it’s on a block list and I haven’t noticed?).

Whenever coming apart is concerned, I always think of 割れる :smiley: . But yeah, quite confusing at times, transitivity is.

Here is my surefire method to learn these:

  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.


It’s so much more effort to memorise all these pairs when you can just learn the basic rule that ~aru verbs are almost always intransitive and ~su verbs are almost always transitive. And if you know what one of the verbs in a pair is, the other is almost always the opposite

The real move is just reading and naturally just figuring out which is which. I used to think 五段 vs 一段 and transitive vs intransitive would be so hard. Put basically 0 effort into it and ended up having no problems :smiley:

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I like to keep the mnemonic, that su verbs are transitive, because they move (su)mthing else

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I’ll add that the reason a lot of the “rules” for telling transitivity work is because of how many verbs formed from combinations with the verbs ある (the basic intransitive verb) and する (the basic transitive verb). A lot of common verb endings are pretty easily linked to one of these which will almost always tell you the transitivity. There are indeed a few exceptions, mostly in cases where there’s no pair.

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