Inconsistency with "to separate"

I’m not sure where to put this, but there’s an inconsistency with what is considered a correct answer for intransitive verbs with 別れる.

As you see, “to separate” and “to divide” should be there OR “to be separated” and “to be divided.” It shouldn’t be one way for the one and the other way for the other.

(I did add “to divide” as a synonym so this doesn’t happen again).

I think what you’re missing here is that “separate” by itself can be both transitive and intransitive in English.
Eg- “I have to separate the colors from the whites before I do my laundry.”
“If you leave the salad dressing out too long, it will separate.”

However, the same is not true for divide. Things don’t divide without being acted upon, so it takes “be” to become passive.


I am not so sure about that. For one thing a cell can divide in two cells. In this sense to divide is a synonym of to split.


I thought of that, but couldn’t think of a single other use where that would be the case, and ultimately came down to the cell is acting upon itself to cause the dividing, even though it’s not technically consciously doing so.

Divide can be intransitive as well. From Merriam Webster:

intransitive verb

1 : to perform mathematical division

2a(1) : to undergo replication, multiplication, fission, or separation into parts

(2) : to branch out

b : to become separated or disunited especially in opinion or interest

The OED shows the same. For example:

​ [intransitive] (of a road or river) to separate into two or more parts that lead in different directions

  • Where the path divides, keep right.
  • divide into something The river divides into several channels.


Think this is less to do with which verbs are transitive or intransitive in English (because in almost all cases, English uses the same word for both) and more to do with how WaniKani expresses the English translation of intransitive verbs - usually, but not always, WaniKani translates them as “to be (verbed)”.

One could argue that “to divide” is also correct English usage here, but since the point is to emphasise that this is an intransitive verb, it may not be helpful to think of it like that.

(WaniKani doesn’t specifically cover the transitive pair for 別れる, mostly because it shares its meaning and reading with 分ける.)


Yeah. I’m not sure what the previous comments are going on about. This is a consistency issue, not one of grammar. I’m pretty sure you can use “divide” and “separate” interchangeably except in some super specific exception, so it makes no sense that WK doesn’t require “to be separated” here (or at least accept “to divide”).

Aye, WaniKani is admittedly not great at consistency - for example, both 続く and 続ける have “to continue” as the meaning, and the meaning mnemonic for the latter even goes so far as to say “Unfortunately, there’s no good way to differentiate the two “continues” using just the meaning”… uh, yes there is: the same way you differentiated all of the other transitive/intransitive pairs.

Sometimes I honestly wonder whether it’s worth advocating for a major consistency overhaul.

Anyway, bottom line is if you can answer “to divide” and still remember that it’s an intransitive verb, then sure, add “to divide” as a synonym. If that’s going to confuse matters, then you should stick with “to be divided”, and try to forget that “to separate” gets accepted.


To be fair it’s pretty difficult to be consistent when both Japanese and English are completely inconsistent with regard to transitive/intransitive verbs. To name one example, “to continue” is a correct translation for both 続く and 続ける but “to fix” would only be a correct translation for 直す and not 直る. I think the best solution would probably be for them to include everything that could possibly be a correct translation. In this case “to separate,” “to be separated,” “to divide,” and “to be divided” should all be accepted.

The disadvantage is that people might not actually learn that 別れる is in fact intransitive, but at the end of the day WaniKani is intended for learning kanji, not grammar. If they do want to use the website to teach transitivity pairs, it might help for an extra question to appear on these verbs where you have to indicate whether the verb is transitive or intransitive.

I’m clearly in the minority so I’ll drop my argument, but my point was that it’s not actually a consistency issue since the words aren’t interchangeable like you said. Not trying to prove that point anymore, just wanted to clarify.

Can it really mean “to divide?” Wouldn’t that imply that one thing becomes two? 別れる means “to be separated / move away from a person or place.” (人や場所から離れて去る)

Or it means “to break up / divorce / be bereaved.” (離婚する。また、死別する)

Without getting into every other definition… I’m not really sure why “to divide” should be accepted.


I think the only reason is because someone included “to be divided” as a definition in WaniKani, which may potentially not be correct in the first place.

To me, it seems like “to be divided” could still conceptually work with the first definition, though it seems awkward to actually say in English. But “to divide” just seems completely off.

Yeah, I was a bit perplexed by that one too. The word “divide” doesn’t appear anywhere in the definition for that word in my dictionary, whether as “to divide” or “to be divided”.

Yeah, I’m open to being persuaded on either, but the relevant discussion is the Japanese meaning (which I’m surprised hadn’t been mentioned up to that point >_>)


Could be the divide is coming from 分かれる?

Ack! This is why learning vocab in isolation is so difficult. Based on the WK answers, I had no idea it had this meaning.

In this case, I think both “to separate” and “to be divided” should be removed as correct answers. If it only ever means “to part from a person/relationship/place” or “to lose a person,” then “to separate” is a wildly inaccurate way to describe that.

Friend: Are you still at the park?
Me: No, I separated from it.
Friend: Is Lisa with you?
Me: No, I separated from her, too.

Obviously, that sounds very wrong, so no one would jump to that meaning.

To separate works, but I’m not sure it should be the primary definition. The context sentences do make its meaning clear though, e.g.

Koichiko separated from Koichi and started going out with Viet.

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Actually they might just have made a mistake in the description regarding 別れる since in lesson 25 regarding 割れる in the meaning explanation is written: “Remember how 割る is “to divide”? Now you’re learning the similar intransitive version. Instead of you doing the dividing, something just gets divided. This is to be divided.”. Which leads me to conclude, but I might be wrong, that they actually did make a mistake in mentioning "to be be devided " as alternative meaning and in the meaning explanation and mentioning “intransitive verb” in the part of speech section for the word 割れる. So in IMHO there’s indeed an inconstincy somehow.