Lv. 19 definition of 自動詞

Hey guys, I’m studying my lessons, and at level 19 the vocab. term 自動詞 appears, which makes sense as “intransitive verb” because is a verb (動詞) that stands for itself (自), without the need for an object. So far so good.
Yet, in the meaning part of the lesson it says “Intransitive verbs are actions that just happen, aka you’re not the one doing the action or thing”.
What? That’s not the definition of intransitive verb at all, at least not in the languages I know. Is the definition different in japanese? No way, right? Even the expample they give of an intransitive verb 消える doesn’t comply with that definition, I can very well disappear or vanish on my own.
Hope this helps anyone in the same conundrum, thanks!

WK isn’t here to teach grammar. I’m curious how transitive and intransitive verbs work in Japanese, but for now it’s enough to understand the term in English (and will eventually get there in Japanese when my grammar is stronger).

A transitive verb takes an object. Luke kicked the soccer ball.

An intransitive verb does not take an object. We danced

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I agree that WK isn’t here to teach universal grammar, but to put a blatantly wrong definition doesn’t help anyone. That is not the definition of an intransitive verb, and it will confuse anyone that knows it or misinform anyone that doesn’t.


Oh, yeah, I agree with you that the entry needs to be changed.

Anyway, my main question was if the term intransitive verb meant something different or if intransitive verbs worked in a different way in japanese, I guess the answer is no. Thanks for the help!

Practically speaking I don’t think that definition is too bad. I agree It’s not a very neat grammar explanation, but I think it does give a basic idea of how to distinguish the functions of 自動詞 and 他動詞 in Japanese.

Using the example of 消える to say something disappeared i.e,「ケーキが消えた」、you didn’t cause the the cake to disappear, it just disappeared. Therefore not an action you ‘did’. This is distinct from the transitive 消す,「電気を消した」where you are causing the light to go out, so it is an action you ‘did’.


Yeah, Koichi often seems to struggle on exactly what an intransitive verb is. His mnemonics tend somewhat to run along the lines of transitive = you did it, intransitive = someone else did it, but yeah, that’s not it even slightly.


I found the lesson on transitive/intransitive in Cure Dolly very helpful (lesson 15, I think). If you can get over the annoying voice and images, and the very simplistic way of explaining things, it is all very logical and it explained a lot of grammar for me.


“doing” is a poor choice of words for them to use, so I’d replace it with “causing” .

Listen to others on this! I was only giving a clearer version of what it means in English. Dunno what it means in Japanese yet really.

I thought this was the difference between passive and active verbs? Is that what 動詞 and 自動詞 are referring to?

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This is not what transitive means, mate. For the same example you give 消える, you can say I disappeared 私が消えた and I am doing the action of disappearing.
Transitive or intransitive, at least in every other language I know, means what coicoy said in his first reply.
If the meaning of 自動詞 is what you say, depending on who does the action, then I wouldn’t call it intransitive/transitive, but active/passive, as again coicoy says in his latest reply.

Fair enough, I must have misunderstood

I think you’re right :thinking:
Back to the grammar closet for me.

It’s dangerous trying to relate grammar too closely across languages.

他動詞 = transitive (other move word) = the subject acts on the object.
自動詞 = intransitive (self move word) = there is no object, the verb acts on the subject

In Japanese, this is distinct from the “passive” forms of verbs, which indicate that something is acting the subject. To continue the 消える example, it’s something like this:
Transitive active: 消す => X disappears Y.
Transitive passive: 消される => X is made to disappear Y.
Intransitive active: 消える => X disappears.
Intransitive passive: 消えられる => X is made to disappear.

It’s quite hard to translate the differences into English.


Nonono, your explanation was perfectly fine!
Passive is something else. The active sentence 「電気を消す」(to turn off the light) would be 「電気が消される」(the light was turned off) in passive. Please don’t think your explanation was wrong, I think it’s a really good example to explain transitivity.
Just some grammar concepts don’t translate very well into other languages, and especially with transitivity English is not very strict on the distinction while Japanese is.


This would be perfect, if “disappear” were transitive in English. Since it isn’t, the transitive versions are technically incorrect English and require a … liberal interpretation. :wink:

(For explanatory purposes, it works perfectly, though.)


If I can verb a noun, I can transitive an intransitive :stuck_out_tongue:

Edit: I’m not sorry at all for the gratuitous violence to English grammar that that last sentence involved.


Disappear can be used transitively.

“The magician disappeared the card.”

It’s not something you hear often, though.


Sure it is.

transitive verb

: to cause the disappearance of