OMG I just got the transitive/intransitive thing


#1

I’ve been struggling with the transitive vs intransitive versions of verbs in reviews for … a while now.

And then yesterday I was listening to Koichi and Kristen talking about the difference in a Tofugu podcast, and realised that didn’t help me either. So I did some additional reading, and finally found a way to remember that it’s nothing to do with passive or active, but to do with the object. Which, to be fair, Kristen said in the podcast on transitive vs intransitive.

A lot of resources online use passive vs active verbs when they describe the difference, which I think confuses things. But then I made my own example, so I’m sharing it in case it helps others. This is not a pair, exactly, but it’s two very active verbs, so no active/passive issues to confuse things.

You play a game of volleyball (I’ve been watching Haikyu!), and thrash the opposition.

You can say “I won!”, but you can’t say “I beat!” because you have to beat someone - instead you say “I beat you!”.

I won! Intransitive, no direct object needed.
I beat you! Transitive, you need a direct object.

Turns out that, plus the verb endings (iru/eru vs aru) is all I needed to get the concept completely.

I’ve gotten all the verb forms right since. Hooray!


#2

Glad you figured them out, they can be super tricky until you figure out the, well, trick to them :slight_smile:

A lot of resources online use passive vs active verbs when they describe the difference, which I think confuses things. But then I made my own example, so I’m sharing it in case it helps others. This is not a pair, exactly, but it’s two very active verbs, so no active/passive issues to confuse things.

This is a big gripe of mine with a lot of textbooks out there – they try to shove Japanese into a Western grammatical framework which . . . is a painful fit for everybody involved. There are actually a few more rules which you can find on this blog post here: http://learnjapaneseonline.info/2016/12/27/mastering-transitivity-pairs-remembering-japanese-transitive-and-intransitive-verbs-the-easy-way/

In short, ~す always marks a transitive verb, ~ある ending denotes an intransitive verb, ~える is a bit more up in the air because ~う <–> ~える flips the transitivity of the word . . . but you kind of have to play those ones by ear and make educated guesses about which word is which in the pair. For example, 生まれる (to be born) is the intransitive counterpart to 生む (to give birth to) which contradicts the ~ある <–> ~える transitivity pattern! That blog post has some handy tips for dealing with those as well as the transitivity pairs that don’t map onto any of those 3 rules too!


#3

The best way to understand this is by knowing the Japanese words:

自動詞 - intransitive verbs
他動詞 - transitive verbs

Focus on the first 2 kanji: 自 and 他. The former means “self” while the latter means “other”. This means that 自動詞 (intransitive verbs) act on oneself while 他動詞 (transitive verbs) act on others.

Careful, as there’s always exceptions. For this, please read: https://www.wasabi-jpn.com/japanese-grammar/intransitive-verbs-vs-transitive-verbs/


#4

Good points, and cheers. :slight_smile:

I knew iru/eru/aru wasn’t right when I wrote it, but left it. And I shouldn’t have, so thanks for the additional resources.

On the other hand, now that I finally figured out how to remember/figure whether something is transitive/intransitive in english, I feel much more confident in doing verb conjugations and practicing sentences with them in Japanese. Which should solidify the whole lot a lot better. Including the unexpected and irregular.