Passive plus 死ぬ

According to Genki and my dictionary the passive form of 死ぬ exists (死なれる)

I am struggling with this idea. In English I think only transitive verbs can be made passive. How I am to understood the idea of “to be died”?


Just because it has a passive form doesn’t mean it’s necessarily used. Not that I know whether or not it’s actually used. :man_shrugging:


Yeah, the usual conjugation rules can be used to turn anything into a passive form, but the fact that it exists doesn’t necessarily mean that it makes sense. One should take general conjugation tables in dictionaries with a grain of salt.

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There’s this on weblio, dunno if it helps at all.

While Weblio does have an entry for 死なれる, it’s probably only included in Genki because 死ぬ is the only verb that ends in ぬ, so that’s all they could use.

Now, please bear in mind is that this is a guess and I could be entirely wrong, but I suppose it could be used in the indirect passive construction, such as

息子に死なれた母親 (a mother whose son has died)


Funny you should ask that, I just learned 寡 (widow) and the dictionary definition was something like 夫に死なれた女性.

Since it’s in an actual dictionary, It’s probably valid :+1:

There, I found it:


This is true. ^^

There are two “passive” forms that are available in japanese that are not available in english. The first is the passive of an intransitive verb. The second is the so called “direct-object passive”. This is a passive form of a transitive verb, but the direct object remains the same (marked with を) as in the active counterpart.

Both these forms are refered to as the “indirect” or “suffering” passive.

Examples (from Hasegawa)

intransitive verb - indirect passive:

midori came to my house. (neutral desciption of fact)

I was adversely affected by midori coming to my house.

one thing to note is that in a regular transitive passive sentence you can omit the noun phrase for the agent. It is obligatory in the intransitive indirect passive.

transitive verb - indirect passive:
the manager made sarcastic remarks.

i was adversely affected by my manager making sarcastic remarks.

Note that unlike the intransitive-indirect passive, in the direct object passive it is not obligatory to have the (に-marked) agent.

midori was adversely affected by (someone) stealing her laptop at the airport.

There is some debate among linguists as to if the indirect passive always denotes suffering. There are examples that are fairly neutral but they occur in relative clauses. See Hasegawa (or any book on japanese linguistics) for more info.


OK, you lost me a little here. Is it obligatory to use the noun phrase or to omit it? Also, “noun phrase for the agent” refers to the person who I was affected by (in the following sentences, my manager)?

I think I understand, but this is probably the case where I’ll learn it better from hearing and reading such sentences rather that from trying to puzzle out the grammatical description in English. (So thank you for including examples!)

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Yes. In the suffering passive (made from an intransitive verb) you must include the agent (marked by に) that did the thing that adversely affects you. In a direct passive sentence it can be left out. It can also be left out in the “direct object” passive. (the last example…the person that stole the laptop is not explictly stated.)

There are (unfortunately) a lot more restrictions on agents in passive sentences. Most have to do with the very strong preference in japanese for having the subject of the sentence be a human (or other sentient being). In fact, one of the most common uses of the (regular, direct) passive is to rearrange the sentence so the が marked subject is the human.


a car hit bob.

bob was hit by a car.

In the references I have, they say that the second sentence would sound much more “natural”, even though they are both grammatically correct.
(the discussion in the text I have says that the purpose of the passive is to “defocus” the subject. So the first sentence would be an answer to the question “what hit bob?”, but if you were talking about your friend bob and wanted him to be the focus of your discussion, you would use the second sentence)

you are correct that the best way to get a feel for this is to just read a lot of sentences and see common constructions.

but it is worth noting that there are multiple things the passive (ending) can be:
regular passive construction (transitive verbs only)
suffering passive (transitive and intransitive verbs)
honorific speech


Yeah, this would be the suffering passive, which in English would be closest to something like “he died on me” where it expresses some adversity for the subject in Japanese.

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