Pattern in Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Ok, so the background is I have been struggling to differentiate intransitive and transitive verb in vocabulary review for the same kanji. So I tried to analyze my leech verbs and found out that there is some kind of pattern to help me differentiate intransitive and transitive verbs.

Up until level 10, these are patterns that I found and helping me a lot to not make mistakes in vocab review for the verb.

Rule 1: Ru (self, intransitive) and Su (object, transitive)
回る: to revolve - turn by itself (self, intransitive)
回す: to turn something. (another object, transitive)

写る: To Be Photographed (self, intransitive)
写す: To Copy (another object, transitive)

返る To be returned / to return (self, intransitive)
返す To return something (transitive)

通る To Pass (self, intransitive)
通す To Let Pass (another object, transitive)

Rule 2: Ma (self/intransitive) and Me (object, transitive)
決まる To Be Decided (self, intransitive)
決める To Decide (transitive)

始まる To Begin (self, intransitive)
始める To Begin (transitive)

止まる: to stop (self, intransitive)
止める: to stop something (transitive)

Rule 3: Ku (self/intransitive) and Keru (object, transitive)
付く To Be Attached (intransitive)
付ける To Attach (transitive)

開く To open / To be opened (intransitive)
開ける To open something (transitive)

Rule 4: Any exception, need to manually remember for each
交じる To Be Mixed/to join (self, intransitive)
交ぜる To Mix (transitive)

助かる To Be Helped (self, intransitive)
助ける To Help (transitive)

化ける: to transform (self, intransitive)
化かす: to bewitch (transitive)


The question is: am I going to the right path? since I can’t found anything on the web regarding this pattern until now. If there are any good references, would love to know.

Really appreciate it if anyone can give any feedback on this.



This is a topic of discussion that comes up roughly weekly, so if you search for transitive, intransitive, etc. you should find a lot of other threads with good information.


Definitely on the right path, and well done for going through it all in such detail. Cure Dolly has a lesson on this with a little more background (… but fewer examples than your list!): Lesson 15: Transitivity- the 3 facts that make it easy. Transitive/intransitive verbs unlocked - YouTube


I like this Tofugu article:


I really like this article, they also list some statistics regarding the frequency of the different patterns:


@kernfel @NicoleIsEnough @Myria
Thanks for your kind feedback and reference. Definitely will check them out. :slight_smile:

and also as mentioned by @Leebo seems I searched the wrong keyword on the web. Previously I search something like “verb word pattern” or “transitive and intransitive pattern”. Seems “transitive vs intransitive” provides some good result.

#beginnermistake :expressionless:


You’re on the right track with the first two (except the actual rules are even broader). Unfortunately the third one isn’t a rule, as the opposite can happen as well. For example, 焼く is transitive and 焼ける is intransitive.


It’s still not too bad though since you only have to memorize one half of the pair.

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thanks @seanblue!
yes you are right, seems for the third one is falling under exceptions/others, like on one of the references I just found.


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