Tips for learning transitive & intransitive verbs?

Hello! :slight_smile: I go to Japanese class at university, and our final test is next week. One of the important topics is transitive and intransitive verbs. I’m a language student, and I don’t have trouble with the actual concept - I understand how it works and how to use these verbs. But, I’m wondering what would be the best way to learn them? For now, I’ve been learning the verbs in pairs, but maybe someone has a better method or tips on how to memorize them?


I found Cure Dolly’s videos really helping. Don’t get put off by the terrible voice (cc subtitles are available).


I was and gave up. Oops.

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This article is all you need.

There are patterns at the end of the article that can be followed. People might say they’re not always :100: correct, but that’s not the point. The point is to have an idea of which patterns exist so that you can predict with 80 to 90% accuracy the transitivity of the verb. The others 10-20% (aka exceptions) can be easily memorized case by case :wink:


If you’re studying for a final, I’d recommend using Anki and have it quiz you for transitive/intransitive buddies. That would be the fastest route, and one that you’re guaranteed to remember at least so long as you do your reviews. An extra suggestion would be to have them show up in actual sentences – you can pull sentences out of Weblio; this is what it looks like when I searched for sentences for the phrase “つぶしになる”.

Long term: read, read, listen, read, listen, read some more. The more exposed you are to native material, the likelier you are to be able to intuit and soak them up.

I wouldn’t bother trying to figure out intransitive > transitive patterns, because there are too many patterns for anybody to be able to figure out what its corresponding buddy is without prior exposure.

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Is she trying to make us hate her voice on purpose … wow that was hard to listen to.

tl;dw of that Cure Dolly video (copy/pasted from a post I made earlier):

Verbs that end with ~ある sounds are almost always intransitive, just like ある is intransitive.

  • 上がる
  • 下がる
  • 分かる
  • 代わる
  • 止まる
  • 当たる
  • 回る
  • 決まる
  • 助かる
  • 終わる
  • 転がる

Verbs that end with ~す (or ~せる) are almost always transitive, just like する is transitive.

  • 出す
  • 正す
  • 写す
  • 申す
  • 足す
  • 直す
  • 回す
  • 思い出す
  • 見直す
  • 話す
  • 欠かす
  • 表す
  • 返す
  • 通す

These are all vocabulary words from the first 10 levels in WK. In those 10 levels, the only exceptions to these trends that I see are (coincidentally both in Level 10):

  • 語る (transitive)
  • 配る (transitive)

Most verb pairs include a word with an ~える sound, like 止める, 当てる, 終える, or 出る for example. These verbs just flip the transitivity of their partner verb.


Simply speaking, the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs in Japanese is whether or not the verb takes a “direct object” marked by を.
The two exceptions in the first 10 levels of WK shouldn’t be hard to remember, because without a direct object, those words would simply say, “I/he/she recited,” or “I/he/she distributed.”

Recited what? Distributed what? Those “what’s” take を, which is what designates 語る・配る as transitive:

[なにか] 語った・[なにか] 配った → “(I) recited [something]” “(I) distributed [something]”


Yeah I don’t understand why they use AI voice for this kind of video. Even hiring Lil’ Wayne to do the voiceover would be better.


Samuel L Jackson.

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Using Anki you could create really short sentence cards using only vocab you already know including that verb. ie: 私は食べ物を食べる I Eat food。it’s short enough that you can memorize the whole sentence.

(Yes, but 食べる doesn’t have an intransitive pair, sooo… :stuck_out_tongue: )

WHAT!? Ok.


Kristen also wrote an article on this for Tofugu:



I’d have used something Lil’ Wayne would say, but I didn’t want to get banned.


Thanks guys for all the help - I got the highest score in the test! :star_struck:


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