To raise or not to raise...that is the question

Hey all! I just had 上げる (ageru) :arrow_up: pop up in review and got it wrong. I recognized it was a verb (る), and the kanji, but messed up on the difference between が (intransitive) and げ (transitive). Once I’m reminded I do alright, well enough not have seen it for a while, but I don’t have a solid image in my brain. Any ideas to help remember this long term?

I just came up with, “I get (げ) something…” to try and remember that げ is transitive and needs an object. Like, I have to get something to raise it. I imagine people further along just know. I’m curious on how others remember it! Thanks a lot :slight_smile: :cherry_blossom:


This one is super easy. Transitivity pairs have a handful of patterns, but two of them follow hard rules. :slight_smile:

  1. If one verb in the pair rhymes with ある and the other rhymes with える, then the ある verb is intransitive and the える verb is transitive.
  2. If one verb in the pair rhymes with える and the other ends in す, then the える verb is intransitive and the す verb is transitive.

This comes from stuff about す coming from する and the verbs rhyming with ある coming from ある originally or something like that, but I don’t know if that’s fact or just scholarly speculation. Here’s an article about this as well:


I initially had the same issue.

I broke through with it with these mental images:

上げる has the “げ”, I basically imagine it as two lines or arrows pointing upwards, like a blurr that is caused because I raised my hands so fast. I’m doing the raising of my hands so it’s “to raise” since I’m the active person here.

上がる has the “が” and that reads as “ga”. Imagine if you are suddenly raised up really fast, so you scream “gaaaaaah!”. You’re the passive object here being manipulated, which is why you’re that surprised.

I know that it might not completely go with the actual rules of transitivity of verbs or whatever, but it helped me easily differentiate between the two in the beginning. Though I also looked up the whole transitive vs. intransitive thing to get a better general understanding of it.

Making your own mnemonics can often help.

1 Like

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and あげるs of outrageous fortune,
Or to take up arms against a sea of transitives
And by opposing, end them. To raise, to rise,
No more; and by a rise to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That Japanese learners are heir to: tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To raise, to rise;
To rise, perchance to be risen–ay there’s the rub.


Hmmm…I think I follow though I can’t say it’s on lock. Could you give an example of pairs/rhyming? I may be a little dense :sweat_smile: I’ll definitely check out that resource too, thank you!! I’m just about to start Genki 1…once university CALMS DOWN!! Haha, other than これはペンてす (and the Frankenstein knowledge I’ve gained from travel) my mind is an untouched 田 LOL


あげる rhymes with える and あがる rhymes with ある so this follows rule 1.
かえる and かえす, meanwhile, follow rule 2.


Pair is a reference to the two verbs you asked about. They are a transitive / intransitive pair.

The bit about rhyming means that the kana before る belongs to the あ or え column (あかさたな, etc or えけせてね, etc)


Love those images! I usually adopt WK’s (or my own) just fine, but for some reason these mess me up. I agree about understanding it’s not going to cover rules…but having something to imagine is really helpful! I’m definitely ‘in the beginning’ haha

I’m crying - you went with it :joy:


Warning: This is stupid.

The way I remembered it is that が is basically か which is basically 力, so if it has が then, by its own power and nothing else’s influence, it rises! Look at it go! So powerful and self-sufficient! 力すげっ!

That said, that was probably a year ago when I was at that level. Over time you stop needing the mnemonic and you just start remembering. I’m gonna go read that Tofugu transitivity pairs article now :sunglasses:


I love stupid.


I see! 下 and 上 have been my first foray into verbs - I’m excited to grow my vocabulary! I’m sure with more encounters I’ll start to recognize and commit this stuff to memory.

1 Like

That’s a good way to think about it (in columns); thanks for your input!!

Sorry I didn’t make those parts clearer in my first post, but I’m glad the others clarified for you!

1 Like

It’s no problem!! Tbh I’m so impressed by people here. Y’all are so responsive and generous. Your input is really helpful to me! :blush:

1 Like

No problem.

The Japanese terms are ぎょう (row) and だん (column) on the hiragana chart.

The あ行 is あいうえお
The あ段 is what I mentioned before.


This is true, but a bit restrictive, the two actual hard rules are slightly more general and also easier to remember as well, I think :

  • If one verb in the pair ‘rhymes’ (in the sense Leebo explained) with ある, then it’s intransitive and the other verb is transitive.
  • If one verb in the pair ends in す, then it’s transitive and the other verb is intransitive.

A few example (left intransitive, right transitive)
rule 1 : つながる / つなぐ, くるまる / くるむ, ふさがる / ふさぐ
rule 2 : うごく /う ごかす, おりる / おろす, おちる / おとす, おきる / おこす, なおる / なおす


That’s true, and while you didn’t say otherwise, I want to emphasize that this only holds (for ~ある at least) if there’s a pair. For example, the following all rhyme with ある but are all transitive. This doesn’t break the rule, because they don’t have pairs.

  • 刈る(かる)
  • 計る(はかる)
  • 叱る(しかる)
  • 断る(ことわる)

Thanks for linking that article, it has helped a lot.


I was thinking of making a small (小さい) reference chart for my study board (学習 - gakushuu/study?). I can use my new words 行 and 段 to label the sections, thank you! :blush:

Curious, how did you write the furigana above the kanji?