Transitive Verb question

Hi I’m kind of new to these forums so I don’t know if this is the right place to ask this, but you guys seem nice so I’ll give it a shot. I’m aware that a transitive verb can have a subject and a direct object. But does it have to have a direct object explicitly stated in the sentence?

For example if I wanted to say I have eaten would “私は食べました” be grammatically correct (or if I was asked the question “have you eaten” would “はい、食べました” be a coherent answer). In both cases I still ate something, so there is still a direct object, I’m just not bothering to mention what it was.

The main reason I ask is that I can’t find an intransitive verb that means to eat, only transitive ones seem to exist.

I did have a look for previous answers before hand but if I’ve missed an obvious one please feel free to tell me to look harder.

No, it doesn’t need to have an explictly-stated direct object. 私は食べました is fine.

Maybe I’m failing to see how 食べる is acting differently from the English “to eat.”

Thanks for the help it makes sense now. I’ll be sure to try and pay it forward if I can.

I don’t think that it is now that @Belthazar has cleared up my confusion. It stemmed from the fact that I was under the impression that Japanese draws a bit more of a line between transitive and intransitive verbs (also my textbook was making a weird point out of always including the direct object when talking in past positive
ます form, but not doing so in past negative ます form). As such I thought that English may be weird in the way it treated transitive verbs.

Maybe you can explain how it’s different. “I ate” and “I ate a snack” are both fine in English, and 食べた and おやつを食べた are both fine in Japanese.

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I’m more then willing to believe that they act the same but that’s not always going to be the case. I just wanted to be safe and not internalise a mistake is all. I figured better safe then sorry. also that textbook thing was really throwing me off.

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At least you have an idea cause I had no idea what transitive and intransitive verbs were lol Why wasn’t I taught this in school?

Realize that many verbs can be both transitive and intransitive . An action verb with a direct object is transitive while an action verb with no direct object is intransitive . Some verbs, such as arrive, go, lie, sneeze, sit, and die, are always intransitive ; it is impossible for a direct object to follow.

Grammar Bytes! :: The Intransitive Verb

Think the important point to make here is that while what defines a transitive verb is the fact that it can take a direct object, that does not mean it must take a direct object.

I found this:

It says that many verbs have transitive/intransitive pairs, like

~を出す <-> ~が出る
~を教える <-> ~が教わる

For these verbs there is only one way. Some verbs like 食べる don’t have a partner and are therefore neither transitive nor intransitive, you can use them both ways (or rather “the を is not related to this”?).

There are also some exceptions for the “real” (in-)transitive verbs listed like 「太郎に教える。」, some occur because the Japanese wanted to mimic English grammar in the Meiji period (?!).

[Hmmm 子供たち教える is correct as well?]

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I think this is the key information I was looking for. I guess in a way though the verb still has a direct object it’s just you don’t have to take the time to talk about it? After all I’m still eating something. or maybe that’s just useless semantics.

I was aware of the pairs but to my knowledge there is no intransitive verb to be eaten. I guess in this case there’s probably some grammar point that allows you to conjugate a transitive verb into something that acts like an intransitive one (kind of like how “to eat” goes to “to be eaten”). I must admit though my Japanese knowledge is pretty limited and I haven’t studied English beyond being a native speaker so that’s really just me taking a potshot in the dark.

What I was trying to say is that 食べる doesn’t have a partner, so it is not transitive or intransitive, so your starting point is already flawed.

Hmm my understand is that transitive verbs require a direct object, you can’t just say 「止める。」 for example? You can omit some things of course, but it doesn’t mean they are not there.

I think I have seen that 人を教える construction before the former. All I gotta say it, keep an open mind when it comes to Japanese…and your native language lol

Kind of conflating grammar terms here. “to be eaten” is intransitive, yes, but mainly it’s passive. 食べられる is the passive form of 食べる. I don’t think that really has much to do with whether 食べる can be used intransitively.

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I may be misusing it but when a look at the jisho entry for 食べる it states that its a Transitive verb.

I must admit I’ve never come across the formal idea of a passive (though I can use them in English without understanding what I’m doing). I’m still pretty early on in my grammar studies, so I’m more then happy to take you at your word here. To be clear though, am I right in understanding that transitive verbs can be changed into a form that has properties similar to an intransitive verb but is a distinct concept?

Jisho is mostly, but not overwhelmingly correct :slight_smile: Your own example sentence uses 食べる in an intransitive way?

In general it would probably take a lot of effort the edit a dictionary to capture all nuances and usages of Japanese, and JMdict/Jisho is done by volunteers, so you get what you pay for.

Every time I feel like I’m getting the hang of transitive and intransitive verbs, something like this thread happens and throws my brain into chaos. Hahaha.

My basic understanding is this:

Transitive: X verbs Y. (I stop the car)
Intransitive: X verbs. (The car stops)

But, in English, you can still say “I stop.” And it’s a perfectly grammatical sentence, though you’d probably only see/hear that sort of sentence in a story. But there is an implied direct object at work “I stop (my own forward motion),” right? So the same thing with eating, I would think? You can say “I eat.” There has to be something making its way into your stomach, even if you don’t specify what it is, we understand the unspoken direct object is there, right?

I’m confused and rambling.

But yes, I guess passive verbs are a way to intransify verbs…? Never thought about that.

チーズを食べた。(Unknown subject) ate the cheese.

チーズが食べられた。Cheese was eaten (by unknown subject)

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That’s what I mean. You’re not required to explicitly state the direct object. One is implied, though.

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WK also lists 食べる as just an transitive verb. Not saying that the WK crew can’t make mistakes either, but there’s that.

For most things JMdict = Jisho = WK. Everything comes from the same source :slight_smile: The WK crew edits a few things, but I doubt they muck around finding out if verbs are transitive or not.

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this is the same as ‘The car stops’. But like you said, you’re overthinking it.

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