Transitive versus intransitive

…they are driving me absolutely crazy. For me, a transitive verb requires an object. So the transitive form of “release” is “to release something.” The verb “release” requires an object–“something”–and the correct answer should reflect that there is a required object. But the correct answer–I think–for the transitive form of the verb “release” is “to be released.” Ditto for “to raise” and “to be raised.” The transitive form of “raise” is “to raise something.” I despair that I will ever pass these vocabulary words. I cannot keep straight mingling and to be mixed and being mixed…the difference is that you mix SOMETHING, versus being mixed yourself. I feel like I answer the word in my head, and then try to convert it into what the correct answer is here, but not what I think it is…and sometimes I get to Guru, but mostly I fall backward.


The only item with “to be released” as a meaning is 放れる, which is intransitive.

I do agree that there’s some inconsistency on WK’s part, particularly with sometimes having “something” in transitive meanings, and sometimes not, but synonyms can take care of the ones you have issues with most of the time.


I get confused with all the が、を、は
Particles and how to use them with transitive and intransitive

I have screwed this up too many times and am sort of glad the WK split up the transitive and intransitive verbs onto different levels.

Maybe more a problem with English in this case ? to raise / to rise is one of the very few transitive/intransitive pair in English. Luckily the Japanese and English maps directly to each other here, so no need for crutch to help learners like “to be verb-ed” for the intransitive or “to verb something” for the transitive because it’s already built-in in rise/raise. (Like you don’t really need to say “to raise something” because it’s impossible to not raise something)


The number of times I have messed up 下がる because I thought it meant “to be lowered” instead of to fall.


Hearing 白線の内側までお下がりください at the station all the time makes me think of “to move back” or “to step back” when I see 下がる before I think of “to fall” now.


Well that’s more a problem with English here. WK try as much as possible to use the “to be verb-ed” for intransitive, but the English meaning of “to be lowered” doesn’t seem right for 下がる, I think it imply too much that someone does the lowering maybe, or “to get lower” is just more natural ?

Also in some case like 始まる, they can’t use “To be began” it sounds way too weird.


I wish there was a better way than “to be ____ed” for intransitive (not sure there is) since that makes the English translation sound like the passive form, which is a different thing again.

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Here’s some copy/paste from a comment I made a while ago. I used to worry about Japanese’s transitivity being too hard to master, but ever since discovering these few patterns, it’s become very easy for me:

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.

Also, the two “exceptions” don’t even have partner verbs (as in, there is no intransitive version of those words, unless you choose to count their passive forms).


To make transitivity more obvious on WK, I sometimes add synonyms like “to [verb] something” or “to be [verb]ed,” along with WaniKani Fast Abridged Wrong/Multiple Answer, a userscript that can immediately display all possible answers as soon as you hit Enter (making it easier to see possible nuances for each word as you do your reviews).


In the announcement about spacing out transitive/intransitive verb, the staff said it’s a part of a larger project to improve transitivity/intransitivity handling by WK. I wonder what they are planning, it seems genuinely difficult to me with no obvious best way…

I was going to whine about the issue of the passive tense…then decided I had whined enough. But it actually makes me feel better to know that the passive voice bothers someone else too! Thank you for posting. I mean…I am still learning more than i did when I made flash cards and tried to cram and I do love wanikani…but I am get frustrated by some of the verb tenses and today I had to just…post on the community board.


The passive voice being used in glosses isn’t specific to WK, it’s something you’ll see for certain intransitive verbs in E-J dictionaries generally. It’s more of an issue with the transitivity between languages not matching up well than anything else.


I agree, there is a bit of inconsistency with WK’s definition for intransitive and transitive. It’s a really valuable distinction to make in Japanese, and WK could do a little better to make sure that transitive verbs are “to ~~~ something”

This is how I manage to remember them, I did notice the pattern too and it’s been very helpful.

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I have the same problems with all the ones you mentioned, I just give up and get them wrong over and over and over again. Or I have half of them cleared for a while and then boom, they come back and I panic…

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This pattern is framed here by Cure Dolly: Mastering Transitivity Pairs – Remembering Japanese transitive and intransitive verbs the easy way. You’ve pretty much got it all there exactly though.


Thank you, I’m glad I finished reading the thread before jumping in. Cure Dolly definitely brings the truth!

I think it’s worth noting that there’s a similar pattern in French with reflexive verb forms (e.g. se lever versus lever are like 上がる versus 上げる).

We even have this up to a point in English, e.g. “sit yourself down”, although those are mostly out of common usage now.

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Kai, I suppose you wouldn’t put the English translations next to those would you? I am shamefully confused.

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I tackle it kind of like this:
下がる - to go down (that captures “to fall” and “to go lower”)
下げる - to lower (implicitly requires an object, because you always “lower something”)
上がる - to go up
上げる - to raise
育てる - to bring up (implicitly requires an object and the phrasal form refers to nurturing someone)
育つ - to grow up (not “to be raised”, even though 育つ does seem to imply that someone is applying that “raising”)
交ぜる - to mix (implicitly requires an object)
交じる - I kept it as “to be mixed”, but the context-specific “to mingle” more accurately expresses what it means
回る - to revolve
回す - to rotate (implicitly requires an object)
放す - to release
放る - to get free
変わる - to change
変える - to change “something”
代わる - to substitute for
代える - to replace (implicitly requires an object)

Whenever WK tries to abuse passive voice, I add synonyms to avoid confusion :slight_smile: . Unfortunately, English is mostly at fault here :frowning: .


Interesting! Polish seems to have a similar pattern with “sie” which implies that the subject applied the action to itself.