Transitive/Intransitive vs Self-move/Other-move verb

Does anybody else have problems with WaniKani using “transitive” and “intransitive” to describe verbs? Maybe it’s just me, but my first exposure to verbs in Japanese called them “self move/ある” or “other move/する” verbs. That all made sense until I started WaniKani and now I’ve lost track of which verbs are which, because no matter how many times I read the definitions of transitivity, it just doesn’t make sense the way that “self move” and “other move” did when I first started.


It’s just a linguists term for the same concept. Is it problematic for you to replace “transitive” with “other move” and “intransitive” with “self move” in your head or what do you mean by your post?
I’m not sure what you want to accomplish with this post? Maybe you can try to make it clearer so I can try to offer more targeted help.

BTW welcome to the forums :smiley: :wave:


No… I have no problem with WaniKani using existing linguistics terms and not using ones someone made up.


I could, but from what I understand, that isn’t totally accurate and I’m trying not to rely on learning Japanese concepts tailored for English-speakers, I want to understand Japanese in the way that Japanese people think in and understand the language. As for what I’m trying to accomplish with this post, I’m curious if other learners have experienced the same issue as I am. That’s why I asked the question at the very beginning is to find out if it’s a problem that only I’m having.

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Isn’t it akin to objecting to using any word that already had a definition related to English, like “verb” or “word”, etc, if those concepts are not defined the same way in Japanese?

If “self-move verb” makes sense to you, then that’s fine, but I don’t see why it should be an issue for WaniKani to use the existing terms as long as we all understand that they mean “with regard to usage in the Japanese language.”


The terms self-move verb and other-move verb are just literal translations of the kanji the Japanese words for intransitive and transitive are comprised of, as you will learn in a few levels.
Anyway, the defining aspect of transitive verbs in Japanese is actually the same as in English, they take an object via を.


Here we go again. This topic comes up regularly. At least now it’s in its own thread.

tl;dr “transitive” and “intransitive” are perfectly well understood linguistic terms that are used by linguists working in a lot of different languages and also by linguists specifically comparing languages.

Yes, when we get down to specifics, there are weird exceptions and edge cases that people don’t agree on. And yes, transitivity is expressed differently in different languages and doesn’t have the same importance as a grammatical category in every language. But still, it is well understood what these terms mean in the general sense.

In Japanese, the discussion is further complicated by the fact that there are transitive and intransitive verb pairs. There’s a systematic distinction in meaning between e.g. 閉める/閉まる or 開く/開ける that has to do with whether someone is acting on something or something is changing “by itself”. Maybe that’s why “self-move” and “other-move” sound enticing.

The problem is that most transitive and intransitive verbs are not part of such a pair, and for these verbs, this discussion just doesn’t apply in the same way necessarily.


The Japanese definitions for 自動詞 and 他動詞 in every dictionary I’ve seen are the same as the English definitions for intransitive and transitive. Both are defined in terms of accepting a direct object…

The only thing that’s “special” or “different” to English in Japanese is that you can leave parts of the sentence implicit so you don’t need to actually mention the object


自動詞 and 他動詞 :smiley: big 変換ミス ^^


Well that’s a big embarrassing…

Looks like I can’t English either today


I blame that on English :stuck_out_tongue:
But it’s true that some English glosses on WaniKani force the “be Xed” and “X something” too much, in which case user synonyms are the way to go :slight_smile:

From a more meta perspective I wonder if we should not add a list of “please don’t ask” topics to the WaniKani guide to avoid 100-post long discussions about how linguistics “should” work :sweat_smile:.

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But those are super interesting the first time they come up…

Also as if anyone’s actually going to read the user guide and not post :unamused:


Let’s just call them “vehicle verbs” and “non-simultaneous verbs” from now on.


I mean if self-move/other-move makes more sense in your head, you can do that, but I really recommend anyone studying language to learn linguistic terms. Transitive/intransitive is an extremely easy thing to grasp if you read on what it means


If English isn’t your first language and your mother language has ways of saying transitive/intransitive more closely aligned to “external/self movement,” similar to 他/自, I could see that being some concern. However, WaniKani is fundamentally a resource for English speakers to learn Japanese. If you don’t understand well-established linguistic concepts in English, especially if English is your native language, that really doesn’t have anything to do with WaniKani.

For anyone new to the forums, this place is usually much more friendly and welcoming.

It’s just that similar threads regarding transitivity come up so frequently that many of the regulars become irritable when it’s mentioned. :slight_smile:


Has it been a common topic? I remember a big one that happened a while ago, but I didn’t know more were here.

But yeah, my take in general is that if a grammar term makes you confused, do a small detour and check wikipedia or a textbook to learn what that term means. Easier than just going with the little explanation most stuff gives