Wanikani PLEASE

I know that this word is intransitive but come on…


It’s been added to the block list, which supercedes anything in the user synonyms. They want to make absolutely sure you don’t come away with the wrong understanding of what the word means.


There’s a fundamental difference in what we perceive as traditional transitive/intransitive meanings and the japanese 自動詞 and 他動詞. It’s going to take a while to get used to it, but if you’re having trouble I’d read up on what’s going with the Japanese versions of what we think of as Transitive and Intransitive. I’m still getting a grasp on the concept, but this page helped a lot. Mastering Transitivity Pairs – Remembering Japanese transitive and intransitive verbs the easy way

Here’s an excerpt that’s still wriggling my brain:

Let’s go back to our last example to explain that:

従うshitagau – “obey, follow, accompany” → 従えるshitagaeru – “subdue, be accompanied by”

Shitagau is the “intransitive version” of the verb. The (J-E) dictionaries mark it as intransitive. The grammar books call it intransitive…

But wait! In English it would be mostly transitive, wouldn’t it? You obey someone, follow someone, accompany someone, don’t you?

But on the other hand shitagaeru is thought of as “more transitive” than shitagau because you are causing someone to shitagau. Surely this is closer to “causative” than “transitive”.

And there are a lot of so-called “transitivity pairs” like this, that actually have no real relation to the Western concept of grammatical transitivity.


Honestly, it’s kinda hard to compare with the transitivity of English verbs, because for the most part, we use the same verb for both forms. Raise/rise just so happens to be one of the ones that’s different.

And for the passive voice too, for that matter, so sometimes it’s even troublesome distinguishing an intransitive verb from a passive one.


I’m solidly in the camp that appreciates WK’s effort to enforce the correct transitive/intransitive form. I’m actually glad they won’t let you add “to raise” as a synonym for ()がる.

Sometimes the block list for an item does seem a little weird, though:

()わり (substitute) accepts “replacement” but won’t accept “substitution” even if added as a user synonym because it’s explicitly on the block list. This seems confusing to me since the canonical “substitute” can be a verb, but “substitution” is most definitely a noun (like ()わり).


A substitution though, is (primarily) the act of using a substitute to substitute for something, so it might be a noun but it’s a different noun.
The substitute isn’t the same thing as the substitution, is what I mean, and presumably that’s the distinction they wanted to drill down on - 代わり as the substitute, not the act of substitution.

Replacing a crab with an alligator in a pond isn’t a substitute, it’s a substitution, and the alligator isn’t a substitution for the crab, it’s a substitute.

The verb/noun distinction might be conveyed by not requiring "to " the way WK usually does… I wonder if “to substitute” is on the block list as well?

(though personally I think these distinctions get confusing and picky enough across such different languages that I generally prefer to just get through the SRS with the general idea and let time with the word in Japanese contexts inform the subtleties. After all, I bet there’s plenty of contexts like sports or cooking where saying “X is a substitution for Y” would make perfect sense, so if the difference doesn’t especially matter in English, I feel like it extra doesn’t when also talking about Japanese at the same time, but hey)


Forgive me, but I find that explanation a little hard to parse!

IANAL (I am not a linguist). Not by any stretch. These kinds of nuanced discussions make my head hurt.

I think you are saying that “substitution” is a noun for the action, while “substitute” is a noun for the thing getting substituted. But “substitute” is also a verb for the action!

I can accept that, but my brain thinks of “replacement” and “substitution” as very nearly identical concepts. If the SF Giants put in a pinch hitter, I’m as likely to think of him as “the substitution” as “the replacement” (though I’ll admit “the substitute” is probably more grammatically correct).

I don’t think WK accepts “to substitute” (definitely indicating a verb) by default, but I don’t know if it’s on the explicit block list. I definitely agree that “substitute” the verb is absolutely incorrect.

FWIW, I’d likely be happier if they forced you to answer “the substitute” or “a substitute” rather than just accepting the bare word “substitute.”

I still think that explicitly blocking “substitution” even if added as a user synonym feels wrong, regardless. I’ve no problem marking it incorrect by default, but after I expressly add it as a user synonym?!


That’s English for you.

Basically, to reword, if you substitute one player for another in a game of sportsball, what you did was a substitution, but the player now on the field is the substitute.


That’s a well worded explanation of the distinction, and I understand the difference.

My gripe remains purely with having “substitution” on the explicit block list, while “replacement” and “substitute” are both accepted by default. I was confused when my user synonym wasn’t accepted.

Well, “replacement” doesn’t have precisely the same usage. If I substitute (heh) the verb “replace” in my above sentence, it becomes:

If you replace one player for another in a game of sportsball, what you did was a replacement, and the player now on the field is the replacement.


I understand that “replacement” works differently.

WK demonstrably allows you to add other grammatically or even conceptually incorrect user synonyms. I’ve just got a minor gripe that this specific user synonym is explicitly forbidden for an extremely subtle grammatical concern. I’m pretty sure I could add “pineapple” as a user synonym successfully.

I realize that I’m logically inconsistent since I want WK to enforce transitive/intransitive distinctions, but I don’t want WK to enforce every possible grammatical distinction with my user synonyms. The subtle grammatical enforcement on this particular item bugs me.

It appears that my using “substitution” when I mean “substitute” (the noun) literally makes people’s heads explode. :wink:

[Hat tip to Weird Al Yankovic: “Whenever I hear somebody use the word ‘literally’ incorrectly, it literally makes my brain explode.”]


If it wasn’t clear by the way, I 100% agree with you that it’s a nitpicky English distinction and “substitution” gets used in the other noun sense enough that blacklisting is probably a bit far… though I also tend to think that about the transitive/intrasitive cases too :wink:


WK is no where near consistent enough in enforcing transitivity with allowing “something/someone” after other-move verbs and vice versa so it’s all just an smh to me, my biggest WK gripe is lack of support for advanced learners because of not wanting to confuse beginners.


I understand where you are coming from. 自動詞(じどうし) and 他動詞(たどうし) are Japanese grammar concepts, while English translations can be affected by your own creole and shouldn’t be as strict.


I understand the frustration, but I also want WK to run a healthy business (and stay in business). There will always and inevitably be many more beginners than advanced learners. It makes good business sense to cater to that end of the business.

For what it’s worth, I think they do a reasonable job of trying to satisfy both whenever possible, but when push comes to shove it makes more sense to cater to beginners (especially at just nine bucks a month).

[Full disclosure: I may be biased. I’ve been responsible for product management at a few startups. There is rarely any easy way to satisfy both beginning and advanced customers.]

I’d also like to see better consistency at enforcing transivity, but they appear to be making continual improvements. I especially appreciate their spacing out transivity pairs — that should help with the need for enforcement.

Awesome word choice! Completely agree.

Glad you clarified that.


Yeah, this is a problem that could be sorted out by one person going through all the verb vocabs and adding “something/someone” to the transitive ones. It would probably take a whole work day for one person (shorter if done by multiple people), but then the problem would be fixed.

Somebody even helped them by listing these verbs:

Instead, what they do is wait for someone to report it and only then change it, which means that there will be hundreds of complaints before all the transitive verbs get “something/someone” and it will take months or years.


I never once cared about transitivity and intransitivity in English because I never really had a reason. I learned the reason why rise / raise work the way they do, but I got lazy… Japanese shook me up. It is important to understand the difference.
For instance, you might wonder why it is said に基づいて and not を基づい (this is a grammar point). It is because it is intransitive. In English we use the passive voice, I guess, but I tend to treat verbs transitive (thank you, English :japanese_goblin::japanese_goblin:)

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To be honest, not so long ago I was also very irked by the whole transitive/intransitive shenanigans, but eventually just gave up. For some intransitive verbs it’s hard to come up with an English equivalent that wouldn’t sound like passive voice.

The thing that can be done on the WaniKani side is to make the explanations extra clear so people don’t get confused, because sometimes those explanations are somewhat misleading.