Wanikani PLEASE

This is (has become) a pet hate of mine, because every time the dictionary form of a verb appears in a sentence there’s a momentary pause while I remind myself that, for example, 食べる means “eat”, not “to eat” as just about every 和英 resource says.


I’m getting a little worried that someone’s gripe about WK missing a few enforcements is morphing into a gripe about attempting to enforce the rules at all.

I’m very strongly in favor of WK enforcing transitive rules because their enforcements work for me.

Like, I suspect, gendered forms in romance languages, transitive forms require rote memorization rather than “rules”. The WK SRS helps me instantly recall which is which. They are noticeably easier to learn now that they are spaced out over multiple lessons, too.

Getting Japanese transitive forms wrong is like non-native English speakers getting indefinite articles wrong (“the” vs. “a”) or, perhaps a better example, dropping prepositions altogether:

“Please explain me speak proper the English”

Any native speaker will instantly recognize a non-native speaker if they used that construction, even though they will almost certainly understand the request (after a beat). All the carefully practiced intonation and SRS-crammed vocabulary in the world wouldn’t help.

[As an aside, imagine trying to explain why “Please explain how to speak proper English” is better phrasing. Most of us would resort to arm-flapping and head-scratching.]

I’m perfectly happy with rote memorization and enforcement of “to ◯ something” vs. “to ◯” / “to be ◯ing” / “to be ◯ed”. That’s the clearest way to make the distinction in English that I’ve heard. And again: it works.

If your only goal is only to roughly understand written or even spoken Japanese, and you’ve little interest in ever speaking or writing proper Japanese (or you don’t mind sounding like fingernails on a chalkboard) then practicing these distinctions isn’t important. Personally, though, I’m glad WK enforces these rules, they’ve noticeably helped me correct several bad habits (mistakes).

Old-guy tangent:

I am just barely old enough to remember cars that didn’t come with seatbelts from the factory. My dad told me that many people even cut them out with a knife if they bought a car that did have them! I was just a small child at the time, so I had a “booster seat” to see better (and be better positioned to fly through the windshield in the event of a crash).

I’d already had my driver’s license for several years when seat belt laws started being enforced. Like many, I was against them at first: I knew wearing one was safer, but enforcing the wearing via laws seemed an egregious overstep. Now, of course, I recognize that the laws worked: I and everyone I know puts on a seatbelt without conscious thought as soon as they enter a car, and we’re all safer for it.

So practice your transitive pairs. Eat your vegetables. Floss your teeth. Trust me, it’s good for you. Get off my lawn.

There are still improvements I’d like to see, however. One recent example:

()らす • transitive (to dangle something)

()れる • intransitive (to dangle or to be dangling)

This is one of those exceptions to the “rule” (which isn’t a rule at all) that ける・せる・てる etc. usually indicates transitive verbs. I’ve had a bad habit for years of incorrectly following this “rule”. WK is helping to break me of the habit.

Unfortunately, both items accept “to dangle” (because it can be either transitive or intransitive in English).

I think I’d prefer it if ()らす forced you to type “to dangle something,” or at least warned you after entering the shorter version that only the transitive “to dangle something” meaning is correct.

Further, ()れる won’t accept “to be dangling,” or “to be dangled,” I must enter “to dangle” which makes me sad. The goal is to help you remember the meaning and transitive/intransitive form, not to memorize the “most correct” English translation.

Accepting “to dangle” for either word doesn’t help me learn the distinction. I wish WK enforced “to dangle something” for ()らす and “to be dangling” for ()れる as the only correct answers, whether or not the latter is absolutely grammatically correct.


Thanks for that link! I’d not seen that before. I tend not to spend much time on that site. The, uh, “uncanny Dolly” effect is just too much for me to overcome.

To me, rote memorization works better in practice than attempting to apply the “rules” explained at that site, though. That page contains several rather dense paragraphs, for example, that explain additional rules (corollaries?) for the “20%” of words that don’t follow the general rule and can “flip either way.”

The nice thing about just rote memorizing that ()れる means “to be dangling/drooping/dripping/sagging” is that it’s instantaneous. I don’t have to go through the mental gymnastics of thinking,

Uhh, lessee, the other version is 垂らす so this is an eru→asu pair, or rule one subtype a. That means 垂らす is 他動詞 so 垂れる is 自動詞 or intransitive and doesn’t act on anything. So 垂れる means “to be dangling/drooping/dripping/sagging”.

I just know it. Instantly.

And it even helps in the other direction, too, with production: going from concept to Japanese vs. the other way around. I’ve been pleasantly surprised recently how at much easier it’s been to recall the correct transitive/intransitive verb even when speaking.

[To be clear, I do think it’s valuable to read and understand the rules explained on that excellent site. I just think that rote memorization is more useful in practice.]


I think the best way would be something like “to X something” versus “something X’es”, but then that doesn’t fit with the “to X” for verbs that WK uses.

1 Like

Yeah, that also works. As others have pointed out (probably quite often) there’s likely no one answer, it pretty much has to be case-by-case. I’d definitely not want to give up the simple “to X” answer for verbs in general (some things are already enough of a typing test).

Life’s easy when English cooperates and also uses different words (“raise”, “rise”).

It’s not too bad with pairs like ()す・()さる (to stab / to be pierced).

But words like ()れる are hardest of all because the English word “dangle” functions either way.

“To stab” is obviously 他動詞 whether or not you add the “… something”. But (to me) “to dangle” would usually imply the intransitive/自動紙 sense, and you kind of have to write “to dangle something” if you expressly intend the transitive form. But since “to dangle” can mean either “to dangle something” or “to dangle [like the end of a rope]” it’s hard to disambiguate.

I don’t think there is a single mechanical rule that can be applied to every pair. I don’t really care what English wording is enforced to distinguish the two forms, I just object to both 垂れる and 垂らす accepting the exact same answer “to dangle” verbatim.


I can understand wanting Wanikani to be more lenient with verbs where the transitivity distinction is not present in English, but in the case of raise/rise, I think it’s fair for Wanikani to expect the correct English word because it is not ambiguous in this case.


I’ve started to add that structure: “something X’es” to my user synonyms as a way to help keep them straight. Examples that come to mind without searching would be “something mixes” or “something begins.”


One thing I noticed in German class was that I was learning more about English grammar than I was in English class. Learning a new language is a great way to elevate your understanding of your native language because it requires more precision than you’re used to from daily life as a native speaker. The “raise/rise” distinction is a prime example.

1 Like

I haven’t diagrammed a sentence (in english) in decades - studying vocab and structure in Japanese is indeed refreshing all of it.

1 Like

I got to level 30 recently and I have to say the quality of the mnemonics and explanations somehow got better, including the explanation for WaniKani / Vocabulary / 離れる

I think the “られ rule” is a bit flimsy, just like assuming all words ending with a う sound are verbs, but it kind of works for the most part. However, for words like 離れる it would be sometimes better to use a very clear intransitive counterpart in English to avoid any possible confusion, especially that in Japanese 離れる often means “to be apart”.

Okay, I take back the う sound for verbs part. It’s confusing and there is plenty of auxiliary phrases like 多く and 近く which are not verbs, but end with a う sound.


recently I got pissed with some vocab because it doesnt follow the structure to memorize the mnemonics for them

to solve and to be solved I can’t never remember when it is a “you care about it” and you “dont care about it”

same as to publish ()せるand 載る I always confuse them.