What does 供える act on

So I recently got to learning the verb 供える - To Make An Offering, To Offer
It’s transitive, so my understanding is this means that it acts on something, but I’m not completely clear on what it is that it’s acting on, and the example sentence doesn’t necessarily help:

Can you buy some flowers to place on the graves tomorrow on your way home?

What I mean is that normally with transitive verbs you can write them as “direct object を verb”. I get that sometimes the object can be inferred, and so can be dropped, but my question here is in relation to making an offering, what is being acted on e.g. Is it the thing being offered? Is it the thing receiving the offering? Is it the thing doing the offering?

Another way to word my question might be if I wanted to translate “I will offer a flower to god” which of the following sentences (of which I’m sure none are particularly well written) is closest?:
Google translating them to English implies it’s the second one, which is what I’d been assuming, but I think the lack of the accepted answer “To offer something” and the way there wasn’t an example sentence using it like “direct object を供える”, it felt worth making sure there isn’t something special about 供える that I might be missing. Also, even if the second sentence is “the most correct” it would be useful to know if, for example, it is unnatural to ever say XXXを供える.

Bonus question: The way the example sentence uses 供える is interesting to me, but I’m not sure what to google to look into the grammar of it further. Like, it makes sense and feels natural to me - I was able to understand 供える花 meant something like flowers for offering, but I was hoping to know more specifics abouts what circumstances you can use verbs like this and what rules there are for it if anyone knows a term I can google or has an article that goes into it.

Thanks in advance! :heart:


I think this is a case of a sentence modifying a noun.
here is “offering-flower”, so
is "can you buy some “to be put on a grave flowers” tomorrow on your way home?

This is a good place to check for examples:

according to this, the second sentence wins, but if you think about it, に always denotes the target and を always denotes the object, so who you offer to is に, because that’s your target and what you offer isを because that’s your object.


This looks like a case of your kanji level surpassing your grammar knowledge.
The flowers are the direct object and it works exactly as you initially suspected.
WK is giving more complex example sentences apparently at this level but this is fundamental grammar.

Since Japanese doesn’t have prepositions, you can tack the verb – or a complete sentence even – on any noun to perform the same function.

私は寿司を食べました。→ I ate sushi.
食べた寿司が美味しかったです。→ The sushi that I ate was delicious.

貸してくれた本を読み終わりました。→ I finished reading the book that (you) loaned me.

There’s some more detail about this grammar here.

My grammar is still very weak, but in your first sentence I would say the grave is the object being acted. The flowers are an offering to the grave.

With your test sentences, things get a bit trickier. Your first and third sentences attach the object marker を to ‘yourself’ and ‘god’ respectively, which is an odd sentence construction in English but could be valid in Japanese. Because Japanese uses particles to mark the different grammar portions, order is not as important in Japanese except for the verb placement.

My rough stab at each sentence implication:
神に花が私を供える - The flower for god is offered by me.
私は神に花を供える - As for me, I offer a flower to god.
私は花が神を供える - As for me, the flower offer is to god.

Depends what you mean by “acted”, but if we unpack the relative clause 明日お墓に供える花 then it’s 明日お墓に花を(私が)供える, so the flowers are the direct object of the verb 供える.

供える is transitive so the grammatical subject is mostly a person (with will). In those sentences it sounds to me like the flowers themselves are doing the 供える!

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Why not? I could be way off base, but in sentence 1&3 the flowers have the subject maker. It seems like Japanese is more prone to giving things their own animus, so sentence 1&3 might be perfectly cromulent in Japanese.

With sentence 2, a lack of subject marker usually implies the speaker takes the role of subject, and in that sentence flowers are taking the object marker, which is why I translated it that way.

Not for transitive verbs. Transitive verbs in Japanese are strongly human-centric, much more than in English.

Common English sentences like “This book will teach you Spanish” sounds unnatural if translated directly in Japanese (like その本はスペイン語を教える) because a 本 can’t 教える anybody, a book has no will! You can find more example of unnatural sentences if the subject of an transitive verb is an inanimate object on this wikipedia page 無生物主語構文

So 神に花が私を供える is quite disturbing. The Flowers sacrifice me to the Gods. :scream:


I think you guys are doing a lot of overthinking for basic grammar, lol.


✕ 神に花が私を供える - The flower offers me to god (???)
〇 私は神に花を供える - I offer the flower to god
✕ 私は花が神を供える - As for me, the flower offers god (to an unknown entity)

Unless you are writing some sort of wild surrealist fantasy where flowers are animate entities and you (or god) became stuck in some sort of small object the flower can handle at their whim, both sentences will get a “I have absolute no idea what you wanna say” reaction from a Japanese person.


The original sentence just made the verb into an adjective clause as per standard Japanese grammar. There really is nothing else here.

お墓に花を供える → お墓に供える花


Thanks all for the replies.
As a lot of you mentioned I was just overthinking it, but always good to be sure, and Kanshudo seems like a really useful tool, so thanks for that @Gorbit99! :blush:
Also, cheers for the Tae Kim link @mdchachi