What's the difference between 代える and 代わる?

代える and 代わる - WaniKani translates them both as “to replace”. Is there a difference? I think there must be, because otherwise why include both when the reading of the kanji is the same? Please, someone, help me feel a little less dumb :smiley:

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代える is transitive, meaning it takes a direct object.
代わる is intransitive, so it doesn’t.

Are those terms you’re familiar with?


Uhh, I’ve heard those terms before and just googled them now, read the explanation but in all truth - I have no idea what do they actually mean. I’ve read the example sentences for both of the words and they still appear exactly the same to me :tired_face:
Would you be so kind as to explain it to me? And a clear example would be really helpful to spot the difference :pray:


Let’s look at one of the sentences and then change it to use the other verb and see if that helps.

We’ll imagine a baseball game with 3 roles discussed. A coach, pitcher A, and pitcher B.

The coach replaces the pitcher.

The coach didn’t start pitching, he put a different pitcher in.

I replace the pitcher.

I started pitching in the previous pitcher’s place.

In the first sentence, the subject is a third party who replaces A with B. That’s the transitive verb.

In the second sentence, B is the subject taking the role of A. That’s the intransitive verb.

You don’t actually have to mention both A and B directly, but their roles exist.

Sorry if you’re unfamiliar with baseball, but I don’t think it matters too much.



a very useful thread on the topic, check out the top response


Thank you guys!

I think I’ve read through the explanation at least ten times, checked out the reddit thread as well and I think I kinda get it now?

So, just to make sure that’s how I understand it:

代える - to replace (A with B) - the subject is doing the replacing. TRANSITIVE

代わる - to substitute for (something/someone) - the subject is taking place of something/someone, therefore replacing it.

Idk why this is so hard to wrap my head around.上げる and 上がる as well as 下げる and下がる were much easier to understand. Or maybe I’m just dumb :sob: :joy:

There’s an app called TaJi that will drill you on japanese transitive and intransitive verbs - I’ve found it really helpful after 18 months of consistently getting them on WK…


an app for which OS? thanks.

found a reference to it here - it is an Android app.

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