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The textbook I'm studying from lists [上]{あ}がる as "to go up", but I've previously learnt that [上]{のぼ}る also means "to go up".

Jisho.org only lists "to go up" and any derivations of that as a single definition out of its 23 definitions for 上がる. I'm currently only wondering about when it means "to go up", but explaining the other definitions would be good too.

Also, what are the differences between 上がる and the other kanji, 挙がる and 揚がる? From my Chinese background, the other two seems to mean about the same, "to raise up something", but I want to confirm this for Japanese too. Jisho.org doesn't help much here either since it lists the same 23 definitions for all three, and doesn't provide any examples for the latter two.

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

のぼる means "to climb" and あがる means "to rise".

I find it an interesting observation that both are used when describing a weather event:

太陽が[昇]{のぼ}る
The sun rises.

雨が上がる
The rain stops.

As Jesse Good explains in his answer, のぼる and あがる are different in that the former means that something/someone is climbing by his own strength, whereas the latter means that something simply rises with no own input.

The above examples are interesting in the sense that お日様/太陽 is often assigned a personality in Japanese and therefore can climb out of its own accord. The rain is usually not personified and thus just "rises", as a natural phenomenon.

Here のぼる was written 昇る, which is usually only used for the "climbing" sun. Other 漢字 are 登る for "hiking" and 上る for climbing stairs or "climbing" numbers (e.g. 2倍に上る "to double").

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2  
The clouds go away という意味なら「雲が晴れる」の方がいいです。(「雲が上がる」は積乱雲が上昇する感じです。)代わりに「雨が上がる」はどうでしょう。「雨が[止]{や}む」という意味‌​です。 –  Chocolate Jun 12 '13 at 15:02
    
@Chocolate えっと、そうですね。雲じゃなくて、雨だったんですよね。エディットしました。 –  Earthliŋ Jun 12 '13 at 15:04
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From here:

両者は、どちらも何かが低いところから高いところへ動くという意味では共通していますが、いくつかの違いがあります。

 たとえば、「空に太陽がのぼる」とは言えても「空に太陽があがる」とは言えません。また「空に花火があがる」とは言えますが、「空に花火がのぼる」とは言えません。

 ここでの違いは、「花火」は誰かが「あげた」結果、空に「あがった」のに対し、「太陽がのぼる」のはそうした人為的なものではなく自然現象であるという点にあります。つまりこれらの場合は、「あげる」という作用が働いた結果として高いところへ動くのが「あがる」であるのに対し、おのずから動いているのが「のぼる」であるという違いがあります。

 ただし、「あがる」が「おのずから動く」という解釈になる場合も存在します。たとえば「階段をあがる」は、だれかが「あげた」結果「あがる」わけではありません。このように他動詞的に用いられる場合は「あがる」も自ら動作する解釈となります。この場合は「階段をあがる」でも「階段をのぼる」でも意味の差は少なくなります。

 ただし、「あがる」は位置変化全般を指し示し得るのに対し、「のぼる」は「山を頂上へのぼっていく」とは言えても「海中を浅瀬へのぼっていく」では不自然となるように、使われる場面が限られてきます。

Translation:

Both of them shared the meaning of moving from a low area to a high area. However, there are several differences between them.

For example, even though you can say 空に太陽がのぼる, you cannot say 空に太陽があがる. Also, you can say 空に花火があがる, but not 空に花火がのぼる.

The difference is that 花火 is the result of somebody shooting them up, while 太陽がのぼる is not something caused by humans, but a natural phenomenon. In other words, the result of somebody あげるing something and having it go to a higher place is あがる, while something that goes to a higher place by itself is のぼる.

However, あがる also sometimes can be interpreted to mean something going to a higher place by itself. For example, in 階段をあがる, the result is not due to somebody lifting someone else up, etc. In these cases when あがる is uses as a transitive verb, it can mean that the movement is done by itself (autonomously) . In these situations, 階段をあがる and 階段をのぼる have very little difference in meaning.

However, even though あがる can be used to indicated any type of change in position, while you can say 山を頂上へのぼっていく, you cannot say 海中を浅瀬へのぼっていくas it is unnatural, so the cases when you can use it are limited.

※I may have made mistakes, please feel free to edit.

Differences between 上がる, 揚がる and 挙がる.

上がる has many meanings and is the most commonly used. It generally means: 1) To go up. 2) Something comes to an end.

Examples:

1) 立ち上がる、気温が上がる、花火が上がる

2) バッテリーが上がる, 雨が上がる

揚がる has more specific meaning: 1) Something flying into the air. 2) Moving from water or air to land. 3) Cooking Tempura and other fried foods just the right amount.

Examples:

1) たこ揚げ, 花火が揚がる ※ Notice how 花火が上がる and 花火が揚がる are both okay.

2) 漁港にブリが揚がった、国旗が揚がった

3) てんぷらが揚がる

挙がる means: 1) Become clear or stand out, 2) Take action so that something stands out. *: Notice the "fist" in the character and it will make more sense.

Examples:

1) 証拠が挙がる, 犯人が挙がる、名が挙がる

2) 手を挙げて意見を言う (Ill try to find one with 挙がる later)

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I feel like this is one difference that may better be explained by a picture.

enter image description here

This is a scan from one of my books. As you can see, のぼる focuses more on the movement (移動) of going up, while あがる focuses more on the arrival (到達) at the top. Of course this is a little bit oversimplified, but hopefully it will help you distinguish a good number of cases.

Now throw in multiple kanji for each (あがる → 上がる・挙がる・揚がる, のぼる → 上る・登る・昇る) with slightly different meanings and different particles, and you've got yourself one hell of a nuance party!!

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