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I've come across two different words for "to dry" in my readings: 干す【ほす】 and 乾く【かわく】. I've seen both used to refer to things drying out (e.g. 「白妙の衣干すちょう」 from the 2nd poem in the 百人一首 or 「涙は乾いた」 in the case of the latter). I've also seen the related 渇く【かわく】, but that seems to be limited to topics related to thirst (e.g. 渇いた喉).

Can anyone provide some insight into when each is appropriate?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

As user5185's answer says, 干す is usually used for things that are left out in the sun to dry, such as laundry or foods, as in 干し柿 or 干しいか. 乾かす is more of a general term that doesn't necessarily involve desiccation, and usually involves taking action to do the drying, e.g. drying one's hair, drying laundry in a drying machine, wiping tears from someone's face, etc. 乾燥する is along the same lines.

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As what above?? – hippietrail Apr 21 '14 at 8:30
Sorry, "below" now. – ndimhypervol Apr 24 '14 at 9:44
It's never a good policy to reference the position of another post - you should reference by the name of the poster. Posts can and do move and disappear for several reasons on all SE sites. – hippietrail Apr 24 '14 at 10:29
The name of the poster can change, too. I think the best way is to link to the post (via the share-button just below the post). Ordering by position is always a bad idea, because users can choose their own ordering by activity, time of posting or votes. – Earthliŋ Apr 24 '14 at 11:52
point noted. thanks for the edit. – ndimhypervol Apr 25 '14 at 11:58

干す and 乾かす are transitive and 乾く is intransitive. 乾かす is a general word for 'to dry' and 干す is to dry by hanging or in the sunshine.

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