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This question is in my JLPT practise book:

このチームの試合{しあい}の切符{きっぷ}はなかなか手{て}に____ない。

A 取{と}れ B 入{はい}れ C 入{はい}ら D 持{も}て

My translation is, "I can't easily get the tickets to this team's games".

Well, that's sort of my translation. This issue is that according to the book, the correct answer is C, but I chose B.

It seems to me more normal to use 入{はい}れない, as in "I can't get the tickets", instead of 入{はい}らない which I think would mean "I don't get the tickets."

I have a sneaking suspicion that 手{て}に入{はい}らない is some kind of special case, but it's not clear in the book's explanatory notes.

Can someone break down why 入{はい}らない is right and 入{はい}れない is wrong?

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If you don't mind, could you reveal the ISBN of the book(s) you are using for your study? I'm looking for study material. –  Flaw Nov 25 '11 at 6:44
    
The ISBN of the book this question came from is 4-87234-253-4. It's called 日本語能力試験1級に出る重要単語集. It came out just before they went to the new "N" levels, but it's a good book if, like me, you need to pack in vocabulary. –  Dave M G Nov 25 '11 at 6:58

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I'm pretty sure that here 手に入れる is てに入{い}れる. I don't know if it is ever used as てに入{はい}れる because this seems like it would be confusing, but if it is, this is rare.  (That being said I think you do hear 入{はい}(ら)れない as "it won't fit", but someone should check me on this). 手に入れる means to obtain, just like 入{はい}る, so I needed to search to find an answer to your question. Apparently, the nuance with 手に入れる is that it is difficult and/or more effort was made to obtain, and that 手に入る is with not so much effort, such as finding something and picking it up, or being given something, etc.

That being said 手に入れる can be a result of luck, such as winning the lottery, but this is considered something that is difficult to obtain. The example that helps me remember is in RPG games when it uses 経験値を手に入れた after defeating monsters (requiring effort), to mean "obtained experience points". You will probably never see 手に入った in this case.

For this problem, we should assume that the speaker is just saying "it's hard to get tickets for this team" in the general case - that is, without spending some great deal of effort.

On top of this, なかなか手に入らない is a common saying in my experience and backed by google - it gets 24 million hits vs なかなか手に入れない and also has a definition in alc as 'hard to find/be rare to get/be always unavailable' vs the other's 300k hits on google (using quotes of course) with no entries in alc.

Lastly, for completeness, here's an excerpt I found on the web that explains the two use cases in japanese. From http://lang-8.com/231058/journals/800177/%25E3%2583%25AD%25E3%2583%2583%25E3%2583%2588

あ、ききわすれた、"手に入れる"と"手に入る"は違いますか?

Feb 09th 2011 17:46 aico すごいギャンブラー精神だ! 中国の人もギャンブル好きだよね。世界中のカジノって中国人客がすごく多いみたい。

あ、ききわすれた、"手に入れる"と"手に入る"は違いますか?

何かを「獲得」という意味では同じだけど、

手に入れる<<何か努力や行動を起こして獲得。 ・ロトで10億円手に入れる為にすべての財産をなげうってロトを買った。

手に入る<<誰かにもらったなど特に行動を起こさず勝手に獲得。 ・美味しい皮蛋が手に入ったよ〜。台湾人の友達がお土産でくれたんだ。

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"It is hard to get tickets for this team". That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for phrasing it that way. Also, you're probably right about it being いらない not はいらない. I always get those mixed up, though I was looking at the book when I wrote this. It's not in front of me now, but I'll double check and if it is as you say, I'll edit the question. –  Dave M G Nov 25 '11 at 9:04
3  
Glad it helped! Also, I'm saying that it should be いれない instead of はいれない. –  jlptnone Nov 25 '11 at 10:41

To add to other answers, it's more a transitive / intransitive distinction rather than a potential / non-potential form one. The dictionary makes this pretty easy to see:

手に入{はい}る: 自分の所有となる。

手に入{い}れる: 自分の物にする。

See the difference: なる vs. する. Pretty much the same as the original verbs: はいる / enter (intransitive) vs. いれる / enter, put in (transitive).

So you could think of it as 手に入る / "enters my hand" and 手に入れる / "put in my hand" (not a proper translation, but good as a mnemonic).

From this, if you want to say "I can't get my hand on it" as you were supposing you would rather say 手に入れられない (potential form - can't - of the transitive alternative) and this would imply that (even if) you tried actively it wouldn't be possible (as a side note, this returns a lot more search results than なかなか手に入れない which to me sounds unnatural). When you say なかなか手に入らない then, it would rather mean that you wouldn't get any (not implying any effort on your side), so as @jlptn1 said "hard to get".

Don't be fooled by the kanji being the same, it is 2 different verbs with related but different meanings.

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