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I've always been little fuzzy on transitive verbs, something which I was reminded of when looking at this answer.

The answer says that 終{お}わらせる, 終{お}える, 済{す}ませる, and 済{す}ます are all transitive. They all mean "to finish" something, as in something doesn't finish by itself (intransitive), someone makes it finish (transitive).

I get the nuance of difference between the kanji , as explained in the answer.

But what is the difference between 終{お}わらせる and 終{お}える? And what is the difference between 済{す}ませる, and 済{す}ます?

I'm really asking more generally about the transitive verb form. Both versions of each verb are transitive, but I'm not clear on how they differentiate.

(My knowledge of grammatical and linguistic terms is very limited, so a minimum of technical terms would be much appreciated. よろしく!)

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Daijirin and Daijisen both say 「済ます」に同じ (the same as 済ます) for 済ませる (as stated in ジョン's answer below.) I'm not sure whether 終わらせる is the same as 終える or not though. –  cypher Apr 3 '12 at 4:34
    
@cypher: Perhaps there is no technical difference. Maybe there's a difference in common usage, though...? –  Dave M G Apr 3 '12 at 4:36
    
I got so excited about 済ます/済ませる that I failed to address 終える/終わらせる in my answer. My apologies. I have edited my answer to address this. –  ジョン Apr 3 '12 at 4:54
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終える sounds more literary, and maybe more formal than 終わらせる... So we might say この仕事だけ終わらせたら帰るよ (and also この仕事だけ終わったら帰るよ) but wouldn't say この仕事だけ終えたら帰るよ in daily conversation. –  Choko Apr 3 '12 at 6:40
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@Chocolate: Answers, not comments... ;) –  Dave M G Apr 3 '12 at 9:15
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

As for 済ます and 済ませる, from my research it looks like the meaning of the two is equivalent.

The せる in 済ませる denotes causation, the same as in 食べさせる or 話させる.

The す in 済ます is the old form of せる, and is still sometimes used (opinion seems divided on where exactly. I would love to know if there's a specific region).

Therefore 済ませる is now the common usage, where originally it was 済ます.

Other examples of the same phenomenon would be 燃やす and 生かす。

There is a much more exhaustive discussion in the second source below that you may want to see.

As for 終える and 終わらせる, the meaning is the same, but the causative せる lends a sense of achievement or overcoming hardship to finish something, whereas 終える seems more incidental.

It's also worth noting that 終える, out of context, has two possible meanings (the one from this discussion, and the meaning of something ending by itself/naturally), whereas 終わらせる has only one meaning and so could be be considered clearer in certain circumstances.

Sources (Japanese): 1, 2, 3

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