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This question is prompted by the earlier question on the use of 書ける. Initially I thought the answer might explain the difference between these two (eg 彼は頭がよく切れる| he is (very) sharp) but in most cases, including this one the adjective seems unnecessary. (For reference, I have made a list of common examples below.)

(Also, as an observation, because I don't want to over-extend the scope of the question 切れる also seems to be used in compound verbs while 切り is used in compound "masu-形 nouns" such as 締め切り/deadline or 思い切り/to one's content.)


Examples of 切れる:

ひもが切れる| the string breaks

電池が切れる| the battery dies

たばこが切れる| be out of cigarettes

賞味期限が切れる| past best before date

しびれが切れる (=足がしびれる)| legs have gone to sleep

彼は頭が(よく)切れる| he is (very) sharp

Examples of 切る:

電源を切る| switch off

野菜の水気を切る drain water from vegetables

スタートを切る| start off

100メートル競走で10秒を切る| run 100m in less than 10 secs

ハンドルを右に切る| turn the wheel to the right

カードをよく切る| Please shuffle the cards well. |

キレて、犯罪を犯す若者が増加している| 

The number of young people committing crimes as a result of rage is increasing.

Examples of compund verbs with 切れる:

チケットが売り切れる| tickets are sold out  

だれがそれを言い切れるだろうか| who would dare to say that with (any) certainty? 

会話が 途切れる (とぎれる)| the conversation comes to a halt

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4  
切る and 切れる are a transitive/intransitive pair. 書く and 書ける are not. –  Flaw Sep 15 '12 at 4:20
    
Well that couldn't be simpler. Thanks. Is there by any chance an equally easy reason why 切れる is used in the above compound verbs? (Two are transitive, one is intransitive.) –  Tim Sep 15 '12 at 6:26
3  
言い切れるis the potential of 言い切る, 切れる is both an intransitive verb and the potential of the transitive verb 切る. –  dainichi Sep 15 '12 at 7:37
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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

切る and 切れる are a transitive/intransitive pair. 書く and 書ける are not.

Is there by any chance an equally easy reason why 切れる is used in the above compound verbs?

Yes. Again it is about transitivity.

  • チケットが売り切れる - Tickets are sold out. No overt agent is performing the action, no direct object; 売り切れる is intransitive. Contrast against ~を売り切る.

  • だれがそれを言い切れるだろうか - Who can say/declare that certaintly? (This is not intransitive even though 切れる is used. This should be the potential form of transitive 言い切る.)

  • 会話が途切れる - The conversation comes to a halt. No overt agent is performing the action, no direct object; 途切れる is intransitive.

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I see, thanks. Digging into my books I've also found that ~切る=全部〜する and 〜きれる=全部〜できる. What's more in the former case most examples are transitive but there are some exceptions, (1)「絶対にやれる」と言いきった (2)困りきる (3)疲れ切る. Is this because in (1) we have a quote and in (2) & (3) the other verbs are intransitive? –  Tim Sep 15 '12 at 8:19
    
For (1), just because a verb is transitive, it doesn't necessarily need an object. Yes, (2) and (3) are intransitive, just like 困る and 疲れる are intransitive. –  dainichi Sep 15 '12 at 8:48
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