4

When I started using WaniKani I was always wondering why 上がる is intransitive (to rise by your-/itself) and 上げる is transitive (to raise something).

Over time I learned that there are patterns defining when something is transitive or intransitive. A word ending in ある is always intransitive. A word ending in す is always transitive. And a word ending in あす seems to always follow the pattern "to make something do something" (e.g. 飛ばす to make/send something flying).

So when the word ends in ある or す I am save. Since you often have transitive/intransitive word pairs you are also save as long as you know the word with the distinctive pattern.

However, there are enough verbs that don't follow either of the above named patterns. But, if that is the case, without having proof for it, I feel like there is always one word in a pair that ends in える. As an example look at 見る (To see), 見える (to be seen), and 見せる (to make see or to show).

Here the word without pattern (見る) is transitive and the word with pattern (見える) is intransitive. The other way round is also possible with 見つける being the transitive part of a word pair. And in the case of 見せる it even seems like the える form can take the role of the あす form.

My question about this topic is: Is there a ruleset I can use to determine whether a verb ending in える is transitive or intransitive if the word it is paired with doesn't end in ある or す?

This question seems related but doesn't answre my question. The answer to this question explains what I explained here but doesn't dive into the える problematic.

2 Answers 2

3

Is there a ruleset I can use to determine whether a verb ending in える is transitive or intransitive if the word it is paired with doesn't end in ある or す?

The patterns involving *える verbs(*え means all え段 kana, like け、め、せ...) are generally as follows:

えるー*ある (*あ means all あ段 kana, like か、ま、さ...)
  • 伝わるー伝える
  • 変わるー変える
  • 当たるー当てる
  • 終わるー終える (rarely used but exists)

える verbs are TRANSITIVE here

れるーす
  • 流れるー流す
  • 零れるー零す
  • 壊れるー壊す
  • 崩れるー崩す

*える verbs are INTRANSITIVE here

*うー *える
  • 開くー開ける
  • 止むー止める
  • 付くー付ける

*える verbs are TRANSITIVE here

*あすー *える
  • 果たすー果てる
  • 冷やすー冷える
  • 燃やすー燃える
  • 癒{いや}すー癒える

*える verbs are INTRANSITIVE here

That's pretty much all involving *える verbs. There are others like る-す(残るー残す、回るー回す、返すー返る), *おすー *いる(過ごすー過ぎる、起こすー起きる), or irregulars like (消えるー消す、伸ばすー伸びる、尽くすー尽きる...) but the pairs involving *える would fit in the categories listed above.

If you can identify your *える verb with one of the 4 patterns above, then you can quite confidently know if the *える is transitive or intransitive. Personally I memorize each pair as two separate, distinct verbs, but it's up to you how you want to organize stuff in your head.

For 見える and 聞こえる, you should treat these two verbs specially, as they are leftover potential forms of 見る and 聞く from older Japanese, they are not transitive-intransitive pairs. For 見せる, it also isn't a pair with 見つける, but a stand-alone verb. 見つける(transitive) is paired with 見つかる(intransitive).

6
  • 3
    But there are 焼く-焼ける, 破く-破ける, 裂く-裂ける, etc. where the one with /eru/ is intransitive. These are usually "destructive" verbs.
    – aguijonazo
    Jun 25, 2023 at 8:00
  • Right, just thought of 切るー切れる and 割るー割れる, also destructive.
    – dvx2718
    Jun 25, 2023 at 14:50
  • 作【つく】る・作【つく】れる isn't destructive. :) These all appear to be outgrowths of the 可能動詞 paradigm that arose during the Muromachi period, which builds off of transitive verb bases by adding the ''-eru'' ending. See also this other post, which links through to an academic paper discussing this (in Japanese). Jun 26, 2023 at 6:30
  • 1
    @EiríkrÚtlendi - 作れる is nothing but the potential form of 作る. It has no other meanings and not considered a separate verb.
    – aguijonazo
    Jun 26, 2023 at 14:14
  • @aguijonazo, I'm aware of the distinction. I was hazarding that the verbs like 切【き】れる・焼【や】ける・裂【さ】ける etc. might have arisen via a similar mechanism as the potential forms that appeared in the Muromachi period, and that these verbs you mention later lexicalized as they gained senses. However, looking more deeply now, I realize that cannot be the case -- 切【き】れる・焼【や】ける・裂【さ】ける at least are attested since the early 700s, centuries earlier. Jun 26, 2023 at 22:57
4

The following are the guidelines, not rules, that I gathered from this (somewhat controversial) book titled 日本語に主語はいらない—百年の誤謬を正す.

/ari/ as an intransitivity marker

If one of the pair ends with /ari/ in its ます-stem, it's intransitive. This intransitivity marker /ari/ is historically related to ある (to be). The unmarked (i.e. transitive) side of the pair mostly (if not always) ends with /e/ in its ます-stem.

I list all examples below in their ます-forms so the marking is clear, and also put an asterisk on the marked side. Each line has the intransitive verb first followed by the transitive counterpart.

  • 上がります* vs. 上げます
  • 下がります* vs. 下げます
  • 閉まります* vs. 閉めます (締まります* vs. 締めます)
  • 始まります* vs. 始めます
  • 変わります* vs. 変えます
  • 集まります* vs. 集めます
  • 教わります* vs. 教えます
  • 預かります* vs. 預けます
  • 受かります* vs. 受けます
  • 見つかります* vs. 見つけます

There are exceptions to this rule. 割る is one such case. It is probably etymologically unrelated to ある, and it's the unmarked side in its pair (with 割れる). I will come back to these pairs later.

I don't know if 積もる, with /ri/ but not /a/, is a variation of this pattern or unrelated.

/si/ as a transitivity marker

If one of the pair ends with /si/ (し) in its ます-stem, it's transitive. This transitivity marker /si/ is historically related to する (to do). The unmarked (i.e. intransitive) side of the pair may or may not end with /e/ in its ます-stem.

  • 落ちます vs. 落とします*
  • 起きます vs. 起こします*
  • 通ります vs. 通します*
  • 戻ります vs. 戻します*
  • 出ます vs. 出します*
  • 消えます vs. 消します*
  • 隠れます vs. 隠します*
  • 汚れます vs. 汚します*
  • 壊れます vs. 壊します*

In some of the pairs in this category, the transitive side is actually the short (old) causative form. 飛ばす is one of them.

  • 沸きます vs. 沸かします*
  • 動きます vs. 動かします*
  • 飛びます vs. 飛ばします*

The /s/ sound in causative forms is also thought to be historically related to する.

Others

If neither of the pair is marked by /ari/ or /si/, one ends with /i/ and the other with /e/ in their ます-stems. Between them, the one with /e/ is considered marked and the one with /i/ unmarked. The verbs in this category are further divided into two subgroups depending on which direction the /e/ marker works in.

A. /e/ as a transitivity marker

  • 開きます vs. 開けます*
  • 立ちます vs. 立てます*
  • 付きます vs. 付けます* (also written with other kanji)
  • 続きます vs. 続けます*
  • 並びます vs. 並べます*
  • 届きます vs. 届けます*
  • 育ちます vs. 育てます*
  • 縮みます vs. 縮めます*

B. /e/ as an intransitivity marker

  • 割れます* vs. 割ります
  • 焼けます* vs. 焼きます
  • 切れます* vs. 切ります
  • 破れます* vs. 破ります
  • 折れます* vs. 折ります
  • 砕けます* vs. 砕きます

To determine which group a verb belongs to, we need to rely on semantics. The verbs in the second group are break-like verbs. The unmarked (default) side, of which 割る is one, denotes a forceful and destructive action upon something, and therefore transitive, and the marked side (i.e. with /e/) describes a change that results from it, and therefore intransitive.

The book argues transitivity in Japanese is not a dichotomy but a continuum of how much control the speaker has over the action or event of the verb. At the least transitive end are passive forms. The /(r)are/ morpheme in passive forms is historically related to ある. At the other end are causative forms with the /(s)ase/ morpheme, whose /s/ sound is historically related to する. (You have control over what other people do.) The /ari/ and /si/ markers above, which are thought to be the results of (the old forms of) ある and する fusing into the base verbs, put the verbs inside of, respectively, the passive and causative extremes on the transitivity scale.

見える doesn't make up a pair with 見る, and neither does 聞こえる with 聞く. However, they are similar in formation to the verbs in the first subgroup of the third category above. The /e/ marker (from ゆ) here denotes spontaneity and thus puts the verbs on the intransitive side of their respective base versions.

Though not exactly intransitive-transitive pairs, godan verbs (or u-verbs) and their potential forms may be seen in a similar light. The /e/ marker, denoting potentiality, puts the verbs with it on the intransitive side of their unmarked counterparts. This may explain the use of が with potential verbs.

見せる, with /s/, clearly has a causative sense. It doesn't make up a pair with 見る, either, but must be related to the second category. (In Kansai-ben, we say 見して as well as 見せて.)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .