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I know that it's possible to use がる in combination with い-adjectives, but what does it mean after the past tense of another verb?

Full sentence:

彼は彼女が泣くまでくすぐったがった。


Update: Actually I just typed "He tickled her until she cried." into DeepL and that sentence was the result.

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    @sundowner My guess is that the OP like me originally parsed the verb as くすぐる and he expected to see くすぐりがる. And if you use an online dictionary, you can easily miss other forms you wouldn't miss in a Japanese dictionary.
    – A.Ellett
    Feb 10 at 22:38
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    I suspect this is a misuse or typo for くすぐりたがる.
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 11 at 0:47
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    @A.Ellett - Yes, it would be surreal. He would have to be tickled by someone AND be able to stop his reaction to it and put on a straight face while still being tickled when someone, his tickler or a spectator, starts crying...
    – aguijonazo
    Feb 11 at 1:26
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    Actually I just typed "He tickled her until she cried." into DeepL and that sentence was the result. -- @Celestial, You should have included this info in your question.
    – chocolate
    Feb 11 at 2:33
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    I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with questions that arise from machine translation in an absolute sense, but context should always be provided. You should be suspicious of machine translation to begin with.
    – Leebo
    Feb 11 at 3:35

2 Answers 2

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I'm going to try to summarize here what's in the comments.

くすぐったい is an adjective.

がる has the sense of "putting on an appearance" or "pretending". From this sense, we can parse

くすぐったがる

as putting on an appearance of being ticklish. But, my sense is also that this could then be understood as "acting as if he were being tickled".

彼女 witnessed this. And that brought her to tears.

So the sentence would mean something like,

He acted like he was being tickled to the point that she cried.

Considering what @aguijonazo wrote in the comments to the question, this could perhaps also be construed as

He acted [so much] like he was being tickled that she cried.

Where "acted so much like he [was being] tickled" corresponds to くすぐったがりすぎて.

I would imagine this is one of those situations where folks tease back and forth so much that you're both laughing and perhaps so hard you start crying.

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  • ん‥? 「くすぐったがった」の主語は彼ですが。。
    – chocolate
    Feb 10 at 14:49
  • @chocolate "He seemed ticklish". Is that what you're suggesting? Then I guess I too am not sure what to make of 彼女が泣くまで if he's the one who's ticklish.
    – A.Ellett
    Feb 10 at 14:56
  • 「彼はくすぐったがる」というのは彼はくすぐったく振る舞っているという意味なので彼女はただそれを見ていて泣いているだけです。
    – shinku
    Feb 10 at 14:59
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    @CelestialDragon That makes deepL the one at fault here, that also explains why you brought up the "past tense of a verb" albeit knowing the adjective+がる rule. Removing がった gives the desired meaning.
    – shinku
    Feb 10 at 15:27
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    @shinku I didn't plug into DeepL. That's someone else. I completely agree with what you're saying about the DeepL analysis.
    – A.Ellett
    Feb 10 at 15:30
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Just posting an answer to see if my understanding of tickle/ticklish is correct.

First, just be aware of the following forms:

  • くすぐる : to tickle

  • くすぐった = くすぐる + た : tickled ★1

  • くすぐったい : (adj) ticklish?

  • くすぐったがる = くすぐったい + がる : (someone) to feel ticklish 

  • くすぐったがった = くすぐったがる + た : felt ticklish ★2

I'm not sure ticklish is the right word for it - at least くすぐったい does not have to imply uncomfortable (as ticklish in the dictionary). Usually the most common reaction of the person who feels くすぐったい is to laugh.

The subject(topic?) of くすぐったい is often the part of the body that makes the tickled person laugh.

  • 脇腹{わきばら}はくすぐったくない : Tickling my side does not make me laugh.

The subject of くすぐったがる is always a person and basically means to react to the tickle. I don't go into details for the general がる meaning.

Thus the sentence in question means Till she cries, he laughed by the tickle. (★2 above), which requires some imagination to understand what's going on. On the other hand, He tickled her till she cried is 彼は彼女を泣くまでくすぐった (★1 above).

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  • This is a great answer and fills in some of my doubts.
    – A.Ellett
    Feb 10 at 22:40
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    Something else that I think is noteworthy is that some words like 恥ずかしい really have two different meanings from the point of view of English: "embarassed" vs "embarassing". I think it's something similar with くすぐったい, "to be ticklish" vs "to be tickled".
    – A.Ellett
    Feb 10 at 22:45

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