My dictionary says they are both cure/fix, so I am wondering what the difference is and how to use them?

Is it an active/passive difference, or transitive/intransitive? Or just a subtle nuance? I couldn't find a good example of usage.

I found this question, but it just refers to the different kanji, not the different words.


3 Answers 3


治す is transitive.

to heal a wound

Most ailments can be cured without medicine.

治る is intransitive.

my cold got better

My wound did not heal, so I visited the hospital again.

  • 1
    @DaleyPaley: The key (if not clear from the answer) is that 治す takes a subject marked with , meaning healing/fixing that thing, while 治る uses and means the thing itself is fixed/healed.
    – istrasci
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 14:22

transitive/intransitive difference.

風邪 治す。
I'll cure my cold.

風邪 治る。
my cold will be cured.

  • Cheers, I appreciate the answer
    – DaleyPaley
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 6:31

It's almost exactly the same as the difference between 教わる and 教える, only in this case English uses different words: "learn" and "teach".

The other answers give the correct grammatical explanation, but I think it helps to see that this is not really a Japanese peculiarity, it's a curious fact about English that in very many cases the same verb is used for the entity receiving something and the entity giving the something.

In Japanese this distinction is shown by referring to 自動詞 ("self-acting" verbs) and 他動詞 ("other-acting" verbs). Many J dictionaries show this after the headword: for example, 新明解国語辞典, highly recommended, gives なおる【自五】 and なおす【他五】. Those single characters may tell you all you need to know.

  • 3
    「治す」は他動詞で「治る」は自動詞ですけど、「教わる」も「教える」も他動詞じゃないんですか?「日本語を教わる」learn Japanese, 「日本語を教える」teach Japanese、両方とも「日本語」が直接目的語ですよね。「教える」が能動、「教わる(≒教えてもらう)」が受身/受動態、という違いでは??
    – user1016
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 7:06

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