what are the Japanese, and English, technical terms for these verb transforms:


and this: 読まれる、買われる、書かれる、...

and this: 読ませる、買わせる、書かせる、...

Is there a standard term that textbooks use to call the changing of verb stems into those 3 different forms? "Verb conjugation" sounds natural, however "conjugate" does not sound correct in the context.

What do Japanese students call the changing of verbs into those 3 different forms?


  • Japanese as taught to non-native speakers (日本語教育) usually describes these differently than Japanese school grammar (国文法). For instance, in the latter, 読まれる isn't a single inflectional form. Instead, it's the inflectional form 読ま, plus the inflectable suffix れる.
    – user1478
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 18:23

1 Answer 1


読める、買える、書ける、... → Potential Form (可能形)

and this: 読まれる、買われる、書かれる、... → Passive form (受け身形)

and this: 読ませる、買わせる、書かせる、... → Causative form (使役【しえき】形)

"Conjugation" is correct, and you can say 動詞の活用(形).

  • I'd never heard the term 受動態 before, but apparently they are equivalent. The though means "form", so 受動態 seems like the more general "passive voice".
    – istrasci
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 19:27
  • @kinyo Well, they're almost direct translations. They mean present continuous form, future form, and past perfect form...
    – user1478
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 21:21
  • @kinyo: Sounds about right. Here's what my dictionary says. 使役の助動詞「させる」の未然形+受身の助動詞「られる」.
    – istrasci
    Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 19:21

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