I cannot get my head around the verb 「済ます」/「済まされない」 in this sentence.


I found this in the プログレッシブ和英中辞典 on goo dictionary's page for the verb 「済ます」. The page says that the sentence means I can't make do with 100,000 yen a month.

This is fine, I think I can understand the sentence and if I see something like this in the future I think I can recognize it.

However, as the goo dictionary page is about 「済ます」 and not 「済む」 I'm bound to think that [済まされない] is the passive conjugation of the former. But, if I translate this to English or to my native tongue (Hungarian) the sentence/expression/meaning doesn't sounds passive (to me) at all (forgive me if my translating skills are way off about this).

Can someone explain to me how the verb or verb conjugation can be interpreted "passively" in sentences? Thanks!

  • The so-called "passive" in Japanese can be used in more situations than passives in western languages. It sometimes also has a potential meaning instead of a passive meaning.
    – Zhen Lin
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 9:30

1 Answer 1


It's true that 〜(ら)れる is often referred to as a "passive" form because that's one of its main uses, but it has other uses as well. They can be divided into four categories:

  • 受身 - passive (most common)
  • 可能 - potential
  • 尊敬 - honorific
  • 自発 - spontaneous (least common)

This is an example of the potential use of 〜(ら)れる, here inflected to the negative 〜れない, meaning 〜することができない. You can see this reflected in the English translation in the word "can't":

I can't make do with 100,000 yen a month.

Here, 済まされない means 済ますことができない.

  • 1
    I get it and I don't at the same time, but your answer put me on the right track :) However, please take a look at this article on potentials. The first paragraph basically says that られる is "generally not used for 五段 verbs". The 済まさせる according to WWWJDIC's verb conjugation table is the passive form. Can I take this is as an exception where the "long potential form" (the one that the article talks about in the first paragraph) is being used for a 五段 verb for some reason? If yes, then is this sentence all right too? 月10万円では済ませない。 Thanks! Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 12:47
  • 1
    I think that, with godan verbs, the potential interpretation of -(r)are- is actually the least common. Historically, it (and its older brothers -(ra)r- and (ra)y-) were only potential in negative sentences, but now it's even more restricted, limited to specific phrases (like 〜では済まされない). Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 21:12

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