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A charger is a machine. Why is it 器 not 機?

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is for "large" machines; things with "lots" of likely "large" moving parts. What comes to mind are like automated machines of an assembly line (cars, packaging, etc.), printing press, etc. Also, aircraft (飛行機, 航空機).

is used for "smaller" things. It is often used to mean [器具]{き・ぐ} - tools, instruments, appliances, etc.

Where the cutoff between "small" and "large" is, and who decides those things, I'm not sure. There may be some counterexamples, but if you stick with the "small" and "large" rule, you'll be right most of the time.

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    I was recently scolded by someone who told me that this is completely untrue, and the sole determining factor is whether the thing moves or it doesn't. Not that I necessarily think that's the case (if I knew I wouldn't have asked!), but I am putting it here for reference at any rate. – jmac May 29 '14 at 7:56
  • Scolded by a Japanese person? – istrasci May 29 '14 at 14:41
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    Yes, by a Japanese person over the age of 60 who was very vehement that kids these days just don't study their kanji hard enough. – jmac May 29 '14 at 21:29
  • My impression is that -機 objects have a motor and moving parts (even if they do not move themselves, e.g. 洗濯機). – Mathieu Bouville May 5 '19 at 11:36
  • Just met 食洗器 on a Japanese TV. All dictionaries stubbornly resist to acknowledge its existence and use only 食洗機. That makes sense, it’s a rather complicated, machine, not just a mechanical tool. On the other hand, 計算機/計算器 apparently exists in both variants though. – Glutexo Oct 23 '20 at 19:22

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