Consider the verb pairs 表【ひょう】する and 表【ひょう】す、or 訳【やく】する and 訳【やく】す。

I realize the distinction may be academic(for example, either way the ます form is always spelled 訳します), but what is the functional difference between these pairs, and when is one used over the other?

  • Generally speaking, if the part before する consists of more than three syllables or two Chinese characters, it's usually a separable suru verb, e.g. 勉強[も]する, you can insert も before する and it conjugates exactly the same as a normal する. Otherwise, it tends to be a single verb and highly irregular. For the case you asked, the conjugation is 役さない 訳そう 訳せる(可能) 訳される(受身) 訳すこと,(訳する is archaic) 役せば 訳せよ. 表する{ひょうする} is not so common, but I think it's irregular too.
    – Yang Muye
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 2:07
  • 1
    @YangMuye You should post that as an answer.
    – Troyen
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 7:50
  • I was just thinking the same thing, haha. It doesn't exactly answer when one would be used over the other, but knowing that (for example) 訳する is archaic helps me know to avoid writing it in my own work.
    – Khakionion
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 8:59

1 Answer 1


I've been waiting for an answer, but no one has answered yet. So I just put what I know here.

Generally speaking, verbs that take the form [one kanji + する] are highly irregular and many of them are formal, literary or archaic.

訳す conjugates like a regular godan verb. It's frequently used, so it becomes a regular verb.

否定  訳さない/訳さず
意志  訳そう
可能  訳せる
受身  訳される
連用  訳し/訳して/訳します/訳したい
終止  訳す
連体  訳すため
仮定  訳せば
命令  訳せ
強調  訳しはしない

[表]{ひょう}す is a little tricky. It is mainly used in the pattern 〜の意を表す, but many people do read it as [表]{あら}わす. This verb is very formal and literary so it does not always conform to the modern grammar. The traditional conjugation is:

否定  表しない/表せず
意志  表しよう
可能  表せられる
受身  表せられる
連用  表し/表して/表します/表したい
終止  表す (also 表する, modern suru conjugation)
連体  表するため (also 表すため, godan conjugation )
仮定  表すれば
命令  表せよ
強調  ?

I think only these forms are common: 〜意を表す/表する/表します/表したい. I saw 表される, too, but I don't know if they are read as あらわされる.

大辞林 gives me ひょうせる as a potential form, but I don't know when it is used.

ひょう・す へう- [1] 【表す】
二(動サ変) ⇒ ひょうする

And 大辞林 considers 表する as literary.

ひょう・する へう- [3] 【表する】
( 動サ変 ) [文] サ変 へう・す
あらわす。 「遺憾の意を-・する」 「我朝は葦の葉を-・するとぞ/曽我 6」
  • 1
    Your IME seems to have been switching between 役 and 訳, so I went ahead and straightened them out for you.
    – Kaji
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 2:37
  • 1
    @Kaji 「訳す」で統一したほうがいいのでは・・・?「役す」って意味がよくわからないし
    – user1016
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 5:27
  • @Chocolate 最初に使ったはその「役す」だったので、分かるほど意思通りにするはずだった。でも、それが間違ったら改善してもいいね。私はYangさんを待つんだと思う・・・
    – Kaji
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 6:15
  • Oh, I should be 訳. I will fix it.
    – Yang Muye
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 6:51

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