The JLPT N5 textbook and the Tangorin online dictionary say 出る is intransitive and, as far as I know, should be used with が, but the Genki I textbook says it accepts を when it means "to exit". So, which is correct?

  • 1
    We have some questions about this use of を already, although I'm not sure which one to link to. (Maybe they're similar but not exactly duplicates?) I found this, so far: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/12734/1478 – snailplane Jan 15 '15 at 23:05
  • So, with 出る, を kind of marks the path you take when exiting (from inside to outside sort of thing)? – Daniel Jan 15 '15 at 23:09

「[出]{で}る」 is indeed always an intransitive verb. 「[出]{だ}す」 is the transitive verb.

So, why is it possible to say 「レストラン出る」、「[日本]{にほん}出る」, etc? It is an "exception" to the general rule that says one can only attach 「を」 to transitive verbs.

The 「を」 attached to transitive verbs (as in 「ピザを食べる」) functions differently than the 「を」 in 「レストランを出る」. The former is the famous object-marker. The latter is, in my own words, the "spatial mobility" marker. (Excuse my ignorance if that term is already used elsewhere.) It is not limited to "exiting".

Examples of "spatial mobility" using intransitive verbs:

「[家]{いえ}[出]{で}る」 = "to leave home"、「[空]{そら}[飛]{と}ぶ」 = "to fly in the sky"、「[道]{みち}[歩]{ある}く」 = "to walk on the street"、「[公園]{こうえん}[散歩]{さんぽ}する」 = "to take a walk in the park", etc.

All of these verbs are intransitive.

The transitive 「[出]{だ}す」:

「ゴミ[出]{だ}す」 = "to take out the garbage"、「ともだちにコーヒー[出]{だ}した。」 = "I served coffee to my friends.", etc.

  • 3
    What's your justification for saying 出る and similar verbs are always intransitive? Why can't they be transitive verbs? In English we have similar expressions - to leave home, to run a race, to swim the English Channel, etc., that use the verbs in a transitive way. – SirTechSpec Jun 14 '16 at 21:39
  • Sorry for commenting two years later, but: after reading your answer and then the other answer below, it seems to me that what you called "spatial mobility" corresponds to item #3 here, except for your first example, 「家を出る」. This one feels more like the item #6 of the same page. I just wanted to know, do you agree with my thinking? Or you think「家を出る」does fit well into #3? If I'm right, it seems you mixed two different usages of the wo-particle (#3 and #6) in your examples. What do you think? Thank you very much. – Pedro A Jun 10 '17 at 21:31
  • @SirTechSpec Sorry for replying to a comment 5 years later, but given it has a few upvotes and no answer, I thought this might be helpful for future readers: In English, and other languages, whether a verb is (in-)transitive is, ultimately, defined by the way it is used, with many exceptions and odd grey areas throughout. However, in Japanese, the transitivity of a verb is a fundamental grammatical property. While there are a small handful of very special cases, when a verb is intransitive, it simply can not take an object, by definition. – ーーー Jan 2 at 21:33

This sense of を is similar to "from", like から - I'm not quite sure the difference in nuance between the two though. And this を is used with intransitive verbs.

For reference, sense 6 of を entry in Progressive says 「動作の起点を表す」 (indicates the starting point of an action). It gives two example sentences

  1. 8時にホテルを出た
    He left the hotel at eight.
  2. 大学を出ても職はなかった
    Though he graduated from college, he could not find a job.

研究社新和英中辞典 also lists it in sense 4 of を.

I agree with what l'électeur said about this を being a different を than the object-marker. As you can see from the linked dictionary entries, the object-marking を is but one of the multiple senses of を.

p/s: The question @snailboat linked in the comments is yet another sense of を which is used with intransitive verbs. It corresponds to sense 3 in Progressive and sense 2 in 研究社新和英中辞典


I am a beginner, but let me try to explain you, the way I understood. I hope it helps!

Like @l'electur and @3 to 5 business days, said it can be used as a mobility marker. For, better understanding consider "を" as "through" in case of motion marking. Otherwise, you will get confused with に/へ. Ex. 小園を歩く (It can be said, as I walked through the park) and 小園に歩く (It can be said as, I walked to the park)

Now, coming back to the question, let us consider two verbs 出る(Deru) 出す(dasu).

If we use 出る instead if 出す with を, the meaning will change entirely. Let me show you how:

If we know that 出す being a transitive verb needs to act upon something when used with をi.e. to act upon an directly object. Whereas, 出る is otherwise.

Now, let us use both 出す and 出る in same sentence, respectively:

家を出す. Now, over here, since 出す is used therefore, it will directly act upon the object i.e. house. Thereby, meaning "leave the house". Now, this leave the house, will have the context that you actually held the house in your hand and then left it (Like some super hero). Which will not make sense, until the context is that. As, the verb to leave is directly acting upon the object in this case.

Whereas, when we use 出る, the construction would still be the same as in, 家を出る and will also translate to "leave the house". However, this leave the house would mean, leave through the house or rather leave the house and go somewhere (or anyplace or nowhere, as the case maybe). As, the verb, being intransitive is not acting upon the direct object i.e. house.

Similar meaning can be given to other use of を with intransitive verbs.

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