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On jisho.org, 向ける is described as a transitive verb. Logically, 向く would be intransitive, but the entry just says:

Godan verb with ku ending

Wiktionary is exactly the same, listing 向ける as intransitive and nothing for 向く. But what really gets me is that jisho.org lists sentences using 向く that look both transitive and intransitive. E.g.

上を向きなさい。 "Look up"

この仕事は彼に向いている。 "He is well suited for this job"

In the first one, there is an object marker, and the second one, there isn't. I thought that transitive verbs always used the object marker を, the second sentence looks like an intransitive verb.

Could someone help me clear up this confusion?

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    I feel compelled to add (though it really adds nothing new): 上を向いて歩こう、涙がこぼれないように… – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 2 '15 at 22:35
  • Sorry Janus, I don't understand. I'm just a first year student :) – Lou May 2 '15 at 23:11
  • Try googling it. ;-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 2 '15 at 23:12
  • 向く is intransitive (as @snailboat explained), but 向ける is transitive and means point, send, aim, etc. (Wiktionary says it's transitive, too) – naruto May 3 '15 at 1:52
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From Samuel Martin's Reference Grammar of Japanese (1975), p.191:

The intransitive verb 向く【むく】 means 'faces, fronts on' or 'is suitable for, suits' with N に; but with N を it is a quasi-intransitive verb of motion meaning 'turn (one's face) toward)' [...]

He gives these examples:

横【よこ】を向いて【むいて】 turn to the side

前【まえ】を向いて【むいて】 turn to the front

This verb belongs to a class of verbs of motion which take を-arguments, which we nonetheless might want to consider intransitive. Martin uses the term "quasi-intransitive" to describe this sort of verb. You're probably familiar with examples like:

公園【こうえん】を散歩【さんぽ】する take a walk in a park

橋【はし】を渡る【わたる】 cross a bridge

家【いえ】を出る【でる】 leave home

All of these are subtly different, and none is exactly like 向く, but I think that we can treat all four as examples of Martin's "quasi-intransitive verbs of motion".

If you consult monolingual dictionaries, you'll find that they disagree with one another on how to classify this use. For example, 明鏡国語辞典 calls 向く a transitive verb and treats the directional object as though it's a normal object. But other dictionaries like 広辞苑 call the verb intransitive.

You can find some previous answers discussing this use of を and the question of whether these verbs should be considered transitive if you search Japanese.SE. You can also find a description of some of these uses of を in A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar by Makino and Tsutsui starting on page 349, though it doesn't cover 向く specifically.

I'm afraid this is one of the sticky points of Japanese grammar where descriptions differ, but hopefully you can look at how the verb is used and make sense of it one way or another :-)

  • That quasi-intransitive sounds an interesting termiology. – user4092 May 3 '15 at 4:47
  • Thank you, this neatly addresses the confusion. I'll try to do some more research about this; the Makino/Tsutsui book is one of our course books. – Lou May 8 '15 at 13:51

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