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彼は自分の権利に執着する。

利欲に執着する人も数多い。

I thought all する verbs are transitive so they should take the particle を. How come this one doesn't?

Thanks!

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The so-called "suru verbs" consist of a noun (which signifies mostly some sort of action) and the verb suru, with no particle in-between. The class of such verbs is very large, e.g. 執着する (to have a tendency to), 愛する (to love), キスする (to kiss), 勉強する (to study) etc.

Suru verbs can be intransitive. In your case, the suru verb 執着する has the indirect object 利欲 with the particle に: 利欲執着する - to be prone to greed.

It seems that there is no easy way to figure out whether a given suru verb is transitive or intransitive, i.e. to qualify サ変名詞 (verbal noun) as 他動詞 (transitive verb) or 自動詞 (intransitive verb). See also a posting about this classification. At least, it is undefinable morphologically.

The verbal noun 執着 originated from two Chinese verbs 執 and 着, so this structure V-V can be probably an argument for transitivity. But semantically, I would compare ...に執着する with ...に着く (to arrive at). Naively considered, 執着 in the proposed context means rather a "direction" to an indirect object than a "possession" of a direct object.

  • How do you figure out whether a する verb is intransitive or transitive? – Tomm Sep 7 '15 at 22:10
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    @Tomm A good dictionary like 明鏡国語辞典 will tell you. – snailcar Sep 8 '15 at 2:58
  • The notion of transitivity in modern linguistics seems to be too profound to have a simple description (see e.g. decomposition of this notion by Hopper and Thompson in “Transitivity in Grammar and Discourse”). It is reasonable to speak of transitive or intransitive “roles” of a verb in a given context. A verb that can play both roles (in different contexts) is called ambitransitive. I conjecture humbly that 執着する is ambitransitive at least for irregular/colloquial usage, i.e. it is possible to say ある物を執着する, 女性を執着す etc. This could be verified by a native speaker. – Lu Lang Sep 10 '15 at 0:35
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    @LuLang In the Google Japanese Web N-gram corpus, に執着する appears roughly 700 times more frequently than を執着する. In BCCWJ, に執着 appears 243 times but を執着 does not appear at all. It doesn't seem that native speakers use を with 執着する very often. – snailcar Sep 10 '15 at 16:54

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