For the birth of our son, we received a very nice card saying:


While I entirely understand what it says, it seems impossible to express that exact meaning with the same nuance in another language like English. "To be born" is a passive thing, but 生まれてきて sounds like an active thing the baby did. How to reconcile that?

  • For an idioim, what do you think of "thank you for bringing your child into this world"? This thread might be helpful too: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/18521/11589
    – user11589
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 15:07
  • @user11589 That's addressing a different person than the original, sooo... No. :)
    – deceze
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 15:10
  • 2
    @user11589 and everyone else who might be thinking in the same wrong direction. The writer of this card is thanking the baby, and not its parents.
    – user4032
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


If you wanted a translation that used a verb phrase in the active voice form, the easiest one that actually nicely captures the nuance of the original would be:

"Thank you for coming into the/this world."

I personally would not bother with any forms of the verb "to bear" in this case.

  • Yes, that's the best workaround... I'm not wrong in thinking that it's impossible to actually translate this 1:1 though, right?
    – deceze
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 15:09
  • 生まれる is the passive of 生む, so 生まれてきてくれる still uses the passive form. The thing we can't translate directly is actually きて, not 生まれて! Knowing when and when not to use the ~てくる is still troublesome to me. "Thank you for being born", is what it's saying, but I like l'électeur's translation better.
    – Nick O.
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 15:28
  • @Nick It's generally considered to be an intransitive verb derived from a passive form rather than being a passive form.
    – user1478
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 15:44
  • I argued once that "to be born" could be considered a deponent verb in English, because that's the feeling I always got from it as a native speaker, but was shot down... of course, I'm not a linguist, and can't just throw my opinions about English around :p I wonder, though, although うまれる is considered an active verb, are there any practical consequences of that? For example, is it not possible to say 誰かに生まれる?
    – Nick O.
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 16:46
  • うまれる derives from うまるる, which was passive, but うまれる itself has never been passive.
    – user4092
    Commented Jun 19, 2016 at 1:54

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