This question is in my JLPT practise book:


A 取{と}れ B 入{はい}れ C 入{はい}ら D 持{も}て

My translation is, "I can't easily get the tickets to this team's games".

Well, that's sort of my translation. This issue is that according to the book, the correct answer is C, but I chose B.

It seems to me more normal to use 入{はい}れない, as in "I can't get the tickets", instead of 入{はい}らない which I think would mean "I don't get the tickets."

I have a sneaking suspicion that 手{て}に入{はい}らない is some kind of special case, but it's not clear in the book's explanatory notes.

Can someone break down why 入{はい}らない is right and 入{はい}れない is wrong?


I'm pretty sure that here 手に入れる is てに入{い}れる. I don't know if it is ever used as てに入{はい}れる because this seems like it would be confusing, but if it is, this is rare. That being said I think you do hear 入{はい}(ら)れない as "it won't fit", but someone should check me on this). 手に入れる means to obtain, just like 入{はい}る, so I needed to search to find an answer to your question. Apparently, the nuance with 手に入れる is that it is difficult and/or more effort was made to obtain, and that 手に入る is with not so much effort, such as finding something and picking it up, or being given something, etc.

That being said 手に入れる can be a result of luck, such as winning the lottery, but this is considered something that is difficult to obtain. The example that helps me remember is in RPG games when it uses 経験値を手に入れた after defeating monsters (requiring effort), to mean "obtained experience points". You will probably never see 手に入った in this case.

For this problem, we should assume that the speaker is just saying "it's hard to get tickets for this team" in the general case - that is, without spending some great deal of effort.

On top of this, なかなか手に入らない is a common saying in my experience and backed by google - it gets 24 million hits vs なかなか手に入れない and also has a definition in alc as 'hard to find/be rare to get/be always unavailable' vs the other's 300k hits on google (using quotes of course) with no entries in alc.

Lastly, for completeness, here's an excerpt I found on the web that explains the two use cases in Japanese. From this Lang-8 entry:


Feb 09th 2011 17:46 aico






  • "It is hard to get tickets for this team". That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for phrasing it that way. Also, you're probably right about it being いらない not はいらない. I always get those mixed up, though I was looking at the book when I wrote this. It's not in front of me now, but I'll double check and if it is as you say, I'll edit the question.
    – Questioner
    Nov 25 '11 at 9:04
  • 4
    Glad it helped! Also, I'm saying that it should be いれない instead of はいれない.
    – jlptnone
    Nov 25 '11 at 10:41


My translation would be "The tickets to this team's games are difficult to get." The point is what the "subject" is. Particle は emphasizes 切符 which becomes the subject of the sentense. Therefore, the intransitive 手にはいらない (C) is the correct answer.

The possible form of 手にはいらない is the answer (B) 手にはいれない, but using only when the subject is people, or living thing. For non-living thing, uses 手にいれられない instead.

If you like to use 手にいれない, you could. In this case the subject should be I(私) which can be omitted. 切符, which is the object of the sentense, normally using を follow by. Therefore, このチームの試合の切符をなかなか手にいれない。 would be grammatical correct.

For more detailed explanation, here is a Japanese site I found. http://oshiete.goo.ne.jp/qa/5318678.html


手に[入らない]{はいらない} vs 手に[入れない]{いれない}

In this case it's a transitive / intransitive distinction. The dictionary makes this pretty easy to see:

手に入{はい}る: 自分の所有となる。

手に入{い}れる: 自分の物にする。

See the difference: なる vs. する. Pretty much the same as the original verbs: はいる / enter (intransitive) vs. いれる / enter, put in (transitive).

So you could think of it as 手に[入る]{はいる} / "enters my hand" and 手に[入れる]{いれる} / "put in my hand" (not a proper translation, but good as a mnemonic).

From this, if you want to say "I can't get my hand on it" as you were supposing, you would rather say 手に[入れ]{いれ}られない (potential form - can't - of the transitive alternative) and this would imply that (even if) you tried actively it wouldn't be possible (as a side note, this returns a lot more search results than なかなか手に[入れ]{いれ}ない which to me sounds unnatural). When you say なかなか手に[入ら]{はいら}ない then, it would rather mean that you wouldn't get any (not implying any effort on your side), so as @jlptn1 said "hard to get".

Don't be fooled by the kanji being the same, it is 2 different verbs with related but different meanings.

手に[入らない]{はいらない} vs 手に[入れない]{はいれない}

[入れない]{はいれない} is the potential form (可能形) of [入る]{はいる}. [入る]{はいる} is a non-volitional verb (無意志動詞) here, meaning it doesn't express a voluntary action (as explained in the preceding chapter).

Typically, non-volitional verbs can't be put in potential form. That's why 手に[入れない]{はいれない} is incorrect.

Note that [入れた]{はいれた} can be encountered, but as the potential form of the volitional verb (意志動詞) [入る]{はいる}. For example:

有名大学に[入れない]{はいれない} (I can't get in a renowned university)

家の中に[入れた]{はいれた} (I could get into the house)

That's why the link @user16315 shared mentions [入れる]{はいれる} being restricted to people (and not objects) as subjects: a living being as a subject infers the "entering action" is "voluntary", whereas an inanimate subject infers an "involuntary" one.

手に[入る]{はいる} is a non-volitional verb, and naturally its subject is an object (切符), so it can't be put in potential form.

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