According to the entry in jisho.org regarding the verb 「抜ける」, it is an intransitive verb.

Now, in the song Departure by Masatoshi Ono, we can see this:

You just try again


Suggesting that it can be also used as a transitive verb. Is this true? Or is the song "wrong", from a purely grammatical point of view? In this case, what would be the correct (grammatical) way of saying "escape from the darkness"?


1 Answer 1


Notably, 出{で}る is also "intransitive" and can take を -- 部屋{へや}を出{で}た → "I left the room." :)

The grammar, and important related concepts

The key difference to think about with Japanese "intransitives" is the 自{じ}動{どう}詞{し} categorization in Japanese grammars -- this term literally means "self-moving word", and it indicates not verbs that never take objects, but rather verbs where the action is happening to / by / on the subject.

"Transitives" in Japanese are described as 他{た}動{どう}詞{し}, or "other-moving word", where the action is happening to / by / on the object.

I put "intransitive" and "transitive" in quotes here, because the grammatical distinctions described by the English and Japanese terms aren't perfect matches. The English terms "intransitive" and "transitive" are often used more to describe the syntax -- whether an object follows the verb, regardless of whether the action of the verb actually does anything to that object. If I say "I ate," many (most?) English grammarians would say that "ate" here is intransitive, because there is no object after the verb in the syntax of this specific sentence.

Meanwhile, the Japanese terms 自{じ}動{どう}詞{し} and 他{た}動{どう}詞{し} are generally used to describe the semantics -- whether the action of the verb does anything to another object, or only to the subject. If I say 私{わたし}は食{た}べた, Japanese grammarians would say that 食{た}べた here is a 他{た}動{どう}詞{し}, because the action of the verb inherently implies an object -- when one "eats", one eats something, even if that something is left unstated.

The verb 抜{ぬ}ける

My copy of Shogakukan's big 国語大辞典 gives the main sense of 抜ける as:

Breaking out and exiting to the other side.

The action of "exiting" is something that is happening to / by the subject. The を describes the thing being exited, and technically marks an object, but again the object is not being acted upon with this verb. In English, the thing being exited would be described as the "object", and the verb "exit" in "to exit a room" would be described as "transitive" since the verb has an object right after it. However, the action of "exiting" is done to / by / on the person or thing that is exiting, and not to / by / on the room, so in Japanese, the verb 抜ける is regarded as a 自{じ}動{どう}詞{し}.


This difference in "intransitive / transitive" versus 自{じ}動{どう}詞{し} / 他{た}動{どう}詞{し} (essentially, "syntax vs. semantics") can cause a lot of confusion. Once you figure this out, though, it becomes clear how you can have sentences in Japanese like 道{みち}を行{い}く with an object marked by を, even though 行{い}く is listed in many (most?) dictionaries as "intransitive".

  • 1
    Thank you very much, this is awesome. It will take some time to get used to this though; as you said, it will need some detachment from the english way of thinking. I didn't know about this at all.
    – Pedro A
    Nov 11, 2016 at 20:44

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