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In English, to make a verb into "someone or something that does x" we add -er to the verb. Examples:

  • crush → crusher
  • teach → teacher
  • run → runner
  • spin → spinner

Is there a similar rule or pattern in Japanese?

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5 Answers 5

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Some kanji suffixes can be used for this.

Probably the most generic and closest to -er is -者{しゃ}

  • 医{い}者{しゃ} (doctor, physician)
  • 歯{は}医{い}者{しゃ} (dentist)
  • 忍{にん}者{じゃ} (ninja)
  • 責任者{せきにんしゃ} (person responsible/in charge)
  • 関係者{かんけいしゃ} (authorized person, staff)
  • 科学者{かがくしゃ} (scientist)
  • 通訳者{つうやくしゃ} (interpreter)

More such words (Wiktionary link)

NB: in some compounds is read as もの, e.g. 若{わか}者{もの}, 馬鹿{ばか}者{もの}, 愚{おろ}か者{もの}.

Other common suffixes:

-屋{や} (usually, but not always used for occupations with a [work]shop)

  • 八{や}百{お}屋{や} (greengrocer)
  • 肉{にく}屋{や} (butcher)
  • 床{とこ}屋{や} (barber)
  • 大{おお}屋{や} (landlord/landlady)
  • 酒屋{さかや} (sake dealer/brewer)
  • 質屋{しちや} (pawnbroker)
  • 殺{ころ}し屋{や} (professional killer/hitman)

-家{か} can be used for professions usually(but not always) related to creativity:

  • 漫画家【まんがか】 (mangaka, manga/comic writer)
  • 画家 【がか】 (painter)
  • 作家【さっか】 (writer/author)
  • 小説家【しょうせつか】 (novelist, fiction writer)
  • 作詞家【さくしか】 (lyricist, songwriter)
  • 芸術家【げいじゅつか】 (artist (in entertainment industry))
  • 評論家【ひょうろんか】 (critic)
  • 農家 【のうか】 (farmer/plant grower)
  • 実業家【じつぎょうか】 (businessman)

yet another suffix is -手{しゅ}:

  • 歌手{かしゅ} - singer
  • 選手{せんしゅ} - sportsman
  • 運転手{うんてんしゅ} - driver/chauffeur
  • 投手{とうしゅ} - baseball pitcher
  • 騎手{きしゅ} - horseman/rider

NB: this suffix has been repurposed by Niconico Video users to refer to amateur artists posting videos of their performances. They use the same 手 kanji but with the て (kun) reading:

-歌{うた}い手{て} (utaite, amateur singer) from 歌手{かしゅ} (singer) -踊{おど}り手{て} (odorite, amateur dancer) from 踊{おど}る (dance)

in a few rare cases this suffix is also read -て in common words as well (thanks to @EiríkrÚtlendi):

  • 買手【かいて】 (buyer/purchaser)
  • 選【えら】び手【て】(selector/chooser)
  • 使【つか】い手【て】(user of smth.)
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  • Don't forget 手{て}, as in terms like 買{かい}手{て} ("buyer"), 選{えら}び手{て} ("chooser, selector"), etc. Nov 24, 2016 at 21:10
  • >所説家 (novelist, fiction writer) Is this another variant of 小説家?
    – vel
    Nov 25, 2016 at 4:14
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For sino-Japanese nouns that can also be used as verbs (aka suru-verbs), adding 者 will work, as other answers explain.

For native Japanese verbs (aka yamato kotoba verbs), using masu-stem alone will often means "<verb> + er":

  • のぞき peeper
  • 酔っ払い drunkard
  • すり pickpocket (from 掏る)
  • 大食い big eater
  • 人殺し murderer
  • ピアノ弾き piano player
  • 魔法使い (lit. "magic user") wizard

However these are nouns which have been fossilized long ago, and coining a new noun using this rule is generally not recommended.

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I can only think of verb + 人/する人.

Your examples could be:

潰す人、教える人、走る人、回す人

Although, there can be a specific word for certain cases such as 先生 for 教える人 in the above.


Another interesting example borrows from English's "-er" concept.

People who like the brand しまむら (shimamura) can be called しまラー (shima-er) and in the same way:

シャネル (chanel) -> シャネラー

安室奈美恵 (Namie Amuro, a singer) -> アムラー

NOTE: None of these are grammatical and are just slang words.

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There is no strictly equivalent construct, although 〇〇する[者]{もの} (or 〇〇する人, 〇〇するの) will often serve.

Aside from that, especially when you have two-kanji Sino-japanese △△するcompounds, a related word on the form of △△[者]{しゃ} or △△さん will sometimes exist.

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There are probably more, but these are two ways I could think of turning verbs to nouns:

Some words are formed by adding 手:
買い手
売り手
貸し手
借り手
聞き手
送り手

Some words are formed by adding 主:
買い主
売り主
飼い主

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