What's the difference between 目を覚ます and 目が覚める? It seems both of them have the sense of literally waking up and also to wake up from some delusion.

How are they different in usage?

Perhaps because of transitivity the transitive version 目を覚ます would indicate deliberate agency or indicating that the action is in line with conscious(unconscious? Since the person is asleep literally/figuratively) volition, while the intransitive version 目が覚める indicates spontaneity?

  • Just one thing I've noticed is, 目が覚める is rather colloquial while 目を覚ます is literary. Ah, btw my teachers at high school used to say '顔洗って目ぇ覚ましてこい!'
    – user1016
    Jan 16, 2012 at 1:08
  • 2
    P.S. あれ?sawa-sanは?
    – user1016
    Jan 18, 2012 at 7:33

1 Answer 1


As you said, one is transitive, the other is intransitive.

目が覚めす You would use it when your body "wake up" by itself. example: I woke up in the middle of the night.

目を覚ます You would use it when someone/thing "wake your body "up". The example of chocolate: Go wash your face and wake up/come back fresh ! ('wake up' as a 'get focus'). You, not your body, will wake you up.

Other example, an alarm is called 目覚まし. Because the alarm wakes you up.

Does it make any sense?

  • 1
    I thought the OP was talking about the usage of 目を覚ます as 'to wake up' (which can be replaced with 目覚める), which is often seen in a novel or something, eg. 「暗闇の中で俺はハッと目を覚ました。」/「ある朝俺が目を覚ますと、そこには見知らぬ男が・・・」. This is why I said 目を覚ます sounded more literary than 目が覚める.
    – user1016
    Jan 18, 2012 at 7:47
  • Both your examples have the person itself as the subject of the verb. Don't you think that it is the key of the explanation?
    – oldergod
    Jan 18, 2012 at 9:17
  • Well I was a bit curious as to why we use 「今朝、'目を覚ました'ら/'目を覚ます'と (When I woke up this morning).. etc」 in the written style but not in a daily convo and we rather say「今朝、'目が覚めた'ら・・/'目が覚める'と(meaning the same thing)..etc」in daily convos, while「目を覚ます」in「顔を洗って目を覚まして来い」 sounds very colloquial and can be used in daily convos.
    – user1016
    Jan 18, 2012 at 16:35
  • "you, not your body". There is some difficulty in dividing a person from his body in terms of volitionality/free will and whatnot. But this will be going into philosophy instead of the language. Your answer does makes sense though.
    – Flaw
    Jan 20, 2012 at 3:40
  • what I meant by "you, not your body" is that you did not decide to wake up in the middle of the night. But you decided to go wash your face and wake you up.
    – oldergod
    Jan 20, 2012 at 4:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .