• The verb 好く exists.

  • 好く is transitive.

By extension, "to like ~" is predicted to be:

a. ~を好く。

However, empirical data shows that this pattern is the accepted form:

b. ~が好きだ。

Question: Is ~を好く used and is it even grammatical? If it is not used, why is it so?

  • 1
    I always use 形容動詞 “好きだ” and never use the verb “好く” except for fixed phrases such as 虫の好かない. But if you search “好いている,” you find a lot of examples. There might be a dialectal difference. Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 12:38
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    By the way, I think that 好く is a “change-in-state verb” (see this answer), that is, it means the change from not liking to liking, and “to like” is 好いている. Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 12:49
  • I have a stereotypical (not seriously confirmed) impression that the verb 好く is used in Kagoshima dialect: おいどんはあんたば好いとう = "私はあなたを好いている" (Perhaps, its ungrammatical; It's just my stereotype.)
    – user458
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 13:16

1 Answer 1


Is ~を好く used and is it even grammatical?

It's grammatical, but hardly ever used in the form 好く in standard modern Japanese.

However, the passive form 好かれる is quite common in standard Japanese.

Dialectal negative forms 好かん or 好かへん are also quite common in certain parts.

If it is not used, why is it so?

This is mostly me guessing, but I imagine that people shied away from the use with the direct object marker を because it seemed a bit too... well... direct.

Why ~が好き instead of ~を好く? I think this might be for a similar reason that ~が嫌い exists next to ~を嫌う. However, maybe it's more acceptable to be direct about things that you dislike than things that you like, so ~を嫌う survived.

But then why not ~が好く with が on the object like many other verbs that have to do with emotion? (Incidentally, ~が好かん takes が so this would fit into the pattern.)

  • I think the reason 好く is not used is not like what you explain but rather like what Tsuyoshi Ito comments to the question. It can be used only to mean change of state from not liking to liking. To just express the "like" meaning, the na-adjective 好き is more appropriate.
    – user458
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 13:13
  • IIRC the oldest attestations for 好く are as an intransitive verb, meaning "to be in love", "to be chic", etc.; then you have ~に好く for "to like/love something", and only after that do you get transitive ~を好く (which then becomes ~が好き, relatively recently). So dialectical forms like ~が好かん could be explained by having branched off at an earlier point.
    – Matt
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 13:16
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    @sawa Valid point. But that still doesn't explain why the forms 好いた, 好いている etc. are uncommon in standard Japanese.
    – dainichi
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 13:17
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    @sawa: If a verb being "change in state" caused it to fall out of favor, Japanese would be left with hardly any verbs at all.
    – jkerian
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 15:52
  • @jkerian If there is an alternative (as in this case; i.e. a na-adjevtive 好き exists), people will use that. If there isn't, people will deal with it.
    – user458
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 15:54

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