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The word 起こす has many meanings. One of them in particular (see entry 3. here):

  1. to cause; to bring about; to lead to; to trigger; to give rise to; to create; to generate (e.g. heat, electricity); to produce

For this particular meaning of 起こす, what is the difference when compared to 引き起こす (see entry 1. here)?

  1. to cause; to induce; to bring about; to provoke

Are there any differences or are they interchangeable?

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  • For what is worth, I found the site Compund Verb Lexicon that presents the most usual compound verbs in Japanese in an structured way. If you search for "hiki" (in romaji) they will show up many compound verbs starting by 引き. Even though it's not necessarily true for all the compounds starting with 引き, many of them have some nuance related to "pulling". In the case of 引き起こす, the given definition is "For some event to become the trigger that brings about an incident or fuss."
    – jarmanso7
    Sep 14, 2023 at 12:05
  • As you can see, there's no reference to the idea of "pull" or "tug" in this one, but I still think the slightly difference in nuance explained in Josh's answer is relevant.
    – jarmanso7
    Sep 14, 2023 at 12:06

1 Answer 1

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They are pretty much interchangeable. However, there are slight nuances that you should be aware about.

For example, consider

ストレスはニキビを起こす。 Stress causes pimples.

ストレスはニキビを引き起こす。 Stress causes pimples.

Both makes sense because stress causes pimples. However, 引き起こす is a better choice in this case as it has a second meaning of "pulling upright", which mirrors the image of pimples erecting from the surface of the skin.

Other than that, they have essentially the same meaning and use.

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