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The first verb I learned to mean "to drop" was 落{お}とす (otosu) as the transitive form of the verb 落{お}ちる (ochiru) (which means "to fall"). But recently I met the verb 失{うしな}う (ushinau) which according to Jisho.org is also transitive and means "to lose; to part with​", which for me ends up being equivalent to "to drop". And while searching about this, the verb 無{な}くす (nakusu) also showed up in my search, and according to Jisho.org it also means "to lose something", which at the first glance I thought to be intransitive, but again Jisho says it is transitive.

In short: It looks like 落{お}とす (otosu), 失{うしな}う (ushinau) and 無{な}くす (nakusu) are all transitive and mean "to drop". What are the differences between them?

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I would say 落とす ("to drop") and 失う ("to lose") are as different as night and day. You can drop something without losing it (e.g., you can drop a spoon onto the floor and then pick it up), and you can lose something without dropping it (e.g., you can lose money in stocks). In some situations they effectively refer to a similar thing; for example レストランで財布を無くしました is somehow close to レストランで財布を落としました. But the former should be used if you believe your wallet was stolen or you left it on the table.

失う and 無くす are interchangeable in many cases (e.g., お金を失う/無くす, 信用を失う/無くす, 家族を失う/無くす, やる気を失う/無くす). But 無くす can also mean actively getting rid of something undesirable (e.g., 無駄をなくす, 赤字をなくす), whereas 失う always means losing something you need. In addition, 失う is relatively more formal and 無くす tends to be preferred in conversations.

  • Now that you say it, it so obvious that drop and lose are different, even both being transitive. Sometimes my mind glitches, I guess. Thank you very much. It was very informative. – Pedro A Apr 7 '18 at 2:24
  • After some further thinking, I recalled the source of my confusion. Indeed, "to lose" is very different from "to drop", but for 失う, Jisho.org also says "to part with", which (at least for me) implies that it is done on purpose. This way my confusion arises again, can you please add a bit more of explanation? Is Jisho wrong when it says that 失う can mean "to part with"? Thanks in advance. – Pedro A Apr 7 '18 at 15:12
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    @Hamsterrific 失う is not something you do on purpose. 友達を失う simply means "to lose one's friend" against your will. – naruto Apr 11 '18 at 2:08

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