I am sure this has been asked before, but due to this form's similarity to the causative-passive (e.g. 行かせられる), I simply cannot find anything except for some thick Japanese explanations complete with overly technical grammar terms.

I do not understand why the passive form is せられる instead of される for verbs like 発する, 罰する, 反する, and so on (so-called する verbs?). The conjugation table on Tangorin does not even list this せられる form at all.

Is the form される, e.g. 発される, ungrammatical, unnatural, or allowed? Moreover, do these verbs have other naughty naughty irregular conjugations that I have to look out for?

On a side note, I once read a discussion that said the alternative form of this type of verb (e.g. 罰す) is not used anymore, but I cannot locate that discussion. Would someone kindly shed light on this as well?


3 Answers 3


Based on the "Best answer" from https://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1118086201 *, and summarizing dramatically to fit your questions:

Short answer

  • せられる is one form of classical Japanese for される. It's not an incorrect conjugation, but it's not a mainstream conjugation, either. For the verbs in question, I imagine that usage of this non-mainstream conjugation has remained active until now, for one reason or another.

Other noteworthy info

  • せさせる is one form of classical Japanese for させる
  • せぬ is one form of classical Japanese for しない. One modern use I've seen frequently is 予期せぬ

*(The post is a few years old, so at least one referential link from that post seems to be obsolete, but the following should at least get you started on further research if you wish.)

  • 1
    That article is one of several that I tried to read, but gave up halfway through. I did it again, tho, and I think the most valuable takeaway for me is that される is the designated modern form (in official docs at least).
    – Yeti Ape
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 2:07

This is not an attempt at a legitimate answer, but one that serves as a reference for people who may have the same doubt as I do.

  1. せられる vs. される
    The answer in (1)this article explains the origin of the form せられる, and how modern governmental authority recommends using される instead. Moreover, the person also comments on how he/she believes that different conjugated forms for NOUNする & NOUNす verbs have in effect different affects.

  2. NOUNする vs. NOUNす
    (2)This topic and (3)this one both touch upon this subject, yet I do not think there's a decisive conclusion. I believe you cannot just say the NOUNす form is outdated and forget about it altogether, because it depends on context, the speaker/writer, etc. Besides, when conjugation comes into play, things get even more complicated.

    • Take 愛する & 愛す for example, (4)people seem to say that 愛しない is wrong (see links 3 & 4), and 愛さない should be used. Therefore, although 愛する exists, 愛しない does not for gods-know-what.

My takeaway as a beginner:
Yeah, pretty much forget about all this, and learn these verbs's usages case by case, like just about everything else.


As the other answers have mentioned, in classical Japanese サ変's 未然形 was せ and thus the passive せられる is just the standard 未然形 + られる. Some of these super irregular する verbs still retain this characteristic. However, some of these irregular words have changed and are more similar to 五段 or 一段 verbs now. For example, 愛する conjugates into 愛さない, behaving similarly to a す-ending 五段 verb for negation.

Here's a summary of part of サ変動詞の活用のゆれについて--電子資料に基づく分析, which is based on a digital textual analysis of Asahi Shimbun from 1987-1992. It discusses this at length:

The author categorizes する verbs into 4 classes, but I'll stick to talking about the second class which he calls "Unstable words in between Sahen and Sa-Go [属する type]" (サ変とサ五のあいだでゆれているもの一「属する」類).

These are the words that he lists:

(1)愛圧逸臆科課介[解]{かい}害画冠関期帰記擬議喫窮御供遇屈[解]{げ}激決抗刻察死資持辞失謝熟処叙称証詔賞食制接絶宣奏即属存堕対題託達脱徴呈適徹毒鈍熱廃排配縛発罰反比秘表評貧付復服偏滅面模目訳有要擁浴利律略類列労和, etc

Then, using textual analysis he postulates the following:

(i)「X」が促音・撥音・長音を含む場合はサ変のままであり (words with 促音・撥音・長音 conjugate more similarly to サ変)

(ii)それ以外の場合はサ五に変化している。 (otherwise conjugates more like す-ending 五段 verbs)

For many conjugations, this heuristic works out pretty well and is probably pretty useful for figuring out how to conjugate:

96%+ for negation with ない, 82%+ for negation with ず (disregarding 期せず), 92+% for negation with ぬ, 75%+ for conditional with ば (disregarding 愛すれば).

However, for the passive it's only about 50% correct:


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Judging from their analysis, I'd say 発される is pretty much never used and is nearly always 発せられる.

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