Something I learned early on when I learnt the causative-passive was that the sentences also make sense when you drop the causative-passive, e.g.



Basically, "it's just a nuance". Someone (possibly unnamed) made you do the action. But I recently came across this example where I'm pretty sure I can't use that line of thought:

"A novel that forces you to think".

Is this correct Japanese? 考える小説 would be "a thinking novel", so 考えさせらる小説 reads to me as "a novel that is forced to think", which of course is nonsense.


Hm, thinking about it some more, I realised, that 考える小説 may make some sense, as "books to think", or "books for thinking"? Is that the reason why 考えさせられる小説 works?


2 Answers 2


考えさせられる小説 is a correct Japanese expression, and it indeed means "a novel that makes you think (deeply)." (Note that させる/させられる is not necessarily forcible. The use of "force" is too strong.)

Technically speaking, 考えさせられる小説 can also mean "the novel that is made to think", but that's nonsense. Grammatically, this is an adverbial-head relative clause made from:

People are made to think by this novel.

Which can be relativized to:

the novel by which people are made to think

The last sentence is too literal, and it's way more natural to say "the book that makes you think" in English.

考える本 is an uncommon expression, but it can also mean "a book that thinks" and "a book for thinking" depending on the context.

EDIT: Of course you can also say (人々に)考えさせる小説, which may seem more straightforward to the eyes of English speakers. But such a sentence tends to look tricky in Japanese. See this discussion.


I am forced to think by the novel.

I who is forced to think by the novel.

The novel which forces me to think.

It is possible to say either



The meaning will depend on the context.

Just by saying:


there is no way to know if A is the subject or object.

Since 小説 is an inanimate object unable to think, the only possible interpretation here is that 小説 is the agent of the passive.

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