I learned about がる from two different native teachers and both explained it differently. The first one said that がる is seemed/looks like someone wants something

The cat seems to want it

We act like we wanted anything (and everything)

The other one said it is not "seems" it more like, "tendency to do X" and that we don't have a similar concept in English.

My father had the tendency to smoke a lot.

So I want to ask, which explain is the right one? Are they both right?

Thanks. Or

  • Possible duplicate of japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/3270 Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 2:56
  • 2
    父親はタバコをよく吸いたがった My father had the tendency to smoke a lot. The よく means "often" → "had the tendency to", not "a lot".
    – chocolate
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 2:58
  • So based on the link that you gave me, がる is "seems to X" when you are not sure and judge based on his behavior? because the teacher use it in the example that "this employ got the tendency (tend to) to go home early", I'm not remember the Japanese sentence
    – Or Halimi
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 5:36

1 Answer 1


Reading OP's comment, I've got an impression that translating がる into "seems to" is misleading after all. The point is not how s/he looks but what s/he does.

To be honest, it's not easy for me to grasp がる comprehensively. So, let me explain with some examples.

When you say 寒がる, what it essentially indicates is not how s/he looks but the fact that s/he shivers with cold or so. You may be able to conclude that s/he seems feeling a chill, but that's a secondary thing.

When it comes to 欲しがる, it means, in short, to try to get something. 猫が欲しがってる essentially expresses how s/he is asking for something in somewhat way, which is also a minor yet significant difference between 欲しいと思っている, which is exactly to want.

When you use it for one's habit, you could translate it into "tendency" or something.

  • Thank you it is very clear explanation! I can see why both of these explains can exist. I also heard that poeple don't say what other really feel, can I use 犬を怖がる along with 犬が怖いとおもう?
    – Or Halimi
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 3:48
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    What's restricted is expressing it directily in indicative mood like 犬が怖い. 怖がる and 怖いと思っている (not just 思う) are no problem in that regard.
    – user4092
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 10:58

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