I am struggling to understand this sentence’s structure:


I think I get the idea of causative-passive as in “I was being made to finish the homework”. However, I noticed that we have the intransitive verb 終わる and not the transitive 終える. But we also have a direct object 宿題. Unless I am the object in this case? I am really confused.

Would this sentence translate to:
I couldn’t be made to finish the homework in time.
Or to:
I couldn’t be made to be finished with the homework in time.

Also, I can’t think of a way not to add the ‘potential form’ in English. Is there a potential form hidden there somewhere in Japanese?


1 Answer 1


(ら)れる has both a potential meaning and a passive meaning (along with other two less common meanings). For example, 食べられる means both "to be able to eat" and "to be eaten". In your sentence, れる has a potential meaning.

  • 終わる: (simple intransitive verb) "to end"
  • 終わらせる: [causative] "to make something end" (i.e., "to finish something")
  • 終わらせられる: [causative-potential] "can make something end"
  • 終わらせられない: [negative-causative-potential] "cannot make something end"
  • 終わらせられなかっ: [past-negative-causative-potential] "could not make something end"

I could not finish my homework in time.

You can say the same thing using the transitive verb 終える:

I could not finish my homework in time.

Related: Is there a reason why the passive and the potential form are identical (at least for える/いる verbs)?

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