Every time I'm feeling confident about the correct usage of に, を, and で, I get thrown for a loop. Could someone please explain to me the use of に in this sentence:

I will study a lot and pass the test

watashi wa takusan benkyō shite tesuto ni gōkaku shimasu

I chose を instead of に and it was marked incorrect on my test. I'm not really sure why. I'm assuming that に is correct because I should have interpreted the sentence as "I will study a lot to pass the test"?

Thank you very much in advance for any clarification.

  • 4
    If I were to do a rough/literal translation, it would be more like to succeed at the test than to pass. But at the other answers explain well, Japanese is different from English
    – Mars
    Oct 1, 2019 at 6:17

3 Answers 3


The ultimate answer to your question is "Japanese is different from English". I understand you want a reason, but there may not be a good reason. Some English transitive verbs are translated using a Japanese intransitive verb, and vice versa. For each verb, you have to remember the correct particle, one by one.

Intransitive in English, Transitive in Japanese

  • to look at the picture 絵見る
  • to listen to the music 音楽聞く
  • to hope for a success 成功望む
  • to graduate from the school 学校卒業する
  • to refer to a dictionary 辞書参照する

Transitive in English, Intransitive in Japanese

  • to reach the destination 目的地着く
  • to enter the park 公園入る
  • to meet her 彼女会う / 彼女会う
  • to kiss him 彼キスする
  • to marry her 彼女結婚する
  • to say yes はい言う

Tricky ones like 合格する are asked in exams. In general, it's always best to learn verbs along with its concrete usage examples.

  • Ok, I see. That make sense and I really appreciate the list to get me started. I read the introduction to transitive vs. intransitive verbs today and was thoroughly confused. Perhaps I just need to reread it a couple of times. I'm going to research other learning resources on the subject and hopefully find something that is a little easier for me to click with. Oct 1, 2019 at 2:33

I suppose the one sentence answer is that 合格する is an intransitive verb and so it cannot use を to indicate the object.

There's two things to note here I think:

  1. する-verbs can be either intransitive, transitive, or both. Only transitive verbs can use the direct object marker を.

合格 (intransitive)

検索{けんさく} (transitive): 索引{さくいん}で関係事項{かんけいじこう}を検索する (デジタル大辞泉)

完成{かんせい} (both):「大作{たいさく}を完成する」「ビルが完成する」 (デジタル大辞泉)

  1. に means many things, one of which can translate to the English "to". In this case it is used to indicate the (indirect) object of the verb 合格する.

Some additional references:

  • 1
    Btw for 完成: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/27454/7810 Oct 1, 2019 at 1:02
  • Thank you very much. I'm JUST getting started on transitive vs. intransitive verbs (introduced today). It's good to know that する can be intransitive, transitive, or both. Intransitive vs. transitive didn't seem nearly as simple as I thought it would be to understand, but maybe it's because I just need to spend some time tomorrow exploring them in detail. Oct 1, 2019 at 2:28

The reason it takes に could be that 合格する carries an image of "matching". The verb 合う ("to match"), which uses the same character, also takes に to mark its target.

By the way, 会う, which shares an origin with 合う, is also used with に and not を. Why so is a question frequently asked by learners.

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