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涙を浮かべる

I'm aware it means something like 'drop a tear', but I wonder what part of 浮かべる means 'to drop'. And also, is there any difference between that expression and:

泣く

My guess it would be that the former means dropping only one tear (I suppose it's like a poetic way of saying "cry", and the later means crying in a more intense way.

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涙を浮かべる means

to tear up or well up with tears

so it doesn't have anything to do with dropping. Once you know it is "well up" you can see how the use of 浮かべる isn't so strange.

You may also notice that transitive verbs in Japanese can become intransitive verbs in English and vice versa.

This exact phrase also has an entry in jisho.org .

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