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The example I came across today (though I've seen this with many other verbs):

「潰れる」 – "to be crushed"

which, as far as I can tell, means exactly the same as 「潰される」, the passive form of「潰す」.

My questions:

  1. Do these actually mean the same?
  2. Is there any rule to these "special" passive versions?
  3. Or am I completely misunderstanding something about the passive form?
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You misunderstand, likely due to the challenges of translation and of explaining one language using the words and constructions of another.

Verbs like 潰【つぶ】れる and 漬【つ】かる are not passive, but rather stative -- they describe the state of something. For 潰【つぶ】れる, the meaning is not passive "to be crushed by someone or something". Instead, it may be understood more like "to be (or come to be) in a state of crushed-ness". The emphasis is on the state. This contrasts with the active verb 潰【つぶ】す "to crush something" and its passive conjugation 潰【つぶ】される "to be crushed by someone or something".

This stative quality is like the verb 開【あ】く "to be (or come to be) in a state of open-ness", contrasting with active 開【あ】ける "to open something" and its passive conjugation 開【あ】けられる "to be opened by someone or something".


Please comment if the above does not address your question.

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    Ah, I think I understand now. While I have a hard time wrapping my head around this thinking in English, funnily enough, in my native language German this distinction is made just as in Japanese, if I think about it. Though the actual passive conjugation is rarely used in practice. Thank you very much for the explanation. – ーーー Oct 30 '20 at 9:08

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