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This question came up on chat.

In this phrase:

TOEIC、頑張ってください

Can the comma be replaced by を? If not, is there a better particle?

頑張る is listed as a 自動詞 in both of my dictionaries (岩波 and 集英社). There are plenty of Google results for を頑張る though, including in phrases like TOEICを頑張る. I've also found some related discussion, though it didn't answer the question.

Possibly related: Are there verbs that are neither intransitive nor transitive?

  • Have you considered the omission might be a bit longer? eg something along the lines of 剣道を勉強しています。頑張っています or even 剣道に対して[は]頑張っています? – Tim Nov 7 '12 at 21:43
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I think the following are all valid

  • 剣道で頑張って
    Do your best (while) at Kendo (practice)
  • 剣道は頑張って
    Do your best for Kendo (generally)
  • 剣道を頑張って
    Do your best in Kendo

The last two are equivalent up to the difference in nuance between は and を. Of course all could be used in the same situation. The difference in usage is probably biggest between the first and the last two. The first implies you should give your best (only) when you are doing Kendo. The last two imply you should give your best for Kendo, even when you are currently not practising, e.g. you should attend practice more regularly.

As far as I can see

  • 剣道、頑張ってください

could be short for any of them, although I would probably understand it as an omission of は.

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I believe that 頑張る by itself is a 自動詞 but in TOEICを頑張る it becomes 他動詞。

A bit confusing, but many verbs can be used in both constructions, just like in English.

The distinction between 自動詞 and 他動詞 only really matters when there's an alternating pair like 開ける and 開く。

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