What's the difference between using the passive voice with a transitive and an intransitive verb?

Take the examples:

パソコンがこわれられた vs パソコンをこわされた

(PS: I don't know if the particles I used in the examples are okay.)

  • 1
    Maybe I'm wrong, but the passive voice in パソコンがこわれられた doesn't make sense to me. If you don't use the passive and just say パソコンがこわれた it already means that the computer broke itself. If you wanted to say that someone else broke it, you would use パソコンを壊された. I.e. [私は]兄にパソコンを壊された
    – jarmanso7
    Apr 3, 2022 at 16:49
  • That said, I've seen the passive voiced used with other intransitive verbs, like in 兄に怒られた
    – jarmanso7
    Apr 3, 2022 at 16:50
  • @jarmanso7 Usually it's transitive 怒る (to scold), but technically it's about actions being directed towards others. And it's common with intransitive verbs too. For example, smiling, winking, coughing can be done towards other people. Even 走る can be used if it bothers others. The idea of passive form is to take an element from active sentence and place into topic/subject position. Interesting point is that outermost の in Japanese can also be topicalized like 私のパソコンを -> 私はパソコンを. Exceptions are intransitive verbs with undergoing meaning like 見つかる、負ける. These have the same meaning as passive form. Apr 3, 2022 at 18:22
  • 3
    This kind of passive is sometimes called the "suffering passive", or the "indirect passive". See this other answer post that describes this. Apr 3, 2022 at 20:54

1 Answer 1



  1. ❌ パソコンこわれられた。 (ungrammatical)
  2. パソコンこわれられた。
    My PC broke (on its own, and I'm troubled).
  3. パソコンこわされた。
    I had my PC broken (by someone, and I'm troubled).
    Someone broke my PC (and I'm troubled).

Sentence 1 is simply ungrammatical. You need to use に to express "suffering passive".

Sentence 2 is a correct sentence with a "passive form of an intransitive verb". It means the PC crashed on its own (no person is to blame), and that fact troubled the speaker. It's a typical "suffering passive (迷惑の受け身)" sentence. Textbook examples of this include:

  • 雨に降られた。
  • 親に死なれた。

Sentence 3 is a correct sentence known as an indirect passive sentence. Here, there is a person who broke the speaker's PC. The textbook example of this is:

  • 財布を盗まれた。
    I had my wallet stolen.

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