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I learnt here that "the causative せる lends a sense of achievement or overcoming hardship to finish something".

My question is: is it common for Japanese students to use the causative form of the verb "to learn", when talking about the fact that they learnt something in school.

In a sentence such as: "Last week, we learned the history of Japan."

(In which I think the verb should be 習う).

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    Why would they use it in the causative when they are the ones learning?
    – aguijonazo
    Aug 30, 2022 at 14:38
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    That link is very specifically comparing using the base transitive verb 終える and the causative of the intransitive (sort of) verb 終わる
    – Angelos
    Aug 30, 2022 at 16:05
  • @Angelos Thank you, yes, now it is clear to me.
    – Starckman
    Aug 31, 2022 at 5:40

1 Answer 1

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There are some issues with the post you link to, which I won't delve into too deeply here.

Your question suggests a misunderstanding of the main point that other post was making -- comparing a transitive verb (終【お】える, "to finish something") with the causative form (終【お】わらせる, "to make something be finished") of the intransitive counterpart (終【お】わる, "something finishes, something ends [on its own]").

If you start with a transitive verb like 習【なら】う or 学【まな】ぶ ("to learn"), and the verb has no intransitive counterpart, then you cannot use the causative of the transitive verb to express anything other than making someone or something do the action of the verb: 習【なら】わせる or 学【まな】ばせる just means "make someone learn something".

You could use the potential form of these verbs to express a sense of accomplishment: 習【なら】えた or 学【まな】べた ("was able to learn") implies that there was some difficulty that might have prevented accomplishment, which you overcame.

(In fact, that's what the 済【す】ませる verb often is in the linked post -- the potential of the transitive verb 済【す】ます. Confusingly, it can also be an alternative form of 済【す】ます as the regular -aseru causative ending added to root verb stem sum-; as with many things in language, context helps clarify.)


In answer to your question:

Is it common for Japanese students to use the causative form of the verb "to learn", when talking about the fact that they learnt something in school?

No, it is not common, nor would it be understandable.

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    Dear Eiríkr Útlendi, thank you very much.
    – Starckman
    Aug 31, 2022 at 5:39
  • "There are some issues with the post you link to": I know this is only indirectly related, but do you mind sharing some of those issues? I read the linked post, and don't want to learn something incorrect from it...
    – max
    Sep 4, 2022 at 17:37
  • @max, in brief: 1) "The せる in 済ませる denotes causation" - no, not necessarily. Conjugating verb すます into すませる produces the potential form. Conjugating すむ into すませる also produces the causative of すむ -- but this is more commonly expressed using the verb すます, which is still in use. 2) "Therefore 済ませる is now the common usage, where originally it was 済ます." No. すます is still in current use. Also, すませる appears to be more common as the potential for causative/transitive すます, rather than the causative for intransitive すむ. Sep 7, 2022 at 22:46
  • 3) "Other examples of the same phenomenon would be 燃やす and 生かす。" Not sure what this is intended to convey. もやす ("to burn something, to make something burn") is the transitive / causative counterpart to modern intransitive もえる ("something burns"), both derived from underlying intransitive form もゆ (now obsolete). いかす ("to bring something to life, to make something live") is the transitive / causative counterpart to modern intransitive form いきる ("something lives"), both derived from underlying intransitive form いく (now obsolete in this sense). Sep 7, 2022 at 22:53
  • 4) "As for 終える and 終わらせる, the meaning is the same, but the causative せる lends a sense of achievement or overcoming hardship to finish something, whereas 終える seems more incidental." Hmm, not quite the same meanings. おえる is "to finish something" (transitive), while おわらせる is "to make something be finished" (causative). And no, the causative せる in おわらせる has no sense of achievement or overcoming -- this is purely the causative ending, as in "make someone or something do something". Nothing at all about overcoming. See my main post above re: the potential expressing achievement, not the causative. Sep 7, 2022 at 22:56

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