I learned the word 戦う as an instransitive verb for "to fight" (the verb is listed as intransitive at Jisho.org), mainly combined with と to like this: Aと戦う, to express the party or entity (A) being fought against:


と seems to be the most common particle for this usage. It appears in the first entry for 戦う here.

However, I recently came across a usage of 戦う as a transitive verb, i.e. with the particle を in the form of Bを戦う:


I understand that semantically, it is a different case of use because in Bを戦う, B is not the entity one fights against but rather a context, scenario or environment in which your fight takes place. This would be similar to "fighting a war" in English, where "war" is not your opponent but the situation or context in which you happen to fight. In the text above, this context would be the elections.

I struggled to search the word in monolingual dictionaries to check if the word is indeed listed as 自動詞 or 他動詞.

  1. Is this just a similar case to the verbs of movement in Japanese, where を markes the place in which the movement is taking place, yet it does not make the verb transitive?
  2. How often is Bを戦う used and what are some typical nouns used for B?
  3. Is 選挙を戦う a set phrase?

1 Answer 1


You can (as you already guessed) consider it as cognate objects.

There may be cultural differences but 選挙 is often considered as a battle/war. 選挙戦 is more explicit. Similarly for entrance exams: 受験戦争. Thus 受験を戦う could be used in some contexts.

Other than that, I think most commonly ー戦 can be objects for 戦う.

  • 日本代表は対スペイン戦を主力選手なしで戦う The national team will have a match against Spain without major players.
  • 明日決勝戦が戦われる Tomorrow will be the final.

So as for 1 and 3, the answer is yes and no in the sense that 戦う as a transitive verb requires a certain type of nouns (cognates or similar) but not specific set of nouns.

Regarding 2, I guess the above usage is common enough. I feel Japanese tends to use 戦う more than 競争する in contexts of competition, which could be one of reasons it appears in ordinary speech.

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