I have been learning Japanese for over a year and I still can’t understand how these very common phrases work grammatically. I do know of several intransitive usages of する but none seem to fit in these examples. する in どうかしている is definitely intransitive in my opinion.

  • どうか somehow, している doing. The subject is ommited, but the form is the same as 匂いがする. The subject is not a person but a thing that DOES its effect, like in 頭がどうかしている.
    – 0149234
    Jan 4 at 19:26

1 Answer 1


I don't see how that's a relevant question, as these are all idiomatic expressions; their meanings are not exactly tied to any of the meanings of する (or of any other words in the sentences), but these expressions all have a particular meaning of their own when those specific words are put together.

For example, in the definition of どうかしている in the goo辞書:


or in the weblio辞書:


"what" or "how" is being "されている" "into what" is not explained; even thinking of する in that manner in these expressions sound completely unnatural to me.

However, if you really must define it grammatically, I think する is indeed intransitive in every example you've given in the question. A good way to tell whether a verb is transitive or intransitive is to ask 何を; if it makes sense to ask it, then its transitive, and if it doesn't, then it's intransitive.

For example,

  1. 国が壊れた
  2. 国が壊した

it doesn't sound natural to ask 何を in the first case but it is completely fine for the second case, meaning 壊れた is intransitive and 壊した is transitive. Since it doesn't make any sense to ask 何を for "どうしたの", "どうかしたの" or "どうかしている", my conclusion is that する is intransitive in all of those.

  • In short, do not parse these expressions word-by-word, rather than understanding what they actually mean. Jan 4 at 16:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .