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第189課: Intransitive & Transitive: Part 4

In this fourth lesson on verbs with both intransitive and transitive usages, we’ll continue to uncover peculiarities in Japanese at the individual word basis. 

持つ, 馳せる, 跳ねる, はだける, 生じる, 踊る, 寄せる, 誤る, 笑う,つとめる 


As a transitive verb, 持つ means “to hold/possess/have.” As an intransitive verb, it means to keep (as in perishable goods) or “to be durable (as in the body).” As an intransitive verb, it is usually spelled as もつ.

1. (だれ)でも自分(じぶん)行動(こうどう)責任(せきにん)()っている。
Everyone holds responsible for his own actions.

2. ブランドの財布(さいふ)()っています。
I have a brand wallet.

3. このままでは(からだ)がもたない。
At this rate, my body won’t last.

4. お味噌汁(みそしる)(つく)ったら、何日(なんにち)くらいもちますか。
Once you've made miso soup, about how many days is it good for?


馳せる has almost entirely disappeared from Modern Japanese, but its grammar is interesting. In the physical sense, it either means “to hurry/run to…” or “to ride…fast.” Nowadays, the verb is usually limited to set phrases like 思いを馳せる (to give more than a passing thought to…).

5. (かれ)頼朝(よりとも)のもとへ(と)()せようとした。
He ran for Yoritomo’s side.

6. (しろ)(ほう)から(うま)が{(はし)()って・()()って・()せて}()た。
Horses came running from the direction of the castle.

7. 武者(むしゃ)(うま)を{(はし)らせながら・()せながら}()()た。
The warriors shot arrows as they raced their horses.

8. 米国(べいこく)()らしに(おも)いを{(めぐ)らして・()せて}います。
I’ve been thinking nostalgically upon my living in America. 


Haneru as an intransitive verb means “to jump/leap/splash,” and as a transitive verb it means “to splash/hit (with a car)/reject” among other things. Traditionally, the intransitive form is spelled as 跳ねる and the transitive form is spelled as 撥ねる.  Usually, though, 跳ねる or はねる will work.

Grammatically speaking, the intransitive form cannot be used in certain forms such as the passive. In such instances, the transitive form must be used.

9. ()(もの)をしていて(あぶら)()ねて()(はい)った。
I was deep-frying food when oil splashed up and got in my eyes.

10. 海面(かいめん)には、(さかな)()ねています。
Fish are leaping up from the sea.

11. あの(くるま)は、水溜(みずたま)りの(どろ)歩行者(ほこうしゃ)に{()ねた・()ねた}。
That car splashed mud from the muddle over the pedestrian(s).

12. (どろ)(わたし)()()()ねてしまった。
Mud splashed onto my best clothes.

13. (くるま)(みず)をはねられて()れてしまった。
I got wet from being splattered with water by a car.

14. 走行中(そうこうちゅう)丸太(まるた)のようなものをはねてしまった。
I ran over a log of some sort while driving.

15. 警備員(けいびいん)男性(だんせい)がはねられて死亡(しぼう)しました。
A male security officer passed away from being ran over.

16. 検査(けんさ)不良(ふりょう)品をはね(のけ)る。
To exclude defective products in inspection.

Spelling Note: Hanenokeru may be spelled as 撥ね除ける.

In addition to the meanings mentioned above, the transitive 撥ねる may also be used to mean “to point up/add a hook.” This is typically in reference to things like mustaches or the hooks on characters.

17. 「干」という漢字(かんじ)()ねて()くと、「于」という別字(べつじ)になります。
The Kanji "干" when written with a hook becomes “于,” a separate character.

The transitive 撥ねる also has the meaning “to make nasal.” This is in reference to sound changes in Japanese that result in sounds being turned into ん.

18. 「()にて」は「()んで」と()ねます。
We nasalize “shinite” as “shinde.”

The transitive haneru also has the meaning of “to behead.” Although typically spelled as はねる, its traditional spelling is 刎ねる.

19. (くび)()ねろ!
Behead him!

Word Note: Kubi may refer to the head along with the neck. This comes from the fact that the neck is the point of severing in a beheading. Historically, 頸 should be the character for neck because 首 refers to the head in Chinese. In anatomy, the head is often referred to as 頭部(とうぶ) while the neck is referred to as 頸部(けいぶ).


開ける is unique in that it traditionally creates an intransitive/transitive verb pair with 開かる. From appearances alone, 開かる should be the intransitive form and 開ける should be the transitive form, but now, 開ける  can be used as both to mean “to open (one’s clothes) to expose (one’s chest).” Although not limited to the chest, it can be used to indicate clothing no longer covering some part of the body. 

20. (あし)(うご)かしても、(すそ)が{(はだ)ける・(はだ)かる}心配(しんぱい)などありません。
Even if you move your legs, there’s no worry of your cuffs being exposed.

21. 着用(ちゃくよう)困難(こんなん)で、(むね)(はだ)ける(おそ)れもある。
Wearing is difficult, and there is also the fear of your chest becoming exposed.

22. (かれ)はシャツのボタンを(はず)し、筋肉質(きんにくしつ)(むね)(はだ)けた。
He undid the buttons of his shirt and exposed his muscular chest.

One meaning that 開かる doesn’t share with 開ける  is “to obstruct/block (the way),” and in this sense, it is usually seen in the compound verb 立ちはだかる.

23. ()(まえ)(おお)きな(かべ)()ちはだかっている。
A large wall stands in the way in front of my eyes.


The verb 生じる means “to happen/occur/germinate.” For the most part, it is usually used as an intransitive verb. However, it can technically also be used as a transitive verb. This is possible when the subject of the verb can be viewed as the agent. Yet, many speakers don’t like the verb being used as a transitive verb if it’s not used in the causative form 生じさせる. This is why, as the example sentences demonstrate, there will always be a way to phrase out the transitive 生じる.

24. 表面近(ひょうめんちか)くの細胞(さいぼう)から()が{()る・(しょう)じる}ことが分かりました。
We discovered that buds sprout from the cells close to the surface.

25. その(ちが)いによって、貿易(ぼうえき)から利益(りえき)(しょう)じる。
Based on that difference, profit results from trade.

26a. 豆腐(とうふ)にカビが{()えた・(しょう)じた}。
26b. 豆腐(とうふ)がカビを(しょう)じた。
Mold grew on the tofu.

Spelling Note: Kabi may also be spelled as 黴.

27. 不利益(ふりえき)を{(かぶ)る・(しょう)じる}可能性(かのうせい)(たか)い。
There is a high probability of suffering a loss.

28. 多少(たしょう)混乱(こんらん)を{(まね)く・(しょう)じる}言葉(ことば)(ひと)つです。
This is one (of several) words that causes some confusion.

29. 呼吸(こきゅう)問題(もんだい){が・を}(しょう)じる疾患(しっかん)では、呼吸障害(こきゅうしょうがい)だけが問題(もんだい)になることは(すく)ない。
In ailments that cause problems in one’s respiration, there are few instances in which respiratory impairment is the only problem at hand.

30. 副作用(ふくさよう)(しょう)じ(させ)ることなく良好(りょうこう)睡眠(すいみん)()ることができます。
We will be ale to get satisfactory sleep without causing any side effects.

31. 免疫機能(めんえききのう)支障(ししょう)を{()たす・(しょう)じ(させ)る}重篤(じゅうとく)疾病(しっぺい)(かか)ってしまう。
To suffer from a severe illness that creates an impediment to one’s immune system.

Word Notes: There are several words for “illness.” Of these include 病気, 病い, 疾病, 疾患, and 患い.

疾病 is a clinical terminology for “illness.” 疾患 refers to ailments that bring about physical and or mental symptoms. 病気 is the more general term for “illness” used most commonly in the spoken language and in more subjective situations. 病い is the native word for “sickness,” but it takes on a personal tone to an ailment. Whereas 疾患 can refer to a medical state of function failure, 胸の病い would refer to personal suffering in the chest. The native equivalent of 疾患 is 患い and is even more emphatic than 病い, but it is more so used to refer to suffering of the heart. However, it is rarely used outside of literature.


踊る can be used to mean “to dance” in an intransitive or transitive sense. When used to mean “to pound/throb/jump,” it’s spelled as 躍る.

32. ワルツを(おど)りましょう。
Let’s dance the waltz.

33. (こころ)(おど)っている。
My heart is throbbing.


As an intransitive verb, 寄せる means “to surge (as in waves).” As a transitive verb, it means “to come/bring near.”

34. (おき)(なみ)()せている。
Waves are surging in the open sea.

35. (かれ)耳元(みみもと)(くち)()せてそっと(ささや)いた。
He brought his mouth near to my ears and softly whispered.

36. いつも眉間(みけん)(しわ)()せている(ひと)といつも笑顔(えがお)(ひと)はどちらが()きですか。
Which do you like, people who are always furrowing their brows or people who always have a smile on their face?

37. 今日(きょう)も、マムシたちが草藪(くさやぶ)()()せていた。
The pit vipers were living under the clump of bushes today as well.

Spelling Note: Mamushi may also be spelled as 蝮.


Traditionally, 誤る was the intransitive version of 過つ, both revolving around expressing failure/mistake. Nowadays, 過つ is hardly used aside from its noun form 過ち (fault/indiscretion), and 誤る exists both as an intransitive and a transitive verb, but mostly a transitive verb aside from when 誤った is used similarly to 間違った (mistaken) before nouns.

38. どこで(みち)(あやま)ってしまったのだろうか。
Where have I gone wrong?

39. 操作(そうさ)(あやま)って相手先(あいてさき)電話番号(でんわばんごう)(ひと)削除(さくじょ)してしまった。
I made a mistake in handling (my phone) and accidentally deleted one of my contact’s phone numbers.

40. あなたは(はり)について(あやま)った認識(にんしき)をしていませんか。
Do you not have a mistaken perception about acupuncture?


As an intransitive verb, 笑う means “to laugh,” but as a transitive verb it means “to laugh at/make fun of.” As a transitive verb, it can alternatively be spelled as 嗤う.

41. (いぬ)(わら)うんでしょうか。
Do dogs also laugh?

42. (かれ)(うれ)しそうに(わら)っている姿(すがた)想像(そうぞう)してみた。
I tried imagining the look of him happily laughing.

43. 一円(いちえん)を{(わら)う・(わら)う}(もの)一円(いちえん)()く。
He who makes fun of one yen will cry at one yen.

44. 目糞鼻糞(めくそはなくそ)を{(わら)う・(わら)う}。
The pot calls the kettle black.

45. 何故笑(なぜわら)ってはいけない場面(ばめん)(わら)ってしまうんだろうか。
We do (I/we) laugh in scenes where we ought not to laugh?


Tsutomeru has both intransitive and transitive nuances. They are conveniently spelled differently.

Intransitive Nuances: 勤める, 努める
Transitive Nuance: 務める

46. 大手会社(おおてがいしゃ)(つと)めています。
I work at a major company.

47. 実現(じつげん)(つと)めています。
I’m striving to realize it.

48. 代理人(だいりにん)(つと)めています。
I’m serving as a proxy/agent/representative.

There is also an intransitive 勤まる・務まる, which is used to mean “to be fit for (job/post).” In the case of a typical job, the former spelling is used. In the case of a typical post, the latter spelling is used.

49. 私に務まるだろうか。
Am I even fit (for the post)?

50. とても(つと)まりそうもない。
I’m far from fit (for the job).

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