第337課: The Causative IV: ~しめる

In addition to the auxiliary verbs ~させる and ~せる, there is a third auxiliary verb in Japanese that demonstrates causation: ~しめる. This ending is primarily found in older Japanese, but it still lives on today.

Traditionally, ~しめる was in a verb class 下二段活用動詞. These verbs exhibited fluctuation between two vowels in their bases, much like stem-vowel changing verbs do in European languages. Although little of this grammar remains in Modern Japanese, when using ~しめる, some speakers/writers may fluctuate between its traditional and modern conjugations. This allows for a modern outlet for this grammar.  

Conjugating The Auxiliary Verb ~しめる

The Bases of ~しめる: Traditional vs. Contemporary

When conjugating with ~しめる, it connects to the original 未然形 of all verbs and adjectives. Additionally, as alluded to above, you must know two sets of bases for ~しめる, which are listed below.

 The Bases Traditional Contemporary
 未然形 しめ- しめ-
 連用形 しめ- しめ-
 終止形 しむ- しめる-
 連体形 しむる- しめる-
 已然形 しむれ- しめれ-
 命令形 しめよ しめろ

Form Note: All bases that exhibit change between their traditional and contemporary forms are in bold. 

As you can see, aside from the 未然形 and 連用形, all other bases have changed over time. Depending on the situation, you may still see the older forms used.


 The Original 未然形 of Verbs & Adjectives

~しめる attaches both to verbs and adjectives alike, but in the same way time has changed its bases, there has been just enough change to the 未然形 of conjugating parts of speech that warrant looking at all of their original 未然形 to properly use ~しめる.  

 品詞 未然形 用例
 五段動詞 ∅-a- 書か⁻ (to write)
 サ変 せ⁻ せ⁻ (to do)
 カ変 こ⁻ 来⁻ (to come)
 ク形容詞 から⁻ 寒から⁻ (to be cold)
 シク形容詞 しから⁻
 じから⁻
 美しから⁻ (to be beautiful)
 凄まじから⁻ (to be fierce)
 ナリ形容動詞 なら⁻ 可能なら⁻ (to be possible)
 タリ形容動詞 たら⁻ 窈窕ようちょうたら⁻ (to be graceful)

1. Nothing irregular is amidst for 五段動詞. You attach ~しめる to these verbs the same way you would ~させる and ~せる. 

2. せしめる is still very productive, but its meaning will differ depending on whether it is used in isolation or as part of a suru-verb, most notably those composed of Sino-Japanese words. In the former case, せしめる means “to cheat someone out of,” and in the latter case it is fully synonymous with させる.
3. 来しめる, although technically possible, is effectively not used in Modern Japanese. Only its predecessor 来しむ is productive (in much older writing).
4. Classical Japanese, in contrast to the two classes in Modern Japanese, had four classes of adjectives. ク形容詞 and シク形容詞 equate to modern 形容詞, the difference between them being that the former end in -い and the latter end -しい・じい in Modern Japanese. ナリ形容動詞 equate to all adjectives that utilize な in Modern Japanese. As for the タリ形容動詞 class, they’ll be touched on later in this lesson. 

Using ~しめる (Modern, Neo-Classical, & Classical)


From a semantic standpoint, there is no difference between ~しめる and the other causative endings ~せる and ~させる. The old form of ~しめる, ~しむ, is attested in Old Japanese (8th century) whereas the predecessors of the other endings show up a few centuries later. 
The appearance of newer endings inevitably meant that ~しむ, and its new form ~しめる, would slowly fade out of common use. ~しむ, and subsequently ~しめる, have been primarily used in elite forms of writing whereas the other endings have been most prevalent in native texts and the spoken language. 

As for as particles, the indirect agent (the actual doer of the again) is often marked with をして, which is synonymous with the particle に. Although をして is uncommon today, it is frequently paired with ~しめる, but using に would still be correct. 

In Modern Japanese, ~しめる finds itself relegated mostly in set phrases, a handful of verbs such as 知るand する verbs from Sino-Japanese compounds, as well as some adjectives such as 寒い. However, it is technically for the most still part productive with any verb or adjective given the context. The grammar used with ~しめる nowadays will either be fully modern in form or display a mixture of more classical traits. 
 
 
Below are examples using ~しめる with each of its bases. Remember that the grammar of any given sentence will either lean towards traditional or contemporary grammar, sometimes being a mixture of the two.

  • In the 未然形

1. 民をしてえて死なしめん。

I/we would make the people starve and die.

Grammar Note: The ~ん is the older form of the volitional ~よう which is used here to show supposition.

2. もし彼をして政権を握らしめば、ずいぶん面白き事もなせしなるべし。
If (they) had let him grab hold of power, he would have also done quite interesting works.

Grammar Note: The conditional use of ば traditional goes after the 未然形, which is why it is attached to the 未然形 of ~しめる in this sentence.

3. 彼の悪事を全世界に知らしめないといけない。
We must let the whole world know of his evil deeds.

4. 秀吉は大みん国を征服するつもりで朝鮮ちょうせんをして道案内せしめようとした。
Hideyoshi intended to conquer Ming China, and he attempted having Korea show the way.

5. 日本語の素晴らしさを世界に知らしめよう。
Let’s have the whole world know about the awesomeness of Japanese.

6. わが国は、遠くない過去の一時期、国策を誤り、戦争への道を歩んで国民を存亡の危機におとしいれ、植民地支配と侵略によって、多くの国々、とりわけアジア諸国の人々に対して多大の損害と苦痛を与えました。私は、未来に誤ち無からしめんとするが故に、疑うべくもないこの歴史の事実を謙虚に受け止とめ、ここにあらためて痛切な反省の意を表し、心からのおびの気持ちを表明いたします。また、この歴史がもたらした内外すべての犠牲者に深い哀悼の念を捧げます。  
Our country caused great pain and damage to many countries, particularly to all peoples of Asia, by colonial rule and invasion, driving citizens to a state of life and death crisis by mistaking national policy and walking down a road of war in the not so distant past. To rid such mistakes in the future, I humbly accept these irrefutable facts of history, express here again sincere remorse and my heartfelt apology. Again, please accept my sincere and deep condolences to all victims this history brought both home and abroad.


  • In the 連用形

7. 大衆を地獄に堕としめ給うサタンよ、人類の苦悩を不憫ふびんに思うておくれ。
Oh Satan, who leads the masses into Hell, have pity on the suffering of mankind.

Grammar Note: 思うて is an older/dialectal variant of 思って showing a sound change phenomenon called ウ音便, which has affected West Japanese dialects most heavily.

8. 河野敏鎌は、江藤新平をして「汝は、我が恩を忘れしか」と叫ばしめたる人なり。
Togama Kono is the one who caused Shinpei Eto to yell, “have you forgotten my favor?”   

9. それが発展を可能ならしめた。
That is what made development possible.

10. 見せしめのために全校生徒の前で罰を受けることになった。
It was decided that I was to receive punishment in front of all students of the school as an example.

Vocabulary Note: 見せしめ is a very common phrase.


  • In the 終止形

11. 芸者の姿は我らを喜ばしむ
The appearance of the geisha makes us delighted.

12. 汝の求むる所を満足せしむべし。
This should satisfy what you seek.

13. 革命を成功せしめる
To allow for revolution to succeed.


  • In the 連体形

14. 國民こくみんをして法を知らしむるは法治国家の眞髄しんずいなり。
Having the citizens know the law is the essence of a constitutional state.

15. 西郷隆盛は、維新によってともかくも国民を成立せしめる基礎だけはできた。
Takamori Saigo, through the restoration, in any case, was able to achieve just the basics of establishing citizenry.  

16. 彼は環境を変化せしめる要因は温室効果ではないと主張している。
He claims that the main factor causing the change in climate is not the greenhouse effect.

17. 彼の暗殺は、その事実を広く世に知らしめる結果となった。
His assassination led to letting the world know wide and far of that fact.

18. 社会崩壊は、人類そのものの然らしめるところだ。
Societal collapse is caused by mankind itself.

Vocabulary Note: 然る is an archaic verb equivalent to そうする.

19. これはまさに、読者の心胆しんたんを寒からしめる作品だ。
This is surely a work that will strike terror into the heart of the reader.

20.「智能ちのう検査の成績は極めて優良を示している。一般知識、計算能力、論理選択、正文、充填じゅうてん、構文、定義について行いたる成績は、全然標準点と同一である。記憶力は自己の経歴につき誤りなく、記名力の試験は表に示す如く、対語試験において全て正当数を得、ことに無関係対語試験に於てさえ完全に再生することを得るは、けだし優良なるものと言わなければならない。故に記憶、記名の障礙は認められず、従って記憶を減退せしむる精神的原因を有しないことを証明するのである。...」
"He has shown great excellence in the I.Q test. In his assessments carried out in general knowledge, numeric ability, logical choice, official text, loading artillery, syntax, and defining, he completely meets the standard marks on all accounts.  
There is no mistake in his memory about his own record, and just as the exam testing his ability to learn new things displays, he got a perfect score on the antonym test and even completely resuscitated (the information) on the unrelated antonym test, which is to say that he is indeed superb. 
Thereupon, no handicaps can be found in his memory or ability to learn new things, and so [we] testify that he does not possess a mental element that would degrade his memory...."
From 散りぬるを by 川端康成. 


  • In the 已然形

21.   故に今、婦人の地位を低しというも、男子の地位を引き下げて併行へいこうするに至らしむれば、男女の権力平等なりというべし。男女の権力平等なりというべし。あるいは婦人は今のままにして、男子の地位をして一層の下に就かしむれば、女権特に高しというべし。これ即ち我輩が独り男子を目的にして論鋒ろんぽうを差し向けたる所以ゆえんなり。
Consequently now, by saying that the status of women is low, when you bring down the status of men to be on par with them, then the power of men and women ought to be equal. Or, you could have women be where they’re at and have men’s status be one rank below, which then women’s rights would be especially high. This is precisely the reasoning as to why I have directed by point of the argument with my target being the individual man. 
From 男子論 by 福沢諭吉.

Grammar Note: The particle ば seen connected to the 已然形 of ~しめる does not mean “if.” The speaker is instead stating in a matter of fact tone that when those actions occur that the outcomes are to be expected—general rule. There is also a nuance of causation behind this, which is why ~しめれば often preserves this original nuance of ば. 

22. どの程度まで患者の血液凝固ぎょうこ機能を低下せしめればよいか。
To what degree should you decrease the patient’s blood clotting function?

Grammar Note: In this sentence, the particle ば ought to be interpreted as the conditional ば, in contrast to the instances in Ex. 14.

23. 私をして言わしむれば、異性愛も同性愛も明らかに自然である。
If you ask me, heterosexuality and homosexuality are clearly natural.

24. 私に言わせれば、その計画は良い考えじゃないと思います。
If you ask me, I think that plan isn’t a good idea.

Grammar Note: Opting to use ~をして言わしむれば instead of ~(に・をして)言わせれば is the writer’s choice. This alternative expression would rarely find its way in the spoken language, but it just might pop up in a blog post where someone is trying to make their opinion sound fancier. It’s also worth noting that some speakers may also say ~に言わせば, which utilizes the original conjugation for the conditional particle ば, but using ~に言わせれば is still most common by far.


  • In the 命令形

25. 願わくは欧米を戦慄せんりつしめよ
My wish is for you to make the West tremble.

26. 一匹残らず殲滅せんめつしめろ
Have them exterminate every last one.

27. みんなおどして大金をせしめろ
Frighten them all and cheat them of great sums of money.

With the Copulas なり & たり

~ならしめる & ~たらしめる

There were two primary copula verbs in Classical Japanese: なり and たり. なり is the ancestor of だ, and its role is to show existence/state. Therefore, it attaches to both nouns and adjectival nouns, bringing forth all the 形容動詞 of Modern Japanese. たり, on the other hand, is dynamic. It only attaches itself to nominal expressions, but the resulting expressions all function as adjectival nouns of their own type. For instance, both 男なり and 男たり are possible, but the latter is emphatic and captures the essence of what it means “to be a man.”

Both copula verbs can be paired with ~しめる in Modern Japanese. At times, you may even see them used in set phrases, especially proverbs. The resulting phrases ~ならしめる (=にさせる) and ~たらしめる (=とさせる) are still relatively common in literature.

28. 地下水の利用を安全ならしめるためには、あらゆる方法を考えなければならない。
To make the use of groundwater safe, one must think of various methods.

29. 愚民政策というのは即ち民を愚ならしめる政策だ。
“Ignorant Masses Measures” are policies for keeping the people ignorant.

30. 再度の利用を不可能ならしめた
It made using it again impossible.

31. 大久保は旧幕時代、薩摩藩を動かして倒幕勢力たらしめるために、藩主の実父の久光に接近し、囲碁をもって久光の機嫌をとることからはじめてついに久光の権力を利用して藩を動かした。
Okubo, during the shogunate period, to utilize the Satsuma Han as a force to overthrow the shogunate, approach Hisamitsu, the father of the domain, by using the game of go to curry his favor, and from there he was finally able to use Hisamitsu’s power to mobilize the Han.  
From 翔ぶが如く by 司馬遼太郎.

32. それこそが人を人たらしめる事柄である。
That is exactly the thing which makes humans human. 

33. それから加害者はどのようにして権力を行使し相手を被害者たらしめるのだろうか。
After which how will the perpetrator exercise power to make his opponent a victim?

34. 過去をして過去たらしめよ
Let bygones be bygones.

Honorific Speech (尊敬語): ~しめ給う = お〇〇なさる

Another usage of the ending ~しめる is being used as an honorific marker. This usage is not constructive in Modern Japanese in the sense that people no longer actively use this meaning. However, it lives on in Classical Japanese text as well as in the writings of people over the last few centuries. This usage arose in the Heian Period. This was a time in which nobles often didn’t do things by themselves and had others do their tasks for them, and by extension, even when they did do something, the use of causative grammar in a way exalted the doer.

From a grammatical standpoint, distinguishing this use from the causative meaning is a little tricky, but what you should look for are the particles being used. If you still have an indirect agent marked by either the particle に or をして, the sentence should be interpreted with the causative meaning. If, however, you only see a subject, then it is implied that ~しめる is only being used for its honorific meaning. Note that because this is older grammar, ~しめる is exclusively seen in its older form ~しむ and in its respective conjugations.

Another thing to note is that you’ll always see this use paired with the ending ~給う(たまふ)—pronounced as たもう—which is equivalent to お〇〇になる. In Classical Japanese, double 敬語 such as this was very much the norm. However, it is not to say that all instances of ~しめ給う are used in the honorific sense as this still must be determined by context with the help of particles.

35. 明石のむまやといふ所に御宿おやどりせしめたまひて、駅のをさのいみじく思へる景色を御覧ごらんじて、作らしめたまふうた、いとかなし。
When he stayed at the stable in Akashi, he saw the plight of the stable master’s own circumstances, and the poetry he wrote (of this) is very saddening. 

From the tale 大鏡.

Vocabulary Note: 厩・馬屋・駅 are all ways to spell the word うまや・むまや meaning “stable/stage” in olden times. Before the invent of trains, the character 駅 referred to where people would stay along with their horses while traveling.

36. すべては神様の御心みこころになさし給え。
Leave everything to the Lord’s will.

37.「天は人の上に人を造らず人の下に人を造らず」と言えり。 されば天より人を生ずるには、万人ばんにんは万人みな同じくらいにして、 生まれながら貴賤上下きせんじょうげの差別なく、 万物ばんぶつれいたる身と心との働きをもって天地の間にあるよろずの物をり、もって衣食住の用を達し、自由自在、 互いに人の妨げをなさずしておのおの安楽にこの世を渡らしめ給うの趣意なり。
It is said that, “heaven neither creates a man above another man nor a man beneath another man.” The intention of this is that as such, by heaven giving birth to mankind, all man is of equal rank; that we are not innately born with high and low statuses; that through the works of both mind and spirit of creation, we use the many things of this earth, moreover, to fulfill our necessities, uninhibited and without interfering others so that each may live a life of ease.
Line by 福沢諭吉.

38. その夜、大臣おとど御里おんさとに源氏のきみまかでさせ給ふ。
That night, [the emperor] allowed for Lord Genji to set out for the minister’s home.
From 源氏物語.

Grammar Note: させ給う・せ給う mean the same thing as しめ給う, and their distribution in older Japanese is determined by genre as mentioned earlier rather than by some semantic difference.
Vocabulary Notes
1. 君 is understood in this line as it’s original meaning of “master/sovereign.” 
2. The word だいじん was likely not in the vocabulary of the writer as the story 源氏物語 is relatively void of Sino-Japanese vocabulary, thus which is why the word 大臣 is read as the equivalent native word おとど.

Miscellaneous しめる

It would be unproductive of our extensive look into しめる if we did not look at all the other verbs that happen to also be しめる. These verbs are 占める, 締める, 絞める, 閉める, 染める, and 湿る.


  • 占める means “to occupy” or “to account for/to make up.”

39. 観光は国のGDPの30%以上を占めています。
Tourism accounts for over 30% of the country’s GDP.

40. 現状では、上院・下院ともに共和党が過半数を占めています。
Currently, the Republican Party controls over half of both the Senate and House.


  • 締める has various interrelated meanings including, “to tie/fasten, “to total/sum” (alternatively 〆る), (in cooking) “to salt/marinate/pickle” (alternatively also 〆る), “to wear (a tie/belt),” “to be strict with (alternatively 累める),” “to economize,” and, “to constrict (one’s emotions).”

41. 勝ってかぶとを締めよ。
Literally: Tighten the strings of your helmet after a victory.
Do not let your guard down after a victory.

42. 高価なものが到着する予定の時は南京錠なんきんじょうを締めておきましょう。
When something valuable is due to arrive, make sure to lock the padlock.

43. 普段はしっかり財布の紐を締めているはずなのに、つい無駄遣いをしてしまった。
I usually always have a tight grip on my wallet, but I just accidentally wasted money.

44. 会社もふんどしを締めてかからなけりゃいけないな。
The company will also have to tighten its belt.

Vocabulary Note: In the Japanese iteration of "to tighten one's belt," the word for "loins"(褌)is used instead.

45. 箍を締めるのではなく箍を外すことが重要なときもあります。
There are also times when it’s important to let loose rather than getting one’s act together.

Vocabulary Note: The noun 箍 literally means “hoop (of a barrel).”


  • 絞める means, “to strangle/constrict.”

46.   生きたアヒルの首を絞めた。
I snapped the neck of a live duck.


  • 閉める means, “to close/shut.” This can be used to mean “to shut” as in a store/business as well as any door/window.”   

47. 子供が泣くのは仕方ない事だが、時間帯によっては窓を閉めるのがマナーだと思う。
A kid crying can’t be helped, but depending on the time of the day, shutting the window is a matter of etiquette.


  • 染める is used in compounds such as 煮染める (to boil down) with the meaning of “to soak/permeate a smell/color/taste into….” This verb is seldom used these days.

48. 深川飯というのは、アサリ・ハマグリ・バカガイなどの剥き身にネギなどの野菜を刻み入れて煮染めた汁物をご飯にかけて丼に盛ったものである。
Fukagawa-meshi is a (Japanese) soup dish served [as/in] a donburi (porcelain bowl) in which the meat removed from the shells of asari, hamaguri, and/or bakagai is boiled down thoroughly with vegetables cut up such as onions.

Vocabulary Note: Asari 浅蜊, hamaguri 蛤, and bakagai 馬鹿貝 are species of clams that Japanese speakers readily distinguish between.      


 Common Origin with ~しめる?

All these verbs involve exerting control over something--from tightening a tie to strangulation. Their original form しむ does most likely share the same etymology as the auxiliary verb ~しむ・しめる, making them not so miscellaneous after all! They also all share the same intonation, which is low-high-low.


Truly Miscellaneous しめる

  • 湿る means, “to become damp/moist” or “to be in low spirits.” This verb, unlike all the other しめる verbs is a 五段動詞. It also distinguishes itself from the others as having a different intonation than the other verbs. 湿る is pronounced with a low-high-high intonation.

49. 低気圧に向かって南から暖かく湿った空気が流れ込む見込みです。
Damp, warm air from the south heading toward the low pressure will be streaming in.

  • 卑しめる means, “to demean/despise,” and is being mentioned due to its likeness with ~しめる. In reality, its etymology may very well be tied to the other しめる verbs which could have very well been used in concert with the word 嫌 (to be detestable) to produce a verb for detesting.

50. 悪質なデマで市民を卑しめる。
To demean the townspeople with malicious misinformation.