The first time we saw the auxiliary verb ～がる was during our coverage on “want” with the expressions ほしがる and ～たがる. This time around, we’ll take a deeper look at how the auxiliary verb ～がる is used at large.
The Definition of ～がる
The auxiliary verb ～がる is a 五段-conjugating ending that attaches to the stems of adjectives:
Remove い and attach ～がる
Ex. 欲しがる (to want/wish for)
Remove な and attach ～がる
Ex. 嫌がる (to be unwilling/dislike)
More specifically, ～がる attaches to adjectives of emotion or attribute* when the speaker describes how the subject is feeling/behaving, either to show that the (1) subject’s feelings contrast with what is thought/known about them or to indicate the (2) subject’s behavior (stands out) . In both situations, the internal state of the subject is being outwardly expressed. At times, the subject’s state will be outwardly visual (standing out), but at other times the speaker is having to point out that looks are not what they seem (usage one).
Seth remembers fondly of his life in Japan. (which you may have not known)
Seth acts like he thinks fondly of his life in Japan. (he sure acts this way)
Either translation is valid, but each is stilted toward one nuance over the other. In line with what we learned when talking about “want” phrases, it isn’t grammatical in Japanese to state someone else’s emotions in the affirmative—or at least outside of narration. “Seth” is someone else, and so ～がる must be attached to 懐かしい (missed/nostalgic) to make the sentence grammatical, and what was once the subject of 懐かしい is now the direct object of 懐かしがる.
I, I don’t want a toy!
My kid also didn’t really want toys when they were little.
The dark is scary!
It is very common for both children and adults to be afraid of the dark.
Ryotaro didn’t say anything of it, but he was vexing deep down.
Ryotaro through his phone on the ground all frustrated, but deep-down he was glad.
Grammar Note: Ex. 6 and 7 demonstrate how the internal state and perceived state of the subject of a ～がる do not have to match, and this is a major factor in using ～がる.
*: Not all adjectives can be used with ～がる, even if they express emotion or attributes (see below).
Not Limited to Third Person
The subject of the sentence in either meaning is not limited to third person. Although it is true that ～がる is required when the subject is third person (for the words it is used with), the two meanings above are not required to be used with the third person.
The subject might be first person if it is the case that oneself feels that one’s emotions haven’t gotten across. When this is the case, the speaker is having themselves stand out from everyone around them. You’ll find such first person examples of ～がる in outwardly critical rhetorical questions.
Second person is also possible when giving advice/commands on feelings/behavior. This is something often overlooked, but a good percentage of sentences using ～がる will be used in this way (see below for more about ～がる commands).
8. 俺だけが面白がっていたのか。(First Person)
Was I the only one amused?
Was I the only that thought it was amusing?
9. 欲しがりません、勝つまでは。(First Person Plural)
We won’t beg for things, at least until we win (the war).
Phrase Note: This was a slogan crafted towards children in World War II. This utilizes an important usage of ほしが/ ～たがる which can be interpreted as “to pester/beg” for things, a meaning that fits well in the context of kids wanting things.
10. 強がらなくていいよ。(Second Person)
It’s okay not to act strong.
You don’t have to shed that many tears over it.
12. 妻が欲しがっているのは愛だ。(Third Person)
What my wife wants is love.
As alluded to in the translation of Ex. 1., there is often a critical tone built into ～がる. Although this is not always the case, especially in literature where it is most often used to indicate behavior, when used in the spoken language, the speaker is often pointing out the thought/behavior of the subject in a negative light. Of course, this can be directed to oneself as well. We’re not always pleased with how we’re acting, after all.
So much for being all sad thinking as one pleased that (they) would retire.
That brat, all glad about a shiny Pokemon appearing at the second one.
When my friend got a shiny Marill, I admired her by saying, “that’s nice,” but I’m jealous of her.
Everyone wants to believe in God.
When you have a self-conceited boss, the subordinates suffer.
Phrase Note: 独りよがり is a 形容動詞 that derives from ひとりよがる (to be conceited). Although the original verb form is no longer prevalent, this adjective phrase meaning “self-conceited/self-righteous” is a very common word.
～がる Attaches to Some Adjectives
～がる attaches to the stem of adjectives, but it is only used with adjectives of emotion (感情形容詞) such as 嬉しい (to be happy) and 寂しい (to be lonely) and attribute adjectives (属性形容詞) such as 新しい (to be new) and 珍しい (to be rare).
Japanese has hundreds of such adjectives, but only a handful of these are actually used with ～がる, and for the ones that are used with it, some combinations are far more common than others.
In the chart below, almost all extant examples of ～がる in Japanese are listed. This chart aims to address both frequency and naturalness of each example.
～がる Verb Chart
|◎||These phrases account for 90% of all instances of ～がる.|
|〇||These phrases aren’t as common, but they’re also recognized as being correct.|
|△||Though they exist, not all speakers may recognize these verbs.|
|X||These are examples of nonexistent combinations.|
A List of ～がる Verbs
To (seem) eager to
To complain of being tight/tough
To think highly of oneself
To want/wish (for)
To (seem) in emotional pain
To be inflated with pride
To feel lonely
To complain of pain
To feel unexpected
To be afraid of
To make out to be heavy
To be fond of old things
To be unwilling
To be fond of new things
To make out to be cool
To treat tenderly
To be partial to
To be tough on
To complain of the heat
To feel the heat
To (seem) ashamed
To be uneasy
To be bothered/complain of the cold
To be revolted by
To be amused
To think…a curiosity
To (seem) entertained
To (seem) glad
To make out…to be dirty
To feel sympathy for
To be in pain
To complain of pain
To be sad
To feel uncomfortable
To feel satisfied
To put on a brave front
To feel nervous
To (seem) feeling good
To be sensitive to smoke
To consider…a nuisance
To be concerned
To feign being weak
To be frightened of
To be grossed out by
To be conceited
To be jealous of
To feel bad about
To act bad
To be hateful of
To be amused with
To be envious of
To regret over
To be sensitive to smoke
To be annoyed of
To feel bitter
To yearn for
To outwardly prefer
To feel annoyed at
To feel sorry
To be thankful for
To feel for
To (seem to) pity
To act worried
品詞 Note: Rare examples involve ～がる attaching to nouns. 興がる and 哀れがる are examples. Both words are rare, only appearing in the written language.
This waterfall is quite a strange waterfall, in it most interesting waterfall water.
From the 梁塵秘抄
Word Note: This line comes from older Japanese, and when looking at older Japanese, you’ll be sure to encounter oddities. This example has what appears to be 様がる, but this is actually a contraction of 様がある, which means “to be strange/eccentric.”
Transitive or Intransitive?
The transitivity of a ～がる phrase can be hard to determine. Often, the expression itself will be easily found in a dictionary, in which case it will be labeled as either transitive or intransitive. However, not all expressions will be found in every dictionary, and not every dictionary will consider all grammatical circumstances.
In many of the example sentences thus far, the transitivity of the example expressions has been rather straightforward. Most ～がる phrases are transitive, but there are some that are effectively intransitive verbs such as 嬉しがる “to (seem) glad” but can be used as transitive verbs so long as it follows a の・こと-marked nominalized phrase.
I met dad, but he [was/seemed] really lonely.
For a while, Kate felt lonely from leaving her parents.
Robert was very sad about how his cat got run over.
22. 彼は東京に帰れないことを悲しがっていた。 (Transitive)
He [was/seemed] really sad about not being able to return home to Tokyo.
Looking up either 寂しがる or 悲しがる in a dictionary would reveal that both are formally classified as 自動詞, but the use of ～の・ことを allows for ～がる to be grammatically synonymous with ～ように【思う・感じる】. Even without the intervention of の・こと, speakers will occasionally still use these verbs in the transitive sense with this same grammatical nuance.
Many ～がる verbs from adjectives of emotion/feeling will be labeled as 自動詞, but almost all can be potentially used as 他動詞 in this same situation. As for those from adjectives of attributes, as almost all of those ～がる verbs refer to how people view things, those will be 他動詞 by default.
Another instance in which using otherwise intransitive ～がる phrases in a transitive manner can be seen when used with 何を～.
What are you acting all embarrassed for?
What are you bluffing for?
Grouchy First Person ～がる
80% of the time, ～がる is used in the third person, but when it is in the first person (5% of the time), various negative emotions such as anger, frustration, remorse, etc. are often incorporated. The tendency of ～がる being used with negative situations also results in it often referring to people ‘acting out’ when used in the third person.
I’m suffering now (in case you didn’t know).
You all too should be aware of how unpleasant I felt from that.
When I was a kid, I [was unwilling to/hated] to go the dentist.
To Complain of
As seen in many of the translations above, “to complain of” is another way of viewing the meaning of many ～がる phrases, and by extension, “to pretend/make out to be” is yet another interpretation.
While everyone was pretending that it was cool, I continued to sweat all day long.
You only get worried when you see your child complain of pain all the time.
What should I do when my child is complaining of pain in the stomach?
～がる phrases are normally not used in the non-past form, but it is possible to see this form when used with the nominalizers の and こと or in attributive phrases followed by a noun. The reason why ～がっている is so common is because the speaker is typically talking about the subject’s current feelings/behavior when utilizing ～がる.
Other conjugations such as the negative, passive, and causative forms are all possible with ～がる when appropriate.
|Common Forms||Plain Speech||Polite Speech|
|⁻Te Form||～がって||～がりまして △|
Chart Note: △ indicates a hardly used form.
The polite forms of ～がる are considerably rarer than their plain forms. This is because the only way to really go about using them would be speaking about people in one’s in-group. With ～ます being a polite marker, the context would really need to be void of the typical criticism that ～がる is known for.
My child abnormally asks for food.
Unlike Japanese people, Americans want to mention those things first and foremost.
Everyone is wanting to know how the conclusion of this drama will end up.
Don’t you just hate people who fond over other peoples’ dogs but deep-down think of them as being filthy.
It’s also important to humor oneself.
The children treated the newly hatched tadpoles as a curiosity.
My husband is tired, so he’s wanting to go to bed early.
If you’re revolted by even earthworms, you can’t possible cut the cross.
The people waiting are surely doubtful of when their own turn is.
You can also, conversely, overheat your beloved dog, so please take needed precaution.
Saigo, even felt concerned by his younger brother Jūdō, perhaps I have digressed briefly from needing to touch on the danger behind the man’s existence.
From 翔ぶが如く by 司馬遼太郎.
Kido thought so with delight. His character was quite fussy. If you didn’t delegate him, he would be fretful, but even if he was recommended a position with responsibility, he would still feel displeased.
From 翔ぶが如く by 司馬遼太郎.
Please don’t overlook the signs of when your dog is cold.
Whenever I would beg to eat ice cream, my mother would let me have some.
When my brother sees a toy, he always wants it.
A salary-man who bluffs about “being the one who’ll treat everyone next time” when he has no money, who also repeats the same line of “come with me, I’ll treat ya’” the day he does get paid.
Grammar Note: 強がる is shown here in the 連用形, utilizing a grammar point in Japanese called 連用中止法. For the most part, it is analogous to using the particle て. This grammar point is common in the written language, but it also gets used in the spoken language because it is not restricted by chronological time as the particle て is.
47. 生徒は新しい単語や言い回しを知りたがりますが、まずは基本を教える事が大事です。 Students want to know new words and expressions, but it's important to first teach them the basics.
I feel like I’ve been treated as a burden by everyone as of late.
I asked sensei, but (s)he was unwilling.
Grammar Note: ～がられる is both the passive form and the light honorific form of 嫌がる.
When Seen in Commands
～がる can be used in a command regarding someone’s behavior (including commanding oneself). This is only the case when there is a level of control the person has over their behavior. If the expression really doesn’t imply that it’s just a behavior of theirs, then it won’t be natural in a command.
Please, don’t be shy.
If it’s just this level of punishment, you just want [them] to take it and not complain that it hurts.
You really don't have to feel sorry.
From 海辺のカフカ by 村上春樹.
Take good care of this kid!
A handful of expressions can be used as ナ形容詞—also seldom as ノ形容詞—when conjugated into their 連用形 and followed by the copula. These phrases can also be used as nouns. As you can see, the number of words that are commonly used this way are even fewer than the number of words that can take ～がる. This is largely due to ～がる being marginalized into set phrases.
(Person) sensitive to the heat
(Person) sensitive to the cold
(Person) pretending to be tough
(Person) pretending to be weak
(Person who) finds things bothersome
(Person who) takes defeat to heart
Attention seeking (person)
(The kind who) likes/wants to…
1. 独り善がり may be used as a noun, but it isn’t used to refer to such a person as such. Rather, you would still need to say 独り善がりな人.
Dogs are highly alert, timid animals.
57. 昆虫食は決して趣味人の独り善がりな妄想だというわけではありません。Entomophagy is by no means just a self-righteous wild idea of the aficionado.
There are actually a lot of guys that are timid.
We’ve come to find out that the degree of cowardice in a person is influenced by one’s genetics.
Just when you thought there wasn’t anymore to be said, there is yet another subset of phrases in which the suffix ～屋. This suffix is used to denote someone with a particular personality, often in a critical tone. Wouldn’t you know that makes it perfect with ～がる. The addition of さん is optional, but rather than adding politeness, its use here only amplifies the critical tone in a comedic fashion.
Essentially all phrases that end in ～屋 can be used without, but whether a phrase is more common with or without it varies on a phrase by phrase basis.
Person who bluffs
Person who feigns weakness
Person who is terrified of things
Person who is resentful/regretful
Person bothered by everything
Person who likes being the center of attention
Person who always likes/wants to…
I’m sensitive to the heat, so I’m always completely naked when at home.
I’ve been extremely cold-natured since my youth.
That’s because people who accomplish magnificent things, more than anyone else, are determined and take defeat to heart, no?
Don’t you think that there are a lot of people who respond on Chiebukuro that are resentful and full of pride.
Word Note: 悔しがり（屋） can be interpreted in two ways. Ex. 63 would be viewed as a compliment in which the person is vexing over a mistake but is really still trying to do good, but in Ex. 64, the same word is being used to describe those that resent being wrong.
I think the biggest way I’ve changed since getting a boyfriend is that I’m no longer lonely.
A guy whose bluff is pretending to be a lone wolf
In the past I was very shy.
“Huh? Wouldn’t it be fine to ignore Rattata?” “No, you see, ‘cause I’m the kind of person to hoard stardust.”
Those who like being the center of attention are overwhelmingly full of the type of people that like themselves.
People who find things bothersome, in any case, hate bothersome things.
Grammar Note: Ex. 70 would appear to be a violation of expressing third person in the affirmative, but there is actually a qualifier in the sentence―とにかく. Without such an adverb, the sentence would likely have needed 嫌がる instead.
Why Not 好きがる?
One would think that if 嫌がる is possible, then surely 好きがる should be, but the reason why it is not is because 好き is first and foremost the 連用形 of the verb 好く. Because ～がる cannot attach to verbs, 好きがる is not possible. Perhaps in the feature of the verb form were to disappear, this form may appear, but in today’s speech, other grammar points are needed to express third person likes.
Of the others that were listed as impossible combinations, 軽がる would also seem to be one that should be possible, but the reason for it is not is because it actually exists from a completely separate phenomenon. The word 軽々 is created from a repetition of the root, resulting in an adverb that means “carelessly.”
When You Can’t Use ～がる
As we have learned in this lesson, ～がる is only used in a very limited pool of expressions. These expressions all demonstrate particular feelings/behaviors, and it is that it should be known for rather than a third person emotional state.
From all this coverage, there is still one question that remains. What do you do when you want to express third person emotion but can’t use ～がる?
Remember that ～がる is limited to adjectives and that there are plenty of verbs in Japanese that exist for describing people’s states, many of which cover emotion. For example, 喜ぶ (to be delighted) and 怒る (to get angry) are verbs in Japanese just as they are in English. With such verbs, using them in the progressive form with ～ている is all you need to do to create a grammatically correct sentence in third person.
As for adjectives, there are plenty of other grammar points that can help you out. Consider ～そうだ, ～ようだ, and ～みたいだ as starters. After all, “seem,” “appear,” and “look” are just as common in English sentences when talking about how others feel.