第257課: Transitivity VII: New Meanings

In this sixth lesson on verbs that can either be used intransitively or transitively, we will focus on verbs that have unique strings attached to them. There are three broad categories that we’ll be looking at.

1. An intransitive/transitive use of the verb is relatively new.
2. Being used as a transitive verb is done to indicate some connection between the agent and action.
3. Being used as a transitive verb is done to emphasize the agent's volition.

Terminology Note
: The word "agent" is used to refer to the action doer. 

間違う vs 間違える

The intransitive verb 間違う has the basic meaning of “to be mistaken/incorrect.” Essentially, a certain situation differs from what it should be. Its transitive form is 間違える, which can be translated as either “to fail/make a mistake (in)” or “to mistake something (for something else).”

At first glance, this seems like a straightforward intransitive-transitive verb pair. The overlap between the two, however, comes about by the severity of the mistake being expressed by 間違える. As it is a transitive verb, it is inherently very direct. It implies that someone was in the wrong and that there 'was' a correct means about the situation. Japanese is notoriously known for avoiding such direct phrasing, so some speakers may use 間違う as a transitive verb to lessen the impact of calling out a mistake.  

1. (きみ)間違(まちが)っている。
You’re mistaken.

Grammar Note: In this sentence, there is no direct object, so regardless of the severity behind the mistaken stance of the person in question, there is no need to use 間違えている, that is unless you do want to express the sense of "you are doing (that/it) wrong."  

2. ()何故人生(なぜじんせい)間違(まちが)うのか。
Why do people mess up life?

Grammar Note: This sentence is one that you might find in slightly dated literature. The mixing up of 間違う and 間違える has been going on for quite some time, dating back all the way since Modern Japanese was being written as spoken. The use of 間違う for 間違える doesn't have to be a euphemism. Other reasons include one's dialect, especially since these two verbs would have both looked like 間違う in the standard language just two centuries ago, with their differences manifesting in other conjugations. As this sentence is in the 終止形, this being a dated expression is highly likely.   

3. 息子(むすこ)(そだ)(かた)間違(まちが)ったんじゃないかと(なや)んでいます。
I'm worried that I might have messed up raising my son.

Grammar Note: This sentences is indicative of a Modern Japanese speaker euphemizing the severity of the mistake that he/she feels guilty of. A quick search shows that the use of ”育て方を間違えた" is at similar levels to ”育て方を間違った,” the latter being naturally less common due to it being a euphemism. People are quick to judge other people's parenting skills. If, though, you search ”育て方を間違う" versus ”育て方を間違える," it is quite clear that the latter far surpasses the former in results, indicating that if the verb is not conjugated to another form such as the past tense or negative form, its grammaticality goes down.  

4. 粘着テープを貼る場所を{間違った・間違えた}けど、貼り直せますか。
I messed up where I should stick the adhesive tape, but can I re-stick it (where it should have been)?

5. 振込(ふりこみ)内容(ないよう)を{間違(まちが)った・間違(まちが)えた}が、()()せますか。
I messed up something in a wire transfer, but can I cancel it?

6. ワープの場所(ばしょ)を{間違(まちが)った △・間違(まちが)えた}!
We messed up our warp destination!

Grammar Note: Given that the sentence is a sharp rebuke of the speaker's personal action, the use of 間違った seems more so like a misspeak than a purposeful euphemism.    

7. 戸籍届書(こせきとどけしょ)記入(きにゅう)を{間違(まちが)った △・間違(まちが)えた}のですが、どうしたらよいでしょうか。
I made a mistake in filling out a family registry notification form, but what should I do?

Grammar Note: Due to the elevated honorific speech implemented throughout the rest of the sentence, the use of grammar that is not fully accepted has a negative effect on the grammaticality of the phrase. 

8. 分岐(ぶんき)を{間違(まちが)った・間違(まちが)えた}(くるま)(きゅう)車線(しゃせん)(を)変更(へんこう)して事故(じこ)()こしてしまった。
A car which had made a mistake at a fork in the road suddenly switched lanes and caused an accident.

終わる vs 終える

Although 終わる and 終える are intrinsically the intransitive and transitive verbs for “to end/finish” respectively, the two do overlap with each other, resulting in the three following patterns: 

  1.  ~が終わる: A state/action is completed without an agent explicitly implied. 
  2. ~を終わる: A state/action is ended, but the agent's volition is not implied.
  3. ~を終える: A state/action is purposely ended by an agent to 'completion.' 

Looking at these three patterns, it is clear that the third is the most emphatic, indicating that 終える implies a full and complete ending of a situation. This extends to situations that may not be truly completed, but whatever it may be, the situation is done in the mind of the speaker. This is unlike 終わる, which does imply that the situation is at least completed, and the particle choice between が and を is made by determining what the subject is. If the speaker is the subject, then ~を終わる is used to indicate that he/she is done. If there was a goal that the speaker was actively trying to complete or end, then ~を終える would be preferred. 

10. 訓練(くんれん)()わりました。
Practice ended.

11. 訓練(くんれん)()わりました。
I finished practice.

12. 訓練(くんれん)()えました。
I ended/finished practice.

13. 仕事(しごと)()わりました。
Work (has) ended.

14. 仕事(しごと)()わりました。
I finished work.

15. 仕事(しごと)()えました。
I ended/finished (the) work.

16. ()()練習(れんしゅう)()わりました。
I finished my listening comprehension practice.

17. うちの子供(こども)今年(ことし)義務教育(ぎむきょういく)終えました。
My child(ren) completed their compulsory education this year.

Grammar Note: Statistically, ~を終える is used ten times more than ~を終わる, but beware of native speakers that may try to hyper-correct you to not using ~終わる due to an ill-informed understanding of transitivity. The verb 終わる has been both an intransitive and transitive verb for centuries. Regardless of the transitivity of the sentence, it is always used in situations that indicate a natural change to suspension of action. To envision this, take for instance a classroom scenario in which the teacher addresses to his students that class is over. Under standard circumstances, これで授業を終わります is the standard expression. If, however, class is not technically over for another thirty minutes but everyone is either on their phones or talking loudly, the teacher may choose to stay something like これできょうの授業を終えます, he is purposely ending class. It is this transitive meaning of "to end" that it does not share with 終わる, resulting in a higher frequency of use.  


 終える VS 終わらせる

終える is very similar in meaning to 終わらせる. Both indicate stopping something, but 終わらせる implies that you are purposely stopping something once it has been completed. It’s not always the case, however, that 終える represents a reckless ends to a means. When it is used, though, it does give a more poignant, crisp end. This makes it satisfactory for when you express finishing something and you want to relish the moment that you got through the situation.

18. 最後(さいご)稽古(けいこ)()えました。
I finished my last practice.

19. 無事(ぶじ)結婚式(けっこんしき)()えました。
I’ve safely finished the wedding.

20. この(とり)巣立(すだ)ちを()えたばかりみたいですね。
This bird seems to have just completed leaving the nest, huh.

21. 宿題(しゅくだい)(はや)()わらせたい。
I want to quickly finish my homework.

22. 科学(かがく)戦争(せんそう)(しゅう)わらせることができるのでしょうか。
Could science bring an end to war?

23. (あい)()わらせない方法(ほうほう)はひとつしかない。
There is but one way of not bringing an end to love.

24. この仕事(しごと)明日(あした)(あさ)までに()えないと、まずいですよ。
If we don’t finish this work by tomorrow morning, things won’t be good.

終えさせる means “to make…end.” The haphazard nature of ending something before it is complete is often implied. It may also simply give the “let” nuance of the causative. These two different nuances are contrasted in the two examples below.

25. (しず)かに近親者(きんしんしゃ)()()()れ、自然(しぜん)に(かつ)(おだ)やかに(しょう)()えさせることが、近親者(きんしんしゃ)としての最後(さいご)(つと)めです。
The final duty of a close relative is to calmly accept a close relative’s death and to naturally and gently let the individual end life.

26. ただ刑期(けいき)()えさせるだけなら、(なん)反省(はんせい)もなくまた犯罪(はんざい)(おか)すと(おも)う。
I think that if you simply just end (the person's) sentence, (that person) will commit crime again without any self-reflection.

変わる vs 変える

The verb for to change, as you’ve known it to be, is かわる and かえる for the intransitive and transitive sense respectively. Although this is true, をかわる is also possible. Before we investigate that aspect further, however, it’s important to understand the various nuances of かわる and かえる, especially because they have unique spellings.

・変わる・変える: For general change; the character 変 is used for showing changes in state/appearance/etc. As “state” is the broadest means of describing situation, it is what you should use if you are not sure if any of the following spellings are more appropriate.
・代わる・代える: For indicating substitution; the character 代 is used to show that some role/situation/standing/position is switched/being substituted for something else.
・替わる・替える: For indicating switching to something new; the character 替 also indicates switching, but the switching is permanent and it’s to something deemed new(er).
・換わる・換える: For exchanging; the character 換 is used to show exchanging one thing for another of the same value. It is especially common in reference to currency exchange.

27. 途中(とちゅう)予定(よてい)()わりましたので納期(のうき)(はや)めてください。
Plans have changed midway, so please hasten the delivery day.

28. (いま)までの方法(ほうほう)()えました。
We’ve changed our method that we’ve used up until now.

29. 現地(げんち)日本円(にほんえん)現金(げんきん)をユーロに{換・替}えるのは、為替(かわせ)レートが(わる)いので、出来(でき)るだけ()けたほうが()いです。
When you exchange Japanese yen for euro locally, the exchange rate is bad, and so it’d be better that you avoid that as much as possible.

30. 山手線(やまのてせん)()()えました。
I transferred trains to the Yamanote Line.

31. 商品券(しょうひんけん)をお(かね)()える。
To exchange a gift certificate into money.

32. あの老舗(しにせ)代替(だいが)わりして息子(むすこ)さんが(あと)()いだらしいです。
It appears that that old shop has been taken over by the son.

33. 4()(がつ)になって年度(ねんど)が{替・変}わった。
Now that it’s April, the fiscal year has changed.

34. 順番(じゅんばん)を{変・替}えました。
I changed the ordering.

35. Tシャツを着替(きが)えました。
I changed T-shirts.

36. ()ずは、社長(しゃちょう)()わってご挨拶申(あいさつもう)()げます。
First of all, I would like to say a few words on behalf of the (company) president.

37. 自分(じぶん)人質(ひとじち)身代(みが)わりとして()()す。
To present oneself as a sacrifice for hostage(s). 

38. (いま)から石油(せきゆ)()わる資源(しげん)()()えていくことが必要(ひつよう)です。
It is necessary that we switch to a resource in place of oil starting now. 

39. これを以って挨拶(あいさつ){に・と}()えさせていただきます。
With this, I’d like to give my salutations.

Sentence Note: 挨拶{に・と}代えさせていただきます literally implies that you are using whatever you said prior as the thing it attaches to. It is yet another way to add a layer of politeness in addresses and the like.


The use of を変わる instead of を変える is meant to lessen the direct volition of the agent in the change/switch.

40. 早く職を変わりたい。
I want to change jobs soon.

41. ○○さんに電話(でんわ)()わっていただけますか。
May I speak to Mr. ##?

42. 健太郎(けんたろう)座席(ざせき)()わった。
Kentaro switched seats.

Spelling Note: As you can see, when かわる indicates a meaning closer to “to switch,” then the spelling 代わる becomes more appropriate. In Ex. 42, Kentaro simply switched seats with someone, likely with someone sitting directly next to him.

43. 健太郎(けんたろう)座席(ざせき)()えた。
Kentaro changed (the) seats.

Nuance Note: This sentence has two possible interpretations. Kentaro may have changed seating arrangements that may or may not include his own seat, or he simply switched seats but solely following his own volition to do so. For instance, this would be appropriate if he were sitting next to someone talking loudly on his cellphone and got up to sit in a seat far away from that individual. 

44. 先生(せんせい)生徒(せいと)たちの座席(ざせき)を{()わった X・()えた}。
The teacher changed the students’ seats.

45.{転校(てんこう)しました・学校(がっこう)()わりました}。
I changed schools.

Phrase Note: 転校する is more common.                                      

46. (いま)仕事(しごと)がつまらないんなら、仕事(しごと)()えたらどうでしょうか。
If your current job is so boring, how about changing jobs?

47. アメリカでは、高校卒業(こうこうそつぎょう)から40(よんじゅう)(さい)くらいまでの(あいだ)5()(かい)くらい仕事(しごと)()わることも例外(れいがい)ではありません。
In America, it is not exceptional even for someone to switch jobs five or so times from the time one graduates high school to the time one turns 40.

48. 4()(がつ)から仕事(しごと)()わって広島(ひろしま)から名古屋(なごや)転居(てんきょ)しています。
My job changed starting April, and so I’ve changed residence from Hiroshima to Nagoya.

49. 出産後(しゅっさんご)仕事(しごと)()わりました。
My job changed after giving birth.

Nuance Note: In Ex. 49, it’s not necessarily the case that the speaker switched jobs. It could just be that her duties at her existing job changed due to having become a mother.

50. 楽器(がっき)()わりたかったら、()わればいいんです。
If you want to switch instruments, switch.