Japanese Verbs -
Transitive and Intransitive Verbs -
Free Japanese Lessons: 30

By now, you might have noticed that there are some pairs of Japanese verbs which look similar, but have slightly different meanings. These pair of verbs are called transitive verbs and intransitive verbs.

Transitive verbs or 他動詞 (tadoushi) are verbs indicating personal action of changing something. The focus is on someone who did the action.

On the other hand, intransitive verbs or 自動詞 (jidoushi) are verbs indicating movement of something.

The focus is on the movement itself and it doesn't matter who did the movement.

Basically the sentence patterns of transitive and intransitive Japanese verbs look like the following...

Transitive verb: Person は/が Object を Verb

Intransitive verb: Noun が/は Verb

You can see from the sentence patterns that since an transitive verb is talking about action done by someone, there is always a direct object to act upon. Therefore particle を (wo) is always being used.

As for intransitive verbs, since the focus is on the movement and not on the person who did the action, particle が (ga) is normally used.

Examples of Transitive and Intransitive Japanese Verbs

Let's use some examples to show how both transitive and intransitive Japanese verbs are being used.

  • たなかさんはタクシー とめました。
    tanaka san wa takushi- wo tomemashita
    Meaning: Mr Tanaka stopped the taxi.

    タクシー とまりました。
    takushi- ga tomarimashita
    Meaning: Taxi stopped.

In the above first example, you want to say that Mr Tanaka stopped the car (he made the change). Therefore the transitive verb とめる (tomeru) is used. In the second example, you want to describe the movement of "taxi stopped", hence the intransitive verb とまる (tomaru) is used.

The rest of the examples will be similar. The first one is the transitive verb and the second one is the intransitive verb.

  1. やまださんはドア しめました。
    yamada san wa doa wo shimemashita
    Meaning: Mr Yamada closed the door.

    ドア しまりました。
    doa ga shimarimashita
    Meaning: Door closed.

  2. たなかさんはまど あけました。
    tanaka san wa mado wo akemashita
    Meaning: Mr Tanaka opened the window.

    まど あきました。
    mado ga akimashita
    Meaning: Window opened.

  3. せんせいはでんき つけました。
    sensei wa denki wo tsukemashita
    Meaning: Teacher swithed on the light.

    でんき つきました。
    denki ga tsukimashita
    Meaning: Light switched on.

  4. はははテレビ けしました。
    haha wa terebi wo keshimashita
    Meaning: My mother switched off the TV.

    テレビ きえました。
    terebi ga kiemashita
    Meaning: TV switched off.

  5. わたしはねこ へやにいれました。
    watashi wa neko wo heya ni iremashita
    Meaning: I brought the cat into the room.

    むし へやにはいりました。
    mushi ga heya ni hairimashita
    Meaning: Insect came into the room.

  6. わたしはねこ そとにだしました。
    watashi wa neko wo soto ni dashimashita
    Meaning: I put the cat outside the room.

    むし そとにでました。
    mushi ga soto ni demashita
    Meaning: Insect went outside the room.

  7. はははおさら ならべました。
    haha wa osara wo narabemashita
    Meaning: My mother laid the plates.

    わたしはみせのまえにならびました。
    watashi wa mise no mae ni narabimashita
    Meaning: I went into the queue in front of the store.

  8. せんせいはじゅぎょう はじめました。
    sensei wa jugyou wo hajimemashita
    Meaning: Teacher started the lesson.

    じゅぎょう はじまりました。
    jugyou ga hajimarimashita
    Meaning: Lesson started.

Identify between Transitive and Intransitive Japanese Verbs

Unfortunately there is no rule to differentiate between transitive and intransitive Japanese verbs. The best way is to memorize by hard. The more pairs of Japanese verbs you come across, the more you can tell which one belongs to which group.

Although it's not always the case, you can use the following general guidelines to tell the differences...

  1. Most of the time transitive verbs end with an "eru" or "su" sound, like for example, あける (akeru) and けす (kesu).

  2. Intransitive verbs oftenly end with an "aru" or "ku" sound. But sometimes they also end with an "eru" sound. For example, とまる (tomaru), あく (aku) and でる (deru).

However there are always exceptions in Japanese, so it's not always true for the above guidelines. Therefore the best way is still to memorize them.

Below is the list of some commonly used pairs of transitive and intransitive Japanese verbs...

Verb Kanji/
Hiragana
Romaji Meaning
1. Trans.
止める/
とめる
tomeru to stop
Intrans.
止まる/
とまる
tomaru to be stopped
2. Trans.
閉める/
しめる
shimeru to close
Intrans.
閉まる/
しまる
shimaru to be closed
3. Trans.
開ける/
あける
akeru to open
Intrans.
開く/
あく
aku to be opened
4. Trans.
点ける/
つける
tsukeru to switch on
Intrans.
点く/
つく
tsuku to be switched on
5. Trans.
消す/
けす
kesu to turn off
Intrans.
消える/
きえる
kieru to be turned off
6. Trans.
入れる/
いれる
ireru to put in
Intrans.
入る/
はいる
hairu to enter
7. Trans.
出す/
だす
dasu to take out
Intrans.
出る/
でる
deru to leave
8. Trans.
並べる/
ならべる
naraberu to arrange
Intrans.
並ぶ/
ならぶ
narabu to queue
9. Trans.
始める/
はじめる
hajimeru to start
Intrans.
始まる/
はじまる
hajimaru to be started
10. Trans.
落とす/
おとす
otosu to drop
Intrans.
落ちる/
おちる
ochiru to fall
11. Trans.
動かす/
うごかす
ugokasu to move
Intrans.
動く/
うごく
ugoku to be moved
12. Trans.
増やす/
ふやす
fuyasu to increase
Intrans.
増える/
ふえる
fueru to be increased

Related Pages

Lesson 18: Verbs.

Lesson 19: Verbs Part 2 - Change dictionary-form to masu-form and nai-form.

Lesson 20: Verbs on give and receive.

Lesson 21: Verbs te-form.

Lesson 22: Verbs on Progress Action, Habitual Action & Occupation.

Lesson 23: Verbs of Motion & How to Make Request in Japanese.

Lesson 29: Verbs on State Continuation.

Lesson 31: Verbs on State Continuation Transitive/Intransitive.


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