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    Meaning: Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
    JLPT Level: 0
    Category: lesson
    Author: TaeKim

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Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

In Japanese, sometimes there are two types of the same verb often referred to as transitive and intransitive verbs. The difference between the two is that one verb is an action done by an active agent while the other is something that occurs without a direct agent. In English, this is sometimes expressed with the same verb, such as: "The ball dropped" vs "I dropped the ball" but in Japanese it becomes 「ボールちた」 vs 「ボールとした」. Sometimes, the verbs changes when translated into English such as "To put it in the box" (入れる) vs "To enter the box" (入る) but this is only from the differences in the languages. If you think in Japanese, intransitive and transitive verbs have the same meaning except that one indicates that someone had a direct hand in the action (direct object) while the other does not. While knowing the terminology is not important, it is important to know which is which in order to use the correct particle for the correct verb.
Since the basic meaning and the kanji is the same, you can learn two verbs for the price of just one kanji! Let's look at a sample list of intransitive and transitive verbs.

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
落とすto drop落ちるto fall
出すto take out出るto come out; to leave
入れるto insert入るto enter
開けるto open開くto be opened
閉めるto close閉まるto be closed
付けるto attach付くto be attached
消すto erase消えるto disappear
抜くto extract抜けるto be extracted

Pay attention to particles!

The important lesson to take away here is to learn how to use the correct particle for the correct verb. Unfortunately, the WWWJDIC does not distinguish between the two types of verb and it may be difficult to grasp which is which when learning new verbs or whether there even is a transitive/intransitive distinction. The only thing I can suggest is to look closely at the example sentences from the [EX] link. Or you can grab a complete list of transitive/intransitive verbs from somewhere and memorize it!
(1) 電気付けた。- I am the one that turned on the lights.
(2) 電気付いた。- The lights turned on.
(3) 電気消す。- Turn off the lights.
(4) 電気消える。- Lights turn off.
(5) 開けた?- Who opened the window?
(6) どうして開いた?- Why has the window opened?

The important thing to remember is that intransitive verbs cannot have a direct object because there is no direct acting agent. The following sentences are grammatically incorrect.

(誤) 電気付いた。- (「を」 should be replaced with 「が」 or 「は」)
(誤) 電気消える。- (「を」 should be replaced with 「が」 or 「は」)
(誤) どうして開いた?- (「を」 should be replaced with 「が」 or 「は」)

Copyright © 2003-2006 Tae Kim (
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  See Also:  
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    rain_endlessHere is a very extensive list of transative/ intransative verb pairs:

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