Hiromi Sensei

Japanese Lessons, Travel, Food

What are transitive and intransitive verbs? 

When you use transitive verbs, the sentence requires a direct object, while intransitive verbs don’t take direct objects.

In Japanese, non-living subjects and live subjects are normally treated differently: typically, when the subject will be living things (such as animals, and people) you will use transitive verbs; in this case, the subject will be affecting some other object (“I opened the door”). Sentences with non-living subjects are usually described with intransitive verbs. If you were to use transitive verbs on non-living subjects, it would sound like that item has a life or emotions (to Japanese people)- this would sound ridiculous. Ensure you use intransitive verbs for non-living objects.

An example that is easy to distinguish transitive and intransitive verbs is “Open.”

あける is a transitive verb, so it takes an object.

For example, when you say “I open the door,” then the verb needs a direct object, which is a door. There is always an object that includes particles をor に in the sentence.

わたしは ドアを あけました。

あく is a intransitive verb, which does not require an object because the subject moves itself. For example, “The door opens” would be an intransitive verb. This is describing what action the subject of the sentence took, and it doesn’t effect a third party. When described in intransitive verbs, the subject takes が instead of は. In this case, the Japanese sentence will be like this:


Let’s look at some more transitive/intransitive verbs.

Transitive / Intransitive

つけるつくTurn on (lights,TV,etc)
けすきえるTurn off
よごすよごれるMake something dirtysomething gets dirty
こわすこわれるBreak somethingsomething breaks
わたしはまどをしめますまどがしまりますI open the window.The window opens.
わたしはかいしゃのなまえをかえますかいしゃのなまえがかわりますI change the company name.The company name changes.
わたしはエアコンをつけますエアコンがつきますI turn on the Air conditioning.The Air conditioning turns on.
わたしはでんきをけしますでんきがきえますI turn off the light.The light turns off.
わたしはタクシーをとめましたタクシーがとまりましたI stopped a taxi.A taxi stopped.
わたしのいもうとはへやをよごしますへやがよごれますMy younger sister makes the room dirty.The room gets dirty.
わたしはくるまをこわしましたくるまがこわれましたI broke the car.The car broke.

I hope this article gives you some concept of what transitive, and intransitive verbs are, and how to use them!