Intransitive & Transitive: Part V (Sino-Japanese Verbs)

第261課: Intransitive & Transitive: Part V (Sino-Japanese Verbs)

In our fifth installment on verbs that do not change based on whether it is used as an intransitive or a transitive verb, we will focus on Sino-Japanese examples.

There are plenty of verbs from Chinese that can be used either in an intransitive sense or a transitive sense because there is no morphological distinction made in Chinese. Therefore, the lack of marking transitivity found in Chinese simply carries over into Japanese. Japanese then compensates by using its backup system of particles, if you will, to help the speaker determine how the verb should be interpreted.

This, as one might imagine, does cause issues. As you will soon see in the example sentences, many speakers frequently change する to される or to させる depending on whether they wish to make it clear that the Sino-Japanese verb in question is being used in an intransitive or transitive sense respectively. This causes grammatical ambiguity, understandably, because される and させる stand for the passive and causative forms respectively.

Before you go on thinking that Japanese is being overly complicated, think about English for one moment. English is just as guilty as Chinese for not marking transitivity in verbal conjugations.

i. I started the movie three minutes ago.
ii. The movie started three minutes ago.

If English does a poor job in marking transitivity, and if it’s the case that Japanese has borrowed many words from English, one might also assume that Sino-Japanese verbs are not the only foreign verbs that have this transitivity problem.

iii. 事務処理能力じむしょりのうりょくをアップすることで、仕事しごとのすべての能力のうりょくがアップするのですから、効率化こうりつかをアップさせましょう。
By raising one’s clerical work capacity, all your job skills will improve, so try upping your efficiency.

This example marvelously demonstrates the flux in transitivity that you will find with the verbs discussed in this lesson. Now, to learn as many of these verbs as possible, each Sino-Japanese verb taught will have a minimum of two sentences to account for its intransitive and transitive use. If nuance requires further investigation, more example sentences will be provided.

Common Dual Purpose Sino-Japanese Verbs

・変形する – To transform/metamorphize/deform

変形する is used both in the spoken and written language. Its intransitive and transitive usages are both very common.

1. しき変形へんけいする問題もんだいです。
This problem is about transforming an equation.

2. 軟骨なんこつ増殖ぞうしょくしたり、ほね軟化なんかしたりするこことで、関節かんせつ変形へんけいしていきます。
Joints become deformed by cartilage increasing, bones softening, etc.

・分解する – To disassemble/dismantle/decompose/factor/deblock

分解する is used both in the spoken language and written language. It is especially important in construction, science, and computer science. Its intransitive and transitive usages are both very common.

3. みず電気分解でんきぶんかいすると、水素すいそ酸素さんそ発生はっせいみず分解ぶんかいします。
When you electrolyze water, hydrogen and oxygen are produced, which results in the water decomposing.

4. 下記かきしき因数分解いんすうぶんかいしなさい。
Factor the equation(s) below.

5. 脂肪しぼう分解ぶんかいする酵素こうそがあります。
There is an enzyme that breaks down fat.

・決定する –  To decide/determine

決定する is largely literary, but it is commonly used in news reports. Its intransitive form is more common than its transitive form, but neither usage is rare by any means.

6. 委員会いいんかい今年度こんねんど政策方針せいさくほうしん決定けっていした。
The committee decided upon the line of policy for this fiscal year.

7. 放送日決定けっていしました。
The air date has been determined.

Grammar Note: Some speakers use 決定される for the intransitive usage, but this is not grammatically necessary.

・内定する – To make a tentative decision

内定する is formal and literary. Its intransitive usage is the most common.

8. 先週せんしゅう選挙せんきょ落選らくせんした○○内定ないていしたことがかりました。
It has been discovered that Mr. ##, who lost in last week’s election, has been unofficially decided (for a certain post).

9. 役員人事やくいんじんじ内定ないていしました。
We have tentatively decided on officer resources.


継続する is more so literary than a spoken word, but it is quite commonly used adverbially in the gerund—as 継続して –to express a continuation of a certain situation. This comes from its transitive usage. Its intransitive usage is more or less a formal synonym of続く.

10. 既存のドメインを継続けいぞくして使つかえますか。
Can I continue using my existing domain?

Reading Note: The traditional reading of 既存 is きそん, but きぞん has become its typical pronunciation, which helps distinguish it from 毀損 (defamation) with the same reading of きそん.

11. 経済けいざい進展しんてん継続けいぞくしている。
Economic development is continuing.

・持続する – To persist/last/sustain

Although similar to 継続する, 持続する is used to indicate that status is persisting and being sustained whereas 継続する only describes a condition that is continuing from before. An end point to the state in question is left far more uncertain with 持続する than with 継続する. Similarly, it too is largely used in the written language, but it is also commonly used in news reports. Both its intransitive and transitive usages are commonly used.

12. 平均へいきん6ろく時間じかんほど{薬効やっこう}が持続じぞくします。
The effects last for an average of approximately six hours.

13. 調和ちょうわのとれた関係かんけい持続じぞくすることが第一だいいちです。
Sustaining a balanced relationship is first and foremost.

・連続する – To occur in succession

連続する is commonly used in both the spoken and written language. Its transitive usage is not as common, but when the verb is used as a gerund in 連続して, it can come from either its intransitive or transitive usage.

14. 就職活動しゅうしょくかつどう失敗しっぱい連続れんぞくするのがたりまえだ。
It’s only natural to continuously fail in job hunting.

15. 高品質加工こうひんしつかこう連続れんぞくすることが可能かのうとなった。
It has become possible to continually perform high quality manufacturing.

16. 連続れんぞくして予約よやくることはできますか。
Is it possible to continuously make reservations?

Nuance Note: If there is in fact brief intervals in repeatedly doing an action, 連続で rather than連続して is appropriate.

・展開する – To develop/unfold/extend 

As an intransitive verb, 展開する is essentially interchangeable with 広がる, but 広がる is far more common in both the spoken and written language. In the sense of “to develop/unfold,” however, it can be used in an intransitive and or transitive sense. In an intransitive sense, many speakers opt to change it to 展開される. This is likely because the agent of the development is implicitly felt to be relevant. Overall, the verb is more so used in the written language, but it isn’t all that rare in the spoken language.

17. はるかに佐賀平野さがへいやが{ひろがっている・展開てんかいしている}。
The Saga Plain extends in the distance.

18. 有意義ゆういぎ議論ぎろん展開てんかいされました。
A meaningful discussion developed (by the participants).

19. 専門家せんもんかたちが精力的せいりょくてき活動かつどう展開てんかいした。
The experts developed an energetic activity.

・移動する – To move/transfer/migrate

The verb 移動する is used as a slightly formal means to simply show the movement/transferring/migration from one place to another. You will see it used in all sorts of situations including in computer science settings when you move things around. This verb is slightly more common in the written language, but it wouldn’t be odd to use it in the spoken language.

Its transitive use is sometimes represented with 移動させる. However, this is not grammatically necessary. In fact, it can be grammatically confusing because it should only be the causative form as in “(X has) Y move Z…” like in Ex. 22. 

20. 病院びょういん指示しじ福祉避難所ふくしひなんじょ移動いどうしました。
I moved to a welfare shelter under the direction of the hospital.

21. ファイルやフォルダを移動いどう{させて・して}みましょう。
Try moving files and folders.

22. 生徒せいとたちを高台たかだい移動いどうさせてください。
Please move the students to high ground.

・縮小する – To reduce/shrink/curtail

The intransitive usage is most often seen as 縮小される. Although this does imply some agent doing the action, the main reasoning for why 縮小する is not simply used is because many speakers don’t register it as being both intransitive and intransitive. Its transitive usage, however, is extremely common.

23. ファイルサイズを縮小しゅくしょうしてください。
Please shrink the file size.

24. 金融資産きんゆうしさん格差かくさ縮小しゅくしょうした。
Financial asset disparity has shrunk.

25. ツールバーが縮小しゅくしょうされてしまった。
The tool bar got minimized.

・拡大する – To magnify/enlarge/amplify/expand

The verb 拡大する is slightly formal but still common in both the spoken and written language. Some speakers inadvertently use 拡大される when used intransitively, but unless you wish to implicitly hint at an agent, then this is not grammatically necessary.

26. 資源価格上昇しげんかかくじょうしょう輸出ゆしゅつ拡大かくだいしている。
Exports are expanding due to rises in the price of resources.

27. 画面がめん自動的じどうてき拡大かくだいされます。
The screen automatically enlarges.

28. 各国かっこく現在げんざい兵器生産へいきせいさん拡大かくだいし、海外かいがい軍隊ぐんたい増派ぞうはしている。
Even now, each nation is expanding its weapon production and is sending troop reinforcements overseas.

・完成する – To complete/accomplish      

When something has been completely accomplished, and the result is visible for all to see, you can use the verb 完成する. It is used in both the spoken and written language, and its intransitive and transitive usages are both very common.

29. 津波避難つなみひなんビルが完成かんせいしました。
The tsunami refuge building has been completed.

30. 防災ぼうさいマップを完成かんせいしました。
I’ve completed the disaster prevention map.

・完了する – To complete/conclude

When you conclude a task, you can use the verb 完了する. It is rather formal and both its intransitive and transitive usages are very common.

31. 修正しゅうせい完了かんりょうしました。
Editing has been completed.

32. 登録とうろく完了かんりょうしました。
I’ve completed the registration.

・終了する – To end/close/terminate

When something ends/terminates, you can use the verb 終了する. It’s somewhat formal and more common in the written language. Its intransitive and transitive usages are both very common. It is important to note that this verb does not imply that a task has been thoroughly completed before ending.

33. ヘドロの浚渫しゅんせつ1990せんきゅうひゃくきゅうじゅうねん終了しゅうりょうし、ゆたかなうみ再生さいせいした。
The sludge dredging was terminated in 1990, and the rich sea restored itself.

34. 募集ぼしゅう終了しゅうりょうしました。
We’ve ended recruiting/taking applications/raising (donations).

・実現する – To implement/materialize/realize

The intransitive use of 実現する is the primary usage of this verb. As a transitive verb, many speakers are compelled to use 実現させる instead. This doesn’t always necessarily mean the causative nuance of “to make/let someone…” is literally intended, but it will always imply a more direct involvement of the agent to make something happen.

35. 勤勉きんべんはたらき、辛抱しんぼうすればゆめ実現じつげんするでしょう。
If you work diligently and persevere, your dreams will surely be realized.

36. 持続的じぞくてき経済成長けいざいせいちょう実現じつげんするためには、現在げんざいよりも大胆だいたん為替かわせ金融緩和政策きんゆうかんわせいさくくわえて、雇用こよう拡大かくだい賃金ちんぎんげなど消費拡大しょうひかくだいつながる政策せいさくすすめる必要ひつようがあります。
In order to implement sustainable economic growth, in addition to far more audacious exchange and finance easing policies than now, we must forward policies that are linked to consumption expansion by such means as expanding employment, raising wages, etc.

37. 居心地いごこちさを実現じつげん{した・させた}モダンな住宅じゅうたくです。
This is a modern home that realizes coziness.

38. 息子が夢を実現{しました・させました}。
My son has realized his dreams.

・転換する – To convert/divert/changeover/switch-over

The verb 転換する is generally used to indicate changes into tendency/directives. So, even though the fundamentals of the matter may not change, the direction of said entity might. This word is appropriate in both the spoken and the written language. Its intransitive usage is most common. As an intransitive verb, the form 転換させる is preferred, especially when emphasis is placed on the agent.

39. 下降かこうトレンドが上向うわむきに転換てんかんしました。
The downward trend has switched upward.

40. 日銀にちぎんは、金融政策きんゆうせいさく転換てんかんしました。
The Bank of Japan has shifted its finance policies.

41. ニクソン大統領だいとうりょうは、それまでの冷戦構造れいせんこうぞう転換てんかんさせました。
President Nixon had changed-over the structuring of the Cold War up to that time.

変換する – To change/convert/transform

The verb 変換する is a somewhat technical verb that indicates switching out/converting something from one thing to another. However, it cannot refer to religious conversion. That would be handled by the verb 改宗する. Its intransitive usage is rare, so much so that most speakers replace it with 変換される. Although this grammatically implicitly hints at an agent, this is not usually meant by the speaker. Rather, using the “passive form” is a means of lexicalizing a transitive verb in an intransitive means.

42. 色々いろいろ操作そうさしているうちにワードの文字もじ変換へんかん{されました・しました}。
While doing all sorts of operations, the characters in Word (got) converted.

43. 動画どうがをPSPよう変換へんかんしました。
I converted the video to be for the PSP.

・集中する – To concentrate/converge/centralize                  

The intransitive usage of this verb is not so common and more so stilted for the written language; however, its transitive usage is very common in both the spoken and written languages.

43. 精神せいしん集中しゅうちゅうして努力どりょくすればどんなことでもげられないことはない。
If you concentrate your mind and exert yourself, there isn’t anything that you cannot accomplish.

44. 現在げんざいアクセスが集中しゅうちゅうしているため、投稿とうこうができません。
Unable to post due to a current heavy traffic spike.

45. ○○会長かいちょう議員ぎいんらの質問しつもん集中しゅうちゅうした。
Questions from the assemblymen converged on Chairman ##.

・減少する – To decrease/decline/reduce

This is a literary verb that is frequently also used in news reports. Its usually always used as an intransitive verb. In fact, even though its transitive usage is grammatically correct, it’s unnatural to the majority of speakers nowadays. If you’re compelled to use this verb in a transitive manner, the form 減少される is more natural, this is despite the fact that this could also mean “to make X decrease/reduce Y.”

46. メインわんではタラの漁獲量ぎょかくりょう減少げんしょうしている。
In the Gulf of Main, cod hauls are declining. 

Spelling Noteタラ may alternatively be spelled as 鱈.

47. 体重たいじゅうを{らす・減少げんしょうさせる・△ 減少げんしょうする}には、限界げんかいがある。
There is a limit to reducing weight.

・増加する – To increase

This verb is more common as an intransitive verb. When used as a transitive verb, some speakers opt to use 増加させる even though that can technically also be used as the verb’s causative form. It is literary and is frequently used in news reports. It is “to increase” as in making the quantity of something larger.

48. 血液検査けつえきけんさまえ運動うんどうすることも白血球はっけっきゅう増加ぞうかする原因げんいんひとつです。
Exercising before blood work is also one reason for a rise in white blood cell count.

49. この回路かいろ電流供給量でんりゅうきょうきゅうりょう増加ぞうか{する・させる}ことができます。
It is possible to increase the current supply of this circuit.

・増殖する – To increase/propagate

This verb is typically used to mean “to propagate” as in organic matter. This could be procreation or the proliferation of cells. It may also refer to the increase of resources, especially assets, but this is not near as common. Although both its intransitive and transitive usages are common, as a transitive verb, it is often seen as 増殖させる. Because it is largely used in the realm of biology, the causative sense of making cells propagate, for instance, is very natural.

50. 患者自身かんじゃじしん細胞さいぼう増殖ぞうしょく{して・させて}移植いしょくするという「再生医療さいせいいりょう」がすすんでいる。
“Regenerative medicine,” in which one propagates the cells of the patient himself and then transplant (said cells back into the patient), is advancing. 

50. 癌細胞がんさいぼうは、徐々じょじょ増殖ぞうしょくし、組織そしき臓器ぞうき移転いてんしてしまうのです。
Cancer cells gradually propagate and then end up moving to other tissues and organs.

Transitivity Note: 移転する is another example and grammatically functions just like 移動する. 移転する can refer moving of placement/location or the transfer of legal rights whereas 移動する simply refers to the movement from one place to another.

・増大する – To enlarge/increase

This is a literary verb largely used in an intransitive sense that refers to the increase in degree, not quantity. When used as a transitive verb, if the agent has direct involvement in the action, 増大させる is preferred.

51. 医薬品いやくひん支出ししゅつ増大ぞうだいしている。
Medical supply expenditures are increasing.

52. 米国政府べいこくせいふはまたも防衛予算ぼうえいよさん増大ぞうだいさせることを発表はっぴょうした。
The U.S. government has again announced that they are to increase the defense budget.

53. おおくのくに科学技術かがくぎじゅつ(の)予算よさん増大ぞうだいしている。
Many countries are increasing their science and technology budgets.

・固定する – fixate/fix

This verb is common in both the spoken and written language. Its transitive usage is more common. When used as an intransitive verb, it is frequently seen as 固定される. This is less likely when referring to a fixed state in which no exertion was used to make it so.

54. レベルががらずもとのレベルに固定こてい{して・されて}しまうことがあります。
There are times in which one level doesn’t go up and one is fixed to one’s original level.

55. 棚板たないた支柱しちゅう固定こていしているネジをはずします。
Remove the screws that fixate the shelf boards and props together.

Spelling Note: ネジmay alternatively be spelled as ねじ, 捩子, 螺子, 螺旋, or 捻子.

・再生する – To resuscitate/playback/etc.

As an intransitive verb, 再生する typically refers to something restoring back to life. This can be used in a figurative sense. It may also refer to reformation of a person as well. It may also be used to refer to regeneration. This usage can be both intransitive and transitive. As a transitive verb, it can also mean to “play (back)” as in video footage. When its meanings revolving regeneration, which includes playing back sound, is used in an intransitive fashion, it’s typically seen as 再生される. Lastly, this verb is used in both the spoken and the written language.

56. パワーポイントで動画どうが再生さいせいしたいです。
I want to play a video on PowerPoint.

57. Wi-Fi環境かんきょう不安定ふあんてい場合ばあい映像えいぞう再生さいせいされないことがあります。
Whenever your Wi-Fi environment is unstable, footage may not play.

58. 再生遺伝子さいせいいでんし起動きどうさせる因子いんし発見はっけんし、それをマウスまうす移植いしょくされたところ、マウスまうす組織そしき再生さいせいされたそうです。
I hear that they’ve discovered the factor that activates the gene for regeneration, and upon having it transplanting in a mouse, the mouse’s tissue was regenerated.

59. うしなった部位ぶい再生さいせいする遺伝子いでんし存在そんざいする。
Genes for regeneration lost body parts exist.

60. カニのあし何度なんど再生さいせいするって本当ほんとうですか。
Is it really true that crab legs regenerate many times over?

Spelling Note: カニ may also be spelled as 蟹.

・開始する – To begin/start

This is the literary version of 始まる and 始める. It is more formal and used extensively in news reports. Some speakers use 開始される instead when used in the intransitive sense. Although this technically implicitly hints at the agent, this is not always the case.

61. 平成へいせい28にじゅうはちねん1いちがつから、マイナンバー制度せいど開始かいししました。
The “My Number” system started in January 2016.

62. これらは全て来月から開始されます。
These will all be started next month.

63. 5がつより皮膚科ひふか診察しんさつ開始かいしします。
We will begin dermatology examinations starting in May.

・反転する – To Roll Over/Turn Around

This verb means “to roll over/turn around” and is appropriate in both the written and the spoken language. When used transitively, some people prefer to use 反転させる, but this is also the verb’s causative form. Sometimes, using this incidentally personifies non-living agents like in Ex. 64.

64. つよ台風たいふうまるごう15じゅうごにち暴風域ぼうふういきともないながら、沖縄おきなわ南大東島みなみだいとうじまみなみ進路しんろ北東ほくとう反転はんてん{した・させた}。
On the fifteenth, the strong Typhoon #? turned its course around northeast to the south of Minamidaito Island of Okinawa along with its storm area. 

65. アメリカにむアフリカけいアメリカじん50ごじゅうにんと、みなみアフリカじん50ごじゅうにん食生活しょくせいかつをそっくりえてみたところ、2週間しゅうかん腸内ちょうないフローラが反転はんてんし、アメリカじん腸内ちょうないフローラはみなみアフリカじんおな特徴とくちょうあらわすようになり、みなみアフリカじん腸内ちょうない大腸癌だいちょうがん発症はっしょうリスクがたかくなることがかりました。
After precisely switching the dietary habits of 50 Americans of African descent living in America and 50 South Africans with each other, it was discovered that their intestinal florae (of the two groups) reversed in two weeks; the intestinal florae of the Americans expressed the same characteristics as the South Africans, and the risk of developing colorectal cancer in the intestines of the South Africans rose.  

・停止する – To Suspend

This is a slightly more literary version of 止まる and 止める meaning “to halt/cease/suspend/interrupt/ban.” The suspension/hang-up in question is not necessarily permanent.

66. 移動が停止してしまい、ミスに繋がることがありました。
Movement would halt, which sometimes led to mistakes.

67. 東京都は、卸売業者3社に対して、最大20日間、業務を停止するよう命じました。
Tokyo has ordered the suspension of operations for a maximum of twenty days to three wholesalers.