The Auxiliary Verb ~がる

第107課: The Auxiliary Verb ~がる

The first time we saw the auxiliary verb ~がる was during our coverage on “want” with the expressions ほしがる and ~たがる. This time around, we’ll take a deeper look at how the auxiliary verb ~がる is used at large.

In-Depth Coverage of ~がる

The Definition of ~がる

The auxiliary verb ~がる is a 五段-conjugating ending that attaches to the stems of adjectives:

 形容詞 形容動詞
 Remove い and attach ~がる
Ex. 欲しがる (to want/wish for)
 Remove な and attach ~がる
Ex. 嫌がる (to be unwilling/dislike)

More specifically, ~がる attaches to adjectives of emotion or attribute* when the speaker describes how the subject is feeling/behaving, either to show that the (1) subject’s feelings contrast with what is thought/known about them or to indicate the (2) subject’s behavior (stands out) . In both situations, the internal state of the subject is being outwardly expressed. At times, the subject’s state will be outwardly visual (standing out), but at other times the speaker is having to point out that looks are not what they seem (usage one).

1a. セスは日本での生活がなつかしいです。X
1b. セスは日本での生活を懐かしがっています。〇
Seth remembers fondly of his life in Japan. (which you may have not known)
Seth acts like he thinks fondly of his life in Japan. (he sure acts this way)

Either translation is valid, but each is stilted toward one nuance over the other. In line with what we learned when talking about “want” phrases, it isn’t grammatical in Japanese to state someone else’s emotions in the affirmative—or at least outside of narration. “Seth” is someone else, and so ~がる must be attached to 懐かしい (missed/nostalgic) to make the sentence grammatical, and what was once the subject of 懐かしい is now the direct object of 懐かしがる.

2. 僕、おもちゃがほしくない!
I, I don’t want a toy!

3. 私の子も小さいころはあまりおもちゃを欲しがらなかったです
My kid also didn’t really want toys when they were little.

4. 暗闇くらやみが怖い!
The dark is scary!

5. 子供も大人も暗闇を怖がるのはとても一般的いっぱんてきです。
It is very common for both children and adults to be afraid of the dark.

6. 遼太郎は口にはしなかったが、心の中では悔しがっていた。
Ryotaro didn’t say anything of it, but he was vexing deep down.

7. 携帯を地面に投げて悔しがった遼太郎は、心の中では喜んでいた。
Ryotaro through his phone on the ground all frustrated, but deep-down he was glad.

Grammar Note: Ex. 6 and 7 demonstrate how the internal state and perceived state of the subject of a ~がる do not have to match, and this is a major factor in using ~がる.

*: Not all adjectives can be used with ~がる, even if they express emotion or attributes (see below).

Not Limited to Third Person

The subject of the sentence in either meaning is not limited to third person. Although it is true that ~がる is required when the subject is third person (for the words it is used with), the two meanings above are not required to be used with the third person. 

The subject might be first person if it is the case that oneself feels that one’s emotions haven’t gotten across. When this is the case, the speaker is having themselves stand out from everyone around them. You’ll find such first person examples of ~がる in outwardly critical rhetorical questions.

Second person is also possible when giving advice/commands on feelings/behavior. This is something often overlooked, but a good percentage of sentences using ~がる will be used in this way (see below for more about ~がる commands).

8. おれだけが面白がっていたのか。(First Person)
Was I the only one amused?
Was I the only that thought it was amusing?

9. 欲しがりません、勝つまでは。(First Person Plural)
We won’t beg for things, at least until we win (the war).

Phrase Note: This was a slogan crafted towards children in World War II. This utilizes an important usage of ほしが/ ~たがる which can be interpreted as “to pester/beg” for things, a meaning that fits well in the context of kids wanting things.

10. 強がらなくていいよ。(Second Person)
It’s okay not to act strong.

11. あんまり残念がらなかくてもいい。
You don’t have to shed that many tears over it.

12. 妻が欲しがっているのは愛だ。(Third Person)
What my wife wants is love.

Critical Tone

As alluded to in the translation of Ex. 1., there is often a critical tone built into ~がる. Although this is not always the case, especially in literature where it is most often used to indicate behavior, when used in the spoken language, the speaker is often pointing out the thought/behavior of the subject in a negative light. Of course, this can be directed to oneself as well. We’re not always pleased with how we’re acting, after all.

13. 勝手に引退いんたいだと思って悲しがっていたのに。
So much for being all sad thinking as one pleased that (they) would retire.

14. あの小僧、2匹めで色違いのポケモンが出て嬉しがっていた。
That brat, all glad about a shiny Pokemon appearing at the second one.

15. 友達が色違いのマリルをゲットしたら、僕は「いいな」と褒めてやったが、彼女のことを羨ましがってる。
When my friend got a shiny Marill, I admired her by saying, “that’s nice,” but I’m jealous of her.

16. 誰でも神を信じたがります。
Everyone wants to believe in God.

17. ひとりよがりな上司を持つと、部下は苦労する。
When you have a self-conceited boss, the subordinates suffer.

Phrase Note: 独りよがり is a 形容動詞 that derives from ひとりよがる (to be conceited). Although the original verb form is no longer prevalent, this adjective phrase meaning “self-conceited/self-righteous” is a very common word.

~がるAttaches to Some Adjectives

~がる attaches to the stem of adjectives, but it is only used with adjectives of emotion (感情形容詞) such as 嬉しい (to be happy) and 寂しい (to be lonely) and attribute adjectives (属性形容詞) such as 新しい (to be new) and 珍しい (to be rare).

Japanese has hundreds of such adjectives, but only a handful of these are actually used with ~がる, and for the ones that are used with it, some combinations are far more common than others.

In the chart below, almost all extant examples of ~がる in Japanese are listed. This chart aims to address both frequency and naturalness of each example.

~がる Verb Chart


 ◎ These phrases account for 90% of all instances of ~がる.
 〇 These phrases aren’t as common, but they’re also recognized as being correct.
 △ Though they exist, not all speakers may recognize these verbs.
 X These are examples of nonexistent combinations.
 自 Intransitive verb.
 他 Transitive verb.

A List of ~がる Verbs

 ◎ 〇 △ X
To (seem) eager to
To complain of being tight/tough
 偉がるTo think highly of oneself 好きがる
To want/wish (for)
To (seem) in emotional pain
To be inflated with pride
To feel lonely
To complain of pain
To feel unexpected
To be afraid of
To make out to be heavy
To be fond of old things
To dislike
To be unwilling
To be fond of new things
To make out to be cool
To treat tenderly
To be partial to
To fondle
To be tough on
To complain of the heat
To feel the heat
To (seem) ashamed
To be uneasy
To be bothered/complain of the cold
To be revolted by
To be amused
To think…a curiosity
To (seem) entertained
To (seem) glad
To make out…to be dirty
To feel sympathy for
To be in pain
To complain of pain
To marvel
To detest
To be sad
To feel uncomfortable
To feel satisfied
To put on a brave front
To feel nervous
To (seem) feeling good
To be sensitive to smoke
To consider…a nuisance
To be concerned
To feign being weak
To be frightened of
To be grossed out by
To be conceited
To be jealous of
To feel bad about
To act bad
To be hateful of
To doubt
To be amused with
To be envious of 
To regret over
To be sensitive to smoke
To be annoyed of
To feel bitter
To yearn for
 To outwardly prefer
To feel annoyed at
To feel sorry
 有難がるTo be thankful for 不憫がるTo feel for  
 気の毒がるTo (seem to) pity 悩ましがる
To act worried

品詞 Note: Rare examples involve ~がる attaching to nouns. 興がる and 哀れがる are examples. Both words are rare, only appearing in the written language.

18. この滝は様がる滝の興がる滝の水
This waterfall is quite a strange waterfall, in it most interesting waterfall water.
From the 梁塵秘抄

Word Note: This line comes from older Japanese, and when looking at older Japanese, you’ll be sure to encounter oddities. This example has what appears to be 様がる, but this is actually a contraction of 様がある, which means “to be strange/eccentric.”

Transitive or Intransitive?

The transitivity of a ~がる phrase can be hard to determine. Often, the expression itself will be easily found in a dictionary, in which case it will be labeled as either transitive or intransitive. However, not all expressions will be found in every dictionary, and not every dictionary will consider all grammatical circumstances.

In many of the example sentences thus far, the transitivity of the example expressions has been rather straightforward. Most ~がる phrases are transitive, but there are some that are effectively intransitive verbs such as 嬉しがる “to (seem) glad” but can be used as transitive verbs so long as it follows a の・こと-marked nominalized phrase.

19. お父さんに会ったけど、すごく寂しがっていたよ。(Intransitive)
I met dad, but he [was/seemed] really lonely.

20. ケイトはしばらくは父母との別れを寂しがっていた。
For a while, Kate felt lonely from leaving her parents.

21. ロバートは飼っていた猫がかれてすごく悲しがっていた。
Robert was very sad about how his cat got run over.

22. 彼は東京に帰れないことを悲しがっていた。 (Transitive)
He [was/seemed] really sad about not being able to return home to Tokyo.

Looking up either 寂しがる or 悲しがる in a dictionary would reveal that both are formally classified as 自動詞, but the use of ~の・ことを allows for ~がる to be grammatically synonymous with ~ように【思う・感じる】. Even without the intervention of の・こと, speakers will occasionally still use these verbs in the transitive sense with this same grammatical nuance.

Many ~がる verbs from adjectives of emotion/feeling will be labeled as 自動詞, but almost all can be potentially used as 他動詞 in this same situation. As for those from adjectives of attributes, as almost all of those ~がる verbs refer to how people view things, those will be 他動詞 by default.

Another instance in which using otherwise intransitive ~がる phrases in a transitive manner can be seen when used with 何を~.

23. 何を恥ずかしがってるの?
What are you acting all embarrassed for?

24. 何を強がっているんだ?!
What are you bluffing for?

Grouchy First Person ~がる

80% of the time, ~がる is used in the third person, but when it is in the first person (5% of the time), various negative emotions such as anger, frustration, remorse, etc. are often incorporated. The tendency of ~がる being used with negative situations also results in it often referring to people ‘acting out’ when used in the third person.

25. 私は今苦しがっています。
I’m suffering now (in case you didn’t know).

26. 私がそのことで不愉快がっていたことは君たちもご存じのはずだ。
You all too should be aware of how unpleasant I felt from that.

27. 私は子供のころ、歯医者に行くのを嫌がっていました。
When I was a kid, I [was unwilling to/hated] to go the dentist.

To Complain of

As seen in many of the translations above, “to complain of” is another way of viewing the meaning of many ~がる phrases, and by extension, “to pretend/make out to be” is yet another interpretation.

28. 皆が涼しがっている中、きょう一日中汗をかき続けていた。
While everyone was pretending that it was cool, I continued to sweat all day long.

29. 何度も子供が痛がるのを見ると心配になりますよね。
You only get worried when you see your child complain of pain all the time.

30. 子供がお腹のあたりを痛がっているときは、どうしたらいいでしょうか。
What should I do when my child is complaining of pain in the stomach?

Common Conjugations

~がる phrases are normally not used in the non-past form, but it is possible to see this form when used with the nominalizers の and こと or in attributive phrases followed by a noun. The reason why ~がっている is so common is because the speaker is typically talking about the subject’s current feelings/behavior when utilizing ~がる.

Other conjugations such as the negative, passive, and causative forms are all possible with ~がる when appropriate.

 Common Forms Plain Speech Polite Speech
 Non-Past ~がる ~がります
 Past ~がった ~がりました 
 Negative ~がらない ~がりません
 ⁻Te Form ~がって ~がりまして △
 Progressive ~がっている ~がっています
 Passive ~がられる ~がられます
 Causative ~がらせる ~がらせます

Chart Note: △ indicates a hardly used form.  

The polite forms of ~がる are considerably rarer than their plain forms. This is because the only way to really go about using them would be speaking about people in one’s in-group. With ~ます being a polite marker, the context would really need to be void of the typical criticism that ~がる is known for.

31. うちの子は異常なほど食べ物を欲しがります
My child abnormally asks for food.

32. 日本人と違ってアメリカ人はそういうことを真っ先に言いたがりますね。
Unlike Japanese people, Americans want to mention those things first and foremost.

33. このドラマの結末がどうなるか、みんな知りたがっています
Everyone is wanting to know how the conclusion of this drama will end up.

34. 他人の犬をかわいがっておきながら内心汚がっている人って嫌じゃない?
Don’t you just hate people who fond over other peoples’ dogs but deep-down think of them as being filthy.

35. 自分を面白がらせるのも大切だ。
It’s also important to humor oneself.

36. 子供たちは孵ったばかりのオタマジャクシを珍しがった
The children treated the newly hatched tadpoles as a curiosity.

37. 主人は疲れているので、早く寝たがっています
My husband is tired, so he’s wanting to go to bed early.

38. ミミズさえ気味悪きみわるがって草取くさとりもできないぞ。
If you’re revolted by even earthworms, you can’t possible cut the cross.

39. 待っている人たちは自分の出番でばんはいつかといぶかがっていることだろう。
The people waiting are surely doubtful of when their own turn is.

40. 愛犬をぎゃくに暑がらせてしまうこともあるので十分注意してください。
You can also, conversely, overheat your beloved dog, so please take needed precaution.

41. 弟の従道にさえ不安がられている西郷という人物、あるいはその存在の危険性についてれねばならないために、話が一見横道よこみちれている。
Saigo, even felt concerned by his younger brother Jūdō, perhaps I have digressed briefly from needing to touch on the danger behind the man’s existence.
From 翔ぶが如く by 司馬遼太郎.

42. 木戸は喜びとともにそう思っている。この人物の性格はむずかしかった。立ててくれなければむずかるし、立てられて責任ある地位に推戴すいたいされても不快がるのである。
Kido thought so with delight. His character was quite fussy. If you didn’t delegate him, he would be fretful, but even if he was recommended a position with responsibility, he would still feel displeased.
From 翔ぶが如く by 司馬遼太郎.

43. 犬が寒がっているときの合図あいず見逃みのがさないようにしてください。
Please don’t overlook the signs of when your dog is cold.

44. 僕がアイスクリームを食べたがると、母が食べさせてくれた。
Whenever I would beg to eat ice cream, my mother would let me have some.

45. 弟はおもちゃを見ると、いつも欲しがる
When my brother sees a toy, he always wants it.

46. 金が無くても、「次会ったときに俺が奢る!」と強がり、給料が入った日は「俺と一緒に来いよ、ご馳走するからさ」とまたも同じようなセリフを言ってしまうサラリーマン。
A salary-man who bluffs about “being the one who’ll treat everyone next time” when he has no money, who also repeats the same line of “come with me, I’ll treat ya’” the day he does get paid.

Grammar Note: 強がる is shown here in the 連用形, utilizing a grammar point in Japanese called 連用中止法. For the most part, it is analogous to using the particle て. This grammar point is common in the written language, but it also gets used in the spoken language because it is not restricted by chronological time as the particle て is. 

47. 生徒は新しい単語や言い回しを知りたがりますが、まずは基本を教える事が大事です。 Students want to know new words and expressions, but it’s important to first teach them the basics.

48. 最近皆から煙たがれているような気がします。
I feel like I’ve been treated as a burden by everyone as of late.

49. 先生にお願いしましたが、嫌がられました
I asked sensei, but (s)he was unwilling.

Grammar Note: ~がられる is both the passive form and the light honorific form of 嫌がる. 

When Seen in Commands

~がる can be used in a command regarding someone’s behavior (including commanding oneself). This is only the case when there is a level of control the person has over their behavior. If the expression really doesn’t imply that it’s just a behavior of theirs, then it won’t be natural in a command.

50. 恥ずかしがらないでください。
Please, don’t be shy.

51. これくらいのばつなら痛がらないで我慢がまんしてほしいですね。
If it’s just this level of punishment, you just want [them] to take it and not complain that it hurts.

52. べつにすまながらなくてもいい。
You really don’t have to feel sorry. 
From 海辺のカフカ by 村上春樹.

53. この子を可愛がってあげてね。
Take good care of this kid!


A handful of expressions can be used as ナ形容詞—also seldom as ノ形容詞—when conjugated into their 連用形 and followed by the copula. These phrases can also be used as nouns. As you can see, the number of words that are commonly used this way are even fewer than the number of words that can take ~がる. This is largely due to ~がる being marginalized into set phrases.

(Person) sensitive to the heat
(Person) sensitive to the cold
Timid (person)
(Person) pretending to be tough
(Person) pretending to be weak
(Being) self-righteous
(Person who) finds things bothersome
(Person who) takes defeat to heart
Shy (person)
Attention seeking (person)
(The kind who) likes/wants to…


1. 独り善がり may be used as a noun, but it isn’t used to refer to such a person as such. Rather, you would still need to say 独り善がりな人. 2. Of these phrases, 弱がり would be the least used. At first glance, it would seem to be synonymous with 弱虫, but the difference is that the former implies the person is feigning said behavior. Few people would behave this way on person, and so the word is as rare as is the phenomenon it reflects. 3. The use ~たがり is very productive in coining endless amounts of phrases. Minus a few common examples, most examples of this will be off-shoot phrases that people spontaneously think of to describe someone. 4. As a recap from earlier, the phrases in this chart are marked with △ when they are rare and not because they are inherently incorrect. Some phrases are realistically far more common than others, and this has a major effect on the recognition native speakers have toward the lesser common ones. 5. These phrases are all technically synonymous with ~がる being used as an attribute in the 連体形. For example, 面倒くさがる人 is just as valid as 面倒くさがりな人 grammatically. The difference is that the former would just describe the state of the person’s behavior whereas the latter describes inherent personality.
6. When used as adjectives preceding nouns, な is used far more often than の. 54. 暑がりな彼氏も快適かいてきそうです。My hot-natured boyfriend even seems comfortable.
55. 暑がりのご主人と寒がりの奥様おくさまA hot-natured husband and a cold-natured wife

56. 犬はとても警戒心けいかいしんが高い、こわがりな動物です。
Dogs are highly alert, timid animals.

57. 昆虫食こんちゅうしょくけっして趣味人しゅみじんひとがりな妄想もうそうだというわけではありません。Entomophagy is by no means just a self-righteous wild idea of the aficionado.

58. 男性は実は、怖がりが多いのよ。
There are actually a lot of guys that are timid.  59. 私は寒がりなので、北欧ほくおうはあまり好きじゃない。I’m sensitive to the cold, so I’d don’t like Northern Europe much.

We’ve come to find out that the degree of cowardice in a person is influenced by one’s genetics.


Just when you thought there wasn’t anymore to be said, there is yet another subset of phrases in which the suffix ~屋. This suffix is used to denote someone with a particular personality, often in a critical tone. Wouldn’t you know that makes it perfect with ~がる. The addition of さん is optional, but rather than adding politeness, its use here only amplifies the critical tone in a comedic fashion.

Essentially all phrases that end in ~屋 can be used without, but whether a phrase is more common with or without it varies on a phrase by phrase basis.  

 暑がり屋 〇Hot-natured person 寒がり屋 〇Cold-natured person
 恥ずかしがり屋 ◎Shy person 寂しがり屋 ◎Lonely person
 強がり屋 〇Person who bluffs 弱がり屋 △Person who feigns weakness
 怖がり屋 ◎Timid person 恐ろしがり屋 △Person who is terrified of things
 悔しがり屋 △Person who is resentful/regretful 面倒くさがり屋 ◎Person bothered by everything
 目立ちたがり屋 ◎Person who likes being the center of attention ~たがり屋 ◎Person who always likes/wants to…

Word Notes: 1. When comparing the frequency in use of these phrases with their non-屋 counterparts, you’ll notice that they aren’t quite the same. 2. ~たがり屋 is just as productive as ~たがり. Between the two, the former would be the most predominant form in the spoken language.

61. 俺は暑がり屋だから、家にいるときはいつも素っ裸でいる。
I’m sensitive to the heat, so I’m always completely naked when at home.

62. 私は少年時代から極端きょくたんな寒がり屋だった。
I’ve been extremely cold-natured since my youth.  

63. 偉大いだいなことをげる人というのは誰よりも負けずぎらいで悔しがり屋さんなんでしょう。
That’s because people who accomplish magnificent things, more than anyone else, are determined and take defeat to heart, no?   

64. 知恵袋では回答者の方々はプライドの高すぎる悔しがり屋さんの方が多いんじゃないかと思いませんか?
Don’t you think that there are a lot of people who respond on Chiebukuro that are resentful and full of pride.

Word Note: 悔しがり(屋) can be interpreted in two ways. Ex. 63 would be viewed as a compliment in which the person is vexing over a mistake but is really still trying to do good, but in Ex. 64, the same word is being used to describe those that resent being wrong.

65.   俺は彼氏ができて一番変わったところは寂しがり屋じゃなくなったことだと思う。
I think the biggest way I’ve changed since getting a boyfriend is that I’m no longer lonely.

66.  一匹狼いっぴきおおかみを気取る強がり屋さん
A guy whose bluff is pretending to be a lone wolf

67. 昔は恥ずかしがり屋だったよ。
In the past I was very shy.

“Huh? Wouldn’t it be fine to ignore Rattata?” “No, you see, ‘cause I’m the kind of person to hoard stardust.”

69. 目立ちたがり屋の人はつまり、圧倒的あっとうてきに自分のことが好きなタイプばかりだ。 
Those who like being the center of attention are overwhelmingly full of the type of people that like themselves.

70. 面倒くさがり屋の人は、とにかく面倒なことが嫌いだ。
People who find things bothersome, in any case, hate bothersome things.

Grammar Note: Ex. 70 would appear to be a violation of expressing third person in the affirmative, but there is actually a qualifier in the sentence―とにかく. Without such an adverb, the sentence would likely have needed 嫌がる instead.

Why Not 好きがる?

One would think that if 嫌がる is possible, then surely 好きがる should be, but the reason why it is not is because 好き is first and foremost the 連用形 of the verb 好く. Because ~がる cannot attach to verbs, 好きがる is not possible. Perhaps in the feature of the verb form were to disappear, this form may appear, but in today’s speech, other grammar points are needed to express third person likes.

Of the others that were listed as impossible combinations, 軽がる would also seem to be one that should be possible, but the reason for it is not is because it actually exists from a completely separate phenomenon. The word 軽々 is created from a repetition of the root, resulting in an adverb that means “carelessly.”

When You Can’t Use ~がる

As we have learned in this lesson, ~がる is only used in a very limited pool of expressions. These expressions all demonstrate particular feelings/behaviors, and it is that it should be known for rather than a third person emotional state.

From all this coverage, there is still one question that remains. What do you do when you want to express third person emotion but can’t use ~がる?

Remember that ~がる is limited to adjectives and that there are plenty of verbs in Japanese that exist for describing people’s states, many of which cover emotion. For example, 喜ぶ (to be delighted) and 怒る (to get angry) are verbs in Japanese just as they are in English. With such verbs, using them in the progressive form with ~ている is all you need to do to create a grammatically correct sentence in third person.

As for adjectives, there are plenty of other grammar points that can help you out. Consider ~そうだ, ~ようだ, and ~みたいだ as starters. After all, “seem,” “appear,” and “look” are just as common in English sentences when talking about how others feel.