583 - ~させる (cause)

This is our fourth ~させる (=causative form) lesson.

We've already had:
- [NDL #575] - JLPT N4: ~させる (let)
- [NDL #581] - JLPT N4: ~させる (make to do)
- [NDL #582] - JLPT N4: ~させる (induce to)

Well then, let's get to it...


JLPT N3: ~させる (cause)

Sometimes we use the causative form to turn intransitive verbs (自動詞 // じどうし) into transitive verbs (他動詞 // たどうし).

(The real challenge in this lesson isn't so much the ~させる grammar itself, but rather explaining what the above sentence means! *_*)

Some day we'll have a giant super-lesson on transitive and intransitive verbs in Japanese. Until then, here is an overview...

Transitive & Intransitive Verbs

☠ A transitive verb is a verb that takes an object. For example, in the sentence "I ate bread," the word "bread" is the object. It is the recipient of the "eating" action. Or if you say "She saved me," then "me" is the object of the sentence―I am the recipient of her saving.

☠ An intransitive verb does not take an object. For example, in "I sneezed," there is no person or thing that is the recipient of "sneezing."

☠ In English, some verbs can be both transitive and intransitive. There is no object in a sentence like "I always eat before going to school," so "eat" is acting as an intransitive verb here. But there is an object in "I always eat cereal before going to school," which is "cereal."

☠ In Japanese, transitive verbs, which from now on I'm going to be referring to as 他動詞 (たどうし) take the particle を, as in パンを食べる (パンをたべる // to eat bread).

☠ 自動詞 (じどうし // intransitive verbs) typically take the particle が, as in地震が起こった (じしんがおこった // There was an earthquake; An earthquake occurred).

☠ Japanese has many transitive-intransitive verb pairs. One example of this is the pair 開ける (あける // to open [something]) and 開く (あく // to open). 開ける is a 他動詞 and 開く is a 自動詞. This is why you might say ドアを開ける (ドアをあける // to open a door) when you personally put your hand a doorknob and open a door, but the doors on a train 開く because they open on their own―on trains in Japan, listen for the phrase ドアが開きます (ドアがあきます // The doors will open).

☠ For a look at another 他動詞-自動詞 pair, go back and read this very old lesson: [NDL #4] - Help! My Japanese Needs Saving.

☢ In this lesson, I'm going to be using the words 他動詞 and 自動詞 quite a lot, so you may wish to re-read the above points a few times to make sure you really understand them. ☢

Knowing all of that ☝ will help with all of this 👇.


There are some 自動詞 that do not have a complementary 他動詞.

In some cases, we can put these 自動詞 into the causative form in order to stress that some sort of agent is causing these verbs to occur.

For example, look at what happens to 輝く (かがやく // to shine; to glitter; to sparkle), which is a 自動詞 (an intransitive verb!), in the following sentence:


小さな男の子が目を輝かせてショーウィンドーのサックスを見ている。
ちいさな おとこのこ が め を かがやかせて ショーウィンドー の サックス を みている。
A little boy is looking at a saxophone in the show window with glittering [shining] eyes.
Literally: “little + boy + が + eyes + を _ make shining/sparkling (and) + show window + の + saxophone + を + is looking at.”

It would be weird to say "A little boy is making his eyes shine/sparkle while looking at a saxophone in the show window." It doesn't make sense because, for one thing, the boy is not willfully making his eyes shine. It's just happening. But there is an agent that is making the shining/sparkling occur, which is the boy's excitement, longing, whatever. We express this nuance by putting 輝く into the causative form.

So...

自動詞:輝く (かがやく // to shine; to glitter; to sparkle)

他動詞:輝かせる (かがやかせる // to make shine; to make glitter; to make sparkle)

Which means that we would say...

輝く (めがかがやく // to have shining eyes; to have a twinkle in one's eyes)

輝かせる (めをかがやかせる // to make [one's] eyes shine [glitter/sparkle])


If you're feeling overwhelmed by all of this, maybe it's because you're worried about being able to use the 他動詞-making causative form on your own... which is tricky for us non-native speakers.

For now, let's just focus on understanding these verbs when we come across them.

Another example may help:


早く家に帰らなくちゃ。子供たちがお腹を空かせて待っているはずだ。
はやく いえ に かえらなくちゃ。 こども たち が おなか を すかせて まっている はず だ。
I need to hurry home. My kids will be hungry.
Literally: “quickly + house + に + have to go home. + children + が + make hungry (and) (=stomach + を + make empty [and]) + are waiting + should be (=はずだ).”

自動詞:空く (すく // to be empty)
↓ ↓ ↓
他動詞:空かせる (すかせる // to make empty)


Note that it is also possible to use the causative form to change some intransitive する-verbs into transitive verbs.

We see this in the following two examples:


大勢の前でおならをしてしまった彼女は、顔を紅潮させて泣き出した。
おおぜい の まえ で おなら を して しまった かのじょ は、 かお を こうちょう させて なき だした。
The girl that farted in front of a bunch of people turned red and then burst into tears.
Literally: “many people + の + in front of + で + fart + を + (accidentally) did + girl + は, + face + を + blush / turning red + make do (and) + burst into tears / burst out crying.”

男女平等を実現させるために、様々な運動をしています。
だんじょ びょうどう を じつげん させる ために、 さまざまな うんどう を しています。
We are doing a variety of things in order to make gender equality a reality.
Literally: “gender equality (=men and women + equality) + を + realization + make do + in order to, + various + movements / campaigns + を + are doing.”


That's a lot of information to process, yeah?

If it makes you feel any better, I never received any kind of lesson on this topic when I was learning Japanese. I just figured it out naturally by hearing people use it in various situations.

So just consider this a primer for the full lesson... which is life using Japanese in general. ^^

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