581 - ~させる (make to do)

If you haven't already done so, you really should go back and read our previous lesson on ~させる before reading this one.

[NDL #575] - JLPT N4: ~させる (let)

For one thing, that's where we explain how to conjugate these verbs!

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


JLPT N4: ~させる (make to do)

As I mentioned in the N4 lesson linked to above, sometimes ~させる means "to let (someone) VERB" and sometimes it means "to make (someone) VERB"... and sometimes it's not even that clear which is which (again, go back and read the previous lesson to see what I mean).

In this lesson, we're talking about when ~させる means "to make (someone) VERB."

Since we covered conjugation rules in the last ~させる lesson, we're not going to be going over them here. Instead, we can dive right into our examples...



部下の顔色が悪かったので、すぐに退させました
ぶか の かおいろ が わるかった ので、 すぐに そうたい させました。
One of my [our] employees didn’t look so good, so I sent him home [made him go home] early.
Literally: “subordinate + の + was looking pale / was looking unwell (=[facial] complexion + が + was bad) + because, + immediately + leaving early + made (him) do.”


Back when I taught English in Tokyo, I used to have a lot of students (usually middle-aged men in business suits) that wanted to talk about their "subordinates" at work. I would tell them that we don't really use that word very often in English, even if you are talking about someone that you manage or are the boss of.

Apparently I wasn't the greatest teacher, though, because they still kept using the word "subordinates" all the time. Maybe I should have told them to say "underlings" instead. Or "minions." That would've been cool.

Anyway, we can see the culprit for this common misunderstanding in the sentence above: 部下 (ぶか // subordinate [person])!!

While we're on this example, I want to mention how in Japanese they say 顔色が悪い (かおいろがわるい)―literally, "face-color is bad"―when we just say "doesn't look well [good]" or perhaps "looks pale." Just one more reason that literal translations are a bad idea for Japanese-to-English.


Oh, yeah... grammar. Ugh.

🐧 🐧 🐧

早退する(そうたいする // to leave early; to go home early
↓ ↓ ↓
早退させるそうたいさせる // to send home early; to make someone go home early; to let someone go home early

🐳 🐳 🐳

Make sense? If not, then you probably didn't read the last lesson. Or maybe I really am a bad teacher. 💀



学校の窓ガラスを割った生徒に反省文を書かせました
がっこう の まどガラス を わった せいと に はんせいぶん を かかせました。
I made the student who broke the school window write a letter of apology.
Literally: “school + の + window + glass + を + broke + student + に + written apology (=reflection/regret + letter) + を + made (him) write.”


I love this word 反省文 (はんせいぶん). The dictionary says "written apology" or "written statement of regret."

In reality, this is referring to an essay that a teacher makes you write when you do something bad... so neither of these translations is perfect.

The word 反省 (はんせい), by the way, can mean "reflection" or "contemplation," but it can also mean "feeling sorry" or "regret."

So if your friend breaks your pen, then gives the most lackluster apology in the world, you can say:


反省してないよね?
はんせい してない よね?
You don't even feel bad, do you?
Literally: "feeling sorry + are not doing + よね?"


Good luck trying to get your friend to write a feeling-sorry letter, though.



先生は私にTOEFLを勧めて受けさせました
せんせい は わたし に トーフル を すすめて うけさせました。
My teacher got me to take the TOEFL (test).
Literally: “teacher + は + I + に + TOEFL + を + recommend (and) + made (me) take.”


I had to run to Rei-sensei for help translating this one.

Specifically, I needed her to explain to me why the above sentence is different from this one:


先生は私にTOEFLを受けさせました
せんせい は わたし に トーフル を うけさせました。
My teacher made me take the TOEFL (test).
Literally: “teacher + は + I + に + TOEFL + を + made (me) take.”


Without the 勧めて (すすめて // recommend [and]), it sounds like "I" didn't really want to take the the TOEFL, but my teacher forced me to.

When we include 勧めて, though, the nuance is that my teacher "got me to" take the test. I was a willing participant in the test-taking. At the same time, though, I wouldn't have taken it if my teacher hadn't encouraged me to do so.


This one is pretty straightforward:


音楽の授業で、先生は生徒たちに「きらきらぼし」を歌わせました
おんがく の じゅぎょう で、 せんせい は せいと たち に 「きらきらぼし」 を うたわせました。
In music class, the teacher made the students sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
Literally: “music + の + class + で, + teacher + は + students + に + ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,’ + を + made sing.”


This one is slightly less straightforward:


いくら食べたがっても、子供たちにはジャンクフードを我慢させています
いくら たべたがっても、 こども たち に は ジャンクフード を がまん させています。
No matter how badly they want it, I don’t let my kids eat junk food.
Literally: “how much + even if (they) seem to want to eat, + children + には + junk food + を + patience / self-control / self-denial + am making (them) do.”


You know the phrase 我慢する (がまんする)?

The list of things that this phrase can mean in English is pretty impressive. At a glance, we have "to be patient," "to endure," "to tolerate," "to practice self-control," "to persevere," "to withstand," "to tough out," "to refrain from (doing)."

Accordingly, if you make your kids 我慢する (that is, if you 我慢させる them) for junk food, then you are making them refrain from eating junk food. They must endure the anguish that is going without junk food.

I just translated it as "I don't let my kids eat junk food," though.

Also, did you notice the verb 食べたがる (たべたがる // to seem to want to eat)?!

We just learned that: [NDL #568] - JLPT N4: ~がる.


A grammar tip from Mr. Obvious:

Don't use the ~させる meaning "make someone VERB" when talking about your "social superior."

For example, you don't "make" your boss do things:


✕ わたしは上司に救急車を呼ばせました
✕ わたし は じょうし に きゅうきゅうしゃ を よばせました。
✕ I made my boss call an ambulance.
Literally: “I + は + boss + に + ambulance + を + made (her) call.”


Instead, you would "get" your boss to do things or "have" your boss do things:


〇 わたしは上司に救急車を呼んでもらいました
〇 わたし は じょうし に きゅうきゅうしゃ を よんで もらいました。
〇 I had my boss call an ambulance.
Literally: “I + は + boss + に + ambulance + を + call (and) + received.”


↑ You know this grammar, too, yo.

We studied it long, long ago: [NDL #414] - JLPT N4: ~てもらう.


This lesson's over.

But don't fall into a spiral of depression just yet because we still have THREE MORE lessons using ~させる. Agh!




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