589 - ~られる ([passive for possessions])

We're powering through ~られる!

First, some review goodness:

- [NDL #379] - JLPT N4: ~られる (possibility)
- [NDL #380] - JLPT N3: ~られる (-able)
- [NDL #588] - JLPT N4: ~られる ([passive])
- [NDL #482] - Basics: Verb Types

And now this lesson:


JLPT N4: ~られる ([passive form for possessions])

In the last lesson, we had examples of the passive form, or 受身形 (うけみけい), in Japanese, which we use when saying that something "was done" to someone.

In this lesson, we're looking at using 受身形 when saying that something was done to something.

Before we get into that, though, there's something else I want to mention. Remember how in the last lesson I mentioned that my Japanese friend had never heard the word 受身形 before? I should have mentioned that most Japanese people do know the word 受動態 (じゅどうたい // the passive voice). This is the term that Japanese students learn, for example, when studying the passive voice in their English classes.

So why do Japanese textbooks use the term 受け身 (うけみ) (or 受身形 [うけみけい]) instead of 受動態 (じゅどうたい)?

I have no idea! But they do.

A fun thing that we can note is that both of these words contain the kanji .

If you study using Heisig's method, this kanji is labeled as "accept," which I think is an OK word to describe it. But I also might use words like "undergo" or "receive" when putting meaning to the kanji 受.

The verb 受ける (うける) confused me for a long time, to be honest. The only way that I really got used to it was by seeing and hearing it used into a wide variety of different contexts over several years. We use this verb in many, many of our lessons, so hopefully the same happens for you. Until then, look at all of these meanings listed in the dictionary:

受ける(うける
(1) to receive; to get
(2) to catch (e.g. a ball)
(3) to be struck by (wind, waves, sunlight, etc.)
(4) to sustain (damage); to incur (a loss); to suffer (an injury); to feel (influence)
(5) to undergo (e.g. surgery); to take (a test); to accept (a challenge)
(6) to be given (e.g. life, talent)
(7) to follow; to succeed; to be descended from
(8) to face (south, etc.)
(9) to be modified by
(10) to obtain (a pawned item, etc.) by paying a fee
(11) to be well-received; to become popular; to go down well
(12) (esp. ウケる) to be funny; to be humorous

Man, dictionaries always overdo it.


Sorry, I was getting sidetracked again.

Right. Passive voice for possessions.

Here's an example of what I mean by that:


誰か自転車盗まれて困っています。
だれか に じてんしゃ を ぬすまれて こまっています。
I’m having a hard time because someone stole my bike.
Literally: “someone + に + bicycle + を + was stolen (and) + am being troubled.”


Semi-literal: "I had my bicycle stolen by someone, and now I'm having a hard time."


The subject, which just so happens to be unspoken in all of our examples in this lesson, will usually be "I" (=the speaker) or someone that is psychologically close to the speaker. We saw an example of this in the last lesson.

The person performing the action is marked by に.

In contrast to the last lesson on the passive form, in this lesson we have an item receiving the action. This "item" might be the speaker's body part, possessions, or even a situation that gets affected the action of someone or something.

In the sentence above, the "item" is the bicycle that was stolen.

Do we really need an entirely new lesson just to talk about what "was done" to things that the speaker owns or is affected by?

Maybe not. But at the very least, all of the example sentences below should help you to start getting a feel for verbs being conjugated into the passive form...



野良猫ひっかかれました。痛かったです。
のらねこ に うで を ひっかかれました。 いたかった です。
I got scratched on the arm by a stray cat. It hurt.
Literally: “stray cat + に + arm + を + was scratched. + was painful + です.”

Semi-literal: "I got my arm scratched by a stray cat. It hurt."



美容院に行くといつもほめられます
びよういん に いく と いつも かみ を ほめられます。
I always get complimented on my hair when I go to the hair salon.
Literally: “beauty salon + に + go + と + always + hair + を + is praised / is admired.”

Semi-literal: "When I go to the hair salon, I always get my hair complimented."



冷蔵庫に入れておいたプリンお母さん食べられてしまいました。楽しみにしていたのに。
れいぞうこ に いれて おいた プリン を おかあさん に たべられて しまいました。 たのしみ に していた のに。
My mom ate the pudding that I’d been saving in the fridge. I’d been looking forward to eating that.
Literally: “refrigerator + に + inserted (and) + (did ahead of time/as preparation) + を + mother + に + was (regretfully) eaten. + looking forward + に + was doing + although (=のに).”

Semi-literal: "I had my pudding that I'd been saving in the fridge eaten by my mom. I'd been looking forward to eating that."



兄との兄弟喧嘩を近所の見られてしまい、とても恥ずかしかった。
あに と の きょうだいげんか を きんじょ の ひと に みられて しまい、 とても はずかしかった。
One of my neighbors saw me and my brother fighting. I was really embarrassed.
Literally: “older brother + と + の + sibling quarrel + を + neighborhood + の + person + に + was (unfortunately) seen (and), + very + was embarrassed.”

Semi-literal: "I had the fight between me and my brother seen my one of my neighbors. I was really embarrassed."


That's it for this one!

Reading our last two lessons, you may have noticed that the passive tense is commonly used when talking about an undesired or unfortunate thing that happened to the speaker. We'll be exploring this topic more in an upcoming ~られる lesson.




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