14 - Knock-Down, Pass-Out Japanese

Last week, in this lesson, I talked a bit about transitive and intransitive verbs in Japanese.

After getting a little feedback from cool people on the community page (link below), I started thinking about this a bit more.

Remember my first-ever daily lesson? I talked about how the dental hygienist kept telling me to rinse my mouth out.

Well, every time I finished doing that, she would say:

taoshimasu ne.
I'm going to lower your chair.

I don't really know how to translate that well, because I don't know what they say at the dentist in English. Basically, she's saying "I'm going to lay you down," I guess. But in Japanese, they use the verb:

bring [tear, pull] down; knock down [over]

Now for the ultimate quiz question: Is 倒す (taosu) is transitive or intransitive?

As a reminder, a transitive verb always has a direct object (even if it's not spoken), where as there is no direct object receiving the verbs action with intransitive verbs.

I have a very simple way of explaining that previous sentence: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

I have no idea what words are object or indirect objects or direct objects. Maybe if I spend ten minutes thinking about it, but not in the 2 milliseconds that I have to form a sentence in a Japanese conversation.

To make matters worse, your Japanese teacher will probably say something like, we use the particle を (o) to mark transitive verbs and が (ga) to mark intransitive verbs.

Well, yeah, that's true, because を (o) is the "object-marking particle." So if you hear を (o) being used, then the verb it's with is a transitive verb (always... I think).

But this doesn't help us in making our own sentences.

And half the time, in Japanese, people don't even say the particles.

For example, a ninja anime character might use the verb 倒す (taosu) when saying that they're going to "take down" their opponent or enemy:

omae wo taoshite yaru!
I'm gonna take you down.
(Literally: "You + を + knock down + give!")
(Half-literally: "I'm going to give you the gift of beating your ass.")

Or I (like many Japanese) could just leave out my (rude) お前 (omae), "you," and just say:

taoshite yaru!
You're going down!

So I don't know what words are objects.

I don't always have particles to help me.

Now what?

Personally, I take two approaches:
1) Pick up differences naturally.
2) Pay attention.

Back in August, I fell and broke my jaw in Vietnam. And about two years ago, I fell and got several stitches on my face in Tokyo. (I wrote a fun article about it here).

When I tell the story of how I fell down, I don't use the word 倒す (taosu), "to knock down; to put down."

Rather, since the action of falling was both done and received by me, I say:

I fell down.

This is the simple past tense of the verb 倒れる (taoreru), "to fall; to come down; to topple; to collapse."

#1 (mentioned above) is learning naturally.

Well, I learned this naturally because I had to explain why I was stupid enough to fall on my face... twice. (Side note: they say "fall from the face" in Japanese, which I explained in this article.)

Yeah, I'm never gonna forget that one.

#2 is about noticing patterns in the language.

I haven't been able to find a nice clean rule for all transitive and intransitive verbs, but I do notice common things.

For example, the transitive verb 倒す (taosu) is ending with す (su) in the dictionary form.

However, the intransitive 倒れる (taoreru) is ending in -ru.

After hearing a ton of verb couples like this, I'm starting to think that intransitive verbs never end in す (su)?!?!


Transitive Verbs VS Intransitive Verbs
((他動詞 / tadoushi) VS (自動詞 / jidoushi))

倒す VS 倒れる
taosu VS taoreru
to knock down VS to fall down

消す VS 消える
kesu VS kieru
to turn off VS to go off; to disappear

治す VS 治る
naosu VS naoru
to heal (someone) VS to get well

戻す VS 戻る
modosu VS modoru
to put back VS to go back

起こす VS 起こる
okosu VS okoru
to make happen VS to happen

This doesn't, however, mean that all verbs ending in る (ru) will be intransitive, though. There are still a bunch of horrid exceptions to that rule that never was:

入れる VS 入る
ireru VS hairu
to insert VS to enter

閉める VS 閉まる
shimeru VS shimaru
to close (e.g. your front door) VS to close (e.g. the automatic doors on a train)

Words like these last two always make me want to say that transitive verbs end in -eru, but our evil friend 倒れる (taoreru) won't allow for that.

Ugh. My brain hurts now.

Guess we'll just have to pick this stuff up naturally over time.

Bonus Phrases:

でんき けして。
Turn of the light(s).
Literally: electricity + extinguish

データ きえ ちゃった!
The data disappeared! / I accidentally deleted the data!
Literally: data + disappeared!

かぜ を なおす くすり あります か?
Do you have any medicine that can fix a cold?
Literally: cold + wo + fix + medicine + have + ka?

ケガ なおる の はやい ね。
You heal quickly.
Literally: injury + heal + no + fast/early + ne

もどし かた わかんない。
I don't know how to put it back.
Literally: how to return + don't understand
Note: For example, if you bring up some weird page on a computer, and you don't know how to turn it back to normal.

さき に いえ もどってる ね。
I'm gonna go home ahead of you, OK?
Literally: before + house + am returning + ne

あした しちじ に おこして。
Wake me up at 7 tomorrow.
Literally: tomorrow + 7 o'clock + ni + wake (me) up

なに が おこった の?
What happened?
Literally: what + ga + happened + no?

さとう いれる?
Do you want to put sugar in it? // Are you going to add sugar?
Literally: sugar + insert?

なか はいってる ね。
I'm already inside. // I'll be inside.
Literally: inside + is inside
Note: For example, when meeting someone at a restuarant, and you go inside before them.

かぎ しめる の わすれた。
I forgot to lock up. // I forgot to lock my door.
Literally: key + close + no + forgot

もうすぐ スーパー しまっちゃう よ。
The supermarket is gonna close soon!
Literally: soon + supermarket + will close + yo
Note: The nuance is, "...so hurry up!"