79 - Undergoing Word Surgery

Yesterday, we saw how ウケる!can mean "That's hilarious!"

There are other uses of this word, though. Particularly in the version including the kanji, 受ける(うける).

I have a distinct memory of being stressed out by this word during my earlier study days.

There are just too many uses. It's crazy!

What is the closest English word for 受ける?

That is one difficult question, but I would say it's one of these words:

- undergo
- receive
- take

I might even go so far as to say that it means "take" in the passive sense of the word.

For example, this is not the "take" we use when we say, "She took everything in the divorce" or "The bully took my lunch money."

Rather, this is like the "take" we use when we say, "I don't have to take this kind of treatment from you!" or "I took a test this morning."

It is "take" in the sense of "receive" or "accept."

So let's say that 受ける(うける)means "receive-take," a new and strange-sounding word I just made up.

Examples follow...

Receive-Taking a Test

In Japanese, we don't "take a test," we "receive-take a test:"

トーイック うけて みよう かな。
I think maybe I'll take the TOEIC test.
Literally: "TOEIC + receive-take and + let's see + かな."
Note: You may recall that we learned all about て-form + ~ようかな in Lesson #54.

Receive-Taking Shock

Also, in Japanese, we don't "undergo shock" or "become shocked."

Instead, we "receive-take shock:"

かなり ショック うけた。
It was quite a shocking experience. // I was quite shocked.
Literally: "considerably + shock + receive-took."

The word ショック, "shock," has a somewhat different usage in Japanese, by the way. For example, if a friend messaged you and said that tonight's party was canceled, you could respond by simply saying:


The nuance is that I am saddened and surprised by this sudden news, maybe?

It's kind of hard to translate, but I went with "bummer."

Receive-Taking Orders

If you work at a restaurant, you don't "take orders" from customers. Instead, you "receive-take orders:"

ちゅうもん うけて きて。
Go take their order.
Literally: "order + receive-take + come."
Note: It sounds like the speaker and the listener both work at a restaurant together.


Let's get into some even more abstract uses...

You don't "take someone's words seriously," you "receive-take them seriously."

For this, we use this phrasal verb:

ま に うける
to take seriously; to believe

For example:

ケンジ の いってる こと まにうけないで。
Don't believe what Kenji says. // Don't take Kenji's words too seriously.
Literally: "Kenji + の + is saying + thing(s) + don't take seriously."

Receive-Taking Popularity

We already say how if you ウケる a joke, you "receive-take it as funny."

In a slightly similar way, 受ける(うける)can mean "to be popular."

Maybe it helps to think of it as "receive-taking popularity."

For example:

あの バンド は わかい こ に うけてる んだって。
Apparently that band is popular among young people.
Literally: "that + band + は + young + child(ren) + に + is receive-taking + んだって.
Note #1: The って ( = verbal quotation mark) at the end indicates that the speaker heard or read this info somewhere else. It's not firsthand information.
Note #2: This is "PERSONS+に+受ける" for "to be popular among PERSONS."


Now we're getting into the uses of 受ける(うける)that used to give me a lot of problems:

受ける(うける)often attaches to other verbs, creating entirely new words.

This can be a bit confusing and overwhelming because it happens A LOT.

But just keep in mind that it's always adding the nuance of "receive-taking" to the verb that it's attaching to... more or less.

Let's take a look...

Receive-Taking Packages

You don't "receive a package."

You don't even "receive-take a package."

Rather, you "receive-take take a package."

Like this:

にもつ うけとった?
Did you get the package (that I sent you)?
Literally: "luggage / baggage / package + receive-take took?"
Note: Specifically, this verb is referring to taking a package into your hands (and maybe signing for it) when it's delivered.

Receive-Taking Customers

In perhaps the strangest use of 受ける(うける), we don't "accept customers" or "receive customers," we "receive-take attach customers."


きゅうじつ も うけつけてます。
We are also open on holidays.
Literally: "days off + も + are receive-take attaching."

This is where we get the word 受け付け(うけつけ)/受付(うけつけ), which is the "reception (desk)" or "information desk" at a company.

It will never make sense to me.

Receive-Taking Challenges

Finally, you don't "accept someone's challenge."

Instead, you "receive-take stand someone's challenge!"

I'll take you on. // I'll deal with him. // I'll take on this task. // I'll accept this challenge.
Literally: "receive-take stand!"
Note: I have lots of translations because we have no context for this sentence. Watch out for this phrase in anime... or at work when a big challenge presents itself... I guess.

Other Uses...


But you'll come across them naturally over time. Maybe even in these daily lessons.

So don't flip out when you come across weird uses of 受ける(うける)in the future.

Just receive-take that Japanese like a boss, instead.

Bonus Phrases

うけつけ は どこ です か?
Where is the front desk?
Note: You can also write 受け付け... but the け's tend to get dropped in a lot of writing.

Complete and Continue