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Japanese Grammar FAQ

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Although this is technically a FAQ, most of the contents are not actually frequently asked questions. They are in fact, grammatical problems which have occured to Japanese students in the past- and the aim of this FAQ is to make sure that these problems can be reviewed in a clear simple format by all students of Japanese. Effectively, the Japanese Grammar FAQ is simillar to a reference library, or an archive. It doesn't teach grammar, it shows examples of problems which have occured in the past concerning with grammar. Hopefully in time this page will expand and provide our community with another excellent resource for studying Japanese.


Concerning させる (Saseru)

Sometimes even the best of Japanese students will come across a confusing grammar problem where they least expect it.

Keatonatron: Just some clarification on a fairly basic topic: Can the させる form be used when someone unintentionally is the cause for someone to do something? In other words, instead of "the teacher made the student do his homework" can you use it for "he made me laugh" or "you made me forget?"

Technically this is true. Just as we say, "You made me laugh" in English the same can be done in Japanese. Take the sentence: "Jill made the teacher laugh." We do not assume Jill is forcing the teacher to laugh, we assume that is unintentional.

  • ジルは先生を笑わせた
  • Jiru wa sensei o warawaseta
  • Jill made the teacher laugh

Now grammatically this is all fine and dandy. But unfortunately, in Japanese this has a somewhat sarcastic nuance to it. The example above gives the impression that Jill perhaps made a fool of herself, causing the teacher to laugh. Of course, this isn't the type of nuance we're after.

Now look at this example:

  • ジルは先生に笑ってしまった
  • Jiru wa sensei ni waratte shimatta
  • By Jill, the teacher was made to laugh

The above translation may be a little sketchy, but it illustrates the effect given by てしまった(-te shimatta.)

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