fbpx

0 Comments

January 22, 2023

The Passive Form 受身形 in Japanese – Using ~られる

The passive form, with the suffix られる on verbs, deemphasizes the actor and emphasizes the person or object receiving the action. It is often used to obscure the actor or to indicate a negative nuance.

Mouse over or tap any kanji to see the furigana!


Makoto+ Members, click here to download an Anki flashcard deck to practice forming tons of sentences. Practice makes perfect!


Introduction to Japanese Passive ~られる

The passive form is called 受身形(うけみけい) in Japanese.

受身(うけみ)(けい)

Normally, the topic or subject of the sentence is the person or thing that does an action.

My mother scolded me.


But if you make the receiver the topic or subject, you would use the passive form.


I was scolded by my mother.


In the first sentence, "mother" is emphasized, but in the passive second sentence, "mother" isn't as important. In fact, in the English or Japanese we could drop "mother" if you don't want to say who did the scolding: I was scolded.

  • In English, we use "was" (or the suitable tense of "to be") when constructing the passive.
  • In Japanese, you change the ending of the verb.
  • In Japanese, to make the passive form, all verbs (except the two irregular verbs) have either the suffix ~られる or ~(a)れる. (We'll get to this in a moment.)

Let's see how the above example would be in Japanese. The verb "to scold" is (しか)る.

The passive form of (しか)る is (しか)られる. (We'll look at the conjugation more closely in a minute).

(はは)(わたし)(しか)った。

My mother scolded me.


Notice in the above non-passive sentence, the topic is the mother, the one doing the scolding, and the receiver of the scolding is marked with を.

Now, let's use the passive form (remove the る and add られる):


(わたし)(はは)(しか)られた

I was scolded by my mother.


In the passive sentence, the topic is the one receiving the scolding, and the one doing the scolding is marked with に.


Receiving the action は + Doing the action に + Verbられる = Passive


Passive Verb Conjugation

If you've studied Japanese verbs, you know there are three types. 五段動詞(ごだんどうし) Godan Group 1 -u verbs is the hardest just because you have to make a change before adding れる.


Conjugation Chart

It would be good to spend a few minutes studying the rules, but you'll learn these best as you learn example sentences. We'll go through several in this lesson and Makoto+ members can download an Anki deck and PDF with many more examples to practice. If you are a member, please click here.

Godan Group 1 (-u verb / 五段動詞(ごだんどうし)

Change the final "u" sound to an "a" sound and add れる
(Don't worry, we'll go over this more in a moment.)

() (to write) → ()かれる

kaku -> kak -> kakareru

Ichidan Group 2 (-ru verb / 一段動詞(いちだんどうし)

Remove the final る and add られる

食べる(to eat) →食べられる

taberu -> tabe -> taberareru

Irregular verbs する (to do) and ()る (to come)

You just have to memorize these, but there are only two!

する (to do) →される


()る (to come) →()られる*

* Note, the "ku" changes to "ko"


A Closer Look at Godan Group 1 verbs 

As you can see from above, Godan Group 1 verbs have to change the final "u" sound to an "a" sound.

To internalize this better, let's look at a few examples:

 ()く (to write) the final "ku" sound becomes "ka": ()れる

()ぬ (to die) - The final "nu" sound becomes "na": ()れる

(まな)ぶ (to learn) - The final "bu" sound becomes "ba": (まな)れる

()つ (to stand) - The final "tsu" sound becomes "ta" (Remember from your hiragana studies, "tsu" is in the "T" column): ()れる


It's pretty easy once you get used to it, but there is one tricky part.

If it ends in a vowel あ・い・う・え・お, it changes to わ wa.

()う (to meet) is not "aareru" but ()れる.

()う (to say) is not "iareru" but ()れる.

Other than that, just remember to change the final vowel sound to an "a" and you are set.


Conjugation Review

So, just to review the conjugations:

  • Godan Group 1 verbs: Change the final "u" to "a" or if it ends in a vowel change to わ. Then add れる.
  • Ichidan Group 1 verbs: Remove the final る and add られる
  • Irregular verbs:  する becomes される and ()る becomes ()られる

()

Practice with Passive Verbs


Let's practice. Think of the passive form and then click or tap the "Answer" toggle to see the answer:

()べる 

(to eat - Ichidan Group 2)

Answer


(わら)

(to laugh - Godan Group 1)

Answer


()

(to ask; to hear - Godan Group 1)

Answer


()

(to speak - Godan Group 1)

Answer


する

(to do - irregular)

Answer


Sentence Practice

Now, let's really internalize what we've learned. Read the first non-passive sentence and construct the passive form.

Try these below. Toggle the "Answer" to see the answer. 

Don't worry if you get it wrong. The point is to begin to get used to the sounds. Read out loud each sentence several times while paying attention to the verb changes.

(いぬ)は、クッキーを()べた。

 The dog ate the cookie.

Turn to passive: クッキーは、???? (The cookie was eaten by the dog.)

生徒(せいと)たちは、先生(せんせい)(わら)った。

The students laughed at the teacher.

Turn to passive: 先生(せんせい)は、????

泥棒(どろぼう)は、(かれ)財布(さいふ)()った。

The thief stole his wallet.

Turn to passive: (かれ)、????

おばあさんは、(わたし)(みち)()いた。

The old woman asked me for directions.

Turn to passive: (わたし)、????


If you want more practice, please consider becoming a Makoto+ member today and you can instantly download an Anki deck and PDF with many more sentence examples. If you are a member, please click here to download. If you are not yet a member, please click here to learn more.


Other ~られる usages

While out of the scope of this article, one more tricky part is the ~られる can also indicate the potential (able to do) form. For example, ()べられる can be the passive (was eaten) or the potential (can eat). Because of this confusion, dropping the ら is common when using the potential form. Many people say ()べれる for "able to eat," for example.

There is also overlap with polite 敬語(けいご) language. But the context usually makes it clear what you mean.

Using ~によって

によって can replace に when describing something created, imagined, invented, or written. It can sound more formal, but it is used in both written and spoken Japanese.

(ぼっ)ちゃんは夏目漱石(なつめそうせき)によって()かれた。

Botchan was written by Natsume Soseki


レコードはエジソンによって発明(はつめい)された。

The record was invented by Edison.


Makoto+ Bonus: Anki flashcard deck, sound files, and printable PDF. Click here to download.

Sharing is caring!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Level up your Japanese!

Hot Deal at TheJapanShop.com | 70% OFF | For ABSOLUTE BEGINNER

#1

This 13-book study guide + worksheets bundle is ON SALE. For just one-time payment only, you will get this bundle for a very low price plus you will get future contents for free (no additional charge).

Beri- Beri- Shoshinsha is more sequential and has a suggested path for studying and specifically designed for a total beginner of learning Japanese language.

This beginner's bundle includes over a dozen eBooks on Japanese grammar, reading, conversation, and understanding the basics of Japanese. These aren't just simple PDFs either. Every eBook includes PDFs, ePubs, and Kindle MOBI files. AND best of all, every Japanese example or story has a sound file recorded by a native Japanese speaker. Even better, the stories (graded for beginners) include a slowed-down version as well as a normal-speed version of each story.

$64.87 Regular Price , Now at $20 One-time Payment Only + Lifetime Updates!

5 of 5 stars

DISCOVER HOW MAKOTO+ CAN BOOST YOUR JAPANESE! | Starts with a free trial

#2
subscribe to makotoplus

Makoto+ isn’t just a subscription to our monthly Makoto e-zine! It is packed with fun stuff for beginners to intermediates with new exclusive content published several times a week.

**The fun Japanese not usually found in textbook**

  • Laughs, Jokes, Riddles, and Puns
  • Vocabulary
  • Prefecture Spotlight
  • Etymology
  • Anime Phrase of the Day
  • Haiku
  • Kanji Spotlight
  • Grammar Time!
  • Japanese Readers and sooo much more
  • 5 of 5 stars

    >