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Intermediate Japanese Learning with Dazai Osamu

Complimentary Japanese Reading Lessons From Maplopo Schoolhouse

Season ONE—水仙 (Page Fifty Five)


EP.55 せる, させる—Dazai Osamu (太宰治), Daffodil (水仙 )

Read the full transcript for せる, させる | Intermediate and Advanced Japanese

You’re likely familiar with these meanings, so let’s focus mostly on structure and allow meaning to drip out as we move forward.

auxiliary. Then show you how the sentence evolves with the addition of せる or させる. We’ll continue with this same formula of using a stripped down sentence first, then rolling through with different renditions of the same sentence as we teach this lesson.

so, we know transitive verbs require an object, and intransitive verbs don’t require an object. Neither one of these sentences we just covered has an object…, and they’re both complete ideas, so we know we’re dealing with a verb that… (in these sentences, at least), is

And, maybe the answer that came back would be something like:


That addition allows the previously intransitive 泣くto now act like a transitive verb. That’s the power we acquire when appending せる or させる to our main verb.

… for example: make, have or get…

our main verb.

— (cry, in this case)— and…, attach either the auxiliary せる or させる to that main verb to get the causative——setting up the object to receive that transfer of action!

to talk about those instances where you can forgo the addition of せる or させる altogether and still walk away with a causative sentence and a transitive verb.

of themselves—as is precisely the case with the word, cry.

its intransitive self (plus せる) to render it transitive, or its already transitive self… which doesn’t need せる to force it into transitive.

surprised, like this:

let’s say—then, in crafting our causative sentence, we’d have the option of writing it as A) the intransitive 驚く + せる or B) the transitive 驚かす

we’ve done here, where we’ve created a sentence with something inanimate acting as the subject.

having something inanimate as a subject… isn’t so common in Japanese. And, you’ll really only come in contact with it when hearing or responding to the question of what specifically was the cause of something. You may also see it in print, or use it yourself, when acting as narrator in a book or newspaper.

In English we can get away with having something inanimate as a subject, but the opportunity to do so in Japanese is not so abundantly common. In conversation, Japanese far prefers animate beings as a subject when speaking. Because of this, in a casual conversation with these specific sentences we’d more likely hear, or use something like:

What’s got her knickers in a twist?! Let’s find out.

And, here, the elegance of Japanese grammar plays out once again, giving us:

(せた, of course, being the past of せる.)

to an intransitive verb. Are you wondering… can せる or させる attach to a transitive verb?

To show you how things play out with verbs that are strictly transitive let’s consider a slightly modified version of Dazai’s sentence:

dealing with the strictly transitive verb, LEARN, then we have to add せる to that verb in order to communicate this idea of Sōbe being the cause of Shizuko taking up painting.)

TWO objects and a verb.

So that’s it.

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