Causative form せる・させる in Japanese
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Using the auxiliary verbs せる
seru and させる
saseru we form the causative form in Japanese.
The causative form, as the name suggests, is used to express something we do or allow someone to do.
The causative form indicates something that causes or allows something else.
In English to express the causative form, verbs such as
allow are used. In Japanese, on the other hand, this form is expressed with verbal conjugations, using the verbs せる
seru and させる
This form is similar to English when we use the term
make do. In fact,
I make him do can mean:
- Obligation: I force him to take an action
- Permission: I allow him to take an action
In the causative form the same is true in the Japanese language.
How to conjugate the Causative Form in Japanese
Causative form for Ichidan verbs
To conjugate the causative form of Ichidan verbs just change the last Hiragana ~る with ~させる.
Remember that all verbs in the Ichidan category end with the symbol Hiragana る
Causative form for Godan verbs
To conjugate the causative form of Godan verbs we have to modify the last Hiragana in the Base B1 (Negative) and add ~せる.
In this example we see how the verb 飲む (
drink) is conjugated in its Base B1 by removing む
mu and adding ま
ma, that is the Hiragana symbol that is part of the same series as む
mu (both start with the character
m) but ending in
Contracted forms of させる and せる
Please note that in their contracted-form the verbs ～させる and ～せる become ～さす and ～す respectively:
The copula だ (da) is not used alone in the causative form, but is instead replaced by the form ～にさせる
Causative form for irregular verbs
The two irregular verbs する and くる have a particular conjugation for the causative form:
Causative form with transitive verbs
Now let's see how to use the particles with the causative form to indicate the various elements of the sentence (subject, object, etc.).
- With transitive verbs the one who is forced to perform the action is with the particle に (
- The object of the sentence, if present, is always indicated with the particle を (
- The subject, the one who forces to perform the action, is indicated with the particle が (
Let's see an example of a sentence with the causative form compared to a normal sentence:
The student writes an essay.
In the example sentence, the subject
student 生徒 is expressed with the particle が and the object
essay 作文 with the particle を. In this case, the subject performs the action, and the object indicates what is being done.
Instead, let's see the same sentence in the causative form:
The teacher makes the students write an essay.
In this sentence we note the use of the causative form from the conjugation of the verb 書く
write which becomes 書かせる:
- The subject, that is the one who causes the action, is the
teacher先生, indicated with the particle が
students生徒, who are forced to write, are denoted by the particle に
- The object the
essay作文, what is written, is indicated by the particle を
I have my brother take the sweep out.
Causative form with intransitive verbs
With intransitive verbs the one who is forced to perform the action can be indicated with the particle に or を. The choice between one particle and the other is dictated by some rules.
In general these two particles can be used both in the same situation:
I make the children swim.
I make the children swim.
However, there are some situations in which the に particle or the を particle must be used.
When to use を with intransitive verbs in the causative form
We use を in the causative form for intransitive verbs in the following situations:
- When we are not talking about a person, that is when the direct object cannot act voluntarily (in the example below the
I spoiled the tomatoes.
- When we cause an emotion
I made her cry.
When to use に with intransitive verbs in the causative form
We use に in the causative form for intransitive verbs in the following situations:
- When a movement verb uses the particle を (歩く
walkin the example below)
I made the children walk on a mountain road.
Causative form and Keigo
A very common use in the Japanese language of the causative form is in the Keigo, the honorific language.
The structure consists of:
- the causative form in て: せて / させて +
- the verb いただく or もらう, the verbs of giving and receiving in Japanese.
Here is a short dialogue for this function:
May I use your bathroom?
Please feel free.
I translated the causative phrase simply as
thank you; it actually means "thank you for allowing me to use the bathroom ".
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