How to Make and Use Japanese Causative Form
Japanese Causative Form is a set of conjugation patterns used to describe either making/causing a person (or animal) to do something, or letting a person (or animal) do something. For instance, changing the verb 書く kaku (to write) to Causative Form could change the meaning of the verb to “I make [someone] write” or “I let [someone] write,” depending on the context and whether any additional verbs are used in the sentence.
This article will discuss how to make Causative Form, how to use Causative Form, and how to differentiate when a Causative Form verb is intended as “make [someone] do” as opposed to “let [someone] do,” both in making your own sentences and in understanding others.
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HOW TO MAKE CAUSATIVE FORM
As we do with many Japanese conjugation patterns, we recommend beginning with the Plain Form of a verb when conjugating it to Causative Form (Plain Form is sometimes also called Dictionary Form or Casual Form. To read our article on Plain Form verbs, click here).
1.If your verb is a Ru Verb*,
remove the final る (ru) and replace it with させる (saseru).
寝る → 寝させる (Neru → Nesaseru)
2. If your verb is a U Verb*,
you must change the final vowel of the verb, and then add せる (seru).
Because Japanese has a syllable-based writing system, changing the final vowel means you must change the entire final syllable of the verb.
1. To determine which syllable you will change it to, first check your verb to see what consonant its final syllable begins with.
2. Find that consonant row on a hiragana chart, and slide along the row until you intersect with the “a” column.
For example, to conjugate the verb “nomu” (to drink) to Causative Form, slide along the “m” row until you get to the “a” column. There you will find “ma.” Replace the “mu” with “ma,” and add “seru”:
飲む → 飲ませる (Nomu → Nomaseru)
a. Be careful of verbs ending with “tsu,” and verbs ending with just a vowel (“u”). The “t” row of the hiragana chart goes “ta chi tsu te to,” with two irregular sounds (“chi” and “tsu”); and so verbs ending with “tsu” will end with “taseru” in Causative Form. For example:
立つ → 立たせる (Tatsu → Tataseru)
b. Verbs ending with just the vowel “u” will end with “waseru” in Causative Form. For example:
買う → 買わせる (Kau → Kawaseru)
c. Japanese’s two common irregular verbs する suru (to do) and 来る kuru (to come) conjugate as follows:
する → させる (Suru → Saseru)
来る → 来させる (Kuru → Kosaseru)
*If you are not sure what a Ru Verb is or would like to review, you can read about Ru Verbs vs. U Verbs in our article about verb stems here.
HOW TO USE CAUSATIVE FORM
Using a Causative Form verb is relatively similar to using the unconjugated verb, but some changes must be made to the particles in the sentence in question.
1. For example, the non-Causative Form sentence:
Kawa chan wa Amigo to asagohan o tsukuru.
Kawa-chan makes breakfast with Amigo.
uses the particle は wa to indicate that the sentence is about something Kawa-chan is doing, and the particle を o to indicate that breakfast is the thing affected by the verb (breakfast is the thing Kawa-chan made). The particle と to indicates that Kawa-chan and Amigo both did the action (making breakfast) together.
作る tsukuru is an U Verb, and conjugated to Causative Form 作る tsukuru is 作らせる tsukuraseru.
Kawa chan wa Amigo ni asagohan o tsukuraseru.
Kawa-chan has Amigo make breakfast.
2. When a Causative Verb is involved, the person (or animal) doing the forcing (or allowing) of the verb can still be marked with は wa, and the person (or animal) being forced or allowed to do the action is marked with に ni (に ni can mean “at,” “on,” and “to” among other things; so you can think of に ni here as “to / on Amigo, Kawa-chan is forcing/allowing [verb]).
If we switch the は wa and the に ni in the above sentence:
Amigo wa Kawa chan ni asagohan o tsukuraseru.
Amigo has Kawa-chan make breakfast.
Now the は wa follows Amigo, so Amigo is the one forcing or allowing; and the に ni follows Kawa-chan, so Kawa-chan is the one being forced or allowed. In Japanese, particle placement is very important!!
Once your verb is in Causative Form, it is a Ru Verb; no matter what type of verb (Ru, U, irregular) it was in its Plain Form. So, generally speaking, you can conjugate a verb that is in Causative Form into most other conjugation patterns using Ru Verb conjugation rules (remove and replace the final る ru). For example:
Kawa chan ni asagohan o tsukurase masu.
[I / someone] have Kawa-chan make breakfast.
Kawa chan ni asagohan o tsukurase nai.
[I / someone] do not have Kawa-chan make breakfast.
Kawa chan ni asagohan o tsukurasete iru.
[I / someone] am having Kawa-chan make breakfast.
IS IT MAKE, OR LET?
1. One way to make it more indisputable whether you intend your Causative Form verb to be “force to [verb]” or “allow to [verb]” is to add one of the following secondary verbs:
Kawa chan wa Amigo ni asagohan o tsukurasete ageta.
Kawa-chan let Amigo make breakfast.
あげる ageru means “to give,” and can be used to describe giving between any two people.
Kawa chan wa Amigo ni asagohan o tsukurasete kureta.
Kawa-chan let Amigo make breakfast.
くれる kureru is used when someone does something for you or someone close to you, so these two sentences mean the same thing, but the くれる kureru sentence indicates that Amigo is close to whoever is saying the sentence.
Kawa chan wa Amigo ni asagohan o tsukurasete moratta.
Kawa-chan got Amigo to / had Amigo make breakfast.
もらう morau is similar to くれる kureru and generally indicates that someone does something for you or someone close to you, but also may indicate that the person speaking had a hand in getting the doing to happen (e.g. Kawa-chan asked/got/made Amigo to make it for her. The other point to note is that without the ～てもらった ~te moratta, Kawa-chan is not necessarily getting Amigo to make breakfast for her – she is simply forcing or allowing Amigo to make breakfast).
2. You can also add adverbs, additional verbs, or other sentence endings to increase the clarity of your sentence.
Amigo ni asagohan o tsukurasete kudasai.
Please allow Amigo to make breakfast.
Amigo ni asagohan o tsukurasenai de kudasai.
Please do not force Amigo to make breakfast.
Kawa chan wa ayamatte, Amigo ni asagohan o tsukuraseta.
Kawa-chan apologized, and let Amigo make breakfast.
And, sometimes, context will make it indisputable whether “force” or “allow” is intended:
Ijiwaru na mamahaha wa Shinderera ni yashiki no souji o sase mashita. Soshite, butoukai ni ikase masen deshita.
The mean stepmother forced Cinderella to clean the mansion. And, she did not allow Cinderella to go to the ball.
FINAL NOTE ABOUT PARTICLES
There are a few exceptions to the Causative Form particle guidelines we discussed above.
- If the verb that someone is being caused to do is a verb not done consciously/decisively, such as being surprised, the person being made to do the verb is followed by を o rather than に ni. For example:
Amigo wa kyuu ni sakebi dashite, Kawa chan o odorokaseta.
Amigo cried out suddenly, and caused Kawa-chan to be surprised.
- If the verb that someone is being caused to do is a verb that is preceded by に ni, the person being made to do the verb is followed by を o rather than に ni. For example:
Amigo wa gozen juu ji ni Kawa chan o uchi ni kaerasete ageta.
At 10 a.m., Amigo let Kawa-chan go home.
That’s all on Causative Form for now! If you have any questions, please leave us a comment!!
For a full list of our articles on Japanese grammar, click here.