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られる / れる (Passive Voice)

られる / れる (Passive Voice)

られる / れる (Passive Voice) Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Auxiliary Verb

Essential Meaning: Be ~ed / Get ~ed (indicates the passive voice)

Construction: 

  • Group 1 Verbs: Negative Stem + れる
    • E.g. はなされる [To be told]
  • Group 2 Verbs: Positive Stem + られる
    • E.g. べられる [To be eaten]
  • Irregular Verbs
    • る = られる [To have X come]
    • する = される [To be done]

Notes:

  • The Japanese passive voice is similar but not identical to the English passive voice. The Japanese passive voice takes two different forms: (1) direct passive and (2) indirect passive.
    • (1) The direct passive voice
      • The “direct passive” is analogous to the English passive voice in which an action is described from the viewpoint of the object of the action (i.e. the direct or indirect object) rather than from the viewpoint of the agent of the action. Every direct passive sentence has a corresponding active sentence; the direct / indirect object of a passive sentence becomes the subject of its corresponding passive sentence. Also note that the verb in a direct passive construction must be transitive.
        • E.g. Active: 花子はなこ一郎いちろうをだました。[Hanako deceived Ichiro.]
        • E.g. Passive: 一郎いちろう花子はなこにだまされた。[Ichiro was deceived by Hanako.]
      • In a direct passive construction, the passive subject is marked by or . The agent of the action is marked by に (Passive / Causative) but may be omitted entirely if the agent is unknown or irrelevant.
        • E.g. このビールは三年前さんねんまえてられた。[This building was built 3 years ago.] The agent who built the building is irrelevant, so he or she is not included in the sentence.
        • E.g. 一郎いちろう花子はなこにだまされた。[Ichiro was deceived by Hanako.] The agent (花子はなこ) is marked by に (Passive / Causative).
      • An indirect object can be used as the subject of a passive sentence. Each of these sentences also has an active voice equivalent.
        • E.g. Active: ジョンは先生せんせい質問しつもんをした。[John asked the teacher a question.] The indirect object of the active sentence is 先生せんせい (marked by the indirect object marker ).
        • E.g. Passive: 先生せんせいはジョンに質問しつもんをされた。[The teacher was asked a question by John.] In this example, the indirect object (先生せんせい) become the subject of the passive sentence.
      • In some cases, the agent of passive sentences may be marked by particles other than に (Passive / Causative), such as によって or から. Generally speaking, によって is used in impersonal, formal contexts and with non-human subjects. から is used when the agent of the action acts as a source of something (e.g. a source of knowledge).
        • E.g. このはピカソによってかかれた。[This painting was drawn by Picasso.] The subject () is non-human, so によって is the appropriate particle.
        • E.g. 電話でんわはベルによって発明はつめいされた。[The telephone was invented by Bell.] The subject (電話でんわ) is non-human, so によって is the appropriate particle.
        • E.g. わたし学生がくせいから日本にほん大学だいがくのことをかれた。[I was asked about Japanese universities by a student.] The student is the “source” from which the questions came, so から is the appropriate particle.
        • E.g. 木田きださんはみんなからそんけいされている。[Kida-san is respected by everyone.] Everyone is the “source” from which the respect comes, so から is the appropriate particle.
        • E.g. *その時計とけい泥棒どろぼうからぬすまれた。[That watch was stolen by a thief.] The thief can not be considered the “source” of the physical act of stealing. に (Passive / Causative) would be the appropriate particle choice.
    • (2) The indirect passive voice
      • The “indirect passive” does not have a direct English equivalent. In an indirect passive sentence, some human agent performs an action that affects a human subject in some way (typically in a negative way). For example, consider this sentence: ジェーンはフレッドによるおそくアパートにられた。[Jen had her apartment come to late at night by Fred.] In this sentence, Fred is the agent (marked by に (Passive / Causative)) who performs the action of coming to Jen’s apartment late at night. Jen is the subject who is negatively affected by this passive action over which she had no volitional control. Note that with the indirect passive form, intransitive verbs may be used and direct objects can remain in place.
        • E.g. わたし二年前にねんまえつまなれた。[My wife died two years ago (which caused me sorrow).] In this example, the intransitive verb ぬ [To die] is used in the indirect passive voice.
        • E.g. 原田はらださんはおくさんにたかいコーヒをわれた。[Harada-san’s wife bought an expensive coat (which annoyed him).] In this example, the direct object (コート) remains in place.
      • Just like the direct passive, each indirect passive sentence has a corresponding active sentence.
        • E.g. Active: クリスはマークのビールをんだ。[Chris drank Mark’s beer.] The active voice emphasizes Chris’s volitional decision to drink Mark’s beer.
        • E.g. Passive: マークはクリスにビールをまれた。[Mark had his beer drunk by Chris (which annoyed him).] The indirect passive voice emphasizes Mark’s lack of volition and his negative emotion over having his beer drunk by Chris.
        • Sometimes the negative passive can be a positive situation.
          • E.g. 高山たかやまさんは美人びじんによこにすわられてニコニコしている。[Takayama-san had a beautiful women sit next to him, so he is smiling.] In this example, the woman sits next to Takayama-san, which is an act that Takayama-san has no control over and which causes him to feel happy.
        • If an indirect passive sentence contains a noun phrase marked by に (e.g. a propositional phrase, an indirect object, etc.) in addition to the agent who is marked by に (Passive / Causative), the agent must come before the noun particle.
          • E.g. わたしはトムにメアリーに電話でんわされた。[Tom called Mary (which annoyed me).] In this example, に marks the agent (i.e. トム) as well as the indirect object (i.e. メアリー). Thus, トム must precede Mary in the sentence.
  • The passive voice can also be used to convey politeness. The reason is that the passive voice makes the sentence less direct, which thereby makes the sentence more polite. The passive voice is slightly less honorific than お~になる. This honorific passive voice can be distinguished from of the normal passive voice by context and by a lack of an agent marked by に (Passive / Causative).
    • E.g. 田中たなか先生せんせい日本にほんかえられた。[Tanaka-sensei returned to Japan.]
  • The passive verb endings られる and れる conjugate as Group 2 verbs (はなされる, はなされない, はなされて, はなされた, etc.).
  • The passive and potential forms of Group 2 verbs conjugate identically. The two forms can be distinguished through the following context clues:
    • (1) If the direct object is marked by , it is a potential form.
      • E.g. 先生せんせい刺身さしみべられる。[The teacher is able to eat sashimi.] The direct object is marked by , indicating that this is a potential form. This is an instance of the ~は~が structure.
    • (2) If there is an agent marked by に (Passive / Causative), the sentence is passive.
      • E.g. 先生せんせい学生がくせい刺身さしみべられた。[The teacher had his sashimi eaten by the student.] The agent (学生がくせい) is marked by に (Passive / Causative), indicating that this is a passive sentence.
    • (3) If there is a direct object marked by and no agent marked by に (Passive / Causative), the sentence is ambiguous. It could be passive, potential, or honorific.
      • E.g. 先生せんせい刺身さしみべられた。 [The teacher had his sashimi eaten. / The teacher was able to eat sushi. / The teacher ate sashimi.] This sentence is ambiguous. It’s better to avoid ambiguity by using particles appropriately.

Example Sentences:

一郎いちろう花子はなこにだまされた。[Ichiro was deceived by Hanako.]

ジェーンはフレッドによるおそくアパートにられた。[Jen had her apartment come to late at night by Fred (which annoyed her).]

わたしおとうとにケーキをべられた。[I had my cake eaten by my brother (which annoyed me).]

田中たなか先生せんせい日本にほんかえられた。[Tanaka-sensei returned to Japan.]

このビールは三年前さんねんまえてられた。[This building was built 3 years ago.]

わたし二年前にねんまえつまなれた。[My wife died two years ago (which caused me sorrow).]

WILD Examples:

From 1:20, you can hear the line ガラガラヘビにべられた[I was eaten by a rattlesnake.] At 1:40, you can hear the line おいしいところをっていかれた[I had my delicious bits taken (which caused me pain).]
At 1:57, this line appears: ゆるいかわでもながされる[(Koiking) is washed away even in light streams.]

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