~-aれる/~られる (passive)

~-aれる/~られる (passive)

Today’s Grammar Point: ~-aれる /~られる

~-aれる/~られる is the passive form of a verb which is used when an action is done (to you or to the subject) without your/the subject’s active involvement like “I/He was laughed at” or “a cake was eaten.” English also has the passive voice but the biggest difference in passive sentences between English and Japanese is that in Japanese, intransitive verbs like “しぬ (to die)” or “くる (to come)” can be used in the passive form while in English, only transitive verbs which take an object (which becomes the new subject of the passive sentence in turn) can be used in the passive voice (for difference between transitive and intransitive verbs, please watch this video). Also, if an action was done to the subject by somebody else with the subject’s approval/blessing, we usually use the pattern ~てもらう, so the passive form is often used in a negative context and implies the subject’s resentment, disapproval, etc., although if the action was not done by a person, a passive form can be used in a positive meaning.

How to change into the passive form

  • ichi-dan verbs: add られ between the stem and る/ます(i.e. ~る/~ます⇒~られる/~られます)
    • みる/みます(to watch) ⇒ みられる/みられます (to be watched)
    • たべる/たべます (to eat) ⇒ たべられる/たべられます (to be eaten)
  • go-dan verbs: change the letter before ます to an -a sounding letter and add れる/れます (i.e. -iます/-u ⇒ -aれる/-aれます) except for -います/-う ending verbs, which are to end in -われる/-われます in the passive form.
    • /かます (to buy) ⇒ かる/かます (to be bought)
    • /かます (to write) ⇒ かかれる/かかれます (to be written)
    • /つます (to pour) ⇒ つがれる/つがれます (to be poured)
    • /かます (to lend) ⇒ かされる/かされます (to be lent)
    • /もます (to hold) ⇒ もたれる/もたれます (to be held)
    • /します (to die) ⇒ しなれる/しなれます (to die on one) – as “to die” is an intransitive verb, “die” in English cannot be used in the passive but in Japanese しなれる implies the suffering or resentment of the subject.
    • /よます (to call) ⇒ よばれる/よばれます (to be called)
    • /よます (to read) ⇒ よまれる/よまれます (to be read)
    • /とます (to take) ⇒ とられる/とられます (to be taken)
  • irregular
    • する/します (to do) ⇒ される/されます (to be done)
    • くる/きます (to come) ⇒ こられる/こられます (somebody comes against the subject’s will) – again “come” cannot be used in passive in English but in Japanese こられる implies that somebody else’s action of coming is done against the subject’s will.

Answer to Today’s Question

Both sentences describe the same fact, “Someone took a photo of me,” but how I feel about it is very different.

a. 写真しゃしんってもらった。I asked and somebody took a photo of me. (So, I’m happy)
b. 写真しゃしんられた。I had my photo taken without my permission. ( So, I’m not happy)


おとうとにお菓子かしられた。My brother ate my sweets without my permission.
おとうとにお菓子かしべてもらった。I asked my brother to eat my sweets and he did it for me.

はは作文さくぶんまれた。My mother read my essay without my permission.
はは作文さくぶんんでもらった。I asked my mother to read my essay and she did it for me.

ちちにパーティーにられた。I didn’t want him to but my dad came to the party.
ちちにパーティーにてもらった。I asked my dad to come to the party and he did for me.

かぜかれて、気持きもちがいい。It feels good to be blown by the wind.
As wind blowing is not an intentional action of a person, the passive ふかれて is used in a positive meaning. You cannot say it using ~てもらう.

Please visit this page for more JLPT N4 grammar items.

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