Grammar Info
N4 Lesson 3: 16/18

To feel, To think, To act as if, To want, To desire

がる is used in たがる construction, which is simply + がる.

[い]Adjective[+ がる
[な]Adjective + がる
[い]Adjective[+ がります
[な]Adjective + がります
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使用域 一般
がる is a う-Verb that is primarily used as a suffix in Japanese. When used in this way, it means ‘to act like (A)’, or ‘to show signs of being (A)’, where (A) is the word that it is attached to.
To use がる, you will need to link it to the stem form of an い-Adjective (simply remove the い), or to the stem form of a な-Adjective (do not include the な).
  • 彼(かれ)いつも女(おんな)の子(こ)前(まえ)強(つよ)がるけど友達(ともだち)中(なか)彼(かれ)一番(いちばん)怖(こわ)がり
    He always acts tough in front of girls, but amongst our friends he is the biggest scaredy-cat.
  • 犬(いぬ)嫌(いや)がる事(こと)てはいけない
    You must not do anything that the dog would not like.
がる is a verb which means ‘to give the impression of (A)’, or ‘to act like (A)’. This is very important in Japanese, as you would not usually say how somebody else feels, unless they told you directly and you are simply repeating what you heard (in which case you would use the quotation particle ).
  • トムこの新(あたら)しゲーム欲(ほ)しがると思(おも)う
    I think Tom would want this new game.
When you want to express the way you ‘think’ that someone else feels, but don’t have any direct information about it, that is when がる would be natural to use. For example, if you see someone shivering in the cold, you would say something like the following.
  • あの人(ひと)、寒(さむ)がっている。ジャケット着(き)ればいいのに
    That person seems like they are cold. It would be better if he wore his jacket. (Natural Japanese, as がる shows how he ‘appears to be acting’, rather than what he is actually feeling)
The main difference between がる, and がっている, is that がる will be used when a person usually/always acts a certain way, whereas がっている is more about the way someone/something is acting in any specific moment.
  • この子(こ)いつも新(あたら)しおもちゃ欲(ほ)しがる
    This kid always wants new toys.
  • キムは新(あたら)しパソコンほしがっている
    Kim is wanting a new computer.
がる may also be used to describe yourself (in the third person). This is when you want to express the way you think that you act/are acting, or a way you assume other people view your behavior.
  • 俺(おれ)いつも人(ひと)前(まえ)強(つよ)がる
    I always act tough in front of people. (I probably always appear to act tough)
  • 私(わたし)今(いま)、犬(いぬ)ほしがっているけど、マンション住(す)んでいるからまだ飼(か)ない
    Right now, I am wanting a dog, but since I live in an apartment, I can't get one yet. (I am currently acting like I want a dog)
Fun Fact
The use of がっている to express an ‘in the moment’ way that someone is acting, is slowly becoming less and less common in modern Japanese. Regularly, そう will be used instead, to express that someone (or something) ‘seems’ a certain way.
  • あの人(ひと)、暑(あつ)がっている
    That person looks like they are hot, don't you think. (They’re acting like they’re hot)
  • あの人(ひと)、暑(あつ)そうだ
    That person looks like they are hot, don't you think. (They seem hot)
Slow Male
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My cat is a scaredy-cat.
My younger brother acts tough (shows signs of being strong).
That kid always wants games.
[DBJG] A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar
Page 2 & 123
Genki II 2nd Edition
Page 55
Tae Kim's Japanese Grammar Guide
Page 317