In Japanese, there are several ways to express that something ‘passively’ happens. All of these are done with the auxiliary verbs れる
. Japanese verbs in the passive
form behave in a slightly different way than they do in English, so we will examine this difference more closely later. For now, let’s focus on れる
, and される
(the form used with する
Passivity in Japanese means that the person (or thing) that is the target of the action will be the subject of the sentence, rather than the person that is ‘doing’ whatever verb is being used.
You can conjugate any Japanese verb into the passive
form in the following way. For う-Verbs
(godan verbs), simply replace the last kana with the equivalent あ sound kana from the same row (す becomes さ, つ becomes た, ぶ becomes ば, う becomes わ, like with ない, and so on), then add れる
, or られる
. For る-Verbs
(ichidan verbs), just replace the る with られる
Because I am afraid of getting bitten by a dog, I can't approach them.
I always get compared to him.
behave slightly differently than most other verbs. For する
, it will become される
, while くる
will become こられる
I don't like being pranked by strangers.
I feel troubled when my mother in law visits unannounced.
As can be seen in these examples, the ‘doer’ of the verb will be marked with に
, but から
can also be used in cases where there is no physical contact with the subject.
られる can be used in several different situations. These are listed below.
受（う）け身（み） - Something happens to the subject as a result of an external force (sometimes sounds negative).
可能（かのう） - There is the possibility for something to be done.
自発（じはつ） - Something happens by itself, or ‘without instigation’.
尊敬（そんけい） - You are respecting someone by making them the subject of the sentence, despite someone else actually performing the verb.
In Japanese, passivity focuses on the lack of control of the subject of the sentence. Due to this, the subject will sometimes be called the なる人, while the doer of the verb is called the する人.
Traditionally, many textbooks use the term ‘passive’, simply because there is no equivalent verb type in English (passive is the closest). However, we would like to introduce the term ‘displacement verb’. This just means that the subject of the sentence is being described in a similar way to what happens in keigo (polite speech).
But wait, what about れる
! Well, in Japanese, ラ抜（ぬ）き言葉（ことば） (ら removal words) are very common. These are words that are able to use れる
, instead of られる
. The original meaning of both of these auxiliary verbs is exactly the same, but there are cases where ら may not be removed. The standard rules are as follows.
ら may be removed - る-Verbs
, when the meaning is 可能（かのう） ‘potential
ら may not be removed - る-Verbs
, when the meaning is 受（う）け身（み）, 自発（じはつ）, or 尊敬（そんけい）.
In both of these sentences, the meaning is exactly the same. However, ラ抜（ぬ）き may only be used when られる
is being used to highlight ‘possibility