Japanese Grammar

Japanese Causative Form with the particle に and を

Causative Form: させる

Last time, you learned how to make passive sentences: 観光かんこうきゃくみちかれました (I was asked the way by a tourist). The particle に works to indicate the doer in this context. In other words, subjects and doers are different in passive sentences. In this lesson, you will tackle a similar structure: causative sentences.

Explanation for How Japanese Causative Form Works

Table of Contents
Conjugation Rule
Sentence Patterns
Causative-Passive Form

In English, you express causative sentences by using causative verbs such as “let / make someone do something.” However, Japanese doesn’t have those kinds of verbs. Instead, we express causative sentences by conjugating verbs.

Conjugation Rule

Ru-verb: To Replace ru with saseru

  Plain Causative
To see, look, watch 見る (miru) させる (misaseru)
To wear 着る (kiru) させる  (kisaseru)
To eat 食べる (taberu) 食べさせる (tabesaseru)
To answer 答える (kotaeru) 答えさせる  (kotaesaseru)

U-verbs: To Replace u with aseru

  Plain Causative
To write 書く (kaku) かせる (kakaseru)
To speak 話す (hanasu) させる (hanasaseru)
To stand 立つ (tatu *tu = tsu) たせる (tataseru)
To drink 飲む (nomu) ませる (nomaseru)

Two Exceptions

  Plain Causative
To do する (suru) させる  (saseru)
To come 来る (kuru) 来させる (kosaseru)

With u-verbs, you may sometimes hear this kind of conjugation: せる and せる. The additional さ is grammatically wrong, but recently used by some people in conversation.


Sentence Patterns

With Transitive Verbs

[わたし は / が] ども 運動うんどう させる / させます
[Topic / Subject] Doer Direct Object Verb: Causative Form
[I] will let/make my child do exercises.

With transitive verbs, subjects indicate direction-givers and the particle に indicate doers. Since we use the same form to express “to let” and “to make,” you have to judge which function it works as depending on context. Please pay attention to omission in Japanese sentences. Even doers and objects can be omitted when they are clear enough.

どもむしが(させる / させます)。
[I] will make [my] child set the insect free.
どもいろえ(させる / させます)。
[I] will let [my] child change the color.
先生せんせい宿題しゅくだいを(させた / させました)。
The teacher made [my child] do the homework.
明日あしたじゅんを(させた / させました)。
[I] made [my child] prepare for tomorrow.

With Intransitive Verbs

[わたし は / が] ども  / やすませた / やすませました
[Topic / Subject] Doer Verb: Causative Form
[I] let/made my child take a rest.

This is a little more difficult. With intransitive verbs, doers can be expressed with the particles に and を. The difference is that if there is a will of doers, the particle に is suitable and indicate “to let”. If there is only a will of direction-givers, the particle を is used to indicate “to make.” Be careful; this rule is always not applicable. Context is more important.

先生せんせいせいいえへ(かえらせた / かえらせました)。
The teacher let the student go home.
先生せんせいせいあるかせた / あるかせました)。
The teacher let the student walk.
あかちゃんさせる / させます)。
[I] will make my baby go bed.
どもそとで(あそばせる / あそばせます)。
[I] will make my child play outside of our house.

When you let/make inanimate things do something, you use the particle を because inanimate things don’t have their own will, e.g. 携帯けいたいひからせた (I made my mobile flash). However, we can treat some of them as animate things.

ロボット 勉強べんきょうさせる。
[I] will let/make the robot study.

When you use the particle を as different functions, e.g. locations to pass, you have to use the particle に for doers even if you try to express “to make.” It’s because multiple use of the same particle can make confusion.

せいかわおよがせた / およがせました)。
[I] made the students swim in the river.
せい公園こうえんはしらせた / はしらせました)。
[I] made the students run in the park.

This is not related to particles. However, in the previous lesson, you learned that intransitive verbs indicate natural actions, e.g. パソコンがこわれる (The PC will break), and transitive verbs indicate intentional actions, e.g. パソコンをこわす (I will break the PC). Even if intransitive verbs don’t have their counterparts in transitive verbs, you can express similar things by using the causative form.

たまごくさる VS. たまごくさらせる
Eggs will go bad. VS. [I] will make eggs go bad.
かぜく VS. かぜかせる
The wind will blow. VS. [I] will make the wind blow.

Causative-Passive Form

All Verbs: to Replace ru with rareru

  Causative Causative-Passive
Ru-verbs 見させる (misaseru) 見させられる (misaserareru)
着させる (kisaseru) 着させられる (kisaserareru)
U-verbs 書かせる (kakaseru) 書かせられる (kakaserareru)
話させる (hanasaseru) 話させられる (hanasaserareru)
Exceptions させる (saseru) させられる (saserareru)
来させる (kosaseru) 来させられる (kosaserareru)

This is a little tricky, but there is another form in u-verbs. You can make the causative-passive form by replacing せる with される, e.g. かされる and はなさされる. Although both of the forms sounds natural, verbs which end with す generally conjugate with the first pattern because of the simplicity in terms of pronunciation.

Sentence Pattern

[わたし は / が] おや 運動うんどう させられ(た / ました)
[Topic / Subject] Direction-giver Direct Object Causative-Passive Form
[I] was forced to do exercises by [my] parents.

The function is to express “be forced to do” and there is no nuance of “let.” In causative-passive sentences, subjects indicate doers and the particle に indicates direction-givers. That’s opposite to the causative sentences. Again, direction-givers and doers can be omitted if the context is clear enough.

かんをたくさんかせ(られる / られます)。
[I] will be forced to write kanji a lot.
こわえいさせ(られる / られます)。
[I] will be forced to watch a horror movie.
ませ(られた / られました)。
[I] was forced to drink.
じょうにカラオケでうたわ(された / されました)。
[I] was forced to sing [songs] by my boss at Karaoke.


  1. With the causative form, subjects indicate direction-givers and に indicates doers.
  2. With intransitive verbs, に indicates “to let” and を indicates “to make.”
  3. The causative-passive form indicates “to be forced to do something.”
  4. With the causative-passive form, subjects indicate doers and に indicates direction-givers.

You have learned the three major verb forms: potential, passive, and causative. Their functions are totally different, but the conjugation and the structure are similar. Don’t be confused with the usages. Next, you will deal with one of the Japanese unique concepts: receiving and giving: あげる, くれる, and もらう.

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