Japanese Grammar

Japanese Grammar: Proper Particles with the Causative Form

A man lets/makes someone do something

This article is part of Wasabi grammatical support service. We’re more than delighted to answer any grammatical questions you may have without additional fee (*Wasabi user only). Today’s topic is how to use particles with the causative form.

Japanese Grammar: When It’s Appropriate to Use に and を with the Causative Form

Basic Idea of the Causative Form

Japanese causative form is equivalent to “to let/make someone do something” in English. However, unlike causative verbs in English such as “to let” and “to make,” Japanese doesn’t have any causative verbs, but expresses “to let” or “to make” by conjugating a verb into the same causative form.

U-verbs Remove the last character and attach “aseru” like 読 (yomu) ⇒ 読ませる (yomaseru)
Ru-verb Replace the last る with させる like 食べ (taberu) ⇒ 食べさせる (tabesaseru)
Exceptions する becomes させる and る becomes させる
1 先生せんせいせいたせた。 The teacher made the students stand up.
2 先生せんせいせいすわらせた。 The teacher let the students sit down.
3 先生せんせいせいかせた。 The teacher made the students cry.
4 先生せんせいせいほんべんきょうさせた。 The teacher let/made the students learn Japanese.

The context basically tells whether it means “to let” or “to make.” However, if you attach 「あげる」 or 「くれる (ください)」, it’s likely to become “to let” such as 「先生せんせいせいほんべんきょうさせてあげた (The teacher let the students learn Japanese)」. Now, you may have noticed that both particles; を and に are used differently. In some cases, を and に are interchangeable. In other cases, however, the selection of particles can make a sentence meaningless. Therefore, in this article you will learn the proper use of particles in detail.

Essential Rule of the Causative Form

With a Transitive Verb, Action Takers Are Always with に

1 わたし(それめさせて。 Let me decide (it). 
2 わたし(それ説明せつめいさせて。 Let me explain (it).
3 先生せんせいが(せいきょうしつそうさせた。 The teacher made (students) clean the classroom.
先生せんせいが(せい宿しゅくだいさせた。 The teacher made (students) do the homework.

Please don’t be confused with Japanese unique omissions. The (object) and the (action taker) are sometimes omitted in spoken Japanese. In sentences 1 and 2, the subject and the action taker are the same. In sentences 3 and 4, they are different. In either case, the action tacker should be with に and the objective should be with を.

With Emotional Actions, Action Takers Are Always with を

1 せい先生せんせいおこらせた。 The student made the teacher angry
2 せい先生せんせいおどろかせた。 The student made the teacher be surprised.
3 あねおとうとかせた。 The elder sister made the younger brother cry.
4 おとうとあねわらわせた。 The younger brother made the elder sister laugh.

This is very simple. When someone causes something emotional, を is always used with action takers.

If Action Takers Are Non-animated, It Should Be with を

1 せいぶっあんていさせた。 The government made the prices be stable.
2 台風たいふうつよかぜかせる。 Typhoon makes wind blow hard.

This also sounds simple, however, if non-animate existences (inanimate objects) are regarded as people or as something that has free will, に should be used like this 「ロボット宿しゅくだいをさせた (I made the robot do homework)」 and 「グーグル調しらべさせた (I made Google search (it)」.


Advanced Rule of the Causative Form

With an Intransitive Verb, Action Takers Can Be with に and を

1 先生せんせいせいに / を かえらせた。 The teacher let/made the students go back.
2 先生せんせいせいに / を あるかせた。 The teacher let/made the students walk.
3 先生せんせいせいに / を やすませた。 The teacher let/made the students rest.
4 先生せんせいせいに / を させた。 The teacher let/made the students sleep.

This looks a little complicated, but there is a theory. If を is used in another point of the sentence, the particle with the action tacker should be に like this; 「先生せんせいせい安全あんぜんみちあるかせた (The teacher made the students walk in the safe way)」 and 「先生せんせいせい身体からだやすませた. (The teacher made the students rest their body)」. Also, when you want to ‘make’ someone do something, it’s likely (not always) that を is preferred to に.

Additional Lesson: The Causative-Passive Form

1 せい先生せんせい勉強べんきょうをさせられた。 The students were made to learn by the teacher.
2 せい先生せんせいはしらせられた。 The students were made to run by the teacher.

This from can be simply translated into “someone is made to do something” and direction givers are usually with に.


In practice conversations, the causative form is often used for making an offer with 「くれる (ください)」 and 「もらう」 like this; 「つだわせてください (Please let me help you)」 or used for making a request like this; 「つぎ月曜げつようやすませて くれますか / もらえますか? (Could you please let me take a leave on the next Monday?)」. That’s not difficult because the subject and the action taker are the same and the particle is usually omitted. However, in explanations, presentations, or formation situations, you may face or need to use the causative form with the proper particle. Thus, please try to remember the above rules or return here when necessary.

If you have any doubts about Japanese grammar, please feel free to ask us. We will answer any questions with pleasure (*Wasabi user only)!

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