The passive voice in Japanese – Usage, structure and note when using

The passive voice in Japanese

In Japanese as well as in many languages, there are many cases in which the subject is affected by an action or a situation. That’s when we need to use passive voice. In this post, Learn Japanese daily will introduce to you usage  and structure of passive voice in Japanese.

The passive voice in Japanese

JLPT Level :

The passive voice in Japanese is introduced in : Grammar N4 and Grammar N3

How to form passive voice in japanese

Verb group 1: (godan verb) : change column ending with / u /  in dictionary form to column / a / then add れ る. Examples : 買う(かう)→ 買われる(かわれる) : is bought . 飲む(のむ)→ 飲まれる(のまれる): is drunk .

Verb group 2 (ichidan verb): remove る and add られる. Examples : 食べる(たべる)→ 食べられる is eaten. 見る(みる)→ みられる : is seen

Verb group 3 : 来 る will be changed to こられる. する will be changed to される

When to use ?

Sentence pattern 1 : NがVられる

Meaning :

N is / is affected by the verb V. This sentence pattern is used when the subject receives or is effected by an action (V). This sentence pattern is Often used in information sentences, when the subject of the action is not identified, or does not need to be specified.

Examples :

The description of this book is not described in detail

The entrance ceremony will be held in this hall.

This building was built 300 years ago.

Sentence pattern 2 : N1がN2に(よって/から)Vられる

Meaning :

The subject N1 is affected by action V which is taken by N2 (the subject of action) .

When we want to mention the one who performs the action (that affected the subject of the sentence), we just need to add the subject of the action (N) before に + the verb in the passive.

This sentence pattern is often used in description sentence or information sentence. The subject of the action is marked with に or によって. によ て is used when the subject of action (N2) makes works, architectural works, construction works… or used in formal situations.

から can also be used to mark the subject. However に is used more.

Examples :

まんがは よく わかいサラリーマンによまれている
Manga is often read by a young salary man.

そのおてらは じもとのしゅうみん によって たてられた
That temple was built by local residents.

よなかに さわいだから、きんじょのひとに ちゅうい されてしました
Because I made noise at midnight, I was blamed by my neighbors.

I was beaten by my brother.

Sentence pattern 3 : Indirect passive

Meaning and usage

Use when subject is annoyed by a situation. In this sentence, only に is used, not によって or から


During the busy time, I was visited  by the guests, so I couldn’t do anything

I was got wet with the rain, so my clothes were wet.

Sentence pattern4 : N1がN2にN3をVられる

Meaning and usage:

In this sentence, N1 is the subject of the sentence, N2 is the subject of action. N3 is object affected by verbs V. In this pattern N3 is often a noun owned by N1. This sentence pattern is used to express the meaning: Because action V impacts on object N3, the subject N1 get troublesome…


わたしは でんしゃのなかで、しらないひとに あしをふまれた
My foot were stepped on by a stranger when I was on the train.

せんせいに はつおんをほめられて、にほんごがすきになった
I was praised by the teacher for good pronunciation, so I became interested in Japanese

Also in many cases N3 is not necessarily owned by N1:

せまいへやのなかで タバコをすわれて、ほんとうに きもちわるかった
In the small room, being smoked by strangers (affecting me), is really annoying

つぎつぎに りょうりをだされて、とてもたべらきれなかった
The food was brought out in a row, I really couldn’t eat it all.

With Japanese passive sentences of this type, the subject of action is often unspoken. If mentioned, it will be placed after に. Do not use に よ っ て or か ら for this case.

Above is the general knowledge about passive voice in Japanese. Let’s learn other grammar structures in the category : Japanese Grammar Dictionary

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