what to make of the "passive" form

I've got exams this week, and passive form, when and how to use is one of the things tripping me up from this semester. So kudos on the timing guys, honestly this thread has cleared up more misunderstanding than that shitty Minna no Nihongo ever did. Muchos gracias, especially Aijin's input.. write grammar books or something, I know I'd buy them Smile
Edited: 2011-01-23, 7:39 pm
And then you always have to keep the honorific passive in mind as well -- in my experience, 行かれる and こられる are a lot more common than いらっしゃる (i.e. 先生、どこに行かれますか? rather than どこにいらっしゃいますか?)
Edited: 2011-01-23, 9:17 pm
Glad I could be of some help Smile

The honorific use of passive is important too. One thing to keep in mind is that passive forms are less polite than using honorific verb forms (the お〜になる construction) and the special honorific words (things like いらっしゃる for いる) The reason the passive form conveys politeness is because the passive construction is more indirect in expressing things than direct sentences, and indirectness is the major method of expressing politeness in Japanese.

One thing that can be confusing for learners is the fact that the passive form for verbs like 食べる is identical to the potential form. This means those verbs can potentially be interpreted three ways: as potential verbs, honorific, or passive. You can determine which based upon the context of the sentence, as well as the particles. Also, that problem can be avoided if one uses the abbreviated potential (食べれる instead of 食べられる as the abbreviation of れる instead of られる can only be done for the potential form, not the passive)
For situations where it's identical, however, here's how you can figure it out:

- If が is marking the direct object, then it has to be potential form.

- If を is marking the direct object, and there's no agent marked by に、then the sentence can be either passive, honorific, or potential. Only context will let you know for sure (though if the verb is in the past tense it's likely either honorific or passive, as people don't too often talk about how they USED TO be able to do an action unless the context is right. Hearing "I can eat sushi" is far more common than "I used to be able to eat sushi" for example.) And if the subject of the sentence isn't someone that the speaker is likely to be talking about in honorifics, then it's pretty much guaranteed to be passive (If the dialogue is a friend talking about a friend they're not going to be using honorifics to describe their friend's actions)

- Here we have に marking an agent, which means that the sentence has to be passive.

Additionally, something that teachers and textbooks don't usually cover about the passive form, because they don't want to confuse students, is that other things than に can mark the agent in passive form, so don't be too surprised if you see it happening.

If the agent is a source-in other words there is something that is being transmitted or coming from the agent-then から can mark the agent instead of に since から can indicate sources.

To use DOBJG's examples:
- The action of "asking" is coming FROM the students, so the students are the source of the action, and thus can be marked with から.

- The action of "respecting" is coming FROM everyone, so they are the source.

This isn't mentioned in the DOBJG, for whatever reason, but で can also be used to mark agents. Primarily this is used for when the agent isn't a person, but is an entity like a corporation or institution. If you say, "I was asked by the software company to write a new program" then you could mark the software company with で for the passive form.

Use of から to mark agents can be tricky, because what verbs allow for "sources" isn't identical between Japanese and English. I would suggest only mimicking the usages of it you encounter yourself, and until you feel very comfortable with using で or から just stick with に as it's the safest and easiest choice.
Honestly speaking reading through the grammar section of Genki 2 confused me even more than I would have liked to. Thought it will be turn out to be helpful, but seemingly not. I just finished Genki 1, as already told, and wanted to continue with Genki 2, but.. woah, grammar is somewhat difficult!

Potential forms are used to show what a subject is "able to do" or "can do", like
見る->見れる "i can see"
読む->読める "i can read"
(I've read once somewhere else, that one can add just -eru for verbs like 見るand 食べる->食べれる、when the final -u sound is omitted/dropped)

Volitional forms express a desire/wish. The -たい form of the verb is build. (-takatta, -takunai, -takunakatta). F.e.
食べたい "I want to eat"
見たい "I want to see"
読みたい "I want to read"

Objects are marked by を (what do i want to read? -> a book).

Causative forms express what you made something/somebody do, or, in case marked with くれる at the end, what you let somebody do (permission).

And as the causative form looks similar/identical to the passive (direct/indirect?! even more confusion and chaos created in my head, Aijin, sorry) I'm quite deperate right now Sad I thought Japanese grammar is "easy"~
Tori-kun Wrote:[b]
And as the causative form looks similar/identical to the passive (direct/indirect?! even more confusion and chaos created in my head, Aijin, sorry) I'm quite deperate right now Sad I thought Japanese grammar is "easy"~
They do look kind of similar, so you need to be careful about sticking the right ending on to get the passives and causatives correct. The nice thing is that Japanese verbs are very regular though, so once you learn the forms there are almost no exceptions.

The indirect passives Aijin was talking about are the same as the adversative/suffering ones previously mentioned: I think you could put those to one side for now, and revisit them later.
Edited: 2011-01-24, 10:23 am
Tori-kun Wrote:I thought Japanese grammar is "easy"~
This is one of the great myths propagated by Japanese learning sites (and even some books).
For my own's sake i researched the internet a bit and came across a good source. I went to the town's library today and got the book (unfortunately only in German; an English translation is unfortunately not available, although I qualify this book being even better than Genki) "Grundkenntnisse Japanisch 2" by Shin'ichi Okamoto (you can google it when you are interested, anyway). It's the second volume and contains the "passive/causative" topic, too. It was rather well explained - also compared to the "german passive", which is just the same as the english, mentionening the problem discussed above. In fact there are "3" passives:

1) direct passive -> only transitive verbs
2) indirect passive -> only transitive
3) suffering passive (as far as i got it, you can also call that "adversative", correct me if i'm wrong) -> also only transitive verbs, but also intransitive verbs like 行く, 出る, 入る, 降る
[shortened.. naturally a lot of more information was given]

I suppose since it's a regular textbook being sold and used the explanations in there have to be somewhat we refer to as 'correct'. Guess it was just the conversion Japanese Passive VS English/German Passive or rather the understanding what passive is and what it's used for. Thanks for your explanations though; i printed them out Smile
Just a brief question. Does there exist some book/online source for example sentences for special grammar aspects, as discussed above, f.e.? I have "Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar" already, but I'm looking for another alternative.. Any suggestions?
I think you'll find the basic grammar is the most difficult. It's the only time you really need to learn about grammatical concepts like passive/active voice, transitive/intransitive, topic etc. Although they can be hard to grasp, the way Japanese uses them is far from complicated when compared to English or French or something, and studying for N3 and above is just like learning phrases with special syntax rules. As you progress, and especially if you learn another language, you'll find that the "easy myth" isn't completely pulled out of air.

Anyway, if you want to stop having a nightmare with Japanese grammar, get yourself a copy of A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar ASAP. Just about all the advice in this thread is contained in the book in alphabetically ordered form, and almost every "help me with this grammar" thread I've ever seen could be answered using this series.