The modern Japanese causative form (使役形しえきけい)

I’m going to write about the short causative and causative passive forms, which are very common in spoken Japanese. They are also easier to say! You’ve probably learned the regular form in a textbook:

Is it true that if you make a cow drink beer, its meat gets more delicious?

Sorry that you have to watch the house for me, dad. Thanks for letting me go on the trip!

This produces a ru-verb which is then conjugated into passive to get the causative passive form, where you are made to do something by someone else:

I was made to drink a love potion, so apparently I’ll fall in love with the next person I cross eyes with…

Everything fine so far? Good. Because the truth is, there’s a shorter form of 飲ませられる in speech: 飲まされる. How do we make it?

Making the short causative form (使役形)

  • u-verbs: Take the negative form of a verb and replace い with す:
    • 言う becomes 言わす (normal: 言わせる) “to let/make someone speak” 飲む
    • becomes 飲ます (normal: 飲ませる) “to let/make someone drink”
  • ru-verbs: Replace る with さす
    • 食べる becomes 食べさす (normal: 食べさせる) “to let/make someone eat”
  • する becomes さす
  • くる becomes こさす

This produces a u-verb ending in す which can be conjugated normally. Here’s a fun example sentence from Twitter:

Today Sakura gave me (allowed me to eat) dinner at her house!”

Here the す turns into して (te-form) and is paired with もろた (もらった) to mean ‘allowed to’. (さくらん家 means さくらの家)

“Don’t send young people out to war!”

Making the short causative-passive form (使役受け身)

Since 行かす and friends are regular u-verbs we can conjugate the passive like any other verb: make the negative form, drop -i, and add -areru. Thus 行かす becomes 行かされる.

At my birthday party, I was made to wear a hat and made to drink beer, but it was fun.

A weird doctor made him take a strange medicine.

I was made to wait over 3 hours for my girlfriend at the movie theater.

Note that the subject in the English and Japanese sentences are swapped. The English has the doer of the evil deed as a subject, while Japanese has the victim as the subject. While you can certainly rephrase the sentence another way (‘My girlfriend made me wait for over 3 hours’, or ‘彼女は私を3時間も待たせた’), the ones above are more natural in many cases.

ご注意 (caution!)

THERE IS A CATCH! If the conjugated verb contains ささ, then Japanese people have (somehow) decided that this is weird and not allowed. This means you can’t use this form on u-verbs ending in す or any ru-verb.

  1. u-verbs ending in す: 返す -> 返さされる (X) 話す -> 話さされる (X)
  2. ru-verbs: 食べる -> 食べさす -> 食べさされる (X)

Finally, you should know that is is very slangy and should not be used in a professional setting or basically anywhere where you’re using 敬語keigo But with friends or on LINE, it’s fine.

Now go out and have fun using it!!