575 - ~させる (let)

I hope you're ready for another series of lessons, because we're about to get into...

使役形しえきけい // the causative form

Generally speaking, this refers to the types of verb conjugations that mean "make someone VERB" or "let someone VERB."

In this particular lesson, we're looking at the "let someone VERB" usage:

JLPT N4: ~させる (let)

Here's an example to start us off:

わたし は ソファー で ねて、 ともだち に ベッド を つかわせた。
I slept on the couch, and I let my friend use the bed.
Literally: “I + は + sofa + で + sleep (and), + friend + に + bed + を + let use.”

The verb 使う (つかう) means "to use."

When we conjugate it as 使わせる (つかわせる) it means "to let use" (or "to make use," depending on the context).

The tricky stuff...

...with ~させる is not so much the meaning but rather (1) the conjugation patterns and (2) understanding which person is performing an action.

First, let's get the conjugation patterns out of the way.

(Note: You may want to review your verb types before we get into this part.)

We'll use our go-to list of verbs (like we used in this lesson, for instance) covering every possible verb ending:

1) Godan Verbs // Group I Verbs // u-verbs

// kau // to buy
// iku // to go
// nugu // to take off [e.g. shoes]
// osu // to push; to press
// tatsu // to stand
// shinu // to die
あそ // asobu // to play
// nomu // to drink
すわ // suwaru // to sit down

2) Ichidan Verbs // Group II Verbs // ru-verbs

食べたべ // taberu // to eat
起きおき // okiru // to get up; to wake up

3) Irregular Verbs // Group III Verbs

する(suru // to do; to make
来る(くる // kuru // to come

Godan Verbs // Group I Verbs // u-verbs:

Step #1: Change the final -u sound to an -a sound.

Step #2: Add ~せる.

For example, let's say we have the verb 立つ (たつ // to stand).

We want to say "let stand" or "make stand." That is, we want to use the causative form (=使役形 [しえきけい]).

In たつ (tatsu), the final -u sound is in the kana つ (tsu). We need to change this so that it ends in an -a sound.

So what's the sound in Japanese that starts with a "t" and ends in "a"...?


Accordingly, たつ (tatsu) becomes たた- (tata-).

That's Step #1. For Step #2, we add -せる to the end of it:

たた + せる = たたせる

立つ (たつ // to stand)
↓ ↓ ↓
立たせる (たたせる // to let stand; to make stand)

With me so far?

If so, you should more or less understand all of the following verb changes:

-う (-u) → -わせる (-waseru)*
-く (-ku) → -かせる (-kaseru)
-ぐ (-gu) → -がせる (-gaseru)
-す (-su) → -させる (-saseru)
-つ (-tsu) → -たせる (-taseru)
-ぬ (-nu) → -なせる (-naseru)
-ぶ (-bu) → -ばせる (-baseru)
-む (-mu) → -ませる (-maseru)
-る (-ru) → -らせる (-raseru)

*Note that -う does NOT become -あ; it becomes -わ. This makes sense if you think about a verb like, say, 買う (かう // to buy). If we changed -う to -あ here, it would give us かあせる, which sounds weird. Instead we need to say 買せる (せる // to make [one] buy; to let [one] buy).

Changing all of our verbs in the list above would give us:

// kau // to buy
わせるわせる // kawaseru // to make [one] buy; to let [one] buy

// iku // to go
かせるかせる // ikaseru // to make [one] go; to let [one] go

// nugu // to take off [e.g. shoes]
がせるがせる // nugaseru // to make [one] take off [e.g. shoes]; to let [one] take off [e.g. shoes]

// osu // to push; to press
させるさせる // osaseru // to make [one] push; to let [one] press

// tatsu // to stand
たせるたせる // tataseru // to make [one] stand; to let [one] stand

// shinu // to die
なせるなせる // shinaseru // to let [one] die

あそ // asobu // to play
ばせるあそばせる // asobaseru // to make [one] play; to let [one] play

// nomu // to drink
ませるませる // nomaseru // to make [one] drink; to let [one] drink

すわ // suwaru // to sit down
らせるすわらせる // suwaraseru // to make [one] sit down; to let [one] sit down

As you can imagine, different verbs will be used more commonly with this form than others. Also, some will only work in a limited variety of situations. For example, you're unlikely to ever hear someone say 死なせる (しなせる) when talking about "making someone die." Because in that case I'm pretty sure you could just say 殺す (ころす // to kill). You will hear 死なせる (しなせる) in other situations, though. For example, this is what you might tearfully do to a poor little animal that is suffering on its deathbed--you "let it die."

Ichidan Verbs // Group II Verbs // ru-verbs:

As is usually the case, conjugating ichidan verbs into the causative form is even easier:

Step #1: Drop -る.

Step #2: Add -させる.


食べたべ // taberu // to eat
食べさせるたべさせる // tabesaseru // to make [one] eat; to let [one] eat

起きおき // okiru // to get up; to wake up
起きさせる(おきさせる // okisaseru // to make [one] get up; to make [one] wake up)

Oops. Looks like we've run into a problem.

Do you see what it is?

起きさせる is not a word! Well, I suppose you could argue that it qualifies as a word, but I sincerely doubt you'll ever hear a Japanese person use it. This is because they already have a verb that performs the causative function of 起きる (おきる // to get up; to wake up), which is 起こす (おこす // to wake [someone] up).

I wouldn't worry about accidentally using the causative form with verbs that you think might not be "causative-friendly." Most of the exceptions like this you'll just pick up naturally over time.

Irregular Verbs // Group III Verbs:

する(suru // to do; to make
させる(saseru // to make [one] do; to let [one] do

来る(くる // kuru // to come
来させる(こさせる // kosaseru // to make [one] come; to let [one] come

Common Conjugation Patterns

Note that the ~させる ending conjugates like an ichidan verb (e.g. 食べる [たべる]).

Knowing this is important because you will often need to conjugate causative endings in order to form your desired phrases.

One extremely common conjugation of causative form verbs is the て-form. You'll see why this is so when we get into our sample sentences below, but for now just note that putting a causative-form verb into causative-て-form is as simple as dropping off the final -る and adding -て.


行かせいかせ // ikaseru // to make [one] go; to let [one] go
行かせいかせ // ikasete // make [one] go [and]; let [one] go [and]

食べさせたべさせ // tabesaseru // to make [one] eat; to let [one] eat
食べさせたべさせ // tabesasete // make [one] eat [and]; let [one] eat [and]

OK. That was quite a long intro for a JLPT lesson, yeah?


Let's power through a handful of examples, and you'll be on your way to causative-form mastery.

Remember that in this lesson we're looking at examples of the causative form meaning "to let VERB."

Here we go:

ちゅうがくせい に なる まで、 こども に けいたいでんわ は もたせません。
I’m not going to let my kids have a cell phone until they’re in junior high school.
Literally: “junior high school student + に + become + until, + child + に + cell phone + は + don’t let hold.”

Causative verbs can get confusing when we use them as requests.

Pay attention to who the person performing the action is in the following examples:

へえ、 それ が トリュフ ですか。 ちょっと におい を かがせて ください。
Oh, so that’s a truffle? Is it all right if I smell it? (=Please let me smell it a little.)
Literally: “oh / ah, + that + が + truffle + ですか. + a little bit + smell / scent + を + let smell (and) + please.”

おとうさん は わたし に みじかい スカート を はかせて くれません。
My dad won’t let me wear short skirts.
Literally: “father + は + I + に + short + skirt + を + let wear (and) + won’t give (me).”

まえ の しょくば で は、 いろいろ な めん で せいちょう させて もらった。
I was able to grow in a lot of different ways at my previous workplace. (=At my previous workplace, I had [them] let me grow in various ways.)
Literally: “before / previous + の + place of work + では, + various + face + で + growth + let do (and) + received.”

ともだち の おばあちゃん が わたしたち に せんじちゅう の はなし を きかせて くれた。
My friend’s grandma told us stories about her time during the war. (=My friend's grandma let us listen to stories about her time during the war.)
Literally: “friend + の + grandma + が + we + に + during the war + の + story / talk + を + let listen (and) + gave (us).”

If you're getting confused by the examples here, it may help to go back and review these lessons:
- [NDL #407] - JLPT N4: ~てくれる
- [NDL #414] - JLPT N4: ~てもらう

もうすぐ ひる だ けど、 きもちよさそう に ねている から そのまま ねかせておこう。
It’s almost lunchtime, but she seems to be sleeping so nicely. I think I’ll let her sleep some more.
Literally: “soon + lunchtime / midday + だけど, + looks to be feeling good + に + is sleeping + because + just like that / as she is + I think I’ll let sleep.”
Note: We use ~ておく at the end of this example because the speaker is allowing this action/state of sleeping to continue. This makes sense once you get a good feel for using ~ておく, which happens naturally with lots of language exposure!

Is ~させる "make," or is it "let"...?

If you speak English with some native Japanese speakers, you might hear them using the word "make" when they should have said "let," or vice versa.

Part of this is because ~させる covers both meanings. And part of this is because the difference in the meaning is not so clear.

Consider the following example:

すばらしい ほん でした。 ともだち や かぞく に も よませたい です。
It was a fantastic book. I want to have my friends and family read it, too.
Literally: “excellent + book + was. + friend + や + family + にも + want to let read + です.”

In a semi-literal English translation, that second sentence might be "I want to make my friends and family read it, too."

We could not say "I want to let my friends and family read it, too" because they have not shown interest in reading the book yet.

And yet, in some of my grammar books sentences like this one are being categorized as the "let" meaning of ~させる.

I suppose it's because the "let" meaning is any time that we make/let someone do something that they do or would find desirable and/or enjoyable.

Or maybe I'm just overthinking things...

Anyway, you're done! Be sure to go over the conjugation patterns viewed here a few times. You'll need them in quite a few of our future NDLs.

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