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"Did you finish your homework?"


August 28, 2017



wa instead of wo? why and when?


Japanese sometimes has pairs of verbs with very similar meanings (in fact, they use the same root kanji); they are distinguished by whether the action is performed by an agent (transitive) or not (intransitive). When you use an intransitive verb, you cannot use を; you must use a different particle.

The sentence above uses 終わる (おわる), which is an intransitive verb; it cannot take a direct object. An overly literal translation of the above might be, "as for homework, finished?" You could also use が instead of は here, which might be more like "homework finished?"

There is a transitive verb 終える (おえる) -- which uses the same kanji! -- that also means end/finish, and can take a direct object. So you could also express this as しゅくだいをおえましたか?

Note that, in English, verbs are often both transitive and intransitive ("I opened the window" vs. "The window opened"), and this is not the same as passive voice ("The window was opened").

(This information comes from Tae Kim's excellent online grammar guide: http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/in-transitive )


Mabye duolingo should teach if said verb is transitive or not? Or is there any way to tell?


Just by looking at the word, no, I don't think there is.

I don't know if this is common enough to be used as a rule of thumb, but I just noticed that there are a few transitive verbs that end in -eru, while their intransitive counterparts do not: Transitive: 閉める (しめる, to close something)  Intransitive: 閉まる (しまる, to close)

Transitive: 開ける (あける, to open something) Intransitive: 開く (あく or ひらく, to open)

Transitive: 助ける (たすける, to save something/ someone) Intransitive: 助かる (たすかる, to be saved)

Transitive: 終える (おえる, to end/ finish something) Intransitive: 終わる (おわる, to come to an end/ be finished)


I like the idea of appending "something" to the translation of transitive verbs. It's simple and efficient.

What you noticed about the "eru" ending is often true. But many very common verbs just work the opposite way around.

Googling for "japanese transitive intransitive pairs" led me to the conclusion that I will always have a hard time with that.


While that does seem to work most of the time, I just want to point out that this isn't always the case. For example:

抜く: To extract (This time, it's transitive) 抜ける: To be extracted (Intransitive)

That rule can be really helpful if you were to go out on a limb and guess whether the verb is transitive or intransitive, but please always look up the verb when you have the chance just to be sure.


I think there are a fair number of exceptions to that. I was hoping to find a pattern in transitive versus intransitive verbs, but unfortunately, I haven't found any. But I haven't strictly studied it, so I'll pay attention to that pattern from now on. Thanks.


Jisho is a good resource for looking this up. It tells you if a particular verb is transitive or not.



so, since both the 終わる and the use of は indicate an intranstive verb, shouldn't the English translation then be "has the homework finished"?


I understand the explanation, but from a logical expositive point of view what you see in the english phrase is a verb complemented by an object. I feel like the accepted answer is training me to be stupid.




Why not 宿題を終えていましたか or 宿題を終えましたか?

Or even just 宿題は終わったの?


"を しましたか" cannot be used?


That would be "did you do your homework", not "did you finish it."


「あなたの宿題が終わりましたか」should be accepted


The Japanese avoid using あなた. I think Duo shouldn't be teaching students to use it, as it implies a degree of familiarity that may be odd or even presumptuous in some cases. In the four years I lived in Japan (two different roommates and a boyfriend) working in a Japanese company, I can't recall a single time someone used あなた or あなたの with me. They either used my title, or my last name + san.


it should still be accepted as it is linguistically correct and can be used - the relationship between the two participants in this example is not given, so any level of formality can be used


I may be mistaken, but i believe i saw a sign in an American airport reading, あなたの荷物 (にもつ) をご注意 (ごちゅうい) ください (please look after your luggage) So i think it does have some use in general notices like that. It's also used by wives to their husbands (like calling them "dear")


The latter is indicative of some degree of familiarity though, you have to admit ;)


Is this okay? 宿題が終わったの?


This appears to be a poorly constructed English translation which should match the use of an intransitive in the Japanese. "Is your homework finished?" is a correct translation by Duolingo's own rigorous standard. "Did you finish your homework?" with a differnt subject ("you" vs. "homework") and a different object ("homework" versus none, due to an intranstive verb).


Actually the Japanese doesn't specify a subject. You could well be asking, for example, your wife about your daughter's homework (except you wouldn't use the polite form 終わりました).


Thats fair. It would be more generally accurate to translate it as: "Is the homework done?" That does not excuse the sloppy official translation.


宿題は終わったの is not accepted, reported


宿題は終わったの is not accepted, reported


Can you use 仕上げる here?



But "you" is the agent of the sentence, isn't it?



This is also correct, though it places more emphasis on the person doing the homework.


Actually it is not, as far as i know. The closest thing it could be: 宿題は終わっていましたか。 or 宿題は終わってしましたか。 but 終わってました doesn't make too much sense


In て-form + いる you can skip the い, I noticed. I'd like to know if this form is correct here though because Duo has been using 終わっています to mean "be finished" but doesn't accept it here. Am I missing something ?


It's correct, Duo just has a very incomplete list of acceptable answers for this question. Note you can't (AFAIK) skip the い in the formal form (-ています)

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