The Japanese verb 切る, pronounced “kiru”, is one of the verbs typically introduced in basic level Japanese textbooks. This is because it is an example of verb that end sin ‘iru’ but is conjugated as a constant verb, and also because it’s easy to understand conceptually. In this post I’ll show some related uses of this and other expressions that I find useful in everyday conversation.
First, let’s start off with a simple sentence to illustrate the basic usage to mean “to cut”.
- He cut the apple.
Depending on the context, 切る can be translated to “cut, chop, carve, slice, hash, or punch (a ticket)”. The expression ”電話を切る” means to hang up a phone. (電話 = “denwa” (phone))
When used in hiragana form (きる), this verb can also be used as a verb suffix to mean “to completely do”. See this post for some examples.
切られる (kirareru) is the passive form of 切る and means “will be cut”. One way this is used is when someone is given a parking or speed ticket from a police officer. Think of the ticket being torn from some pad of blank tickets before given being handed out.
- I got a speeding ticket.
While 切られる means someone had done the action of cutting, 切れる (kireru) simply means something broke or snapped on it’s own.
- The thread snapped.
This word can also be used when describing a resource (for example a liquid like water) is used up.
- The water is all gone.
When something is exhausted, you can use the “〜ている” (or abbreviation ~てる) form to show this state, even though nothing is actively happening.
- The battery is used up.
The verb 切らす (kirasu) is the transitive form of this (meaning it takes an object).
- She finished the water.
Another use of 切れる is to mean someone has gotten fairly upset or angry at something, and may lose control over their emotions. It’s conceptual similar to the English expression “snapped”. The first two letters are commonly written in Katakana for emphasis (キレる）
- When the girl was made fun of she got very angry.
A related word is 逆ギレ (“gyaku gire”, something like “reverse anger”), which means someone getting upset in response to someone else getting upset at them. For example, let’s say I went to a friend’s house to hang out and forgot to bring a movie we agreed to watch, and my friend might get upset. I might get mad back at them and say “It’s no big deal!”. My friend could then respond with: (this one is a bit tricky to translate)
- Don’t get mad at me!