A pair of terribly useful Japanese verbs: 出す (dasu) and 出る (deru)

By | March 16, 2020

Verbs are an extremely important part of the Japanese language. One reason for that is the large variety of verbs available in Japanese, some which don’t seem to have direct equivalents in other languages (or at least not in English). But I think it’s also because Japanese tends to omit words deemed unnecessary based on the context, and verbs are often the last to go––though they can still get omitted at times. In everyday conversation, it’s not uncommon to have a sentence with only a single verb and an ending particle or two (ex: “疲れたよ”).

In this post I’d like to highlight two particularly important verbs: 出す (dasu) and 出る (deru). For those studying Japanese, these verbs are of particular relevance because of their variety of uses in everyday speech and writing.

First let’s start off with 出す (dasu). This is a transitive verb, which means it can take a direct object (often with the particle を, unless it happens to be omitted). There is really no equivalent verb in English that matches up with all of the uses of “dasu”, however my best attempt to produce a rough general-purpose translation would be “to put out”. In other words, this verb involves taking something from someplace and moving it “outside”. But explanations only go so far; let’s look at a few examples.

  • 明日、ゴミを出してください。 (ashita, gomi wo dashite kudasai)
  • Please take out the trash tomorrow.

This example is a pretty close match to the concept of “to put out” and involves taking something from inside of the house (garbage) and putting it outside.

  • 口を開けて舌を出してみて (kuchi wo akete shita wo dashite mite)
  • Try opening your mouth and sticking your tongue out.

This example is also pretty straightforward, although translating it with a word like “stick out” instead of “put out” is argubly a bit more natural. Now let’s look at an example that is a little more abstract.

  • 本を出すのが夢です。 (hon wo dasu no ga yume desu)
  • It’s my dream to publish a book.

Here you can think of “putting out” a book to the world, in other words publishing it.

“Dasu” can also be used with abstract nouns that express psychological concepts. For example:

  •  大したことないよ。元気出してね (taishita koto nai yo. genki dashite ne)
  • It’s no big deal. Cheer up!

The word “genki” has several nuances, including “healthy” or “active”, but in this case you can think of it as meaning “positive energy”, and therefore “genki (wo) dashite” means to bring forth, or summon positive energy (supposedly from somewhere “inside” yourself).

I happen to train in Ki Aikido, and one phrase we use often is:

  • 気を出す (ki wo dasu)

There are many teachings and descriptions about what exactly “ki” is, but for now let’s use the definition “energy of the universe”. I would argue that understanding this simple phrase is one of the most important things about this complex martial art, but for our purposes I wanted to mention this phrase because of how it is typically translated: “Extend Ki”.

”Dasu” is also used in combination with pre-masu form verbs to express something that has begun or will begin.

  • 雨が降り出した (ame ga furidashita)
  • It begun to rain.

As a final example of “dasu”, I wanted to give a phrase you are likely to come across if you are ever raising children in Japanese.

  • うんちを出した? (unchi wo dashita?)

Literally, this means something like “Did (you) put out poo?” However, in English we generally don’t use verbs like “put out” or “push out” (OK, maybe the latter sometimes), rather we just ask “Did you poo?” By the way, Japanese has an equivalent phrase: うんちをした (unchi wo shita), which means the same thing.

Remember that the “dasu” verb is transitive, which generally means the action is conscious and purposeful, and if you look at the above examples you’ll see that.

In contrast, “deru” (出る), is the intransitive counterpart to “dasu”. It is used when something “goes out” in its own accord, although that can include a human being. It’s important to note that while sometimes the を particle can be used with “deru”, the object does not specify the thing that is going out. (More on that later.) First, let’s look at a simple example:

  • 元気が出ました (genki ga demashita)
  • I feel much better now.

This is a parallel example to the “genki wo dashite” phrase we talked about above. Here, instead of asking something to “bring out their positive energy”, the speaker is instead saying that their “positive energy came out”. In other words, they got cheered up. However, saying “I got cheered up” is somewhat unnatural, hence my translation “I feel much better”.

A very common usage of “deru” is when answering a phone.

  • 僕は、さっき電話したんだけど出なかったよ (boku, sakki denwa shita n da kedo, denakatta yo)
  • I just called but nobody answered.

Here, we use the negative, past form of “deru” to signify someone not answering the phone. By the way, I don’t know the reason why this phrase is used to answer a phone, but I think perhaps it is because long ago people had to physically go “out” somewhere else to answer the phone.

Like “dasu”, “deru” can also be used in a more abstract sense. For example, it can be used to talk about partaking in events.

  • コンクールに出るつもりです。 (konkuuru ni deru tsumori desu)
  • I intend to enter the competition.

It’s important to notice that the に (ni) particle is used here to express the place that is being gone to, whether it is an abstract thing (as in the last example) or a more concrete place (like a garden or a parking lot). In many cases, however, this is omitted completely and “out” is must be inferred from context.

As alluded to earlier, the を (wo) particle can be used with “deru”, but unlike “dasu” it does not express the thing that is going out (or being put out). Instead, it express the place that is being left, in other words the place the subject is going out from.

  • 僕は歯を磨いてトイレをでた。 (boku wa ha wo migaite toire wo deta)
  • I brushed my teeth and left the bathroom.

“Deru” is frequently used in combination with the verb “kuru” (to come) or “iku” (to go), which can be used to express whether an action is happening towards, or away from the speaker (among other things).

  • さっさと出て行け! (sassato dete ike!)
  • Get out of here now!

Here we have the te-form of the verb “deru”, plus the command form of the verb “iku”. The verb “iku” specifies the “going out” is happening away from the speaker, which in this case probably means the listener is being asked to leave a room, building, or other place where the speaker also is present.

“Dete kuru”, on the other hand, specifies that the “going out” is happening towards the speaker.

  • 森を歩いてると、急にとらが出てきた (mori wo aruiteru to, kyuu ni tora ga dete kita).
  • When I was walking in the forest, a tiger suddenly appeared.

This can have the nuance of “coming out” of a hiding place, or appearing from nothingness (like a ghost).

Speaking of ghosts, you can just use “deru” by itself when talking about a ghost appearing.

  • おばけが出るのかな。。。 (obake ga deru no ka na…)
  • I wonder if a ghost will appear

出る can be used in a more abstract sense of “appear” which can be likened with “is caused” or “occurs”. For example,

  • 経済に大きい影響が出るでしょう。 (keizai ni ookii eikyou ga deru deshou.)
  • There will likely be a large effect on the economy.

Going back to the earlier poo (うんち) example, you can also use “deru” with bodily functions that just happen. So you can say “unchi (ga) deta?” to emphasize the fact the poo just “came out” on its own. This is perhaps a little more common than the “uchi wo dashita?” example I gave earlier. You can also use “deru” with words like くしゃみ (sneeze), せき (cough) or げっぷ (burp).

  • 今日は一回もくしゃみが出ないよ (kyou wa ikkai mo kushami ga denai yo)
  • Today I haven’t sneezed even a single time.

For most of these cases, in English we use different phrasing (ex: “I burped”) and avoid directly saying “came out” or “went out”.

An interesting colloquial usage of “deru” is to use it refer to something you were looking forward or expecting. For example, say you were at a concert where the guitarist is known for his amazing solos. When he starts playing one of the solos (which you were expecting) you could just say:

  • 出た! (deta)
  • There it is!

There are many other uses for “deru”: toothpaste coming out of the tube, a piece of food coming out of your mouth, ink coming out of a pen, etc.

“Deru” can be used to talk about leaving the house, but if you are going out to some place (like shopping, to the movies, etc.) it is more common to use 出かける (dekakeru), a compound verb that contains “deru” inside of it.

  • そろそろ買い物に出かけてくるね (soro soro kaimono ni dekakete kuru ne)
  • I’m going to go out shopping soon.

Now that we’ve learned how “deru” can be used, we can go back and look at another use of “dasu”.

  • 早くここから出してくれ! (hayaku koko kara dashite kure!)
  • Hurry up and let me out of here!

This example might be a little confusing when you first see it. If “deru” can be used to leave a room, then “dasu” is the way to make something leave. However, Japanese often doesn’t differentiate between “forcing” and “allowing” an action. Keeping that in mind, we can see how “dasu” (in this case in the te-form) is used to mean letting someone out of a room or other place.

Finally, you can actually combine both でる and だす to make the noun 出だし (dedashi), which means “beginning” or “start”. This uses “dasu” in the sense of “to begin ~” (as discussed above) for the verb “deru”, so literally it means something like “beginning to go out”. But if you remember the phrase “旅に出る” (tabi ni deru), which means to start a trip, it may help you understand this usage.

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3 thoughts on “A pair of terribly useful Japanese verbs: 出す (dasu) and 出る (deru)

  1. David

    This was a lovely post that solidified some individual fragments of knowledge i had into something far more uniform and useful. Thanks a bunch!

  2. Justin

    This was immensely helpful. deru/dasu is like the ‘koto’ of verbs!

  3. Kristina

    First time visitor to your site and I’m blown away. This was such an incredible explanation!! Although I know 3 out of the 4 words, I wouldn’t have even been able to begin to piece together everything or explain the such the way you did. Thank you so much for this!


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