聞こえる・きこえる - Grammar Discussion

To be audible
to sound (like)
(can) hear
to be heard

Structure

  • Noun + が + 聞こえる
  • い-Adj. + く + 聞こえる
  • な-Adj. + に + 聞こえる
  • Noun + に + 聞こえる

:warning: 聞こえる was originally a conjugation of 聞く, but nowadays it is treated as a standalone intransitive verb.

[聞こえる is an intransitive verb, meaning “to be audible”]

[聞こえる is used to express that something is heard spontaneously, without the active effort/will of the speaker - it is unavoidable to hear it]

[In other words, it can be used in situations where the sound can be heard easily without focusing on it, or when it is so loud that the speaker hears it regardless of their will to hear it, etc.]

[It can also express that the sense of hearing is functional or not]

[The potential form of 聞く- 聞ける is used when some effort of the speaker is needed to do the hearing/listening]

View on Bunpro

I guess those are exceptions to " When using こえる, (A) will always be followed by が. (A) is considered to be the ‘source’ of the sound (a noun)." because “耳が聞こえない” is an expression? I was a bit confused there, because in both cases it’s not the 耳 that are the source of the sound, despite being marked with が.

You might as well learn 耳が聞こえる as an expression, together with 目が見える.

Sometimes 聞こえる・見える are contrasted with 聞ける・見られる in terms of the former expressing potential based on ability, and the latter expressing potential based on circumstances. That way we can avoid the expressions being an exception. I’m not sure it’s actually an easier or better explanation, just a very common one.


From the original bunpro explanation that’s still in the top comment in this thread:

This is a bit closer to the usual separation of the functions of potential/passive forms into possibility (可能), spontaneous action/things that happen naturally (自発), and passive (受身) that applies to られる as well as to ゆ, its classical cousin auxiliary that 聞こえる and 見える are derived from.

In this framework, something being audible or visible in the sense of 聞こえる and 見える falls under 自発. As in, the sound reaches your ears regardless of what you do. In modern Japanese, normally られる is used to express 自発, e.g. 感じられる, but for 聞くand 見る, these alternative forms have survived and have become their own words.

And as you can see, this explanation needs to (and does) classify the expressions with 耳 and 目 as a separate use that falls under 可能. Historically it all makes sense but if we’re strictly looking at modern Japanese, these expressions are exceptions.

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Thanks for the explanations! I am not sure I actually know about “spontaneous action/things that happen naturally (自発)” yet, so… I got something new to look up too :slight_smile: