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Japanese – 下げる vs. 下がる

Last updated on October 8, 2021

In my quest for Japanese language proficiency, I have become stuck on many vocabulary. The latest is 下げる (sageru) and 下がる (sagaru). I know one means “to get lower” and the other means “to lower”, but I have had the most difficult time differentiating the two. They’re just too similar, and I often get the two backwards.

I thought I might blog about it to help form a deeper memory of the two, and hopefully reinforce which means what. I had a similar struggle with 午 (go) vs. 牛 (ushi). The first means noon, the second means cow. Very similar looking, but entirely different meanings!

The thing that helped me memorize the difference between 午 and 牛 was a picture I found on a message board that compared the two. Cows have horns on top! That is the reason for the little extra bit on top of 牛 (ushi) which 午 (go) lacks!

What is the difference between 下げる (sageru) (to lower) and 下がる (sagaru) (to get lower?) How can I tell the difference between these two? How can I remember? I searched the internet for the difference between these and wasn’t able to find anything like with 午 vs. 牛.

I was stuck on this issue for several weeks. It took me that time to come up with a mnemonic that is a pretty solid way to remember 下げる (sageru) (to lower). Knowing one is enough to deduce the meaning of the other. Unfortunately it is Rated 18+ so I will not be sharing it on this blog! (Use your imagination if you must!)

Sorry to tease you with the idea of an answer. My point in sharing this is that my mnemonics are a sure way to remember my knowledge. Even if I shared mine with you, it probably wouldn’t have the same effect on your memory. If you need to remember something, form your own mnemonic. The better it evokes your feelings, the better mnemonic it will be!

Perhaps the best mnemonic for this difference is that time you saw that one guy who was nice enough to make a post about sageru vs. sagaru, but was rude enough to not share the actual mnemonic!

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One Comment

  1. KumaManny
    KumaManny January 14, 2021

    I think the best way to learn kanji like this is to ensure you use synonyms and avoid using the same words in your memorization of each. For example

    下げる means to lower.. (imagine yourself lowering a heavy weight… you used your muscles to move the weight from one location to another, it did not do that by itself)
    Imagine げ as your arms with a blood pressure monitor on the right side, the nurse looks at your numbers as your arm feels like its about to burst because its never fun to get your blood pressure taken. “You need to eat more vegetables so that you can **lower** your blood pressure, Grimmetosan!”

    Example: 下げる (sageru)
    You need to lower your cholesterol!
    あなたはあなたのコレステロールを下げる必要があります。
    Anata wa anata no koresuterōru o sageru hitsuyō ga arimasu.

    下がる means to FALL, DROP, or HANG
    You can imagine the left part of the GA が as a cliff, and the right side someone jumping off – note that the object in question is falling of its own accord

    The price of silver will go down.
    銀の価格が下がる

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