Introducing the meaning and usage of the transitive verb 破(やぶ)る

by and

Special To The Japan Times

Fujii Sōta-wa Sasaki Yūki-to taisen-shimashita-ga, yaburemashita. (Sota Fujii played against Yuki Sasaki but was defeated.)

Situation 1: A TV announcer is reading a piece of news about a shogi (Japanese chess) match.

アナウンサー: 将棋の最年少プロ棋士・藤井聡太四段は7月2日、佐々木勇気五段と対戦しましたが敗れ、連勝記録は「29」でストップしました。

Anaunsā: Shōgi-no sainenshō puro-kishi Fujii Sōta yodan-wa shichigatsu futsuka, Sasaki Yūki godan-to taisen-shimashita-ga, yabure, renshō-kiroku-wa “nijūku”-de sutoppu-shimashita.

Announcer: The youngest professional shogi player, Sota Fujii, fourth dan, played against Yuki Sasaki, fifth dan, on July 2, but was defeated, ending his winning streak at 29.

Today we’ll introduce the meaning and usage of the transitive verb 破(やぶ)る (to break) and its related words and expressions. Xを破る means to physically tear something thin like paper, such as a 手紙 (てがみ, letter), 書類 (しょるい, document) or 本 (ほん, book). It is also used with abstract words like 約束 (やくそく, promise), 誓い (ちかい, pledge), 法律 (ほうりつ, law), 規則 (きそく, rule). Example: 約束 (やくそく)を破ってはいけない (You shouldn’t break promises). 破る also means to defeat X in a game or war. Its intransitive equivalent is 破れる, meaning to be defeated. When it has this meaning, 破れる is often written as 敗れる, as in Situation 1, but transitive 破る cannot be written as 敗る. 夢 (ゆめ, dream) and 恋 (こい, love) often go with the intransitive verb 破れる, as in けがをして、サッカー選手(せんしゅ)になる夢が破れた (I injured myself and my dream of becoming a soccer player ended).

Situation 2: Mr. Shiba and wife Sanae are home with baby Jun.

妻: うわっ、大変! じゅんが私のノート破いちゃった。

夫: じゅんのせいじゃないよ。早苗がそんなところに 置いておいたからだよ。

Tsuma: Uwa, taihen! Jun-ga watashi-no nōto, yabuichatta.

Otto: Jun-no sei-ja nai-yo. Sanae-ga sonna tokoro-ni oite-oita kara-dayo.

Wife: Oh, no! Jun has torn up my notebook.

Husband: Don’t blame Jun. It’s your fault for putting it there, Sanae.

The transitive verb 破く(やぶく), used in casual conversation to mean to tear, is said to be derived from やぶる and さく (to tear/ rip). Its intransitive version is 破ける. 破く/破ける can be replaced by 破る/破れる, but not vice versa. Both 破る and 破く are Group Ⅰ verbs (u-verbs) and their te-forms are 破って and 破いて, respectively. 破れる and 破ける are Group Ⅱ verbs (ru-verbs) and their te-forms are 破れて/破けて, respectively. Example: これは水(みず)にぬれても破れない/破けない紙(かみ)です (This sheet of paper won’t rip even if it gets wet).

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Mita returns to the office from UP Co.

グレイ: おかえりなさい。外(そと)は暑(あつ)かったでしょ。麦茶(むぎちゃ)が冷(ひ)えてるわよ。…あ、その紙袋(かみぶくろ)、破(やぶ)けてる!

三田: おっと! 大事(だいじ)な書類(しょるい)が入(はい)っているのに、落(お)としたら大変(たいへん)だ。

グレイ: 小(ちい)さい穴(あな)だから、だいじょうぶでしょ。

三田: これで、書類を落としていたりしたら大変だったよ。

グレイ: ということは、UP社(しゃ)との契約(けいやく)は、 うまくいかなかったの?

三田: 敗軍(はいぐん)の将(しょう)、兵(へい)を語(かた)らず。

グレイ: うわ、古いイディオムね。三田さん、教養(きょうよう)がある! 「敗(やぶ)れたほうの大将(たいしょう)は、後悔(こうかい)や愚痴(ぐち)を言(い)わない」という意味(いみ)だったっけ?

三田: うん。でも、やっぱり言っちゃおう。UP社の担当(たんとう)がすごくたよりない男(おとこ)で…。

グレイ: とりあえず、冷(つめ)たい麦茶をどうぞ。それから、ゆっくり話(はなし)を聞(き)くから。

Gray: Welcome back. Hot out, isn’t it? Have some cold barley tea. … Oh, your paper bag is broken!

Mita: Oops! There are important documents inside and I’d be in serious trouble if they fell out.

Gray: The hole’s tiny so you should be OK.

Mita: Imagine if I’d lost the documents on top of everything else.

Gray: So the contract with UP Co. didn’t work out?

Mita: A defeated general shouldn’t discuss the battle.

Gray: Oh, that old idiom. Mr. Mita, how sophisticated! It means the head of a defeated team shouldn’t talk about their regrets or complaints, right?

Mita: Yeah. But I’ve changed my mind. I’m saying it! The guy in charge at UP Co. is so unreliable …

Gray: Right. Have some cold barley tea first and then I’ll hear your story.