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Grammar detail: あく, あける, ひらく, しめる, しまる, とじる etc.

あく, あける, ひらく, しめる, しまる, とじる etc.
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あく, あける, ひらく and some other forms all mean in some sense 'to open'. However, they cannot be used completely interchangeably. Since they can all be written with the same kanji 開, this can cause considerable confusion!
The first important distinction is between the transitive and intransitive forms. Transitive forms take an object: you 'open a door', whereas intransitive do not: 'the view opened before us'. As in English, however, some of these forms can be used both transitively and intransitively, so this distinction is not enough. The following guidelines will help:
  • あける is transitive, whereas あく is intransitive.
  • ひらく is usually transitive (eg.
    ほん
    ひら
    く), but very occasionally can be intransitive (
    さくら
    はな
    ひら
    いた).
  • あける and ひらく are generally interchangeable when used transitively. In general, it is a good rule of thumb that あける is somewhat more versatile - any sentence that uses ひらく could use あける instead, but the same isn't always true in reverse.
  • In their kanji forms,
    く and
    ひら
    く look the same without furigana - so the transitive / intransitive distinction is the key one.
    ける includes the okurigana け so it easy to distinguish.
The next distinction is to do with the specific subject matter. Depending on the precise context, specific terms are acceptable or not, or carry slightly different meanings. For example, while ひらく and あける could both be used to mean 'open a business', ひらく would tend to refer to the founding of the business, whereas あける would refer to opening for the day.
Finally, the terms are written with different kanji depending on the context. For example, 開く tends to be used for opening of doors and windows, 空く tends to be used for opening up of vacancies, and 明く tends to be used for periods of time.
In the same way とじる, しめる and しまる all mean 'to close'. しめる and とじる are transitive, whereas しまる is intransitive.
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Words used in this grammar

0
'ku' godan verb, intransitive verb
1. to open (e.g. doors)  (esp. 開く)
2. to open (e.g. business, etc.)  (esp. 開く)
(click the word to view an additional 7 meanings and 3 forms, examples and links)
0
Most common form: 開く
(same as above)
(click the word to view an additional 7 meanings and 3 forms, examples and links)
0
Most common form: 開く
(same as above)
(click the word to view an additional 7 meanings and 3 forms, examples and links)
2
'ku' godan verb, intransitive verb, transitive verb
1. to open; to undo; to unseal; to unpack
2. to bloom; to unfold; to spread out
(click the word to view an additional 13 meanings, examples and links)
0
ichidan verb, transitive verb
1. to open (a door, etc.); to unwrap (e.g. parcel, package); to unlock  (this meaning is restricted to form 開ける)
2. to open (for business, etc.)  (this meaning is restricted to form 開ける)
(click the word to view an additional 8 meanings and 3 forms, examples and links)
2
ichidan verb, transitive verb, intransitive verb
to close (e.g. book, eyes, meeting, etc.); to shut
(click the word for useful expressions, examples and links)
2
Most common form: しめる
ichidan verb, transitive verb
to close; to shut
(click the word for examples and links)
2
'ru' godan verb, intransitive verb
1. to be shut; to close; to be closed  (esp. 閉まる)
2. to be firm (of a body, face, etc.); to be well-knit
(click the word to view an additional 3 meanings and 3 forms, examples and links)

Kanji used in this grammar

カイ   あ to (be) open   あける    ひら to open (something)   ひらける to open out (eg view)   
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ホン   book   もと origin   
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オウ   さくら cherry tree   
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カ   はな flower   
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クウ   から empty   あ to be empty   あける to empty, vacate   そら sky   
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メイ   ミョウ   あかり light   あかるい bright   あかるむ to brighten   あからむ to become luminous (at dawn)   あきらか obvious   あかす to lay bare   あ to open   あける to empty   
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