Cut it out with 「切れる」!

Originally published: 2005/2/11

「切れる」, the intransitive version of 「切る」, not to be confused with the short-hand potential form 「切られる」, is one of those common words with many definitions and usages.

If you look up 「切れる」 on Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC, you will get a huge list of definitions:

切れる 【きれる】 (v1) (1) to cut well; to be sharp; (2) to break (off); to snap; to wear out; (3) to be injured; (4) to burst; to collapse; (5) to be disconnected; to be out of; to expire; to sever (connections) with; (6) to be shrewd; to have a sharp mind;

If you’re just starting out, I would NOT recommend using these definitions verbatim. It’s important to see how it’s used in context in order to see the specific types of situations and common particles used together. Let’s take a look at some examples.

For instance, what if you wanted to say something ran out or expired?

– The batteries are going to run out soon, so you should buy a new one.

– This item is already sold-out.

– The sell-by date has already expired so you should throw it out.

Or what if your connection gets cut off such as on the phone?

– Once entering the tunnel, the signal didn’t reach and the phone got cut off.

You can even use it for when you lose your temper.

– I couldn’t take it anymore and I lost my temper.

Perhaps, one of the most useful thing about 「切れる」 is that you can take the negative and use it as a verb suffix for things you can’t cut off and put an end to. This has a similar meaning to the expression 「切りがない」 for things that have no cut-off point and seems to be endless. As you can see by the examples, you just take the stem of the verb and attach 「きれない」 .

– I can’t eat this much (you know).

– No matter how much you try, there’s no way you will finish this homework.

– Because I haven’t finished getting a handle on the situation, please let me consider/investigate until tomorrow.