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Japanese: Verbs for Clothing

Updated on April 14, 2011
Picture of Uniqlo, a very ubiquitous Japanese clothing chain.
Picture of Uniqlo, a very ubiquitous Japanese clothing chain. | Source

Matching verbs to nouns

In English, if you were to list the sequence of actions you take before going out to meet a blustery cold day, you might say something along the lines of, "I put on my coat, put on my hat, put on my gloves, reconsidered going outside...". This is quite easy, with every article of clothing being compatible with "put on". Japanese however, is much different, and unfortunately depending on what part of your body the article of clothing is placed on, or how you put it on (wrap it, place it, etc.), the verb changes. Here's a simple list for you to reference:

From your feet to your head: Verbs for clothing

Let's start with the easy stuff that we all hopefully have in common:

1.  Put on pants-- Zubon (pants) wo haku (put on)

2. Put on shoes - Kutsu (shoes) wo haku 

3. Put on socks - Kutsushita (socks) wo haku

4. Put on underwear - Pantsu (underwear, but yes it sounds like pants) wo haku

Hopefully by now you've seen a pattern, with the noun changing in every instance, but the verb staying the same.  Here's the easy rule: If it's below your waist, use haku.  Now you might be saying, "What about above your waist?".  I applaud your curiosity, but unfortunately here's where it gets rough.

1.  Put on a shirt - Shyatsu(shirt) wo kiru (put on)

2. Put on a suit - Sootsu (suit) wo kiru (put on) 

3. Put on a sweater - Sehta (sweater) wo kiru (put on)

Here's the general rule of thumb: If it's a garment that you wear on your torso above the waist, you use kiru.  This applies to all shirts, entire suits (even though they involve pants), sweaters, tank tops, and so on.  Now on to the trickier deviants of all these rules.

The etceteras and what verbs to use for them

If you're only going to wear pants and shirts in Japan then you'd be fine with what you've learned up until now, but here's some more knowledge for you to soak up if you like a little more flair in your appearance: 

1. Put on a scarf - mafura (scarf) wo maku (wrap)

2. Put on a tie - nekutai (necktie) wo maku OR suru (do)

3. Put on a hat - boushi (hat) wo kaburu (put on top of something to cover it)

4. Put on glasses - Megane (glasses) wo kakeru (literally meaning to hang off of something, which in this case would be your ears and nose)

5. Put on a necklace - Nekkuresu (necklace) wo tsukeru ( put on, but with an intonation of fastening)

Now there's always the exception to the rule, but if you just use logic and think of what action you're doing in order to put the piece of clothing or accessory on your body, you should be able to figure out which verb to use.  

The Sum Up

A quick run down of everything covered:

1. Put on your lower body like pants or underwear, use haku.

2. Worn on torso above the waist like shirts or sweaters, use kiru.

3. Hats use kaburu

4. Glasses use kakeru

5. Things that wrap like scarves or neckties use maku.

This list is by no means all inclusive, and there's plenty of nitty gritty things that I have not covered.  If you have any questions at all about what Japanese verb to use with what article of clothing, or anything else for that matter, don't be afraid to ask a question, or send me a message.  Until next time! Jya ne!


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    • twinkling_haze profile image


      8 years ago from Murcia, Negros Occidental, Philippines

      great hub

    • FeathersOfArtemis profile image


      8 years ago

      ALSO I found out pants is the "proper" term for underwear in the UK. Probably where pantsu came from.

    • Ruthcurley profile image


      8 years ago from Bozrah, CT

      BTW. I like the pictures. Almost as informative as the hints.

    • Ruthcurley profile image


      8 years ago from Bozrah, CT

      I've spoken Japanese for many years but never figured out this rule! Very helpful. Like learning the i before e rule for the first time!


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