Yo man! You gots to hang with 【掛ける】

You know you’ve struck gold when you look up a word and it has 23 definitions.

掛ける(P); 懸ける 【かける】 (v1,vt) (1) (See 壁にかける) to hang (e.g. picture); to hoist (e.g. sail); to raise (e.g. flag); (2) (See 腰を掛ける) to sit; (aux-v,v1) (3) to be partway (verb); to begin (but not complete); (4) (See 時間を掛ける) to take (time, money); to expend (money, time, etc.); (5) (See 電話を掛ける) to make (a call); (6) to multiply; (7) (See 鍵を掛ける) to secure (e.g. lock); (8) (See 眼鏡を掛ける) to put on (glasses, etc.); (9) to cover; (10) (See 迷惑を掛ける) to burden someone; (11) (See 保険を掛ける) to apply (insurance); (12) to turn on (an engine, etc.); to set (a dial, an alarm clock, etc.); (13) to put an effect (spell, anaesthetic, etc.) on; (14) to hold an emotion for (pity, hope, etc.); (15) (also 繋ける) to bind; (16) (See 塩をかける) to pour (or sprinkle, spray, etc.) onto; (17) (See 裁判に掛ける) to argue (in court); to deliberate (in a meeting); to present (e.g. idea to a conference, etc.); (18) to increase further; (19) to catch (in a trap, etc.); (20) to set atop; (21) to erect (a makeshift building); (22) to hold (a play, festival, etc.); (aux-v) (23) (See 話し掛ける) (after -masu stem of verb) indicates (verb) is being directed to (someone);

Yahoo!辞書 goes in more detail and has a whopping 32 definitions for 「掛ける」. There’s no way a word like that is not going to be useful. The trick is finding the common thread or concept behind all these definitions so you can actually sort it out in your head. That’s what this post is for.

Just think of Captain Hook and his umm… special hand

Basically, this verb is used to hook or hang things. What can you hang? Why anything of course including clothes on hangers, covers, your butt to a chair, emotions, bother, time, voice, money, traps, bets, and even magic spells. It’s usually just written in Hiragana.


  1. 迷惑をかける – hang bother (to bother someone)
  2. 時間をかける – hang time (spend time)
  3. お金をかける – hang money (spend money)
  4. 声をかける – hang voice (call out)
  5. アイロンをかける – hang iron (iron clothes)
  6. 電話をかける – hang phone (make phone call)
  7. 腰をかける – hang hip (sit your ass down)
  8. 魔法をかける – hang magic (cast magic)

Don’t forget about the intransitive version as well: 「かかる」. For example, 「時間がかかる」 means something takes time instead of spending time.

Most of these examples make sense if you think about it the right way except for maybe the phone. Maybe it’s because you hang the phone to your ear? Though 「電話がかかる」 means the phone is ringing before you pick it up. Maybe you expect your mom to call and the phone call is hanging on your conscience? Ha ha. Anyway, there are also some additional compound verbs such as 「出かける、見かける、話しかける、引っかかる」 that combines hanging with another verb.

What’s the best way to learn all these countless different uses of the same verb? You can take my approach and just learn them as you see them.

4 thoughts on “Yo man! You gots to hang with 【掛ける】

  1. The first time I seen this I believe it was in Hiragana. I was able to get from context it meant something about taking “time” but I still had to look at it for a little while.

    This verb seems very useful and can be used is many ways. So it would probably be better to just learn them as you go along. That way you can see it used in context.

  2. I remember reading a short story that played with all these different definitions but can’t remember what it was called >_<

  3. >>So it would probably be better to just learn them as you go along. That way you can see it used in context.

    My thoughts as well.
    Also this example is an example of translations, not meanings.
    When I was able to switch to mono-lingual dictionary I did it. And sometimes I understand the meaning (looking it up in the dictionary or just from the context) but I do not know the translation. Knowing meaning, context and applying any word correctly – this is what we need – not the list of translations. (Though it helps sometimes to think and ‘transfer’ meanings, like “Maybe it’s because you hang the phone to your ear? ” But it becomes necessary only because we know the ‘main translation’ already or try to translate it in our native language).

  4. So it’s kinda like the Japanese equivalent of the word “set” in English? 464 definitions in the Oxford dictionary.

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