flippantry

Please Note: This is not meant to be an extensive tutorial for when and how to use every verb tense. Rather, this guide serves as a quick and visual look into to the various types, forms, and uses for verbs. Unfortunately, in order to maintain its use as a user-friendly "cheatsheet," a lot of information needed to be excluded. For a more in-depth explanation of the conjugations included in this guide, and more, please try Tim Sensei's Guide.

Japanese Verbs

Japanese verbs are vastly different from English. English verbs are generally irregular, strict, and non-inflected, while Japanese verbs are predictable, modular, and inflected.

Predictable refers to the fact that most verbs follow a common pattern. In total, there are four common irregular verbs.

Modular refers to the fact that verbs and adjectives love to stick to each other. When conjugating Japanese verbs, you will often use 2+ verbs or adjectives that work together. In fact, the reason that I decided to represent verbs in the way you will see below, rather than as a table, is to emphasize that they are not strictly what is listed. There are literally hundreds of combinations that can be made between them.

Inflection is when a word is conjugated, based on various conditions. In Japanese, verbs are conjugated based on:

  • Affirmative vs. Negative: This, of course, refers to whether a verb is positive or not.
  • Aspect: Japanese does not have tense. Instead, past tense is implied through the perfective aspect and future tense is implied through context.
  • Politeness: There are plain and polite forms of verbs, which is very important in Japanese. Polite forms are marked by the auxillary verbs "desu" or "masu."
  • Mood: This refers to the intention of the verb. For example, are you stating something, commanding someone, or saying you wish something would happen?

Note that Japanese verbs are not inflected for subject (for example, in English we say "I am" and "you are") or number ("he is" vs. "they are").

Verb Types

There are three main groups of Japanese verbs: godan, ichidan, and irregular. The general rules for conjugating a verb depends on what group they belong to. For the most part, they are easy to distinguish—the only confusion comes when some verbs that look like ichidan are, in fact, godan. It is also worth noting that godan, ichidan, and the three irregular verb classes—kuru, suru, and -aru—are often notated as v5, v1, vk, vs, and v5aru respectively in dictionaries.

Godan

They are called godan, 五段—meaning "five stage"—because they conjugate to each of the five vowel stages very easily, as we will see below.

Godan verbs include verbs that end with u, ku, gu, su, tsu, nu, be, mu, or ru. They don't include most -iru and -eru verbs, but do include some, like kaeru, "to return," and hashiru, "to run."

Examples
  • aruku 歩きto walk
  • kau 買うto buy
  • kasu 貸すto lend
  • matsu 待つto wait
  • shinu 死ぬto die
  • asobu 遊ぶto play
  • kudasaru 下さるto give (irregular, honorific)
  • iru 要るto need

Ichidan

Ichidan, as you can imagine, means "one stage." Although they also are conjugated into each of the five vowel stages, they are a bit more irregular.

Ichidan verbs end in either eru or iru. However, some -eru and -iru verbs are godan verbs, so it is good to know some of the most common exceptions, which may include homophones for words that are ichidan.

Examples
  • taberu 食べるto eat
  • oboeru 覚えるto remember
  • kimeru 決めるto decide
  • deru 出るto leave
  • kariru 借りるto borrow
  • miru 見るto see
  • dekiru 出来るto be able
  • iru いるto be, to exist

Irregular

Irregular verbs are...irregular. Luckily, there are only a handful of them: kuru, suru, and da/desu (see da and desu page for more detail).

Also note that suru can be combined with nouns to form verbs.

Examples
  • kuru 来るto come
  • suru するto do
  • benkyou suru 勉強するto study
  • shimpai suru 心配するto worry
  • ai suru 愛するto love
  • chuumon suru 注文するto order
  • da だsee da and desu page
  • desu ですsee da and desu page

The Five Vowel Forms

These are the five forms from which "godan" comes from, each named after the five vowels: a, i, u, e, o. However, their technical names in Japanese are quite different, and they actually represent six forms (there are two "u" forms, even though they appear identical for most verbs).

The list of uses includes conjugations, compound verbs, expressions, and particles, but even if in English these meanings would come before the verb, they always come after the verb in Japanese. The uses below listed for each form is non-exhaustive.

Key
  • ★ (star) This use is, in my opinion, a key conjugation/usage to learn.
  • ¹ This word is a verb, which can be further conjugated.
  • ² This word/suffix is an adjectival verb (i-adjective), which can be further conjugated. Some examples:
    • -nai → -nakatta (past), -nakereba (conditional), -nakute (te-form)
    • -tai → -takatta (past), -takunai (negative), -takunakatta (negative past), -takereba(conditional), -takute (te-form)
  • ³ This use can be further conjugated like an Ichidan verb.
  • ⁴ This use is mostly only used for Godan verbs; they can be used with Ichidan verbs, but it is seen as informal.
  • ⁵ There are multiple conditional forms; for more detail, see the Sentences page.
  • ⁶ This use uses the attributive form with a noun or particle to create a relative clause (see Clauses page). There are several things to know about these uses:
    • You can use other conjugations with these uses, such as the plain negative.
    • When using "da,"" you must use the attributive form "na" instead.
    • Polite verb forms are never used attributively, so you cannot use "desu," "-masu," "-masen," etc.).
  • ⁷ There are five honorific -aru verbs: kudasaru, gozaru, nasaru, irassharu, and ossharu. They are considered Godan, but their i-form replaces "-ru" with "-i".
  • There is no explicit future tense in Japanese. It is expressed through context or phrases like "deshou" (probably).
  • You will see many conjugations of "da" and "desu" used below. See the page "Da and Desu" for more information.

A Form

  • aruka
  • kawa
  • kasa
  • mata
  • tabe
  • mi
  • ko
  • shi

「 A 」 The Imperfective

"Imperfective" (also sometimes called the "irrealis form") refers to an action that has not been actualized, so this form is used mostly to express when something wasn't or hasn't been done.

How to Make
  • Godan[consonant]+u → [consonant]+a
  • Godan[vowel]+u → [vowel]+wa
  • Godantsu → ta
  • Ichidanru
Uses (hover for examples)
  • -nai ²Plain negative
    • John wa kasa o kawanai. (John isn't going to buy an umbrella.)
    • Jim wa manga o yomanai. (Jim doesn't read comic books.)
    • Ojii-san wa sugu kaeranai. (Grandpa isn't going to return soon.)
    • Watashi wa terebi o minai. (I'm not going to watch TV.)
    • Sachiko wa konai. (Sachiko won't be coming.)
  • -nakattaPlain past negative
    • Watashi wa terebi o minakatta. (I didn't watch TV.)
    • Sachiko wa konakatta. (Sachiko didn't come.)
    • Yuki wa furanakatta. (It didn't snow.)
    • Kenji wa te o arawanakatta. (Kenji didn't wash his hands.)
  • -nai ² deshou"probably won't"
    • John wa kasa o kawanai deshou. (John probably isn't going to buy an umbrella.)
    • Jim wa manga o yomanai deshou. (Jim probably doesn't read comic books.)
    • Yuki wa furanai deshou. (It probably won't snow.)
  • -nakerebaNegative condition ("if not")
    • Ojii-san ga sugu kaeranakereba watashi wa makudonarudo ni ikimasu. (If Grandpa doesn't return soon I'm going to McDonald's.)
    • Miki ga heya o tsukawanakereba Junko wa tsukaitai desu. (If Miki isn't going to use the room Junko wants to use it.)
    • Naoko wa kasa o karinakereba koukai suru deshou. (If Naoko doesn't borrow an umbrella she'll probably regret it.)
  • [-nakereba/-nakya] [naranai/nakucha]Plain "must"
    • Jim wa ima kaeranakereba nakucha. (Laura has to buy an umbrella.)
    • Kodomotachi wa tabenakereba nakucha. (The children must eat.)
    • Jim wa ima kaeranakereba naranai. (Jim has to return now.)
    • Laura wa kasa o kawanakereba naranai deshou. (Laura probably needs to buy an umbrella.)
    • Kodomotachi wa tabenakereba naranai deshou. (The children probably need to eat.)
  • -nakereba narimasenPolite "must"
    • Jim wa ima kaeranakereba narimasen. (Jim has to return now.)
    • Laura wa kasa o kawanakereba narimasen. (Laura has to buy an umbrella.)
    • Kodomotachi wa tabenakereba narimasen. (The children must eat.)
  • -nai deNegative te-form (only some uses)
    • Sugu kaeranai de motto inasai. (Don't go back home, stay longer.)
    • Terebi o minaide (kudasai). (Don't watch the TV.)
    • Ikanaide kure! (Informal: Don't go!)
    • Kaigou ni denai de hoshii. (I don't want you to attend the meeting (I want you to not))
  • -nakuteNegative te-form (only some uses)
    • Ashita wa konakute mo ii. (You don't have to come tomorrow.)
    • Watashi wa nenakute wa ikenai. (I have to sleep [I cannot not sleep.])
  • -zu (ni) [clause]To not have done when doing [clause]
    • Kare wa yuushoku o tabezu ni nemashita. (He went to bed without eating dinner.)
    • Kyou Shizuka wa kyoukasho o motazu ni gakkou ni kimashita. (Today Shizuka came to school without her textbook.)
    • Bob wa maemotte denwa sezu ni John no ie ni ikimashita. (Bob went to John's house without calling first.)
  • -na sou desu ¹"doesn't seem like"
  • [godan]-seru ³Causative
    • Obaa-san wa kodomotachi ni soto de asobaseru. (Grandma lets the children play outside.)
    • Okaa-chan wa Kimiko ni kasa o kawaseru. (Mom will have Kimiko buy an umbrella.)
    • Sensei wa gakusei ni mainichi shimbun o yomaseru. (The teacher makes the students read the newspaper every day.)
  • [ichidan/kuru]-saseru ³Causative
    • Roku ji ni kodomotachi ni yuushoku o tabesaseru. (I'll have the kids eat dinner at 6:00.)
    • John ni raishuu made ni kimesaseru. (I'll have John decide by next week.)
    • Kare ni ashita kosaseru. (I'll have him come tomorrow.)
  • [suru] saseru ³Causative
    • Otou-san wa Bob ni benkyou saseru. (Dad will make Bob study.)
    • Kanojo ni saseru. (I'll have her do it.)
  • [godan]-reru ³Passive
  • [ichidan/kuru]-rareru ³Passive/Potential
  • [suru] sareru ³Passive

I Form

  • aruki
  • kai
  • kashi
  • machi
  • tabe
  • mi
  • ki
  • shi

「 I 」 The Continuative

It's called the "continuative" or "infinitive" form, similar to "to [verb]" in English. This means it is used by attaching it to another verb (including masu and i-adjs) or a noun.

How to Make
  • Godanu → i
  • Godantsu → chi
  • Godansu → shi
  • Honorific -aru Class ⁷ ru → i
  • Ichidanru
Uses (hover for examples)
  • -masuPolite present
    • Mama wa mise de banana o kaimasu. (Mom buys/will buy bananas at the store.)
    • Jim wa manga o yomimasu. (Jim will read a comic book.)
    • Ojii-san wa sugu kaerimasu. (Grandpa will return soon.)
    • Watashi wa ashita kimemasu. (I'll decide tomorrow.)
    • Ayako wa mainichi terebi o mimasu. (Ayako watches the TV every day.)
  • -masenPolite present negative
    • Watashi wa kasa o kaimasen. (I'm not going to buy an umbrella.)
    • Kare wa machimasen. (He won't wait.)
    • Kimiko wa Osaka ni ikimasen. (Kimiko isn't going to Osaka.)
    • Watashi wa ima tabemasen. (I'm not going to eat now.)
    • Kanojo wa kasa o karimasen. (She isn't going to borrow an umbrella.)
  • -mashitaPolite past
    • John wa Sendai ni ikimashita. (John went to Sendai.)
    • Kodomotachi wa kouen de asobimashita. (The children played at the park.)
    • Yoshi wa ringo o tabemashita. (Yoshi ate an apple.)
    • Shizu wa manga o kaimashita. (Shizu bought a comic book.)
    • Bob wa sono eiga o mimashita. (Bob saw that movie.)
  • -masen deshitaPolite past negative
    • John wa Sendai ni ikimasen deshita. (John didn't go to Sendai.)
    • Kodomotachi wa kouen de asobimasen deshita. (The children didn't play at the park.)
    • Yoshi wa ringo o tabemasen deshita. (Yoshi didn't eat an apple.)
    • Yuka wa manga o kaimasen deshita. (Yuka didn't buy a comic book.)
    • Kayo wa terebi o mimasen deshita. (Kayo didn't watch TV.)
  • -mashouPolite volitional ("let's")
    • Ikimashou. (Let's go.)
    • Watashi ga hakobimashou. (I'll carry this / these [for you].)
    • (to a pet) Esa o agemashou. (Let's get you some food.)
    • Anata no jitensha o naoshimashou. (I'll fix your bicycle. / I'll help you fix your bicycle.)
  • -nasaiSimple command
    • Tabenasai! (Eat!)
    • Iinasai! (Tell me!)
    • Suwarinasai! (Sit down!)
    • Koko ni kinasai! (Come here!)
  • -tai ²Desiderative ("[subject] wants to")
    • Watashi wa kasa o kaitai. (I want to buy an umbrella.)
    • Watashi wa kasa o kaitakunai. (I don't want to buy an umbrella.)
    • Terebi o mitakereba, yuushoku o hayaku tabenasai. (If you want to watch TV, hurry and eat your dinner.)
    • Shichiji no densha ni noritakereba, ashita hayaku okimashou. (If you want to make the 7:00 train, let's get up early tomorrow.)
    • Kore ni ringo o tabesasetai. (I want to have him eat an apple.)
  • -yasui ² / -nikui ²Easy/hard to do
    • Kono PC wa tsukaiyasui. (This PC is easy to use.)
    • Kanojo no namae wa oboeyasui. (Her name is easy to remember.)
    • Kono budou wa tabenikui. (These grapes are hard to eat.)
    • Kono kanji wa yominikui. (These kanji are hard to read.)
    • Sono tatemono wa minikui. (That building is hard to see.)
  • ni iku ¹ / ni kuru ¹Reason for going/coming
    • Watashi wa kasa o kai ni iku. (I'm going to go buy an umbrella.)
    • Watashi wa kasa o kai ni ikimasu. (I'm going to go buy an umbrella.)
    • Miki wa watashi no atarashii PC o mi ni kimashita. (Miki came over to see my new PC.)
    • Rob wa jitensha o kari ni kimasen deshita. (Rob didn't come to borrow the bicycle.)
    • Watashi wa kouen ni asobi ni ikitai. (I want to go play in the park.)
  • + [verb ¹]Compound verb (see section below)
    • Kumi wa juu ka getsu ni natta toki arukihajimeta. (Kumi began walking when she turned 10 months old.)
    • Tabeowattara hachiji datta. (When I finished eating it was 8:00.)
    • Kore yomenai kara, kakinaoshite kureru? (I can't read this, so would you write it again?)
    • Yomitsudzukete kudasai. (Please continue reading.)
    • Kazu wa juuji made hatarakitsudzuketa. (Kazu continued working until 10:00.)
  • -nagara [clause]To do while doing [clause]
    • Bob wa hatarakinagara ongaku o kiku. (Bob listens to music while he works.)
    • Kimiko wa benkyou shinagara terebi o mimasen. (Kimiko doesn't watch TV while studying.)
    • Hanashinagara sanpo shimashou. (Let's take a walk while we talk.)
  • sou desu ¹"seems like"
    • Ame ga kudari sou da. (Looks like it's going to rain.)
  • [base]Noun (only some verbs)
    • asobi (game)
    • machi (waiting time)
    • hanashi (conversation, story, talk)
    • hataraki (work, labor, performance)
    • machigai (mistake)
  • -monoNoun (only some verbs)
    • tabemono (things to eat)
    • nomimono (things to drink)
    • norimono (things to ride—vehicles)
    • tatemono (things that are built)
    • ikimono (living things)
  • -kataWay of doing (only some verbs)
    • Tabekata wa kotonarimasu. (It's eaten differently.)
    • Watashi wa kanojou no ikikata ga urayamashii. (I am jealous of the way she lives.)
    • Watashi no iikata wa yoroshii ka? (Is my way of speaking correct?)
    • Watashi wa tsukaikata o shirimasen. (I don't know how to use it.)

U Form

  • aruku
  • kau
  • kasu
  • matsu
  • taberu
  • miru
  • kuru
  • suru

「 U 」 The Terminal & Attributive

This is often called the dictionary form, but its technical name is "terminal" because it predicates/ends a sentence.

Terminal Uses (hover for examples)
  • [base]Plain present
    • Mama wa mise de banana o kau. (Mom buys/will buy bananas at the store.)
    • Jim wa manga o yomu. (Jim will read a comic book.)
    • Ojii-san wa sugu kaeru. (Grandpa will return soon.)
    • Watashi wa ringo o taberu. (I'll eat an apple.)
    • Naomi wa terebi o miru. (Naomi will watch TV.)
  • deshou"probably"/"perhaps"
    • Raishuu watashi wa Okayama ni iku deshou. (I'll probably go to Okayama next week.)
    • Kenji wa atarashii kuruma o kau deshou. (Kenji will probably buy a new car.)
    • Osaka ni iku deshou? (You're going to Osaka, aren't you?)
    • Sue wa kuru deshou? (Sue's coming, isn't she?)
    • Tomoka wa eigo no shukudai o suru deshou? (Tomoka will do her English homework, right?)
  • naPlain negative imperative (command)
    • Taberu na! (Don't eat!)
    • Koko ni kuru na! (Don't come here! / Stay away from here! / Stay away from me!)
    • Terebi o miru na! (Don't watch TV!)
    • Enki suru na! (Don't put it off!)
    • Shaberu na! (Don't talk!)
  • ka mo (shirenai/shiremasen)"maybe"/"perhaps"
    • Watashi wa raishuu Osaka ni iku kamo shiremasen. (Maybe I'll go to Osaka next week.)
    • Jack mo kuru kamo shiremasen. (Jack may also come.)
    • Ashita ame ga furu kamo shirenai. (It might rain tomorrow.)
    • Konban watashitachi wa soto de taberu kamo shirenai. (We may eat out tonight.)
    • Ashita Bob kara meeru ga kuru kamo. (Perhaps we'll get an e-mail from Bob tomorrow.)
  • naraConditional ⁵
    • Isogu nara, tsugi no densha ni noru koto ga dekiru yo. (If we hurry we'll be able to make the next train.)
    • Dekakeru nara, kasa o motte ikinasai. (If you go out, take an umbrella.)
    • Ame ga furu nara, shiai o enki shinakereba naranai. (If it rains we'll have to put off the game.)
    • Tabako o suu nara, soto de suinasai. (If you're going to smoke, do it outside.)
    • Kodomotachi wa ima sunakku o taberu nara, yuushoku o tabenai deshou. (If the kids eat a snack now, they probably won't eat dinner.)
  • rashii / sou desu ¹"it seems that..."/"I hear that..."
    • Hiru kara ame ga furu sou desu. (I hear it's going to rain in the afternoon.)
    • Kayo wa raishuu kara resutoran de baito o hajimeru sou desu. (I heard that Kayo's going to start working part-time at a restaurant next week.)
    • Takada-san wa yameru sou desu. (I heard that Mr. Takada's quitting.)
    • Tanaka-san wa yameru rashii. (I heard that Mr. Takada's quitting.)
  • ka dou ka ⁶"whether or not"
    • Kare wa dekiru ka dou ka kikimashou. (I'll ask him whether or not he can do it.)
    • Watashitachi wa iku ka dou ka mada wakarimasen. (I don't know if we are going yet.)
    • Hideki wa ashita yasumu ka dou ka wakarimasu ka. (Do you know if Hideki has tomorrow off?)

The "attributive" form describes a noun or concept. For nearly every verb, the these forms are identical (the main exception is "da," whose attributive form is "na").

Attributive Uses (hover for examples)
  • + [noun] ⁶Relative clause ("that"/"who"/"where")
    • watashi ga noru densha (the train that I am taking)
    • kanojo no deru jikan (the time that she leaves)
    • Kore wa watashi no otouto no tanjoubi purezento ni kau jisho desu. (This is the dictionary that I will buy for my little brother's birthday present.)
    • Kobe wa kanojo ga shiken o ukeru tokoro desu. (Kobe is the place that she is taking the exam.)
    • Haru wa atarashii inochi o motarasu kisetsu desu. (Spring is the season that brings new life.)
  • koto / no ⁶Nominalization (makes noun out of verb)
    • Yomu no wa tanoshii desu. (Reading is enjoyable.)
    • Nihongo o hanasu no wa kantan desu. (Speaking Japanese is easy.)
    • Hayaku okiru no wa tokidoki muzukashii desu. (Getting up early is sometimes difficult.)
    • Kasei ni sumu no wa mada fukanou desu. (Living on Mars is not yet possible.)
    • Hawaii ni iku no wa saikou desu! (Going to Hawaii is great!)
  • koto ga dekiru ¹ ⁶To be able
    • Boku wa jitensha ni noru koto ga dekiru! (I can ride a bicycle!)
    • Keiko wa piano o hiku koto ga dekimasu. (Keiko can play the piano.)
    • Watashi wa furansugo o yomu koto ga dekimasen. (I can't read French.)
    • Bob wa Junko ni denwa suru koto ga dekimashita. (Bob was able to call Junko.)
    • Richard wa ika o taberu koto ga dekimasen deshita. (Richard couldn't eat the squid.)
  • koto ni suru ¹ ⁶To decide to do
    • Watashi wa tabun ashita kaimono ni iku koto ni shimasu. (I'll probably decide to go shopping tomorrow.)
    • Watashi wa mainichi nihongo o benkyou suru koto ni shimashita. (I've decided to study Japanese every day.)
    • Jones sensei wa ashita no suugaku no jugyou no junbi o suru koto ni shimashita. (Mr. Jones decided to prepare for tomorrow's math class.)
  • hazu ⁶"supposed to"
    • Raishuu Teruko wa Osaka ni iku hazu desu. (Teruko is supposed to go to Osaka next week.)
    • John wa sugu kuru hazu. (John should be coming soon.)
    • Kaigi wa mokuyoubi ni hirakareru hazu desu. (The meeting is supposed to be held this Thursday.)
    • Kimiko mo tetsudau hazu deshita. (Kimiko was also supposed to help.)
    • Erika wa ninjin mo kau hazu datta. (Erika was supposed to buy carrots, too.)
  • hou ga ii ² ⁶"should"/"would be better"
    • Kanojo ni denwa suru hou ga ii. (I/we should call her.)
    • Watashitachi wa sukoshi yasumu hou ga ii. (We had better rest a little.)
    • Kyou densha de iku hou ga ii. (It would be better to go by train today.)
    • Raishuu suru hou ga ii. (It would be better to do it next week.)
    • Yakiniku no hou ga ii. (I'd rather have a barbeque. The particle "no" replaces the verb.)
  • tokoro datta ⁶"just about to..."/"almost"
    • Ima Sachiko ni denwa suru tokoro datta. (I was just about to call Sachiko.)
    • Watashi no saifu o wasureru tokoro datta. (I almost forgot my wallet.)
  • no ni [clause] ⁶"in order to"
    • Kono tegami o okuru no ni ikura desu ka? (How much will it cost to send this letter?)
    • Tokyo yuki no densha ni noru no ni asu hayaku okinakereba narimasen. (We'll have to get up early tomorrow in order to make the train for Tokyo.)
    • Hitsuyou na kanji o subete oboeru no ni daibun jikan ga kakaru. (It takes quite a long time to learn all of the necessary kanji.)

E Form

  • aruke
  • kae
  • kase
  • mate
  • tabere
  • mire
  • kure
  • sure

「 E 」 The Conditional

This form is mostly used for making conditional forms. However, for Godan verbs, it is also used for imperative commands as well as the potential tense.

How to Make
  • Godanu → e
  • Godantsu → te
  • Ichidanu → e
Uses (hover for examples)
  • [base] ⁴Impolite command (imperative)
    • Damare! (Shut up!)
    • Ike! (Go!)
    • Yare! (Do it!)
    • Gambare! (Hang in there! / Go for it!)
  • -baProvisional conditional ⁵
    • Isogeba, tsugi no densha ni noru koto ga dekiru yo. (If we hurry we'll be able to make the next train.)
    • Ame ga fureba, shiai o enki shinakereba naranai. (If it rains we'll have to put off the game.)
    • Kodomotachi wa ima sunakku o tabereba, yuushoku o tabenai deshou. (If the kids eat a snack now, they probably won't eat dinner.)
    • Kyoto ni ikeba? (Why don't you go to Kyoto?)
    • Shichiji han ni dereba? (Why don't you leave at 7:30?)
  • -ba ii ²Optative ("it would be good if")
    • Soto de asobeba ii. (It would be good if you played outside.)
    • Ima benkyou sureba ii. (Now would be a good time to study.)
    • Watashitachi wa karui shokuji o tabereba ii to omou. (I think it would be good if we ate a light meal.)
  • -ba yokattaRegret ("it would have been good if")
    • Hachiji ni kureba yokatta. (We should have come at 8:00.)
    • Kouen ni ikeba yokatta. (I wish we had gone to the park.)
    • Suteeki o chuumon sureba yokatta. (I wish I had ordered the steak.)
  • -ru ³ ⁴Potential ("can do")
    • Watashi wa nihongo o yomeru. (I can read Japanese.)
    • Keiko wa piano o hikeru. (Keiko can play the piano.)
    • Keiko wa piano o hikemasu. (Keiko can play the piano. [polite])
    • Keiko wa baiorin o hikemasen. (Keiko can't play the violin.)
    • Jack wa Tokushima ni ikemashita. (Jack was able to go to Tokushima.)
  • -nai ² ⁴No potential ("cannot do")
    • Watashi wa nihongo o yomenai. (I can't read Japanese.)
    • Keiko wa piano o hikenai. (Keiko can't play the piano.)
    • Jack wa korenai deshou. (Jack probably won't be able to come.)
    • Jitensha ni norenakereba arukimashou. (If you can't ride a bicycle let's walk.)
  • -reba ⁴Conditional ability ("if I can")
    • Watashi wa nihongo o yomereba ii. (It would be nice if I could read Japanese.)
    • Shichiji ni ikereba Mark ni aeru. (If you can go at seven o'clock you'll be able to meet Mark.)
    • Hachi jikan nerereba genki ni naru deshou. (If I can sleep eight hours I'll probably feel better.)

O Form

  • arukou
  • kaou
  • kasou
  • matou
  • tabeyou
  • miyou
  • koyou
  • shiyou

「 O 」 The Volitional

The volitional form has few uses, but it is easy to make.

How to Make
  • Godanu → ou
  • Godantsu → tou
  • Ichidanru → you
Uses (hover for examples)
  • [base]Volitional ("let's")
    • Ikou. (Let's go.)
    • Tabeyou. (Let's eat.)
    • Ikou ka. (Shall we go?)
    • Tabeyou ka. (Shall we eat?)
  • ka na(a)To wonder if you should
    • Kaimono ni ikou ka na. (I think I'll go shopping.)
    • Kaimono ni ikou ka naa. (I wonder if I should go shopping.)
    • Terebi o miyou ka na. (I think I'll watch TV.)
    • Kyou wa tenki ga ii kara, arukou ka na. (I think I'll walk today since the weather's nice.)
    • Bob ni denwa shiyou ka naa. (I wonder if I should call Bob.)
  • to suru ¹To try to do
    • John wa koyou to suru to omou. (I think John will try to come.)
    • Naoto wa hikouki o miyou to shimashita ga, miemasen deshita. (Naoto tried to see the airplane, but he couldn't.)
    • Watashi wa medaru o kakutoku shiyou to shisugita. (I was trying too hard to win a medal).
  • to omou ¹To be thinking of doing

The Te and Ta Forms

There are two more forms, just as important to learn as the five vowel forms, but a bit more complex when conjugating. Like the other forms, they can sometimes be referred to by number—base 6 and 7, respectively.

Key
  • ★ (star) This use is, in my opinion, a key conjugation/usage to learn.
  • ¹ This word is a verb, which can be further conjugated. The examples include additional tenses to demonstrate this.
  • ² This word/suffix is an adjectival verb (i-adjective), which can be further conjugated. Some examples:
    • -hoshii → -hoshikatta (past), -hoshikunai (negative), -hoshikunakatta (negative past), -hoshikereba (conditional), -hoshikute (te-form)
  • Iku 行く, "to go," has irregular -te and -ta forms.

Te Form

  • ku → itearuku → aruite
  • gu → ideoyogu → oyoide
  • u → ttekau → katte
  • tsu → ttematsu → matte
  • ru → tteshiru → shitte
  • su → shitekasu → kashite
  • bu → ndeasobu → asonde
  • nu → ndeshinu → shinde
  • mu → ndenomu → nonde
  • ikuiku → itte
  • ichidantaberu → tabete
  • kurukuru → kite
  • surusuru → shite

「 Te 」 The Participle

The te form is called the "participle" form because it is usually used to modify the words proceeding it. Its basic use is to form requests, answer questions, link phrases, and convey continuous action, but has several common uses. Forming the "negative" meaning of many of these forms involves conjugating the proceeding verb or adjective. In some cases, the a-form + naide or a-form + nakute is used instead. Examples of this are provided below.

Uses (hover for examples)
  • [base]Command/Answer/Link Verb Clauses ("and")
    • Douzo, tabete. (Go ahead and eat.)
    • NEGATIVE: a-form + naide Mada tabenaide (Don't eat yet.)
    • Shizu ni denwa shite, heya o katazukete, kaimono ni ikanakereba naranai. (I've got to call Shizu, straighten up the room, and go shopping.)
    • Kesa watashi wa shichiji ni okite, gohan o tabete, hachiji ni ie o demashita. (This morning I got up at seven o'clock, ate breakfast, and left home at eight.)
    • Kinou watashi wa inu ni soto de asobasete, esa o ataete, jibun no yuushoku o tsukurimashita. (Yesterday I let the dog play outside, fed him, and then made my own dinner.)
  • kudasaiPolite Request
    • Rokuji ni kite kudasai. (Please come at six o'clock.)
    • Rokuji ni kite kudasaru? (Could you please come at six o'clock? [plain])
    • Rokuji ni kite kudasaimasu ka. (Will you please come at six o'clock? [polite])
    • Rokuji ni kite kudasaimasen ka. (Won't you please come at six o'clock?)
  • iru ¹Continuous ("i" in "iru" often left out)
    • Watashitachi wa Takamatsu ni sunde iru. (We live in Takamatsu. [We are living in Takamatsu.])
    • Watashi wa shimbun o yonde imasu. (I'm reading the newspaper.)
    • Bill wa benkyou shite ita. (Bill was studying.)
    • Kyou terebi o mite imasen deshita. (I didn't watch TV today. [I wasn't watching TV today.])
    • Sunahama de asonde iru inu wa boku no desu. (The dog [that's] playing on the beach is mine.)
  • aru ¹Passive Present Perfect Progressive ("has been done")
  • kuru ¹Perfect Continuous (started in the past, up to an event)
    • Ron wa sukoshi zutsu nihongo ga wakatte kimashita. (Little by little Ron came to understand Japanese.)
    • Doitsu no rekishi o benkyou shite kimashita. (I have been studying German history.)
    • Tabete kita. (I ate before coming over.)
    • Shirabete kuru. (I'll go check it [then come back].)
  • iku ¹Future Continuous
    • PC wa yasuku natte iku deshou. (PCs will most likely get less and less expensive.)
    • Sono tame, PC no shiyousha ga fuete iku to omou. (Because of that, I think that the number of PC users will increase.)
  • oku ¹"will certainly"/"plan to do"
    • Ron ni denwa shite oku. (I'll call Ron.)
    • Mado o akete oku. (I'll open the window.)
    • Kasa o katte okimasu. (I'm going to buy an umbrella.)
    • Kanojo ni ki o tsukeru you ni itte okimasu. (I'll tell her to be careful.)
    • Shukudai o shite okimashita. (I [went ahead and] did my homework.)
  • miru ¹to try and "see" (how it is)
    • Kono kanji o yonde miru. (I'll try to read these kanji.)
    • Kono atarashii PC o tsukatte miyou. (Let's give this new PC a try.)
    • Sushi o tabete minai no? (Won't you try some sushi?)
    • John ni hanashite mimasu. (I'll try to talk to John.)
    • Kare ni denwa shite mimashita ga, rusu deshita. (I tried calling him, but he wasn't in.)
  • ageru ¹Used when someone is doing a favor
    • Matte ageru. (I'll wait for you.)
    • Ato de denwa shite ageru. (I'll call you later.)
    • Tabetakunakereba, tabete ageru. (If you don't want to eat it, I'll eat it for you.)
    • Bob ni pen o kashite agete. (Lend Bob your pen.)
    • Shizuka no kutsu no himo o musunde agete. (Tie Shizuka's shoelaces.)
  • kureru ¹Used when someone does you a favor
    • Rokuji ni kite kureru? (Will you please come at six?)
    • Jitensha o kashite kureru? (Would you please loan me your bicycle?)
    • Denwa bangou o oshiete kuremasu ka. (Will you please tell me your phone number?)
    • Kyuukei sasete kurenai ka. (Won't you please let me take a break?)
    • Kite kure. (Informal Imperative: Please come here.)
    • NEGATIVE: a-form + naideIkanaide kure! (Don't go!)
  • hoshii ²To want someone else to do (actor is indirect object)
    • Kanojo ni katte hoshii. (I want her to win.)
    • Watashi ni sore o shirasete hoshikatta. (I wish you had notified me about that.)
    • Konya kite hoshii desu ka? (Do you want me to come tonight?)
    • Mou shikoshi samete hoshii. (I hope it will cool down a little more.)
    • Watashi wa kare ni sawate hoshinakunai. (I don't want him to touch me.)
  • shimau ¹Done accidentally, unexpectedly, or regrettably
    • Bob wa ude no hone o orete shimaimashita. (Bob broke his arm.)
    • Kanojo wa Osaka ni itte shimaimashita. (She [up and] went to Osaka.)
    • Watashi no fuku ga yogorete shimau! (My clothes'll get dirty!)
    • Ah! Fuku ga yogorete shimaimashita. (Oh, no! My clothes got dirty.)
    • Densha ni noriokurete shimau yo! (We'll miss the train!)
  • morau ¹Polite request
    • Kimiko ni mise ni itte moraitai. (I want you [Kimiko] to go to the store for me.)
    • Ima shukudai o shite iru. Ojii-chan ni itte moraimashou ka. (I'm doing homework now. Shall I get Grandpa to go?)
    • (not wanting to bother Grandpa) Ken ni itte moraou ka naa. (I wonder if I should get Ken to go.)
    • (thinking that Grandpa needs to get out more) Ken wa ima inai. Ojii-chan ni itte moraimasu. (Ken's not here now. I'll get Grandpa to go.)
  • itadaku ¹Humble request (often in potential form, itadakeru)
    • Johnson-san ni denwa shite itadakemasu ka. (Would you please call Mr. Johnson?)
    • Niji ni kite itadakemasu ka. (Would you please come at two o'clock?)
    • Ashita watashi ni denwa shite itadakemasen ka. (Won't you please call me tomorrow?)
    • Kono shorui o kinyuu shite itadakemasen deshou ka. (Could I possibly get you to fill out these forms?)
    • Murai-san ni senshuu ginkou ni itte itadakimashita. Oboete imasen ka. (I had you [Murai-san] go to the bank for me last week. Don't you remember?)
  • goranAsk someone to take a look
    • Bob ni kiite goran. (Ask Bob and see what he says.)
    • Tabete goran. (Taste it and see if you like it.)
    • Mite goran. (Take a look.)
    • Sanae ni denwa shite goran. (Try calling Sanae.)
  • goran nasaiAsk someone to take a look (and prove your point)
    • Kare wa sanjuu hachi to kaite aru. Yonde goran nasai. (It says he's 38. Read it for yourself.)
    • Tana no ue ni shio ga aru yo. Mite goran nasai. (There is some salt on the shelf. See for yourself.)
    • Kouen no kouyou wa ima kirei yo. Itte goran nasai. (The autumn leaves in the park are beautiful now. Go and see for yourself.)
  • mo"no matter"
    • Setsumeisho o yonde mo, kono sofuto ga wakarinikui. (Even if you read the manual, this software is hard to understand.)
    • Kare wa ikura tabete mo, ippai ni naranai. (No matter how much he eats, he never gets full.)
    • Nani o oshiete mo, sugu oboete. (Whatever they taught him, he learned quickly.)
  • (mo) ii/yoroshii"you may"
    • Boku no PC o tsukatte mo ii yo. (You can use my PC.)
    • Gohan o tabete kara terebi o mite mo ii. (You can watch TV after you've eaten your dinner.)
    • Jisho o karite mo ii? (Can I borrow your dictionary?)
    • Watashi no jisho o tsukatte ii yo. (Casual: Sure, you can use my dictionary.)
    • Kyou, hayaku kaette mo yoroshii. (Formal: You may go home early today.)
    • NEGATIVE: a-form + nakuteAshita wa konakute mo ii. (You don't have to come tomorrow.)
  • bakari"all (someone) ever does..."
    • Tabete bakari. (All you ever do is eat.)
    • Ano ko wa terebi geemu o yatte bakari. (All that kid does is play computer games.)
    • Shizuka wa eigo o benkyou shite bakari. (All Shizuka ever does is study English.)
  • kara"after doing..."
    • Tabete kara kaimono ni iku. (After I eat I'm going shopping.)
    • John wa shukudai o shite kara kuru. (John's coming over after he does his homework.)
    • Naomi ga kaette kara tabemashou. (Let's eat after Naomi comes back.)
    • Gakkou ga owatte kara yakyuu o yarou. (Let's play baseball after school.)
    • Shigoto ga owatte kara eiga o mi ni ikimashou. (Let's go see a movie after work.)
  • wa は ikaga/dou desu ka"how about...?"
    • Ima chuushoku o tabete wa ikaga desu ka. (How about having lunch now?)
    • Ashita Ritsurin Kouen ni itte wa ikaga desu ka. (What do you think about going to Ritsurin Park tomorrow?)
    • Atarashii terebi o katte wa dou desu ka. (What do you say we buy a new TV?)
  • wa は ikemasen"you cannot do that (it's forbidden)"
    • Shashin o totte wa ikemasen. (You can't take pictures.)
    • Okurete wa ikemasen yo. (Don't be late.)
    • Boku no PC o sawatte wa ikenai! (Don't touch my PC!)
    • NEGATIVE: a-form + nakuteWatashi wa nenakute wa ikenai. (I have to sleep [I cannot not sleep.])

Ta Form

  • ku → itaaruku → aruita
  • gu → idaoyogu → oyoida
  • u → ttakau → katta
  • tsu → ttamatsu → matta
  • ru → ttashiru → shitta
  • su → shitakasu → kashita
  • bu → ndaasobu → asonda
  • nu → ndashinu → shinda
  • mu → ndanomu → nonda
  • ikuiku → itta
  • ichidantaberu → tabeta
  • kurukuru → kita
  • surusuru → shita

「 Ta 」 The Perfective

It's hard to explain the perfective aspect, as English does not use it, but it is generally translated as being the "simple past." That is, an action that has been fully completed and no longer relevant to current events. Note that these uses are specific to the -ta form, so you cannot combine these with the formal past form (-mashita).

Uses (hover for examples)
  • [base]Plain past
    • Terebi o mita. (I watched TV.)
    • Boku no kingyo o shinda. (My goldfish died.)
    • Shinda kingyo wa, roku nen kan katta. (The goldfish that died I had six years.)
    • Joy ga yaita keeki wa oishikatta. (The cake Joy made was delicious.)
    • Bob ga benkyou shita koto wa totemo yakudatta. (The things Bob studied were very helpful.)
  • -raPerfective conditional ⁵ ("tara" form)
    • Dekaketara, kouto ga hitsuyou ni naru deshou. (If you're going out, you'll probably need a coat.)
    • Denwa shitara, kare wa kuru deshou. (If you telephone him, he'll probably come.)
    • Ima kodomotachi wa sunakku o tabetara, o-hiru o tabenai deshou. (If the kids eat a snack now, they probably won't eat lunch.)
  • -ri [... -ri] suru ¹List of general actions (last verb followed by suru)
    • Kinou no ban watashi wa terebi o mitari, ongaku o kiitari, shukudai o shitari shite imashita. (Last night I watched TV, listened to some music, and did some homework.)
    • Jim wa furui mono o kattari uttari suru. (Jim buys and sells old things.)
    • Ashita watashi wa benkyou shitari, souji shitari, terebi o mitari suru deshou. (Tomorrow I'll probably do some studying, some cleaning, and watch TV.)
    • Watashi wa terebi o mitari shite ita. (I watched TV and stuff.)
    • Kyou Sachiko wa heya o souji shitari kaimono ni ittari shite, chuushoku o tabete, hiru kara yuujin no ie ni ittari piano o renshuu shitari shite, sore kara yuushoku o tsukutte kureta. (Today Sachiko cleaned her room and did some shopping, ate lunch, then in the afternoon went to a friend's house, practiced the piano and things, then she made dinner.)
  • koto (ga) aru ¹Experience, "ever done"
    • Nihonshoku o tabeta koto ga aru? (Have you ever eaten Japanese food?)
    • Hai, sushi to sukiyaki o tabeta koto ga aru. (Yes, I've eaten sushi and sukiyaki.)
    • Iie, tabeta koto ga nai ga, tabete mitai. (No, I haven't, but I'd like to try it.)
    • Okinawa ni itta koto ga arimasu ka. (Have you ever been to Okinawa?)
    • Kono hon o yonda koto aru? (Have you read this book?)
  • rashii ²"it seems that..."/"I hear that..."
    • Sachiko wa Canada ni itta rashii. (I hear that Sachiko went to Canada.)
    • Bob wa daibun futotta rashii. (I hear that Bob has gained a lot of weight.)
    • Ken wa atarashii PC o katta rashii. (I hear that Ken bought a new PC.)
  • to suru ¹Suppositional, "suppose if...then..."
    • Ima oyogi ni itta to suru, tabun koukai suru deshou. (If you were to go swimming now, you'd probably regret it.)
    • Ashita Bob ga kita to shitara, watashi wa hontou ni komaru. (If Bob were to come tomorrow, I'd really be at a loss.)
    • Gogo kara ame ga futta to sureba, dou shimashou ka. (Supposing it rains this afternoon; what shall we do?)
  • to shite mo"even if..."
    • Ashita Bob ga kita to shite mo, watashi wa asatte made au koto ga dekimasen. (Even if Bob were to come tomorrow, I wouldn't be able to see him until the day after tomorrow.)
    • Anata wa supeingo o benkyou shita to shite mo, shigoto de tsukaenai deshou. (Even if you studied Spanish, you probably wouldn't be able to use it in your work.)
    • Kenkou shokuhin o takusan tabeta to shite mo, undou shinakereba imi ga nai deshou. (Even if you were to eat lots of health food, it would be meaningless if you didn't exercise.)
  • bakari"recently"/"just"
    • Okaa-chan wa kaetta bakari da. (Mom just got back.)
    • Watashi wa tabeta bakari da. (I just ate.)
    • John wa deta bakari da. (John just left.)
    • Kono heya o souji shita bakari desu. (I just cleaned this room.)
    • Sono kasa o katta bakari desu. (I just bought that umbrella.)
  • toki (ni)"(the time) when..." in the past
    • Watashi wa sore o yonda toki, totemo odorokimashita. (When I read that, I was very surprised.)
    • Sore o kiita toki ni waratta. (I laughed when I heard that.)
    • John wa koketa toki ni zubon ga yabureta. (John's pants tore when he fell.)
  • tokoro"just now"
    • Watashi wa ima kaetta tokoro. (I just got back now.)
    • Kodomotachi wa ima tabeta tokoro. (The kids just finished eating.)
    • Kono heya o souji shita tokoro desu. (I just cleaned this room.)

Compound Verbs

There are a number of ways to construct what are essentially "compound verbs." Japanese is very modular—meaning that it is not unusual to see mash-ups of verbs, even if made up on the spot.

The most common formation of compound verbs is using the continuative form, or "i-form" of the first verb, followed by the second verb, conjugated however you want to in order to express the context. Remember that in Japanese, words are modified by what follows them, so while we may say "begin to eat" in English, you want to say tabehajimeru in Japanese.

Another common verb+verb method of compound verbs is to use the participle/linking form, or "te-form," followed by the second verb, again conjugated however you need for your sentence. For example, motte kuru is a way of saying "to bring," because it literally translates to "to have and come."

Last but not least, "suru" verbs are considered compound verbs because they combine a verb with a noun, very similar to some verbs in English, like "to take a walk," which is also a compound verb in Japanese (sanpo suru, "to do a walk").

Common Compound Verbs

(hover for examples)
  • [i-form]+hajimeruto begin to do
  • [i-form]+oeruto finish doing
  • [i-form]+sugiruto overdo
    • Kare wa itsumo nomisugiru. (He always drinks too much.)
    • Kimiko wa tabesugimashita. (Kimiko ate too much.)
    • Kodomotachi wa terebi o misugiru. (The kids watch too much TV.)
  • [i-form]+naosuto redo
  • [i-form]+tsuzukeruto continue doing
  • [i-form]+yamuto stop doing
  • [i-form]+nareruto get used to doing
  • [i-form]+dasuto __ out (usually involves more emphasis on the action)
    • nakidasu: to cry out (naku = to cry)
    • toridasu: to take out (toru = to take)
    • nagedasu: to throw out (nageru = to throw)
    • nigedasu: to flee (nigeru = to run away)
  • [te-form]+miruto try and "see" (how it is)
  • [te-form]+shimauto be done accidentally, unexpectedly, or regrettably
  • sanpo suruto take a walk
  • chuumon suruto order
  • motte ikuto take with (have + go)
  • motte kuruto bring (have + come)

Transitive vs Intransitive

While the explanation between transitive and instransitive verbs rarely needs explaining in English, it can be one of the most difficult issues for people first learning Japanese. You may wonder why there are multiple verbs that translate to the same word in English; for example, hajimeru and hajimaru both mean "to begin, to start," etc.

Transitive verbs are verbs that can take a direct object, although it might not always be used or said. For example, in "I asked her," her is the indirect object, and the question is the direct object, even though the sentence doesn't mention it.

Intransitive verbs are verbs that cannot take a direct object. The action primarily focuses on the subject doing something themself, like "swimming."

Many verbs in English can be either transitive or intransitive based on the way it is used. However, it's best not to treat Japanese verbs the same: you must learn whether a verb is transitive or intransitive. Hajimaru is intransitive: "The test started an hour ago." Hajimeru is transitive: "I started the test an hour ago." Even though we might use the same word in English, the same does not necessarily follow in Japanese.

Common Transitive/Intransitive Pairs

  • hajimeruto begin something
  • hajimaruto begin (commence)
  • oeruto finish something
  • owaruto finished (end)
  • tsudzukeruto continue something
  • tsudzukuto continue (resume)
  • akeruto open something
  • akuto open (ex. "the door opened")
  • shimeruto close something
  • shimaruto close (ex. "the shop closed")
  • kaesuto return something
  • kaeruto return (ex. "return home")
  • modosuto recover something
  • modoruto recover/rebound
  • nokosuto leave something
  • nokoruto be left