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Appendix:Japanese verbs

Modern JapaneseEdit

This section deals only with Japanese as written and spoken in 21st and late 20th centuries.

ConjugationEdit

Because the Japanese language is written without space, different grammar systems tend to have different notions on what constitutes a word. The 学校文法 (gakkō bunhō, school grammar) system tends to cut sentences into smaller pieces to help understand the development of the language. It is used in Japanese schools and dictionaries, but is not designed for a foreign audience who have no experience with the language. A new grammar called 日本語教育文法[1] (nihongo kyōiku bunhō, Japanese-language education grammar) has been devised since 1960s. It simplifies the “school grammar” system a lot and is widely used in learning materials for non-native speakers. The difference is that the former provide “stems” used to form words and the latter provide prefabricated forms to be used in sentences.

Wiktionary entries for Japanese verbs list conjugated forms in both systems in the “Conjugation” table, those from the former as “stem forms” and latter as “key constructions”. The following sections try to explain verb forms in both systems, using the terms “godan”, “ichidan”, and “irregular” for the conjugation types.

StemsEdit

There are six stem forms for Japanese verbs, of which the terminal (終止形) is the lemma form used in dictionaries. For godan verbs, the final kana is mapped to different vowels to form the six stem forms. For example, 行く (iku, to go) would have the final kana ku mapped to ka, ki, ku, ke, and *ko in the stem forms. If it were 飲む (nomu, to drink), it would map to ma, mi, mu, me, and *mo. For ichidan verbs, the final kana, which is always ru, is dropped or changed to something else. Here's a table illustrating the six forms for godan, ichidan, and the two irregular verbs:

Stem form Godan verb Ichidan verb kuru suru
Imperfective (未然形) 行か (ika) 食べ (tabe) (ko) (sa/shi)
Continuative (連用形) 行き (iki) 食べ (tabe) (ki) (shi)
Terminal (終止形) 行く (iku) 食べる (taberu) 来る (kuru) する (suru)
Attributive (連体形) 行く (iku) 食べる (taberu) 来る (kuru) する (suru)
Hypothetical (仮定形) 行け (ike) 食べれ (tabere) 来れ (kure) すれ (sure)
Imperative (命令形) 行け (ike) 食べろ (tabero) 来い (koi) しろ (shiro)

Note that:

  • Godan conjugation strictly follows the gojūon table, including its irregularities. Therefore if a godan verb ends in su, it maps to sa, shi, su, se, *so; and in tsu: ta, chi, tsu, te, *to.
  • Furthermore, godan verbs ending in a plain u map to wa, i, u, e, *o.
  • For godan verbs, the -o ending is not used in the six stems (which is -a, -i, -u twice, -e twice). It is used in one of the constructions below.

Some of the stem forms are followed by auxiliary particles to be used in sentences. The following sections describe the most common ones of such constructions.

Dictionary formEdit

Foreigner-oriented grammar term School grammar term
dictionary form (辞書形) terminal (終止形)
attributive (連体形)
Conjugation
none

The dictionary form (also called the plain form) of a verb is the one found in dictionary entries without any conjugation. The first use of it is to serve as the predicate of a sentence. Note that a Japanese sentence only requires a predicate to be grammatically complete.

 ()Iku?[Shall we] go?
うん ()Un, iku.Yeah, [we] go.

Other components can be added to the left of the verb. For example, noun + indicates the topic of the sentence, and noun + indicate the object.

アリス (まい) (にち)コーヒー ()Arisu wa mainichi kōhī o nomu.Alice drinks coffee every day.

A second use of the dictionary form is to modify a noun, in which case the verb comes before the noun:

 (かんが)える (ひと)kangaeru hitoThe Thinker (literally “thinking man”)

Additional components may also be added to the verb to create a relative clause. In this case, the subject of the verb is usually indicated with noun + .

 (わたし)明日 (あした) () () (こう) ()watashi ga ashita noru hikōkithe plane I'll take tomorrow

Polite or masu formEdit

Foreigner-oriented grammar term School grammar term
masu form (ます形) continuative (連用形) + masu (ます)
Conjugation

When speaking to people of a higher rank, or people you're not familiar with, the predicate of a sentence should be inflected to show politeness. In the case of a verb, the verb should change to its masu form.

アリス (まい) (にち)コーヒー ()みますArisu wa mainichi kōhī o nomimasu.Alice drinks coffee every day.
アリス (まい) (にち)コーヒー () (おも)いますArisu wa mainichi kōhī o nomu to omoimasu.I think that Alice drinks coffee every day.

Note that if a sentence has more than one verb, only those on the sentence level change.

The ます (masu) part can be conjugated like this:

Present Past Negative present Negative past
ます (masu) ました (mashita) ません (masen) ませんでした (masen deshita)
アリス (まい) (にち)コーヒー ()みますArisu wa mainichi kōhī o nomimasu.Alice drinks coffee every day.
アリス昨日 (きのう)コーヒー ()みましたArisu wa kinō kōhī o nomimashita.Alice drank coffee yesterday.
 (わたし)今日 (きょう) ()ませんWatashi wa kyō kimasen.I don't come today.
 (せん) (しゅう) (はたら)きませんでしたSenshū hatarakimasendeshita ka.You didn't work in the last week, did you?

All there four forms are polite forms. By contrast, forms that do not show politeness or that modify nouns are called plain forms, of which verb lemma (dictionary form) is one example.

masu stemEdit

Foreigner-oriented grammar term School grammar term
masu stem continuative (連用形)
Conjugation
  • For godan verbs, use the -i ending.
  • For ichidan verbs, drop the ru.
  • 来る (kuru) becomes (ki); する (suru) becomes (shi)

The masu stem of a verb (i.e. the polite form minus the masu), or the continuative form in school grammar, has some other uses than forming the masu form. It can sometimes turn a verb into a noun; for example, 休む (yasumu) means “to rest” while 休み (yasumi) could mean “rest,” “break,” “holiday,” “absence,” etc. In this way, there are constructions like 泳ぎ行く (oyogi ni iku, go to swim) and 遊び来る (asobi ni kuru, come to play). It can be used to make new verbs: 読みやすい (yomi-yasui, easy to read), 読み (yomi-kata, way of reading), 読み返す (yomikaesu, read over again). Other constructions include 読みたい (yomitai, want to read), 読みながら (yomi-nagara, while reading), 読みな(さい) (yomina(sai), read.), 読みそう (yomi-sō, seem to read).

 () () () (もつ) () ()きます。Gogo, nimotsu o tori ni ikimasu.I will go to fetch my luggage this afternoon.

Conjunctive or te formEdit

Foreigner-oriented grammar term School grammar term
te form (て形) continuative (連用形) + te ()
Conjugation
  • For godan verbs, use the -i ending and attach (te), with the following changes:
Exception: 行く (iku/yuku) becomes 行って (itte).

The conjunctive or te form is another spinoff of the continuative form. Its first use is to express a series of events. You can chain a series of verbs by using the te form for all but the last one:

 (まい) (にち) (かい) (しゃ) ()って (はたら)Mainichi kaisha e itte, hataraku.I go to work and work every day.
アリスは (まい)晩家 (ばんいえ) (かえ)って、テレビを ()ますArisu wa maiban ie e kaette, terebi o mimasu.Alice returns home and watches TV every night. (Polite)
昨日 (きのう) () (しょ) (かん) ()って (べん) (きょう)しましたKinō toshokan e itte, benkyō shimashita.I went to library and studied yesterday. (Polite, past))

The second use is to make a light command, like:

 (たす)けてTasukete!Help! (The polite way to say this is 助けてください)

More often, this form is part of certain kinds of expressions: 読んでから (after reading), 読んで(いい) (even if read (it's ok)), 読んでだめ/いけない/ならない (it's not ok to read), 読んで下さい (please read), 読んでいる (in the state of reading), 読んである (have been read, lit. been read and exists), 読んでばかり (is always reading), 読んであげる (help others read), 読んでくれる (help me/us read), 読んでもらう (receive the favor of reading), 読んでおく (read in preparation, for example for a test), 読んでしまう (read completely or by accident), 読んでみる (try reading), etc. When followed by いく (from 行く) or くる (from 来る) as a set expression, the basic meaning is to do something towards a direction (帰る is "return", 帰っていく is "go back", while 帰ってくる is "come back") and the notion of the direction can be abstract (towards the future, up to the present, come to the state, etc.)

Negative formEdit

The negative form of ある is ない, and for all other verbs, the verb is first conjugated to its 未然形 and then attached ない:

  • godan verbs: change the -u to -a (but -wa if it has no consonant) and attach -nai. For example, 読む becomes 読まない.
  • ichidan verbs: drop the -ru and attach -nai. For example, 見る becomes 見ない.
  • irregular verbs: kuru becomes konai, suru becomes shinai.

Once a verb reaches negative form, it can be further inflected like an -i adjective. For example, negative past is negative form with なかった instead. Sometimes , , or is attached instead of ない-based endings.

Past formEdit

Foreigner-oriented grammar term School grammar term
past/perfective form (た形) continuative (連用形) + ta ()
Conjugation

Start from the te form and change the て (sometimes で) to た (and accordingly だ).

The past (or perfective) form of a verb. It corresponds to ~ました in polite speech and can be used just like the dictionary form.

今日 (きょう) (とも) (だち) ()Kyō tomodachi ga kita.Today friends came. (が indicates non-topic subject on the sentence level)
アリスが昨日 (きのう) ()ったパソコンarisu ga kinō katta pasokonthe PC Alice bought yesterday

This form is also part of certain kinds of expressions: 読んだことある (have read; have the experience of reading), 読んだあと (after reading), 読んだほう良い (had better read), 読んだり書いたりする (do things like reading and writing), 読んだら (if read, [after that] ...), 読んだばかりところ (just / the moment I read, ...)

Imperative formEdit

The imperative form (命令形) is often irregular in honorific speech; in other cases it can be rude in everyday conversation except when quoted or used in -clauses. It is conjugated:

  • godan verbs: change the -u to -e. For example, 読む becomes 読め.
  • ichidan verbs: change the -ru to -ro. For example, 見る becomes 見ろ.
  • irregular verbs: kuru becomes koi, suru becomes shiro.

Volitional formEdit

The volitional form carries the meaning of "let's do something". It has the same meaning when used alone and means "try to do" when followed by する. It also means "I want to do something", but a less direct way to say this is to follow it by 思う. The conjugation is:

  • godan verbs: change the -u to . For example, 読む becomes 読もう.
  • ichidan verbs: change the -ru to -yō. For example, 見る becomes 見よう.
  • irregular verbs: kuru becomes koyō, suru becomes shiyō.

Hypothetical conditional formEdit

One of way to say "if" is to attach to the 仮定形 of a verb, which is formed by changing the final vowel u (whether in -u, -ru, kuru, suru) to an e. "AばB" implies that A is a condition for B to happen.

Potential formEdit

  • godan verbs: change the -u to -eru. For example, 読む becomes 読める.
  • ichidan verbs: change the -ru to -rareru. For example, 見る becomes 見られる.
  • irregular verbs: kuru becomes korareru, suru becomes dekiru.

Sometimes the ra can be left out (a practice called ら抜き言葉). The result can be further conjugated like an ichidan verb; for example, 信じられない (unbelievable).

Causative formEdit

  • godan verbs: change the -u to -a (but -wa if it has no consonant) and attach seru. For example, 読む becomes 読ませる.
  • ichidan verbs: change the -ru to -saseru. For example, 見る becomes 見させる.
  • irregular verbs: kuru becomes kosaseru, suru becomes saseru.

The result can be further conjugated like an ichidan verb. Sometimes the せる is abbreviated as a single す and conjugates as godan verbs. The object is usually introduced with , but when there is another object with (such as "A made B sing a song"), is used instead.

Passive formEdit

  • godan verbs: change the -u to -a (but -wa if it has no consonant) and attach reru. For example, 読む becomes 読まれる.
  • ichidan verbs: change the -ru to -rareru. For example, 見る becomes 見られる.
  • irregular verbs: kuru becomes korareru, suru becomes sareru.

The result can be further conjugated like an ichidan verb. Aside from the passive voice (where the performer of the verb is introduced with or によって), the form is also used to show politeness in which case the sentence structure does not change. In casual speech, the せる can be abbreviated as a single す and conjugates as godan verbs. The passive form is sometimes used for a victimhood state, for example, 逃げられた is not "was run away by the rabbit", but "rabbit ran away, resulting in loss".

Irregular conjugation related to polite speechEdit

  • The imperative form of くれる is くれ.
  • The imperative form of some godan verbs have the ru replaced with i:
Verb Imperative form
くださる ください
なさる なさい
いらっしゃる いらっしゃい
おっしゃる おっしゃい
はがきを5枚 (ごまい)ください
Hagaki o gomai kudasai.
Please give me five postcards.

The i-ending imperative forms may be followed by mase:

いらっしゃいませ
Irasshaimase!
Welcome!

Stem formsEdit

These are the basic forms of verbs as taught in Japan. Verbs have six associated stem forms; three of these each appear in two different ways that are not given separate names, but are used in disjoint contexts. The izenkei (已然形, classical perfective form) is also called the kateikei (仮定形, hypothetical form in modern Japanese). The shūshikei (終止形, terminal form) and rentaikei (連体形, attributive form) are identical for verbs in modern Japanese.

Prototype 起きる 食べる 書く 行く 剥ぐ 射す 待つ 死ぬ 呼ぶ 飲む 掘る 買う 問う くる する
okiru taberu kaku iku hagu sasu matsu shinu yobu nomu horu kau tou kuru suru
Class 上一 下一 カ五 カ五 ガ五 サ五 タ五 ナ五 バ五 マ五 ラ五 ワ五 ワ五 変格 変格
kami-1 shimo-1 ka-5 ka-5 ga-5 sa-5 ta-5 na-5 ba-5 ma-5 ra-5 wa-5 wa-5 ka-hen. sa-hen.
Stem 起き 食べ irreg. irreg.
oki- tabe- kak- ik- hag- sas- mat- shin- yob- nom- hor- ka(*p)- to(*p)- irreg. irreg.
Mizenkei (未然形) 起き 食べ 書か 行か 剥が 射さ 待た 死な 呼ば 飲ま 掘ら 買わ 問わ irreg.
Imperfective (general) oki- tabe- kaka- ika- haga- sasa- mata- shina- yoba- noma- hora- kawa- towa- ko- irreg.
Mizenkei (未然形) 起き 食べ 書こ 行こ 剥ご 射そ 待と 死の 呼ぼ 飲も 掘ろ 買お 問お
Imperfective (volitional) oki- tabe- kako- iko- hago- saso- mato- shino- yobo- nomo- horo- kao- too- ko- shi-
Ren'yōkei (連用形) 起き 食べ 書き 行き 剥ぎ 射し 待ち 死に 呼び 飲み 掘り 買い 問い
Continuative (-i) oki tabe kaki iki hagi sashi machi shini yobi nomi hori kai toi ki shi
Ren'yōkei (連用形) 起き 食べ 書い 行っ 剥い 射し 待っ 死ん 呼ん 飲ん 掘っ 買っ 問う
Continuative (other) oki- tabe- kai- i_- hai- sashi- ma_- shin- yon- non- ho_- ka_- tou- ki- shi-
Shūshikei (終止形) 起きる 食べる 書く 行く 剥ぐ 射す 待つ 死ぬ 呼ぶ 飲む 掘る 買う 問う くる する
Terminal okiru taberu kaku iku hagu sasu matsu shinu yobu nomu horu kau tou kuru suru
Rentaikei (連体形) 起きる 食べる 書く 行く 剥ぐ 射す 待つ 死ぬ 呼ぶ 飲む 掘る 買う 問う くる する
Attributive okiru taberu kaku iku hagu sasu matsu shinu yobu nomu horu kau tou kuru suru
Izenkei (已然形) 起きれ 食べれ 書け 行け 剥げ 射せ 待て 死ね 呼べ 飲め 掘れ 買え 問え くれ すれ
Classical Perfective okire- tabere- kake- ike- hage- sase- mate- shine- yobe- nome- hore- kae- toe- kure- sure-
Meireikei (命令形) 起きよ 食べよ 書け 行け 剥げ 射せ 待て 死ね 呼べ 飲め 掘れ 買え 問え こい せよ
Imperative (written) okiyo tabeyo kake ike hage sase mate shine yobe nome hore kae toe koi seyo
Meireikei (命令形) 起きろ 食べろ 書け 行け 剥げ 射せ 待て 死ね 呼べ 飲め 掘れ 買え 問え こい しろ
Imperative (spoken) okiro tabero kake ike hage sase mate shine yobe nome hore kae toe koi shiro

The ren'yōkei (連用形, -i form), shūshikei (終止形, terminal form), rentaikei (連体形, attributive form), and meireikei (命令形, imperative form) can appear on their own. The other inflections require suffixes.

Complex formsEdit

Form Classes Stem Suffix Result is Examples
Passive 受動態 1, kuru imperfective (general) られる shimo-1 verb 食べられる
5 imperfective (general) れる shimo-1 verb 書かれる
suru irreg. irreg. shimo-1 verb される
Causative 使役態 1, kuru imperfective (general) させる or さす shimo-1 verb 食べさせる
5 imperfective (general) せる or shimo-1 verb 書かせる
suru irreg. irreg. shimo-1 verb させる or さす
Potential 可能法 1 imperfective (general) られる shimo-1 verb 食べられる
5, kuru, 1 (colloq.) classical imperfective shimo-1 verb 書ける, 起きれる
suru defective defective 出来る (せる in compounds)

Other formsEdit

Form Classes Stem Suffix Result is Examples
Volitional 1, kuru, suru imperfective (volitional) よう indeclinable 食べよう, こよう, しよう
5 imperfective (volitional) indeclinable 書こう, 話そう
Negative all imperfective (general) ない i-adjective 食べない, 書かない, こない, しない
Negative (archaic) all imperfective (general) indeclinable 食べぬ, 書かぬ
Negative Continuative (-zu) 1, 5, kuru imperfective (general) indeclinable 食べず, 書かず, こず
suru irreg. irreg. indeclinable せず
Negative Conjunctive (-naide) all imperfective (general) ないで indeclinable 起きないで, 書かないで, こないで, しないで
Past tense 1, kuru, suru, (ka,sa,ta,ra,wa)-5 continuative (other) indeclinable 食べた, きた, した, 書いた, 行った, 話した, 待った, 作った, 払った, 問った
(ga,na,ba,ma)-5 continuative (other) indeclinable 泳いだ, 死んだ, 読んだ, 飲んだ
Conjunctive (-te) 1, kuru, suru, (ka,sa,ta,ra,wa)-5 continuative (other) indeclinable 食べて, きて, して, 書いて, 行って, 話して, 待って, 作って, 払って, 問って
(ga,na,ba,ma)-5 continuative (other) indeclinable 泳いで, 死んで, 読んで, 飲んで
Hypothetical (-ba) all classical imperfective (hypothetical) indeclinable 起きれば, 書けば, くれば, すれば
Conditional (-tara) 1, kuru, suru, (ka,sa,ta,ra,wa)-5 continuative (other) たら indeclinable 食べたら, きたら, したら, 書いたら
(ga,na,ba,ma)-5 continuative (other) だら indeclinable 泳いだら, 死んだら, 読んだら, 飲んだら
Currently incomplete

Suffixes to the continuative (-i) formEdit

There are several suffixes that attach to the continuative (-i) form. These are some of the most common:

Form Suffix Result is Examples
Formal (-masu) ます irregular verb 行きます
Desire (-tai) たい i-adjective 食べたい
  1. ^ 日语教学中「学校教育」和「日本语教育」之间的区别及优劣是什么? (in Chinese) (can anybody provide a better source for this?)