All auxiliary verbs attach to a verbal or adjectival stem form and conjugate as verbs, but they differ from standard verbs in having no independent meaning. In modern Japanese there are two distinct classes of auxiliary verbs:
Pure auxiliaries (助動詞 jodōshi)
are usually just called verb endings or conjugated forms. These auxiliaries cannot possibly function as an anindependent verb.
Helper auxiliaries (補助動詞 hododōshi)
are standard verbs that lose their independent meaning when used as auxiliaries.
In classical Japanese which was more purely agglutinating than modern Japanese, the category of auxiliary verb included every possible verb ending after the stem form, and most of these endings were themselves active participants in composition. In modern Japanese, however, some auxiliaries have stopped being productive. The most classic example is the classical auxiliary たり (-tari) whose forms た (-ta), て (-te), etc. are now no longer viewed as verbal endings, i.e., they can take no further affixes.
Some pure auxiliary verbs
1 られる (rareru) is often shortened to れる (reru, grp. 2); thus食べれる (tabereru, to be able to eat) instead of 食べられる(taberareru).
auxiliary group attaches to meaning modification example ます (masu) 1 continuative makes V polite 書く (kaku, to write) → 書きます (kakimasu) られる (rareru) 1 2b cont. of grp. 2 makes V passive/polite/potential 見る (miru, to see) → 見られる (mirareru, to be able to see)
増える (fueru, to increase) → 増えられる (fuerareru, to have the ability to increase)
る (ru) - hyp. of grp. 1 - 飲む (nomu, to drink/swallow) → 飲める (nomeru, to be able to drink) させる (saseru) 2 2b cont. of grp. 2 makes V causative 考える (kangaeru, to think) → 考えさせる(kangaesaseru, to cause to think) せる (seru) - imperf. of grp. 1 - 思い知る (omoishiru, to realize) → 思い知らせる(omoishiraseru, to cause to realize/to teach a lesson)
2 させる (saseru) is sometimes shortened to さす (sasu, grp. 1), but this usage is somewhat literary.
Much of the agglutinative flavour of Japanese stems from helper auxiliaries, however. The following table contains a small selection of an abundant store of such auxiliary verbs.
Some helper auxiliary verbs
auxiliary group attaches to meaning modification example ある (aru, to be (inanimate)) 1 -te form only for trans. indicates state modification 開く (aku, to open) → 開いてある (aite-aru, opened and is still open) いる (iru, to be (animate)) 2a -te form for trans. progressive aspect 寝る (neru, to sleep) → 寝ている (nete-iru, is sleeping) - 2a -te form indicates state modification 閉まる (shimaru, (intransitive) to close) → 閉まっている(shimatte-iru, is closed) いく (iku, to go) 1 -te form “goes on V-ing” 歩く (aruku, to walk) → 歩いていく (aruite-iku, keep walking) くる (kuru, to come) ka -te form inception, “start to V” なる (naru, become) → なってくる (natte-kuru, start becoming) 始める (hajimeru, to begin) 2b continuative
V begins”, “begin to V” 書く (kaku, to write) → 書き始める (kaki-hajimeru, start to write) - - continuative
punctual & subj. must be plural
- 着く (tsuku, to arrive) → 着き始める (tsuki-hajimeru, have all started to arrive) 出す (dasu, to emit) 1 continuative “start to V” 輝く (kagayaku, to shine) → 輝き出す (kagayaki-dasu, to start shining) みる (miru, to see) 1 -te form “try to V” する (suru, do) → してみたい (shite-mitai, try to do) なおす (naosu, to correct/heal) 1 continuative “do V again, correcting mistakes” 書く (kaku, to write) → 書きなおす (kaki-naosu, rewrite) あがる (agaru, to rise) 1 continuative “do V thoroughly” / “V happens upwards” 立つ (tatsu, to stand) → 立ち上がる (tachi-agaru, standup)
出来る (dekiru, to come out) → 出来上がる (deki-agaru, be completed)
得る (eru/uru, to be able) 2b/1 continuative only for group 1 verbs indicates potential ある (aru, to be) → あり得る (arieru, is possible) かかる (kakaru, to hang/catch/obtain) 1 continuative only for intrans., non-volit. “about to V”, “almost V” 溺れる (oboreru, drown) → 溺れかかる (obore-kakaru, about to drown) きる (kiru, to cut) 1 continuative “do V completely” 食べる (taberu, to eat) → 食べきる (tabe-kiru, to eat it all) 消す (kesu, to erase) 1 continuative “cancel by V”, “deny with V” 揉む (momu, to rub) → 揉み消す (momi-kesu, to rub out, to extinguish) 込む (komu, to enter deeply/plunge) 1 continuative “V deep in”, “V into” 話す (hanasu, to speak) → 話し込む (hanashi-komu, to be deep in conversation) 下げる (sageru, to lower) 2b continuative “V down” 引く (hiku, to pull) → 引き下げる (hiki-sageru, to pull down) 過ぎる (sugiru, to exceed) 2a continuative “overdo V” 言う (iu, to say) → 言いすぎる (ii-sugiru, to say too much, to overstate) 付ける (tsukeru, to attach) 2b continuative “become accustomed to V” 行く (iku, to go) → 行き付ける (iki-tsukeru, be used to (going)) 続ける (tsuzukeru, to continue) 2b continuative “keep on V” 降る (furu, to fall (eg. rain)) → 降り続ける(furi-tsuzukeru, to keep falling) 通す (tōsu, to show/thread/lead) 1 continuative “finish V-ing” 読む (yomu, to read) → 読み通す (yomi-tōsu, to finish reading) 抜ける (nukeru, to shed/spill/desert) 2b continuative only for intrans. “V through” 走る (hashiru, to run) → 走り抜ける (hashiri-nukeru, to run through (swh)) 残す (nokosu, to leave behind) 1 continuative by doing V, leave sth behind 思う (omou, to think) → 思い残す (omoi-nokosu, to regret (lit: to have sth. left to think about)) 残る (nokoru, to be left behind) 1 continuative for intrans. only be left behind, doing V 生きる (ikiru, live) → 生き残る (iki-nokoru, to survive (lit: to be left alive)) 分ける (wakeru, to divide/split/classify) 2b continuative the proper way to V. 使う (tsukau, use) → 使い分ける (tsukai-wakeru, to indicate the proper way to use) 忘れる (wasureru, to forget) 2b continuative to forget to V 聞く (kiku, to ask) → 聞き忘れる (kiki-wasureru, to forget to ask)
Japanese Grammar Contents
- Part 1: Textual classifications; nouns, pronouns, and other deictics
- Part 2: Conjugable words: verbs
- Part 3: Conjugable words: adjectives
- Part 4: Conjugable words: the copula だ da
- Part 5: Euphonic changes, colloquial contractions
- Part 6: Adverbs, sound symbolism, conjunctions and interjections
- Part 7: Particles
- Part 8: Auxiliary verbs