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TYJ Verbs

By Takasugi, May 22, 2017 | |
  1. Takasugi
    7.3. Verbs

    7.3.1. Group I and Group II

    Japanese verbs are divided into two groups with different inflection styles. One group is called the Group I verbs, the -u verbs, the Godan verbs, the consonant verbs, and the strong verbs. The other is called the Group II verbs, the -ru verbs, the Ichidan verbs, the vowel verbs, and the weak verbs. I use the terms Group I and Group II here. Other than the two groups, Japanese has two irregular verbs.

    Japanese has two tenses - the nonpast tense, which is used for both present and future, and the past tense. All the Japanese verbs end with the vowel "u" when used in the nonpast tense. Group II verbs always end with either "-iru" or "-eru". The two irregular verbs are する "suru" and くる "kuru", which have different inflection from each other.

    A verb consists of a stem and a suffix. The stem never changes, but suffixes can change. In English, a verb's stem is its nonpast form, and you can make the past form with the suffix -ed, such as learn - learned. You can make the gerund with the suffix -ing, such as learn - learning.

    The final "-u" in the nonpast form of a Group I verb is the suffix, and the rest is the stem. The stem of a Group I verb always ends with a consonant. The final "-ru" in the nonpast form of a Group II verb is the suffix, and the rest is the stem. The stem of a Group II verb always ends with either "i" or "e".

    The first "s" is the stem of the irregular verb する "suru", and the first "k" is the stem of the irregular verb くる "kuru".

    This is a table of nonpast form examples:

    Group 1:

    VerbStemSuffixMeaning
    はなす
    ha na su
    hanas-uspeak
    きく
    ki ku
    kik-ulisten to
    およぐ
    o yo gu
    oyog-uswim
    たつ
    ta tu
    tat-ustand up
    うる
    u ru
    ur-usell
    あらう
    a ra u
    araw*-uwash
    しぬ
    si nu
    sin-udie
    とぶ
    to bu
    tob-ufly
    よむ
    yo mu
    yom-uread
    Group 2:

    VerbStemSuffixMeaning
    むる
    mi ru
    mi-ruwatch
    おちる
    o ti ru
    oti-rufall
    ねる
    ne ru
    ne-rusleep
    たべる
    ta be ru
    tabe-rueat
    Suru:

    VerbStemSuffixMeaning
    する
    su ru
    s-urudo
    Kuru:

    VerbStemSuffixMeaning
    くる
    ku ru
    k-urucome
    * The last "w" guarantees that all Group I verbs have a stem that ends with a consonant. Since Japanese doesn't have "wi", "wu", "we", or "wo", these phonemes become "i", "u", "e", and "o" respectively. In this case, the stem "araw" and the suffix "u" makes "arau", not "arawu". Whenever you use a Group I verb which ends with a vowel and "u", assume the hidden "w" before the final "u". For example, the stem of the verb いう "iu" (means say) is "iw", not "i".

    When you romanize a Japanese verb, do not use a circumflex for the suffix. For example, the Group I verb くう (eat) is Romanized as "kuu", not "".

    All the Group II verbs end with either "-iru" or "-eru", but verbs which end with these suffixes are not necessarily Group II verbs. Some are Group I verbs, which end with "-u".

    Here are examples of Group I verbs with the ending of "-iru" or "-eru":

    VerbStemSuffixMeaning
    しる
    si ru
    sir-uknow
    はしる
    ha si ru
    hasir-urun
    はいる
    ha i ru
    hair-uenter
    かえる
    ka e ru
    kaer-ugo back, return
    すべる
    su be ru
    suber-uslide, skate, ski
    しゃべる
    sya be ru
    syaber-uchat
    The verb する "suru" can combine with a noun to make a verb which is related to the noun.
    Here is an example:

    Kana:べんきょう
    Romanization:be n kyô
    Meaning:study (noun)
    Kana:べんきょうする
    Romanization:be n kyô su ru
    Meaning:study (verb)
    7.3.2. Polite forms

    Japanese has a plain mode and a polite mode. To make a sentence polite, add the suffix ます "masu" to the verb at the end of the sentence. It is good to write it as "-(i)masu" to show how it is connected to a verb. If the stem of a verb ends with a vowel, add "-masu". If the stem ends with a consonant, add "-imasu" because Japanese doesn't allow a consonant that is not followed by a vowel. In other words, add "-masu" to Group II verbs, and add "-imasu" to Group I verbs, する "suru", and くる "kuru".

    The suffix ます "masu" also works like a verb. For example, it has a past form. Its stem is "mas", and "-u" is the suffix for the nonpast form. It has irregular inflection. It cannot be an independent verb, and it must be added to a verb.

    Here are examples of polite forms:

    Group 1:

    Plain nonpast formPolite nonpast form
    はなす
    ha na su
    はなします
    ha na si ma su
    きく
    ki ku
    ききます
    ki ki ma su
    およぐ
    o yo gu
    およぎます
    o yo gi ma su
    たつ
    ta tu
    たちます
    ta ti ma su
    うる
    u ru
    うります
    u ri ma su
    あらう
    a ra u
    あらります
    a ra i ma su
    しぬ
    si nu
    しにます
    si ni ma su
    とぶ
    to bu
    とびます
    to bi ma su
    よむ
    yo mu
    よみます
    yo mi ma su
    Group 2:

    Plain nonpast formPolite nonpast form
    むる
    mi ru
    むます
    mi ma su
    おちる
    o ti ru
    おちます
    o ti ma su
    ねる
    ne ru
    ねます
    ne ma su
    たべる
    ta be ru
    たべます
    ta be ma su
    Suru:

    Plain nonpast formPolite nonpast form
    する
    su ru
    します
    si ma su
    Kuru:

    Plain nonpast formPolite nonpast form
    くる
    ku ru
    きます
    ki ma su
    Please remember actual sounds are sometimes different from what you might expect from the spellings. The verb たつ has a pronunciation of "tatsu", and its polite form たちます has a pronunciation of "tachimasu". You can easily derive "tatimasu" from "tatu" and "-(i)masu", but it would be difficult to derive "tachimasu" from "tatsu" and "masu". This is why I use Kunrei Romanization in my site.

    Polite mode is recommended when you talk or write to a person who is not so close or who has a higher position than you. Plain mode is better when you talk to people such as your family and close friends, and it is also better when you write text written for a general readership such as novels, articles, theses, etc. You cannot use both of the modes at the same time in a document. Once you begin writing, go on with the mode you use for the first sentence. Native Japanese speakers think in plain mode.

    Please note that the polite form of a verb doesn't mean doing politely what the verb means. The polite form stands for the speaker's politeness to the addressee. (The speaker and the addressee are grammatical terms. The speaker is a person who sends a sentence, i.e. a person who speaks or writes. The addressee is a person who receives the sentence, such as a person the speaker is talking to. I will often use the terms in later chapters.)

    You will learn relative clauses, but it is not allowed to use ます for verbs in relative clauses. It is only used for the last verb of sentences. I will explain it again later.

    If at first you find polite mode too difficult, use only plain mode until you are more advanced. But keep in mind using plain mode for people who are not so close is rude. To avoid this problem, form a sentence in plain form, then add the magic word です "desu" at the end of the sentence. It often produces grammatically incorrect sentences, but they will be understandable and still polite. I will explain how to use the word です properly in a later chapter.

    7.3.3. Past forms

    Adding the suffix た "ta" to a verb makes the past form. It is good to write it as "-(i)ta" to show how it connects to verbs. The meaning of the "(i)" is the same as that in "-(i)masu". So use "ta" for Group II verbs, and use "ita" for Group I verbs, する "suru", くる "kuru", and the polite suffix ます "masu".

    For ease of pronunciation, Group I verbs change the phonemes when they are combined with た. The last phoneme of the stem determines how it changes the phonemes.

    Nonpast form endingPast form endingDescription

    -su
    した
    -shita
    s + (i)ta = sita
    (no change)

    -ku
    いた
    -ita
    k + (i)ta = kita,
    then it is changed to ita

    -gu
    いだ
    -ida
    g + (i)ta = gita,
    then it is changed to ida

    -tu
    った
    -tta
    t + (i)ta = tita,
    then it is changed to tta

    -ru
    った
    -tta
    r + (i)ta = rita,
    then it is changed to tta

    -wu*
    った
    -tta
    w + (i)ta = wita,
    then it is changed to tta

    -nu
    んだ
    -nda
    n + (i)ta = nita,
    then it is changed to nda

    -bu
    んだ
    -nda
    b + (i)ta = bita,
    then it is changed to nda

    -bu
    んだ
    -nda
    m + (i)ta = mita,
    then it is changed to nda
    * Remember the hidden "w".

    There is no other kana that can be the last one of Group I verbs. Note that only Group I verbs change the phonemes.

    There is an exception to this table. The verb いく "iku" (means go) has a stem which ends with "k", so you may expect it to have いいた "iita" as the past form, but actually its past form is いった "itta".

    Here are examples of past forms:

    Group 1:

    Nonpast formMeaningPast formMeaning
    はなす
    ha na su
    speakはなした
    ha na si ta
    spoke
    きく
    ki ku
    listen toきいた
    ki i ta
    listened to
    およぐ
    o yo gu
    swimおよいた
    o yo i da
    swam
    たつ
    ta tu
    stand upたった
    ta t ta
    stood up
    うる
    u ru
    sellうった
    u t ta
    sold
    あらう
    a ra u
    washあらった
    a ra t ta
    washed
    しぬ
    si nu
    dieしんだ
    si n da
    died
    とぶ
    to bu
    flyとんだ
    to n da
    flew
    よむ
    yo mu
    readよんだ
    yo n da
    read
    Group 2:

    Nonpast formMeaningPast formMeaning
    むる
    mi ru
    watchむた
    mi ta
    watched
    おちる
    o ti ru
    fallおちた
    o ti ta
    fell
    ねる
    ne ru
    sleepねた
    ne ta
    slept
    たべる
    ta be ru
    eatたべた
    ta be ta
    ate
    Suru:

    Nonpast formMeaningPast formMeaning
    する
    su ru
    doした
    si ta
    did
    Kuru:

    Nonpast formMeaningPast formMeaning
    くる
    ku ru
    comeきた
    ki ta
    came
    -masu:

    Nonpast formMeaningPast formMeaning
    ます
    ma su
    *ました
    ma si ta
    *
    * This is not a verb but a verbal suffix for polite mode.
    When you want to make a polite past form, make a verb polite first, then change it to the past form. For instance, if you want the polite past form of the verb とぶ "tobu", change it to the polite form とびます "tobimasu", then change it to the past form とびました "tobimasita". This is because the politeness suffix ます "masu" has a past form but the past suffix た "ta" doesn't have a polite form.


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    About Author

    Takasugi
    My name is TAKASUGI Shinji. TAKASUGI is my family name, and Shinji is my given name; a family name is placed before a given name in Japan, as in other Asian nations. My family name is capitalized to avoid misunderstanding.

    I have been living in Yokohama since I was born. Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan, which is just 30 kilometers away from the biggest city Tôkyô. It takes 30 minutes to go by train from home to Shibuya, which is the hottest town now in Tôkyô.

    I work as a display engineer.

    One of my hobbies is creating things with computers; creating programs, computer graphics and web pages is the thing I spent a lot of time doing. I am also interested in a wide range of sciences, and linguistics is my favorite. I like English and I like using it, but my focus is mainly on Japanese, which is my native language. I'm proud of knowing the language, and the difference between English and Japanese has been fascinating me. I have been thinking whether I can introduce it to people outside of Japan. My attempt of introducing Japanese with some Java applets has had more than 1 million visitors.


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