sci.lang.japan FAQ / 2. Grammar / 2.1. Verbs

2.1.5. How do Japanese verbs conjugate?

Japanese verb conjugation is fairly simple. The plain form of all verbs ends in u. There are very few irregular verbs, and this page contains a comprehensive list of their conjugations. In modern Japanese, there are no verbs ending in zu, fu, pu, or yu. There is only one verb ending in nu, shinu, to die.

Causative

The causative forms are characterized by the final u becoming aseru for consonant stem verbs, and ru becoming saseru for vowel stem verbs.

Type Causative Examples Causative
Irregular verbs
suru saseru kanben suru kanben saseru
kuru kosaseru
Regular verbs
u waseru tsukau (use) tsukawaseru
ku kaseru kawaku (dry) kawakaseru
gu gaseru oyogu (swim) oyogaseru
su saseru shimesu (show) shimesaseru
tsu taseru matsu (wait) mataseru
nu naseru shinu (die) shinaseru
bu baseru yobu (call) yobaseru
mu maseru yomu (read) yomaseru
ru (consonant stem) raseru hashiru (run) hashiraseru
iru, eru (vowel stem) isaseru, esaseru kigaeru (change clothes) kigaesaseru
Adjectives and negatives
i adjectives ku saseru samui (cold) samuku saseru
na adjectives ni saseru shizuka shizuka ni saseru

Usage

The causative is used for:

Conditional eba form

The eba conditional form is characterized by the final u becoming eba for consonant stem verbs, and ru becoming reba for vowel stem verbs.

Type Causative Examples Causative
Irregular verbs
suru sureba kanben suru kanben sureba
kuru koreba
da (copula) de areba
Regular verbs
u eba tsukau (use) tsukaeba
ku keba kawaku (dry) kawakeba
gu geba oyogu (swim) oyogeba
su seba shimesu (show) shimeseba
tsu teba matsu (wait) mateba
nu neba shinu (die) shineba
bu beba yobu (call) yobeba
mu meba yomu (read) yomeba
ru (consonant stem) raseru hashiru (run) hashireba
iru, eru (vowel stem) ireba, ereba kigaeru (change clothes) kigaereba
Adjectives and negatives
i adjectives kereba samui samukereba
na adjectives de areba kantan kantan de areba
nai (negative) nakereba ikanai ikanakereba

Usage

The eba conditional form is used in conditionals, for example nani sureba ii ka: "What should I do?".

Conditional ra form

The conditional ra form is formed from the past tense by simply adding ra, hence for example, itta "went" becomes ittara "if (you) go". The only exception is the copula da, which becomes nara.

i form

See 2.2.3. What is the `i' verb ending?

Imperative

Most of the imperative forms are characterized by the final u becoming e.

Type Becomes Examples Imperative
Irregular verbs
suru shiro
seyo
kanben suru kanben shiro
kanben seyo
kuru koi
ru polite verbs i irassharu
nasaru
irasshai
nasai
kureru kure
masu stem mase irasshaimasu (come, go) irasshaimase
da (copula) de are
Regular verbs
u e tsukau (use) tsukae
ku ke yaku (burn) yake
gu ge oyogu (swim) oyoge
su se shimesu (show) shimese
tsu te matsu (wait) mate
nu ne shinu (die) shine
bu be yobu (call) yobe
mu me yomu (read) yome
ru (consonant stem) re hashiru (run) hashire
iru, eru (vowel stem) iro, iyo, ero, eyo kigaeru (change clothes) kigaero
kigaeyo

Usage

The imperative form is used

Negative

The basic pattern for forming negative Japanese verbs is the u at the end of the verb becomes anai.

Type Negative Examples Negative
Irregular verbs
suru shinai benkyō suru benkyō shinai
kuru konai
da de wa nai
ja nai
masu stem masen ikimasu (go, polite) ikimasen
Regular verbs
u wanai tsukau (use) tsukawanai
ku kanai yaku (burn) yakanai
gu ganai oyogu (swim) oyoganai
su sanai shimesu (show) shimesanai
tsu tanai matsu (wait) matanai
nu nanai shinu (die) shinanai
bu banai yobu (call) yobanai
mu manai yomu (read) yomanai
ru (consonant stem) ranai hashiru (run) hashiranai
iru, eru (vowel stem) inai, enai kigaeru (change clothes) kigaenai
Adjectives
i adjectives ku nai itai (painful) itakunai
na adjectives de wa nai
ja nai
kantan kantan de wa nai
kantan ja nai

The nai ending conjugates in two ways.

  1. As an i adjective. For example the past tense of tabenai is tabenakatta and the te form is tabenakute.
  2. There is a special te form made by adding de. For example, tabenaide. This is used, for example, in tabenaide kudasai: "Please don't eat (this)".

Potential ("can do")

The general pattern is u becomes eru. seru (in compounds)
Type Potential Examples Potential
Irregular verbs
suru dekiru
benkyō suru
aisuru
benkyō dekiru
aiseru
kuru korareru
Regular verbs
u eru tsukau (use) tsukaeru
ku keru yaku (burn) yakeru
gu geru oyogu (swim) oyogeru
su seru shimesu (show) shimeseru
tsu tareru matsu (wait) materu
nu neru shinu (die) shineru
bu beru yobu (call) yoberu
mu meru yomu (read) yomeru
ru (consonant stem) reru hashiru (run) hashireru
iru, eru (vowel stem) irareru, erareru
ireru, ereru (*)
kigaeru (change clothes) kigaerareru
kigaereru (*)
(*) The shorter reru form is common but not considered standard.

Usage

The potential is used to express ability, for example nihongo ga yomeru: "I can read Japanese".

It is not often used in the sense of English "Could I have a glass of water?", for requests. Instead a more polite form is substituted.

The potential ru ending conjugates as a vowel stem verb, so, for example, the past tense of yomeru is yometa.

Passive

The general pattern is u becomes areru.

Type Passive Examples Passive
Irregular verbs
suru sareru benkyō suru benkyō sareru
kuru korareru
Regular verbs
u wareru tsukau (use) tsukawareru
ku yaku (burn) yakareru
gu gareru oyogu (swim) oyogareru
su sareru shimesu (show) shimesareru
tsu tareru matsu (wait) matareru
nu nareru shinu (die) shinareru
bu bareru yobu (call) yobareru
mu mareru yomu (read) yomareru
ru (consonant stem) rareru hashiru (run) hashirareru
iru, eru (vowel stem) irareru, erareru kigaeru (change clothes) kigaerareru

Usage

The passive form of the verb is used

Te form

See
2.1.6. How does the form work?.

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