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Basic Verb Conjugations - Plain Forms

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Basic Verb Conjugations - Plain Forms

Posted by flint about 3 months ago

#verbs#conjugation lessons

Learn how to conjugate verbs into the plain present, past and negative forms.

What is a conjugation?

A conjugation is a small variation to a word that changes the meaning of the word slightly, such as changing the tense of a verb (ie, drink, drinking, drank). As a native speaker, it is something that you would have learned naturally, and you would not normally have to think about the rules on how to perform the conjugations. When learning a foreign language though, we need to learn the rules first and then through practice build up the ability to conjugate naturally without having to think about it.

Japanese Conjugations

Learning the conjugations in Japanese may seem like a daunting task to start with. To begin with, there is a lot more conjugations that you need to learn in Japanese than there is in English.  There are also different forms of verbs that you need to recognise and you are generally learning conjugations at a time when you are just starting to learning the Hiragana, so reading itself can be a difficult task.

The good news is that the conjugation rules are consistant with very few exceptions, so with practice you wll be able to naturally conjugate any new words that you learn, just like a native speaker.

Basic Verb Conjugations - Plain Forms

The first four conjugations we will learn are the basic conjugations for a verb, in the plain form.  We will explain the conjugations, and how to form each of them below.

  • Plain Present Form (Dictionary Form) (eg: to do, to eat, to teach, to go)
  • Plain Present Negative Form (eg: to not do, to not eat, to not teach, to not go)
  • Plain Past Form (eg: done, ate, taught, gone)
  • Plain Past Negative Form (eg: not done, not ate, not taught, not gone)

The first form we will learn is called the Plain Present Form, and because it is the form you will find when you search for a word in the dictionary, it is also known as the Dictionary Form.  A nice feature of the Japanese language is that there is consistency in how all the verbs end. In the dictionary form, all verbs end with an "-u" sound. The plain present negative form always ends with "-nai", the plain past form always ends with "-ta" or "-da", and the plain past negative form always ends with "-nakatta".

There are three important aspects of the basic conjugations which we will explain below:

  • Plain vs Polite - In general, plain forms are used in casual conversation with people you are familiar with.  Polite forms, which we will learn about in a later lesson are used with people you are not close to, and in more formal settings.
  • Present vs Past - Some textbooks label the Present form as "Non-Past", which is technically more correct and easier to understand. The Present Form indicates a present or future tense for a verb, ie something you will do or are doing.  The past form indicates the past tense, or something you have done.
  • (Positive) vs Negative - In contrast to the Positive forms, the negative forms indicate something you won't or didn't do.

Vocabulary

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Group 1: Ichidan Verbs

Group 1 or Ichidan verbs are the first set of verbs that we will learn the basic conjugations for. Ichidan verbs all end with the Hiragana る (ru), so you may also see them called ru-verbs in some textbooks.

Another characteristic of Ichidan verbs is that they all end in the Romaji (iru) or (eru). If you see a verb that ends in (aru), (uru) or (oro), then it is not an Ichidan verb. Be careful as Group 2 Godan verbs also contains some verbs that end in (iru) or (eru), for those exceptions you will need to memorize which are Ichidan verbs and which are Godan verbs as they conjugate differently.

To create each of the basic conjugations from the dictionary form, use the following rules:

  • Plain Present Negative Form - Remove the final る (ru) and add ない (nai)
  • Plain Past Form - Remove the final る (ru) and add た (ta)
  • Plain Past Negative Form - Remove the final る (ru) and add なかった (nakatta)

You can see examples of how these conjugations are formed below:

iru

Matched Conjugations

inai
ita
inakatta
ichidan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to be (of animate objects); to exist
oshieru

Matched Conjugations

oshienai
oshieta
oshienakatta
ichidan verb, transitive verb
  1. to teach
taberu

Matched Conjugations

tabenai
tabeta
tabenakatta
ichidan verb, transitive verb
  1. to eat
neru

Matched Conjugations

nenai
neta
nenakatta
ichidan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to sleep (lying down)
  2. to go to bed
miru

Matched Conjugations

minai
mita
minakatta
ichidan verb, transitive verb
  1. to see; to look

Group 2: Godan Verbs

Godans verbs all end with the Romaji (u), and are sometimes called u-verbs in textbooks.

You may be wondering why Group 1 verbs are called Ichidan verbs and Group 2 verbs are called Godan verbs. In Japanese Ichi(一) means 1 and Go(五) means 5. When you form conjugations for Ichidan verbs, you create one stem by removing the final る(ru), and then add the appropriate ending (ie, nai, ta, nakatta).  When conjugating Godan verbs, there is 5 possible stems that could be created by changing the final (-u) sounding hiragana to one of the 5 possible sounds on the Hiragana chart (-a, -i, -u, -e, -o). This will make more sense as you progress through your lessons and learn more conjugation forms, but is a helpful tip to remember which verb group is Ichidan and which verb group is Godan.

Godan verbs may end in any of the following Hiragana (う,く,ぐ,す,つ,ぬ,ぶ,む or る). We will look at how to form the basic conjugations for each of these variations in turn.

For Godan verbs ending in う, to create each of the basic conjugations from the dictionary form, use the following rules:

  • Plain Present Negative Form - Remove the final う (u) and add わない (wanai)
  • Plain Past Form - Remove the final う (u) and add った (tta)
  • Plain Past Negative Form - Remove the final う (u) and add わなかった (wanakatta)

You can see examples of how these conjugations are formed below:

au

Matched Conjugations

awanai
atta
awanakatta
godan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to meet (逢う is often used for close friends, etc. and may be associated with drama or pathos; 遭う may have an undesirable nuance)
arau

Matched Conjugations

arawanai
aratta
arawanakatta
godan verb, transitive verb
  1. to wash
iu

Matched Conjugations

iwanai
itta
iwanakatta
godan verb
  1. to say
utau

Matched Conjugations

utawanai
utatta
utawanakatta
godan verb, transitive verb, intransitive verb
  1. to sing
kau

Matched Conjugations

kawanai
katta
kawanakatta
godan verb, transitive verb
  1. to buy (in western Japan, 買う conjugates euphonically as こうた, こうて, etc.)

For Godan verbs ending in く, to create each of the basic conjugations from the dictionary form, use the following rules:

  • Plain Present Negative Form - Remove the final く (ku) and add かない (kanai)
  • Plain Past Form - Remove the final く (ku) and add いた (ita)
  • Plain Past Negative Form - Remove the final く (ku) and add かなかった (kanakatta)
aruku

Matched Conjugations

arukanai
aruita
arukanakatta
godan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to walk
kaku

Matched Conjugations

kakanai
kaita
kakanakatta
godan verb, transitive verb
  1. to write
kiku

Matched Conjugations

kikanai
kiita
kikanakatta
godan verb, transitive verb
  1. to hear
  2. to listen (e.g. to music) (esp. 聴く)

The verb 行く(iku) [to go] is an exception to this rule, to form the plain past form:

  • Plain Past Form - Remove the final く (ku) and add った (tta)
iku

Matched Conjugations

ikanai
itta
ikanakatta
godan verb (iku/yuku), intransitive verb
  1. to go

For Godan verbs ending in ぐ, to create each of the basic conjugations from the dictionary form, use the following rules:

  • Plain Present Negative Form - Remove the final ぐ (gu) and add がない (ganai)
  • Plain Past Form - Remove the final ぐ (gu) and add いだ (ida)
  • Plain Past Negative Form - Remove the final ぐ (gu) and add がなかった (ganakatta)
oyogu

Matched Conjugations

oyoganai
oyoida
oyoganakatta
godan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to swim
nugu

Matched Conjugations

nuganai
nuida
nuganakatta
godan verb, transitive verb
  1. to undress

For Godan verbs ending in す, to create each of the basic conjugations from the dictionary form, use the following rules:

  • Plain Present Negative Form - Remove the final す (su) and add さない (sanai)
  • Plain Past Form - Remove the final す (su) and add した (shita)
  • Plain Past Negative Form - Remove the final す (su) and add さなかった (sanakatta)
dasu

Matched Conjugations

dasanai
dashita
dasanakatta
godan verb, transitive verb
  1. to take out
hanasu

Matched Conjugations

hanasanai
hanashita
hanasanakatta
godan verb, transitive verb
  1. to talk

For Godan verbs ending in つ, to create each of the basic conjugations from the dictionary form, use the following rules:

  • Plain Present Negative Form - Remove the final つ (tsu) and add たない (tanai)
  • Plain Past Form - Remove the final つ (tsu) and add った (tta)
  • Plain Past Negative Form - Remove the final つ (tsu) and add たなかった (tanakatta)
tatsu

Matched Conjugations

tatanai
tatta
tatanakatta
godan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to stand
matsu

Matched Conjugations

matanai
matta
matanakatta
godan verb, transitive verb, intransitive verb
  1. to wait
motsu

Matched Conjugations

motanai
motta
motanakatta
godan verb, transitive verb
  1. to hold (in one's hand)

For Godan verbs ending in ぬ, to create each of the basic conjugations from the dictionary form, use the following rules:

  • Plain Present Negative Form - Remove the final ぬ (nu) and add なない (nanai)
  • Plain Past Form - Remove the final ぬ (nu) and add んだ(nda)
  • Plain Past Negative Form - Remove the final ぬ (nu) and add ななかった (nanakatta)
shinu

Matched Conjugations

shinanai
shinda
shinanakatta
godan verb, irregular nu verb, intransitive verb
  1. to die

For Godan verbs ending in ぶ, to create each of the basic conjugations from the dictionary form, use the following rules:

  • Plain Present Negative Form - Remove the final ぶ (bu) and add ばない (banai)
  • Plain Past Form - Remove the final ぶ (bu) and add んだ(nda)
  • Plain Past Negative Form - Remove the final ぶ (bu) and add ばなかった (banakatta)
asobu

Matched Conjugations

asobanai
asonda
asobanakatta
godan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to play (games, sports)
  2. to meet up (with friends)
tobu

Matched Conjugations

tobanai
tonda
tobanakatta
godan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to fly (esp. 飛ぶ)
  2. to jump (esp. 跳ぶ)

For Godan verbs ending in む, to create each of the basic conjugations from the dictionary form, use the following rules:

  • Plain Present Negative Form - Remove the final む (mu) and add まない (manai)
  • Plain Past Form - Remove the final む (mu) and add んだ(nda)
  • Plain Past Negative Form - Remove the final む (mu) and add まなかった (manakatta)
sumu

Matched Conjugations

sumanai
sunda
sumanakatta
godan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to live (of humans); to reside
nomu

Matched Conjugations

nomanai
nonda
nomanakatta
godan verb, transitive verb
  1. to drink (呑む often means swallowing whole, gulping, etc.)
yasumu

Matched Conjugations

yasumanai
yasunda
yasumanakatta
godan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to take a day off
  2. to rest
yomu

Matched Conjugations

yomanai
yonda
yomanakatta
godan verb, transitive verb
  1. to read

For Godan verbs ending in る, to create each of the basic conjugations from the dictionary form, use the following rules:

  • Plain Present Negative Form - Remove the final る (ru) and add らない (ranai)
  • Plain Past Form - Remove the final る (ru) and add った(tta)
  • Plain Past Negative Form - Remove the final る (ru) and add らなかった (ranakatta)
uru

Matched Conjugations

uranai
utta
uranakatta
godan verb, transitive verb
  1. to sell
kaeru

Matched Conjugations

kaeranai
kaetta
kaeranakatta
godan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to return; to go home
shiru

Matched Conjugations

shiranai
shitta
shiranakatta
godan verb, transitive verb
  1. to know
suwaru

Matched Conjugations

suwaranai
suwatta
suwaranakatta
godan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to sit
hairu

Matched Conjugations

hairanai
haitta
hairanakatta
godan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to enter
hashiru

Matched Conjugations

hashiranai
hashitta
hashiranakatta
godan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to run
wakaru

Matched Conjugations

wakaranai
wakatta
wakaranakatta
godan verb, intransitive verb
  1. to understand

The verb ある(aru) [to exist] is an exception. To create each of the basic conjugations from the dictionary form of ある(aru), use the following rules:

  • Plain Present Negative Form - The plain present negative form is ない (nai)
  • Plain Past Form - Remove the final る (ru) and add った(tta)
  • Plain Past Negative Form - The plain past negative from is なかった (nakatta)
aru

Matched Conjugations

nai
atta
nakatta
godan verb (irregular), intransitive verb
  1. to be; to exist (usu. of inanimate objects)

Group 3: Irregular Verbs

Group 3 contains just two irregular verbs 来る(kuru) [to come] and する(suru) [to do].

As you will use these two verbs quite often, you will find that you will learn the conjugations for them quite quickly, even though they are irregular and do not follow the patterns of the previous two groups.

For 来る(kuru), to create each of the basic conjugations from the dictionary form, use the following rules:

  • Plain Present Negative Form -  The plain present negative form is 来ない - こない (konai)
  • Plain Past Form - The plain past form is 来た - きた (kita)
  • Plain Past Negative Form - The plain past negative form is 来なかった - こなかった (konakatta)
Note that even though the first hiragana character has changed from く to こ and き in the above conjugations, the Kanji 来 stays the same, just the reading has changed.
kuru

Matched Conjugations

konai
kita
konakatta
kuru verb, intransitive verb
  1. to come (spatially or temporally)

For する(suru), to create each of the basic conjugations from the dictionary form, use the following rules:

  • Plain Present Negative Form -  The plain present negative form is しない (shinai)
  • Plain Past Form - The plain past form is した (shita)
  • Plain Past Negative Form - The plain past negative form is しなかった (shinakatta)
suru

Matched Conjugations

shinai
shita
shinakatta
suru verb (irregular)
  1. to do

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Learning Japanese, this has to be one of my most favourite lessons. I really enjoyed this a lot although it may be hard. It was harder to do with the symbols but it was worthy of being learned. Made me feel a lot of progress when I  passed my exam on topic.

#3 Posted by evechamp about 2 weeks ago

このポストはとってもつかります!ありがとうございます

#2 Posted by nanajp about 1 month ago

あがと

#1 Posted by hz about 3 months ago


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