Japanese verb conjugation may look intimidating, but the conjugation rules are way easier to learn than say English. The problem? Well there are over 13 different verb forms to learn, and multiple variations of each. It can be a lot to take in for a beginner, so we’ve decided to split the forms up a bit and start you off with these five.
Before we go into an explanation of the conjugations, check out this chart of ten examples.
The Masu Form
First let’s look at the most basic of the verb conjugations, the masu form. Masu is used in polite conversation to indicate the present tense. To form this verb you drop the る, or ru, at the end of the verb and tack on the ます, masu. For example let’s look at たべる. We drop the る to make it 食べ, and then add the ます to make it 食べます.
Simple right? Well unfortunately, not every verb ends in る, or ru. Some end in う, か, す, つ, ぬ, む, and so on. For example think of to read, 読む or よむ. The word ends in む which means we cannot just add the ます making it よむます. That would just be wrong.
No, we need to change the む to み and then add the ます, making it 読みます or よみます. Essentially change the last hiragana into its い form and then add ます.
So 買う, かう, becomes 買います, or かいます.
持つ, もつ becomes 持ちます, or もちます.
Those are the regular verbs at least. There are several irregulars that you have to worry about. First off we have come, くる, which is conjugated as きます, and do する, which changes to します. Unfortunately the only thing you can do is memorize these two, no rule to follow.
What’s worse is that there are several る verbs that conjugate slightly differently. Some る verbs need to add a り before the ます. The only indicator of this irregularity is in its て form, found further down in this article. Some of these irregulars include はしる (to run) changes into はしります. ある (to have) changes into あります. The irregularities are few and far between, so don’t worry too much about it.
When do you use the Masu Form?
You would use the Masu Form when speaking in the present tense while using polite Japanese. That being said, the most common way to use this tense is when you are asking questions and answering those questions in the affirmative.
Are you going to the restaurant?
Yes, I’m going.
The Mashita Form
The Mashita Form, is formed exactly like the Masu form and is also used in more polite conversation. What makes the Mashita different than the Masu is that the Mashita indicates that the action is already finished or past tense.
I ate pizza yesterday.
I read that book last week.
The Te Form
たべる turns to たべて.
あける changes to あけて.
おしえる goes to おしえて and so on.
The る verbs are easy enough. The う verbs however get a bit more complicated. There are three branches that we need to look at.
So かう will look like かって.
いく then becomes いって.
たつ will then be たって.
However, not all う verbs are that easy. The next branch includes verbs that end in ぶ、む、or ぬ. With these verbs you will simply drop the ぶ、む、or ぬ and add a んで instead of て。
So よむ becomes よんで.
とぶ changes into とんで.
あそぶ is now あそんで.
Still fairly simple right? Well we’ve got one more group for you. This last group includes verbs that end in く and ぐ. For these verbs you drop the く or ぐ and add いて or いで respectively.
For example かく becomes かいて.
When do you use the Te Form?
The Te form has far too many uses to explain in this conjugation lesson. We promise to have have a full blown article on the Te Form as soon as possible.
The Ta Form
The Ta Form is conjugated exactly like the Te Form and indicates the past tense in a more casual conversation.
With regular う verbs you drop the う and add a small pause before the た.
If the verb ends in ぶ、む、or ぬ, drop it and add んだ.
よむ becomes よんだ.
とぶ becomes とんだ.
If the verb ends in a く or ぐ, drop it and add a いた or いだ.
かく becomes かいた.
およぐ becomes およいだ.
One irregular to watch out for is する. This is one of the most common verbs and is conjugated by changing the す into a し making it した.
When do you use the Ta Form?
The Conditional Form
The Conditional Form is just another way of adding if to your sentence, and fortunately this is one of the easiest verb conjugations.
To make the Conditional Form, you simply change the last う or る into its え form. So in the case of く it would be け. Or む would be め. After you change the hiragana to the え form you simply add ば and you are done.
So for たべる you change the る to れ so you have たべれ, and then add ば making it たべれば.
よむ goes to よめば.
かく in the conditional form is かけば.
When do I use the Conditional Form?
Honestly, even though it is a simple conjugation, it is one of the more difficult verb forms to use in sentences unless you have a larger vocabulary. Using “if” will only elongate your sentence and necessitate a condition. Beginners may have difficulty using this tense.
That being said, there is a wonderful little trick that will make any beginner look like a Japanese pro. Using the conditional with the words いいね or よかった, makes the sentence read I wish, or it would be nice if.
I wish I had money.
I should have worn the a red shirt.
Well that’s all for now, you can expect a whole lot more on verb conjugations in the future. In the mean time…