Get set for Japanese verb conjugation!
We have some verbs such as kau for buy. I imagine you may be thinking “…but I was told by someone that kaimasu was buy, not kau…” And if that’s what you’re thinking, you’re partially correct.
There many forms of each of those Japanese verbs. This lesson we are going to learn how to convert to those forms.
Japanese verb conjugation is not really too difficult, there are just some rules to remember based on the verb you are conjugating.
Let’s first look at the types of verbs we can use.
dictionary form: These are common when talking to close friends.
masu form: This is the polite way of saying a verb and you would probably use this form when talking to a superior (such as your boss).
te form: This is the form used when requesting something or requesting someone to do something.
We also have to consider tense. However, don’t panic! Tense is easier in Japanese. Tense follows rules and there are only two tenses in Japanese (unlike English). In English we have past, present and future (I ran, I run, I will run). In Japanese there are only past and present (which also acts as future, I ran, I run, I run).
Japanese Verb Conjugation Lesson
So let’s have a look at converting the dictionary form of a verb into past tense (this will set the scene for the rest).
There are rules (which apply in 99% of cases) for past tense conjugation based on the ending of the dictionary form of the verb. I will list them and give an example for each.
Rules: Converting dictionary form to past tense
Earlier rules take precedence over later ones
Rule 1: If the verb ends with iru or eru the remove the ru and add ta. For example, mieru (to be able to see), becomes mieta (was able to be seen). Called GROUP 2 Verbs.
Rule 2: If the verb ends with gu remove gu and add ida. For example, oyogu (to swim), becomes oyoida (swam). Called GROUP 1 Verbs.
Rule 3: If the verb ends with u, ru or tsu remove u, ru or tsu and add tta. For example, kau (to buy), becomes katta (bought). Called GROUP 1 Verbs.
Rule 4: If the verb ends with ku remove ku and replace it with ita. For example kaku (to write), becomes kaita (wrote). Called GROUP 1 Verbs.
Rule 5: If the verb ends with su remove su and replace it with shita. For example, kaesu (to return something) becomes kaeshita (something was returned). Called GROUP 1 Verbs.
Rule 6: If the verbs ends with nu, bu or mu remove nu, bu or mu and add nda. For example, nomu (to drink), becomes nonda (drank). Called GROUP 1 Verbs.
How was that? So now you can convert a dictionary form verb (like the ones from lesson 4) into past tense.
But it doesn’t stop there, oh no….
Japanese verb conjugation allows you to convert the past tense of a dictionary form verb into a request form verb.
For example, let’s say we have a verb like yomu (to read).
If we want to ask someone to read something, we first convert the verb to past tense.
yomu ends with mu so we remove it and add nda (see rule 6).
So now we have the past tense of read which is yonda.
Now simply by conjugating this Japanese verb by dropping the “a” at the end and adding “e” we get the request form, ie. yonde.
So if we want someone to read something, we can say yonde kudasai.
Relatively painless, huh?
Okay, so I told about masu form as well (the polite form).
So to convert to masu form is a little simpler.
If the verb falls into Rule 1 (from the past tense rules above) we simply take the ru away from the dictionary form of the verb and add masu. For example, mieru (to be able to see) becomes miemasu.
If the verbs falls into any other rule we take off the final u from the dictionary form of the verb and add imasu. For example, yomu (to read) becomes yomimasu.
Simple. But how do you make past tense polite?
Just replace masu or imasu with mashita or imashita. For example, yomu becomes yomimashita.
Finally, I have two major exceptions for you (major because they’re used a lot, not because they’re difficult).
These Japanese verb exceptions have no rules and just need to be memorized. Called GROUP 3 Verbs.
kuru (to come) past tense: kita, request: kite, polite: kimasu
suru (to do) past tense: shita, request: shite, polite: shimasu
Okay, I hope that wasn’t to painful. Japanese verb conjugation can make people cringe, but it gets easy very quickly.
You need to know this stuff because each form is used in normal everyday conversations.
My advice is print out the list of dictionary-form verbs and practice your Japanese verb conjugation with them.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.