Japanese verb forms

There are numerous verb forms in the Japanese language, and they must be studied in detail. But to list these verbal forms, we created this article that summarized a little of each verbal form. So, if you have found a verb but don't know its conjugations, this article can be of help.

Sometimes I will mention the way to conjugate a verb by changing its ending, but I want to make it clear that I will mention it for the verbs of Group I (godan) the rest of the exceptions and verbs that the rule does not apply to must be seen more fully in another article.


The article does not aim to give all the details about each form of the verb, just say what its function is, see important details and also show an example sentence of use. To go deeper into each shape, we will create a detailed article about each one.

Common and Formal

There are two main ways that verbs are written. There is its common and informal form known as “Dictionary Form”And its polished and formal form known as“-Masu shape“.


The dictionary form, or infinitive, is the way in which verbs appear in the dictionary and are cited, they end with the letter "U". This form is the same as the common non-past form.

This form is used as a base to conjugate verbs in another form, and can be used in informal conversations. The common form is also used in formal languages, in the middle of the sentence and as a modifier.

The form “ます masu”Is the formal way of speaking a verb. Also known as a non-past form, the but u it can indicate the present and the future, depending on the content of the sentence. It is also used to make some conjugations. Most of the time, just take a verb in the dictionary form to change the last letter "U" per "I" and add the -but-u.

To learn more about the dictionary form and the form -but-u click here and read an article I wrote.


Negative form

In Japanese instead of using the word not, verbs have a negative conjugation that is made with the endings -nai or -masen. O -nai is used for verbs in the dictionary form while -masen is used for polished verbs or in masu form.

  • 私は日本語を話せない (Watashi wa nihongo o hanasenai) I don't speak Japanese

Form -OK

The shape -OK (or -gives) is used to indicate: that the action happened in the past; or that the action has already been completed. To transform a verb into the form -OK to the negative just switch to -nakatta.


To pass verbs with form -but-u for the shape -OK just replace the -but-u per -mashita it's the -masen per -masen deshita.

  • 行きませんでした (ikimasendeshita) I did not go;

Form -you 

The verbs in -te shape are used to link prayers that followed. And they are also used together with other verbs, such as いる, くる, くださる, to form the infinitive, desiderative and etc. The -te form can be a verb in the imperative form that is used for several things like indicating actions in sequence, or asking for favors.

  • 昨日、私は起きて、食事をして、出かけました。
  • kinō, watashi wa okite, shokuji wo shite, dekakemashita;
  • Yesterday, I woke up, had a meal and left;

Potential shape

THE potential shape is used to indicate the ability or not to do something. In the verbs of type I final -u is replaced by -eru. In the negative form, the -eru for -enai. 

In the verbs of type II i final -ru is replaced by -rareru. In the negative form, the -rareru is replaced by -rarenai. To pass a verb in the potential form of the common style to the polished style, just replace the ending -ru per -but-u. In the negative form, the -nai per -masen.

  • 本が読める。 (Hon wo yomeru) - I can / can read the book;
  • 魚は食べられない。 (Sakana wa taberarenai) - I can't eat the fish;

Passive form

The passive form gives the idea that something or someone suffers the action. The passive form is constructed with the verb in the passive form and by the executor of the action, indicated by the particle に (ni). Be very careful not to confuse a verb in the potential form with a verb in the passive form. Passive verbs use the ending -areru.

  • Sono の本は来月出版されます。 (sono hon wa raigetsu shuppan saremasu) This book will be published in the next month;

Causative form

Uses the causative form to indicate that "someone makes someone do something" or "someone lets someone do something".

For verbs of type I, final -u is replaced by -aseru. If the type I verb ends in two vowels, the -u is replaced by -waseru. For verbs of type II, final -ru is replaced by -saseru.

  • 子供を学校へ行かせました。 (kodomo wo gakko and…) I made my son go to school;
  • 本を読まされました。 (hon wo yomasaremashita) I was forced to read a book;

Conditional form

The conditional form roughly corresponds to the forms if or When in English. However, in some cases they are interchangeable. The conditional form can be expressed in three different ways for all verb types: the form '-eba, the shape -tare and the particle to plus the verb in the dictionary form.

The shape -ba and -to they cannot be followed by a verb, phrase or sentence that indicates past. The shape -to it cannot be followed by verbs indicating a request or invitation. to and -eba indicate condition, while -tare indicates a particular condition or circumstance.

  • 時間があるとできます。 (jikan ga…) It is possible to do if there is time;
  • 時間があればできます。 (jikan ga…) It is possible to do when you have time;
  • 明日、時間があったらできます。 (ashita, jikan ga…) I'll do it tomorrow, if there is time

Desiderative shape -tai 

The verb in the form tai indicates a desire to want to do something. Or it simply means "I want" or "I don't want" something, some action. The verbal root of conjugation -but-u, then just replace the but u per tai. See more about the tai form.

  • 日本に行きたいです (nihon ni ikitaidesu) I I want go to Japan;

Volitional or Presumptive Form

The volitional form is the same as saying "let’s do something". With this form you invite people to perform the action of the verb. The volitional form of the verbs is made by exchanging the ending “ます” of the verb for the ending “ましょう”. When the verb is in the basic form, then the change is made with the last letter of the word and changing it to “ょう”.

  • 皆行きましょう。 (Mina ikimashou) Guys, let’s go!
  • テレビをみましょう。 (Terebi wo mimashou) Let’s watch TV

To invite people to perform a verb action, just put it in the negative with a question, example:

  • どこか行きませんか? (Dokoka ikimasenka?) Are we going somewhere?

Understanding conjugations

As this article was summarized without explaining in detail how to conjugate each verb, we will leave a table of the verb 話す(Hanasu – Falar)  being conjugated in the forms mentioned above in all tenses and in the polished form and the common form.

話す – Falar Form-て:  話して Infinitive: 話し
Form / Conjugation Common Formal Negative C. Negative F.
Indicative Gift 話す 話します 話さない 話しません
Volitional / Presumptive 話そう




 話さないだろう  話さないでしょう
Imperative  話せ  話してください  話すな  話さないでください
Indicative Past  話した  話しました  話さなかった  話しませんでした
Presumptive past  話しただろう  話したでしょう  話さなかっただろう  話さなかったでしょう
Progressive gift  話している  話しています  話していません
Progressive past  話していた  話していました  話していませんでした
Potential shape  話せる  話せます  話せない  話せません
Conditional form  話したら  話しましたら  話さなかったら  話しませんでしたら
Causative form  話させる  話させます  話さない  話させません
Passive form  話される  話されます  話されない  話されません
Provisional conditional -eba  話せば  話しませば


 話さなければ  話しませんなら

Source: wiktionary