verb forms in japanese

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There are numerous verb forms in the Japanese language, and they must be studied in detail. But to list these verb forms, we created this article that summarized a little of each verb form. So, if you have found a verb but don't know its conjugations, this article may 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 the Group I (godan) the other exceptions and verbs that the rule does not apply should be seen in more depth in another article.

The article is not intended to give all the details about each form of the verb, only to say what its function is, see important details and also show an example sentence of use. To go deeper into each shape, let's 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 polite, formal form known as "-masu form".

The dictionary form, or infinitive, is the form 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 tense form.

This form is used as a base to conjugate verbs into 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.

Already the form "ます masu” is the formal way of saying a verb. Also known as the non-past tense form, the but u can indicate the present and future, depending on the content of the sentence. It is also used to make some conjugations. Most of the times it is enough to take a verb in the dictionary form to change the last letter "U" By "I" and add the -but-u.

To learn more about the dictionary form and the -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 dictionary form while -masen is used for polite verbs or in the masu form.

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


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 for negative just change to -nakatta.

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

  • 行きませんでした (ikimasendeshitaI didn't go;

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form yourself 

The verbs in shape - yourself are used to link sentences that have occurred afterward. And they are also used together with other verbs, such as いる, くる, くださる, to form the infinitive, desiderative, etc. The form -te can be a verb in the imperative form that is used for various 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。
  • Yesterday, I woke up, had breakfast, and went out;
  • Yesterday, I woke up, had a meal and left.

potential form

A potential form 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 polite style, just replace the ending -ru By -but-u. In the negative form, change the -nai By -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 undergoes the action. The passive form is constructed with the verb in the passive form and by the performer 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. Verbs in the passive form use the ending -areru.

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

causative form

use 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 e...) 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-yeah, the shape -tara and the article para plus the verb in dictionary form.

The shape -ba and -to cannot be followed by a verb, phrase or clause indicating the past. The shape -to cannot be followed by verbs indicating request or invitation. para and -yeah indicate condition, while -tara indicates a particular condition or circumstance.

  • 時間があるとできます。(jikan ga...) It is possible to do it if there is time;
  • 時間があればできます。(jikan ga...) It is possible to do it 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 I have time

-tai desiderative form 

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

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

Volitional form or presumptive

The volitional form is the same as saying "let's\let's do something". With this form you invite people to perform the action of the verb. The volitional form of verbs is made by changing the ending "ます" of the verb to the ending "ましょう". When the verb is in basic form, then the swap is done 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 along with a question, for example:

  • どこか行きませんか?(dokoka ikimasenka?) Shall we go somewhere?

Understanding conjugations

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

話す - Falar Form yourself て:  話して Infinitive: 話し
Form / Conjugation Common Formal negative C. negative F.
present indicative 話す 話します 話さない 話しません
Volitive / 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
Past Indicative  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
Present continuous  話している  話しています  話していません
Present continuous tense  話していた  話していました  話していませんでした
potential form  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 parole -eba  話せば  話しませば


 話さなければ  話しませんなら

Source: wikitionary

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