Japanese Verbs – Dictionary Form and Masu Form

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In this article we are going to talk about Japanese verbs, today we are going to study the dictionary form and the shape but u. In other articles we will study different conjugations.

In Japanese, verbs are not affected by the subject. In other words, whether the subject is singular or plural, first person or second person, verbs do not change their form. As far as verb tenses are concerned, there are only two divisions of time; non-past (present and future) and the past. Present and future tenses are the same, and can be differentiated by context.

First we have the Simple and original form of the verb, the dictionary form. This form can be used on some casual occasions, we will use it as a basis for changing the tense and verb form in this article. In dictionary form all verbs end with the letter "U".

As we learn the way but u and the dictionary form we will be ready to learn new conjugations and forms of verbs.

Throughout the articles we will learn all the verb forms that are:

  • the dictionary form (infinitive)
  • the non-past form
  • the negative form
  • the form -ta (past tense)
  • the way you
  • transitive and intransitive forms
  • the passive form (-areru, -rareru)
  • the causative form (-aseru, -waseru)
  • the potential form (-eru, -rareru)
  • the conditional form (-eba, -tara)
  • the imperative form (-nasai)
  • the desiderative form (-tai)
  • the volitional form (-ō)

-masu form ます形

The form “ます masu” is the formal way of saying a verb. Taking a verb from the dictionary form and changing it to the ます form varies according to its ending, verbs are divided into groups. (We will see more about this division of groups in another article).

To facilitate this division and transformation we must divide the verbs ending in “る – ru” of the other verbs. After that we can do the following:

  • Verbs that do not end with “る” must be replaced with the last hiragana that ends with "U" by the hiragana of the same group that ends with "i". See the table with some examples:
Verb Dictionary form -masu form Terminations
Speak 話す (hanasu) 話します す = し
To write 書く (kaku) 書きます く = ぎ
Swim 泳ぐ (oyogu) 泳ぎます ぐ = ぎ
To read 読む (yomu) 読みます む = み
To play 遊ぶ (asobu) 遊びます ぶ = び
Rise 立つ (tatsu) 立ちます つ = ち
To die 死ぬ (shinu) 死にます ぬ = に
Sing 歌う (utau) 歌います う = い
  • There are verbs with “る” that must be replaced by “り” but there are verbs ending in “る” that must be removed from the “る” and directly put the “ます” as for example (Comer – taberu – 食べる = 食べます) . For this reason one should focus on learning the words;
  • There are other verbs that the rule of replacing the ending doesn't work, examples:
Verb Dictionary form -masu form
To do する します
Come over 来る (くる) きます

Now let's see how to conjugate verbs in the ます form according to their tense:

 Time ます shape Example (遊ぶ – asobu)
 Present / Future ます 遊びます – Play
Negative ません 遊びません – Don't play
Past ました 遊びました – Played
Negative Past ませんでした 遊びませんでした – Not kidding
  • 本を読みます (ほんをよみます) – Reading a book
  • カラオケで 歌いました (カラオケで歌いました) – I sang in karaoke

The same thing happens with the verb in dictionary form. It is possible to conjugate the verb directly in the dictionary form without changing it to the masu form, for this we must learn more verb conjugations. But below I will leave some examples:

 Time Example (遊ぶ – asobu)
 Present / Future 遊ぶ – play
Negative 遊ばない – Don't play
Past 遊んだ – joked
Negative Past 遊ばなかった – Not kidding
  • 本を読む (ほんをよむ) – Reading a book
  • カラオケで歌った (カラオケでうたった) – I sang in karaoke


It is worth remembering that there are other verb conjugations that we will study in another article, which use both the form but u such as dictionary form. Just keep in mind that the dictionary form is informal and the form but u is formal, and so simplify our mind to conjugate verbs in other forms.

how to exercise I would like you to comment on example sentences in the dictionary form and in the form but u. Thank you for the comments and shares, and until next time!

We recommend the article on verbs in the form tai.

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