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 several 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 time divisions; non-past (present and future) and the past. Present times and future 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 to change the tense and verbal form in this article. In the dictionary form all verbs end with the letter "U".


As we learn how 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 verbal forms that are:

  • the dictionary form (infinitive)
  • the non-past form
  • the negative form
  • the -ta form (past tense)
  • the -te shape
  • the 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 shape ます形

The "ます masu" form is the formal way of speaking a verb. Taking a verb from the dictionary form and switching to the ます form varies according to its ending, the 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 verbs ending in "る - ru" of the other verbs. That done we can do the following:

  • Verbs that do not end with “る” should be changed to 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 Form Dictionary -Masu shape Terminations
Speak (hanasu) ます す = し
Write (kaku) ます く = ぎ
Swim (oyogu) ます ぐ = ぎ
Read (yomu) ます む = み
Play ぶ (asobu) ます ぶ = び
Rise (OKtsu) ます つ = ち
Die (shinaked) ます ぬ = に
Sing (utau) ます う = い
  • There are verbs with "る" that must be replaced by "り" but there are verbs ending with "る" that must be removed from "る" and directly placed "ます" as for example (Comer - taberu - 食べ = 食べます). For this reason, one must focus on learning words;
  • There are other verbs that the rule to replace the termination does not work, examples:
Verb Form Dictionary -Masu shape
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 form ます according to their tense:

 Time Shape ます 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 - Played
Negative Past ませんでした 遊びませんでした - No kidding
  • 本を読みます (ほんをよみます) - Read a book
  • Can 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 switching to masu form, for that we must learn more verb conjugations. But below I will leave some examples:

 Time Example (遊ぶ - asobu)
 Present / Future - Play
Negative 遊ばない - Don't play
Past 遊ん - Played
Negative Past 遊ばなかった - No kidding
  • 本を読む (ほんをよむ) - Read 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 verbal conjugations that we will study in another article, which uses both the but u such as dictionary form. Just keep in mind that the dictionary form is informal and the way but u it is formal, and thus simplifying our mind to conjugate verbs in other forms.

How to exercise I would like you to comment on example sentences in dictionary form and in the form but u. I'll thank you for the comments and shares, and see you next time!

We recommend the article on verbs in tai form.


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