Japanese Verb Conjugation – How to conjugate verb forms in Japanese : A guide to mastering verb conjugations into past, present, negative and past negative.

Hey everyone and welcome to today’s online Japanese lesson. This lesson is a bit of a masterclass on Japanese verb conjugation for past, negative, present and past negative verbs.

We are first going to look at the individual verb groups to understand the rules and then transition into the specific tenses to look at the rules in more detail for each tense and also make some example sentences to really help you get to grips with it. We will also be offering some techniques on how to learn, conjugate and utilise these more effectively.

Let’s now dive straight into the verb groups.

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Defining the Japanese Verb Conjugation Groups

Every Japanese verb in their original dictionary form end in an Uう sound and they are split into three groups based on the last syllable of the individual verb.

They are split into 3 groups because when you change them into different forms like the past, negative, past negative etc they all follow a different set of rules.

The 3 groups are as follows:

Group 1: IRU/ERU Verbs – Verbs that end in IRU いるand ERUえる

みるMiruTo see
たべるTaberuTo eat

These are considered the easiest group to conjugate into the different tenses.

Group 2:Verbs in group 2 end with syllables ku (く), gu (ぐ), su (す), mu (む), nu (ぬ), bu (ぶ), u (う), tsu (つ), or ru (る).

あるくAruku To Walk
のむNomu To drink

Group 2 is considered as the hardest group to conjugate as you need to remember a specific rule set of each different verb ending.

Group 3:Is made up of only 2 verbs, Suruする and Kuru くる

するsuruTo Do
くるkuruTo Come

Although this is not necessarily hard to conjugate, you do need to remember these individually.

We are now going to look at each form 1, 2 and 3 individually and look at the rules for conjugating them into the different forms.

Conjugating group 1 verbs into the past, negative and past negative.

Conjugating group one verbs is pretty easy. Take a look at the table below.

To change a group one verb into the past tense, you take off the る and add た

たべるTaberuたべたTabeta
みるMiruみたMita

To change a group one verb into the negative tense, you take off the る and add ない

たべるTaberuたべないTabenai
みるMiruみないMinai

To change a group one verb into the past negative tense, you take off the る and add なかった

たべるTaberuたべなかったTabenakatta
みるMiruみなかったMinakatta

Fairly straight forward right? Well you just wait till this next section. Group 2 conjugations.

Conjugating group 2 verbs into the past, negative and past negative.

Lets do the same now for group two, we are going to need some bigger tables. This is how you conjugate to the past tense. Remember each verb ending has a different rule.

きくkikuきいたkiita
いそぐisoguいそいだisoida
ためすtamesuためしたtameshite
よむyomuよんだyonda
しぬshinuしんだshinda
とぶtobuとんだtonda
いうiuいったitta
まつmatsuまったmatta
のこるnokoruのこったnokotta

So that was for the past tense lets look at the negative

きくkikuきかないkikanai
いそぐisoguいそがないisoganai
ためすtamesuためさないtamesanai
よむyomuよまないyomanai
しぬshinuしなないshinanai
とぶtobuとばないtobanai
いうiuいわないiwanai
まつmatsuまたないmatanai
のこるnokoruのこらないnokoranai

To conjugate the past negative you simply take the ない from the negative form and change that into なかった.

Conjugating group 3 verbs into the past, negative and past negative.

For this group you just have to remember them, it should only really take around 10 minutes to get them remembered well.

Plain formするsuru
Past formしたshita
Negative formしないshinai
Past Negative formしなかったshinakatta
Plain formくるkuru
Past formきたkita
Negative formこないkonai
Past Negative formこなかったkonakatta

Techniques to put into practice to learn the conjugations more efficiently

A great technique to learn these groups efficiently is to write out the same sentence multiple times in different forms. That was you can programme your brain to understand the differences when it comes to listening, speaking and reading.

Another good technique to practice is to write out as many verbs as you can from each group and change the endings to the different tenses That way you will get a lot faster, quicker.

Thanks for reading todays online Japanese lesson on How to conjugate verb forms in Japanese. We know it’s certainly a lot to take in but be sure to follow the techniques and you will be there in no time. Have a great day everyone and if you have any questions or ideas for new content, please do let us know.

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Japanese Verb Conjugation Made Easy! Well, Easier.

Verb conjugation sounds like a huge pain when learning any language. But it’s actually not too bad in Japanese.

The great thing about verbs in Japanese is that there are very few irregular ones (seriously, like only three). So once you know how to conjugate the basic types of verbs, you can conjugate anything!

Consistency is one of my favorite things about Japanese grammar. Any rule you learn can be applied to pretty much everything you already know, and everything you learn in the future.

Japanese Basic Verbs You have to study first !!!

To start off, I have a chart that will look really scary, but I promise I’ll explain it, so don’t click away too quickly. 

Taberu (食べる)Miru (見る)Kaku (書く)Hanasu (話す)Suru (する)Kuru (来る)Aru (ある)
Mizenkei (未然形)TabeMiKaka, kakoHanasa, hanasoSa, shi, seKoNai
Ren’youkei (連用形)TabeMiKakiHanashiShiKiAri
Shuushikei (終止形)TaberuMiruKakuHanasuSuruKuruAru
Rentaikei (連体形)TaberuMiruKakuHanasuSuruKuruAru
Kateikei (仮定形)TabereMireKakeHanaseSureKureAre
Meireikei (命令形)Tabero, tabeyoMiroKakeHanaseShiroKoiAre
Verb TypeIchidanIchidanGodanGodanSa-henKa-henGodan*

Japanese Verb Conjugation :Ichidan vs. Godan

Let’s start with the bottom of the chart, which says what type of verb each example is. There are two main types of verbs in Japanese, and they are distinguishable by how they conjugation

Godan (五段) verbs conjugate into all five vowels (a, i, u, e, o). You can see this with our two examples, “kaku” and “hanasu.” These are sometimes called “consonant verbs” because their root always ends in a consonant. Notice how every conjugation of “kaku” keeps the root “kak-” and “hanasu” keeps the root “hanas-.”

Ichidan (一段) verbs don’t do this. They don’t conjugate into all five vowels, and their roots end in vowels. Notice how “taberu” keeps the root “tabe-” and “miru” uses the root “mi-.” All ichidan verbs end in “-eru” or “-iru,” so that is a good sign that a verb is an ichidan. However, not all verbs that end that way are ichidans. 

There are three irregular verbs. Only three. And they are so common, you’ll get their conjugations down quickly. 

“Suru” is not classified as ichidan or godan, but rather “sa-hen” (サ変), with “hen” meaning “weird.” It’s literally marked as irregular. “Kuru” is very similarly called “ka-hen” (カ変).

“Aru” is technically a godan, but it’s also a little weird. This is mostly because of the negative form, which we will talk about. 

Japanese Verb Conjugation : Mizenkei (未然形)

Our first conjugation is sometimes called the “negative form” of the verb. Even though it actually means “imperfective form.” The easiest way to remember this one is that this is the form you add “-nai” (ない) to in order to make a verb negative. With our examples, we could say:

  • Tabenai – “not eat”
  • Minai – “not see”
  • Kakanai – “not write”
  • Hanasanai – “not speak”
  • Shinai – “not do”
  • Konai – “not come”
  • Nai – “not be”

Notice how “aru” doesn’t really have a root for this one. That’s what makes it so irregular. 

You can also add “you” (よう) to ichidans and “u” (う) to godans in this form to express intention or probability. For example, you could say “Tabeyou~!” (食べよう〜!) to say “Let’s eat!” This is why the godans have their “o” form written here too, because the “u” is added at the end of that conjugation

Japanese Verb Conjugation : Ren’youkei (連用形)

This next conjugation is the “conjunctive form.” This is the form you add “-masu” to. So to be polite, you can say “Kakimasu” (書きます) or “Mimasu” (見ます). It is also used for past tense, so you could say “Tabeta” (食べた) or “I ate.”

“Ren’youkei” literally means it can connect to verbs and adjectives. And it can. For example, if you want to combine “to write” and “easy” to say something is “easy to write,” you can say “Kakiyasui” (書きやすい) with “kaki” being the conjugated form of “kaku” and “yasui” meaning “easy.” 

Japanese Verb Conjugation : Shuushikei (終止形)

If you know kanji, you can see that “shuushikei” has both the kanji for “end” and “stop.” I remember this one because this is the verb conjugation you can end a sentence with. It’s also sometimes called the “dictionary form,” because if you look up any verb in the dictionary, they will be in this form. 

Japanese Verb Conjugation : Rentaikei (連体形)

Is this the same as shuushikei? It’s conjugated the same. But this conjugation is called “rentaikai” when it precedes a noun. 

If you want to say “a person who speaks” you could say “hanasu-hito” (話す人). There are other fancier words for this, obviously, but it gets your point across. And honestly, I tack verbs in front of nouns as descriptors all the time. You’ll hear it a lot. 

Japanese Verb Conjugation : Kateikei (仮定形)

This conjugation is conditional. It’s probably the most narrow type of conjugation because it only goes with one grammar structure, and that is the conditional “-ba.” This is almost like “if” in English, but “if” is way more complicated in Japanese and deserves its own article to explain.

Here, we are only talking about “-ba.” So you could say “Sureba” (すれば) or “If you do it.” 

Japanese Verb Conjugation : Meireikei (命令形)

This form is the “command form.” It’s not a very polite or formal way to use a verb as a command, but it still works. 

I included two forms in the “taberu” column because “-ro” is used in spoken language and “-yo” is used in written. The rest I just put the spoken form because you probably won’t be writing as much as you’ll be speaking in Japanese. 

Learn JLPT N4 – Japanese Intransitive(じどうし) verb & transitive(たどうし) verb

Conclusion

This is a very basic summary of something you could spend months studying at university (I know I did). Personally, I think learning conjugation with the actual Japanese grammar terms makes a lot more sense, and I’m sure you’ll be able to understand it with a bit of effort. What helped me the most was making my own charts and practicing conjugating different verbs until I got the hang of it.

You might not need that though. A lot of this will come naturally if you practice speaking with native speakers often. However you learn it, take the time to get conjugation down. It’ll make learning new verbs way easier in the future. 

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