Japanese Verbs in the Plain Volitional Form (〜よう) :Let’s sing! Let’s dance! The Japanese love to use “Let’s…,” and you should too! Today, we’re going to learn how to express suggestions and invitations using the volitional form ~よう. This lesson will only focus on the plain form and will not be covering the polite form.

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Japanese Verb Review

Before we begin with the volitional form, let’s review some common verbs. In Japanese, there are three kinds of verbs: uverbs, ruverbs, and irregular verbs.

Uverbs are verbs that end in “u” (as in “oo”) sounds. Here are some examples of uverbs.


吸うsuuto smoke
待つmatsuto wait
塗るnuruto paint
休むyasumuto rest
遊ぶasobuto play
吐くhakuto vomit
脱ぐnuguto remove (clothing)
返すkaesuto return (something)

Ru-verbs are verbs that end with the hiragana character る (ru). However, keep in mind that sometimes verbs ending in る can be considered uverbs (like 塗る above). Here are a few examples of ruverbs.


飛び降りるtobioriruto jump off
見るmiruto see/look/watch

And, lastly, these are the irregular verbs.


するsuruto do
来るkuruto come

Now that we’ve gone over some common verbs, let’s create a few sentences!

Shuumatsu boku wa tomodachi to asobu.
I will hang out with my friend this weekend.
Ashita kanojo wa toshokan ni hon wo kaesu.
She will return the book to the library tomorrow.

She will return the book to the library tomorrow.

What is the Volitional Form?

The volitional form is a verb form that expresses a suggestion or invitation. Its English equivalent is “Let’s…” 

Conjugating verbs into the volitional form will depend on the type of verb you’re using.

If it’s a uverb, you take the final hiragana character and change it to the corresponding hiragana character with an “o” ending. After that, you add an う (u) to the end. Take a look at the chart below for a quick reference guide.


If it ends in……replace it with…

If it’s a ruverb, you replace the final る (ru) character with よう (you).


Replace this……with this!

And, lastly, here are the two irregular verbs.


If it’s……it becomes…

Now that we know the rules for conjugating verbs into the volitional form, let’s take our verbs from earlier and conjugate them below!


  ➝ 吸おうsuu  ➝ suouto smoke  ➝ let’s smoke
  ➝ 待とうmatsu  ➝ matouto wait  ➝ let’s wait
  ➝ 塗ろうnuru  ➝ nurouto paint  ➝ let’s paint
  ➝ 休もうyasumu  ➝ yasumouto rest  ➝ let’s rest
  ➝ 遊ぼうasobu  ➝ asobouto play  ➝ let’s play
  ➝ 吐こうhaku  ➝ hakouto vomit  ➝ let’s vomit
(or…let’s not and say we did)
  ➝ 脱ごうnugu  ➝ nugouto remove (clothing)  ➝ let’s remove (clothing)
  ➝ 返そうkaesu  ➝ kaesouto return (something)  ➝ let’s return (something)


飛び降り  ➝ 飛び降りようtobioriru  ➝ tobioriyouto jump off  ➝ let’s jump off
  ➝ 見ようmiru  ➝ miyouto see/look/watch  ➝ let’s see/look/watch


する  ➝ しようsuru  ➝ shiyouto do  ➝ let’s do
来る  ➝ 来ようkuru  ➝ koyouto come  ➝ let’s come

How to Use the Volitional Form

The volitional form is used in three main situations: 1. to express an invitation or suggestion, 2. to suggest NOT to do something, and 3. to express what one is thinking of doing.

1. Invitations and Suggestions

In this situation, the plain form is used mostly by men because it is more direct than the polite form—which is used by both men and women. We will not be covering the polite form here.

Example sentences:

Kondo mata asobou ne.
Let’s hang out again (next time).
Kono nurete iru fuku wo nugou.
Let’s get out of these wet clothes.

By attaching the particle か (ka) to the end of the sentence, the suggestion/invitation acts as a question equivalent to “Shall I…?” or “Shall we…?” Most of the time, however, in Japanese the か is just a way to soften the suggestion.

Example sentences:

Tabako wo ippon suou ka.
Let’s go have a smoke.
(Lit. “Shall we smoke one cigarette?”)
Kawara de chotto yasumou ka.
Let’s take a rest on the riverbed.
(Lit. “Shall we rest a bit on the riverbed?”)

2. Suggesting NOT to Do Something

When suggesting that someone not do something, you use the negative –nai form of the verb followed by the particle で (de). After that, you attach おこう (okou), which is the volitional form of おく (oku, to put).

Example sentences:

Hashi kara tobi furanai de okou.
Let’s not jump off the bridge.
Ashita shigoto dakara, o-sake wo ippai nomanaide okou.
We have work tomorrow, so let’s not drink a lot of alcohol.

3. Expressing What You Are Thinking of Doing

The plain volitional form of the verb followed by the particle と (to), and then followed by 思う (omou, to think) expresses that the speaker intends to do or is thinking about doing something.

Example sentences:

Ashita rentaru bideo mise ni DVD wo kaesou to omotte iru.
I’m thinking of returning the DVD to the video shop tomorrow.
Natsuyasumi no aida NARUTO zenwa wo miyou to omou.
I think I’m going to watch every episode of NARUTO during summer vacation.
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In Summary

The plain volitional form is used to express an invitation or suggestion. The English equivalent is “Let’s…” Adding a か to the end of the sentence turns it into a question akin to “Shall I/we…?” 

When paring a verb in its negative form with でおこう, it expresses a suggestion NOT to do something. 

And, finally, when pairing a verb in its volitional form with と思う, it expresses what the speaker is thinking of doing or intends to do.

Conjugating verbs into the volitional form depends on the type of verb you’re using. With u-verbs, you change the final hiragana character ending in “u” into the corresponding character ending in “o”. After that, you tack on an う to the end. With ruverbs, you replace the final character る with よう. And the irregular verbs する and 来る become しよう and 来よう.

Now that you’ve learned a new Japanese grammar point, it’s time to get out there and practice! Never forget, practice makes perfect!   

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