MASU(ます): How do you properly use this suffix? : Anyone who is studying the basics or already know the basics know that the suffix, -masu, is one of the first things you learn in order to actually be able to communicate in Japanese. This usually isn’t discussed in detail so hopefully, you can have a better understanding of -masu after reading this article!

Desu&Masu – Japanese words foreigners tend to make mistakes

What is it(masu)?

This suffix is probably one of the most used in the Japanese language aside from -desu. Let’s talk about it! Masu is a suffix commonly used after a verb and usually tells a lot about the status of a verb. First things first though, lets talk about its origin. It is generally believed to be from the old Japanese verb, “まゐらする(mawirasuru: to humbly do something for someone more superior)”, with a little bit of its meaning denoting from the verb “参る (mairu: to go to someone superiors place”. From that, it went through its various forms, eventually ending up with the “-masu” that we know of today. It is used as a suffix that is  paired up with a verb.

This is used to make the verb or phrase sound more polite and more respectful. As with other Japanese suffixes, it has many variants that express its tense and whether or not its the positive or negative form of the verb it modifies.

How is it different to DESU?

A lot of Japanese students ask this question because of how “-masu” and “-desu” are to of the most used suffixes in Japanese and how they both are added to a word to show politeness and respect. As what we have discussed above, “-masu” is used as suffixes for verbs. “-desu” however, is used as a suffix for adjectives, and never verbs. Hopefully that makes it clearer so be careful not to get confused!


Forms and tenses

As all Japanese students know, Japanese is a complex language because of its tenses and different levels of politeness. For this article, we will only be discussing informal and polite formal levels of politeness, the basics that you will need in order to have a proper casual and polite conversation with someone else. For showing politeness, “-masu”. “-mashita”, “-masen”, and “-masendeshita”, are usually found at the end of verbs in a phrase. Be careful about who you use it with though! Always remember that informal forms of the Japanese language should only be used with close family, close friends, and in general, NEVER with anyone more superior. 

As we mentioned above, we will mainly discuss and give examples for the simple polite form of verbs that end in “-masu” and its tenses. We will include the informal/casual forms of the verbs we will use and can be used in the sample sentences below by simply changing the simple polite form of the verb with the informal form of the verb. This will change the level of politeness of the sentence and can only be used with a more intimate, and casual audience. Please refer to the tables and the sample sentences below to have a better understanding of f the uses of “-masu”, “-mashita”, “-masen”, and “-masendeshita”. Study away! 

Present tense

Positive (V-ます)

EnglishInformalSimple Polite
Eat 食べるTaberu 食べますTabemasu

Here are a few sentence examples:

Mainichi gohan wo tabemasu.
I eat rice everyday.
Konban hachi ji no nemasu.
I will sleep at 8 pm tonight.
Akai bo-tan wo oshimasu.
Press the red button.



EnglishInformalSimple Polite
Not exercise運動しないUndoushinai運動しますUndoushimasen
Not drink飲まないNomanai飲みませんNomimasen
Not write書かないKakanai書きませんKakimasen

Here are a few sentence examples:

Kyou tsukareta kara undoushimasen.
I’m tired today so I won’t exercise.
Osake wo nomimasen.
I don’t drink alcohol.
Kanji wo kakimasen.
I can’t read kanji.

Past tense


For the past tense, “-masu” is changed to “-mashita” for the simple polite form.

EnglishInformalSimple Polite
Played/went out遊んだAsonda遊びましたAsobimashita

Here are a few sentence examples:

Kinou omu raisu wo tabemashita.
I ate omu rice yesterday.
Senshuu tomodachi to asobimashita.
I went out with my friends last week.
Kesa ni jikan gurai eigo wo benkyoushimashita.
I studied English for 2 hours this morning.



For the past negative tense, “-masu” is changed to “-masendeshita” for the simple polite form.

EnglishInformalSimple Polite
Did not work働かなかったHatarakanakatta働きませんでしたHatarakimasendeshita
Did not read読まなかったYomanakatta読みませんでしたYomimasendeshita
Did not watch 見なかったMinakatta見ませんでしたMimasendeshita

Here are a few sentence examples:

Yumi san wa ni shuukan hatarakimendeshita.
Yuni didn’t work for 2 weeks.
Hon wo yomimasendeshita.
I didn't read the book.
Kinou no tenisu ge-mu wo mimasendeshita.
I didn’t watch yesterdays tennis game.

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