[Summary] Japanese Verb Conjugation Perfect Guide : Verb conjugation can certainly be a challenging task for Japanese learners around the world. In this article series we are going to analyse, understand and utilise the most effective conjugation techniques to ensure you can progress further on your learning journey.

Japanese Verb Conjugation : Verb Groups & the Masu Form

We are going to be concentrating on how to change dictionary form verbs ending in “U” sounds in the “Masu form”. The Japanese language has varying levels of formality and politeness based on the language they use. The “Masu form” is considered to be the polite form and is the go to form to use when communicating with teachers, co-workers, acquaintances, generally people you respect in day to day life.

Let’s have a look at the difference between “Masu form” and the “Dictionary form”

Group 1: Iru & Eru Verbs

Group 1: Iru & Eru VerbsThese verbs are really easy to conjugate to the masu form. All you have to do is simply take off Ru る and add Masu ます

English (Meaning)Romaji日本語(Japanese)Hiragana
To EatTaberu – Tabemasu食べる – 食べますたべる – たべます
To BorrowKariru – Karimasu借りる – 借りますかりる – かります

Group 2: Ru Verbs

Each ending syllable changes differently into the Masu form. Most of these endings you can take away る Ru and add Imasu います let’s take a look.

English (Meaning)Romaji日本語(Japanese)Hiragana
To Listen / AskKiku – Kikimasu聞く- 聞きますきく- ききます
To SwimOyogu – Oyogimasu泳ぐ – 泳ぎますおよぐ
To SpeakHanasu – Hanashimasu話す – 話しますはなす – はなします

Group 3 – Suru and Kuru

These verbs change into:

English (Meaning)Romaji日本語(Japanese)Hiragana
To DoSuru – Shimasuする – しますする – します
To ComeKuru – Kimasu来る―来ますくるーきます

It’s worth noting there are a few exceptions to the rule. It is best to note these down and remember them as separate cases as you come across them as they aren’t too many.

Japanese Verb Basics Part 1 – Verb Groups & the Masu Form

Japanese Verb Conjugation :Conjugating the Masu form into the past tense

So firstly what we are going to do establish the tenses we are going to change the plain masu form into. Let’s take for example Tabemasu, we are going to learn how to take “To Eat” and change that into the negative, past and past negative tenses. This would equate to; won’t eat, ate and to not eat.

So as you can see these three Japanese verb conjugations of the masu form are really going to help your Japanese progress to the next level for expressing actions in time. First we are going to look at the Past tense.

To conjugate a Masu form Verb into the past we have to turn Masu ます into Mashita ました

Lets look at some examples for this specific Japanese verb conjugation.

EnglishRomajiJapaneseEnglishRomajiJapanese(Past)
To EatTabemasuたべますAteTabemashitaたべました
To BorrowKarimasuかりますBorrowedKarimashitaかりました
To DoShimasuしますDidShimashitaしました
To ComeKimasuきますCameKimashitaきました

We would suggest writing sentences to practice all of these different verb tenses to ensure they stick so you can use them easily in your continuing Japanese study and communication.

For example write a sentence such as りんごをたべます eat an apple,
then try to conjugate the sentence into the past, negative and past negative.

りんごをたべました  ate an apple
りんごをたべません I will not eat an apple
りんごをたべませんでした I did not eat an apple

How to conjugate Japanese masu form verbs like a pro!

PR

How to conjugate plain form Japanese verbs like a true master

Japanese Verb Conjugation : group 1 plain form verbs into the past

So firstly we will start with the easiest group, group 1 – Iru + Eru verbs

To conjugate this group to past tense all you do is take off the “ru” る and add “ta” た.

This is one of the simplest groups to work with for verb conjugation.

to leave; to exit DeruでるLeftDetaでた
To OpenAkeruあけるopenedAketaあけた

So as you can see this is actually a fairly easy verb group to conjugate.

Japanese Verb Conjugation : group 2 plain form verbs into the past

Now group 2 includes all verbs ending in: 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).

Now, each verb ending conjugates differently so unfortunately you just have to remember them. Once you get used to conjugating these verbs it does get easier.

Lets have a look at the conjugation table:

To walkArukuあるく く becomesいたwalkedあるいた
To swimOyoguおよぐぐ becomesいだswamおよいだ
To drinkNomuのむむ becomesんだdrankのんだ

We would definitely recommend writing out these Japanese verb conjugations for group 2 as much as possible in order to get used to it.

Japanese Verb Conjugation : group 3 plain form verbs into the past

Hurray, the hard part is certainly over, group 3 consists of only 2 verbs so it’s just a case of remembering them, let’s take a look at the final Japanese verb conjugation of group 3 into the plain past form.

To Do SuruするDidShitaした
To ComeKuruくるCameKitaきた
How to conjugate plain form Japanese verbs like a true master.

How to conjugate plain form Japanese verbs into the negative and past negative forms.

Japanese Verb Conjugation : group 1 plain form verbs into the negative

So again firstly we will start with the easiest group, group 1 – Iru + Eru verbs

To conjugate this group to past tense all you do is take off the “ru” る and add “nai” ない.

This is one of the simplest groups to work with for verb conjugation.

to leave; to exit DeruでるTo not leaveDenaiでない
To OpenAkeruあけるTo not openAkenaiあけない

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conjugate these iru/eru verbs into the plan negative tense. Lets take it up a notch and move over to group 2!

Japanese Verb Conjugation : group 2 plain form verbs into the negative

Group 2 includes all verbs ending in: 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).

Now fortunately with most verbs in this group you can take off the U sounds and add “anai”

Lets have a look at the conjugation table:

To walkArukuあるく く becomesかないTo not walkあるかない
To swimOyoguおよぐぐ becomesがないTo not swimおよがない
To flyTobuとぶぶ becomesばないTo not flyとばない
To sayIuいうう becomesわないTo not sayいわない

Now its not as difficult as conjugating into the past form but there are still some exceptions to the “anai” rules as you can see with U and Tsu but they shouldn’t cause you many problems. Try and conjugate some sentences of your own to practice. The key is to constantly practice Japanese verb conjugations until you can do them in your sleep.

Japanese Verb Conjugation : group 3 plain form verbs into the negative

So now onto the final group, group three! Let’s conjugate these two plain form Japanese verbs into the negative form.

To Do SuruするTo not doShinaiしない
To ComeKuruくるTo not comeKonaiこない
How to conjugate plain form Japanese verbs into the negative and past negative forms

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Japanese verb conjugation chart

Check Japanese Basic Verb Video too.

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