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.

What is Japanese verb conjugation?

What is Japanese verb conjugation? Japanese Verb Conjugation is to change a verb from its base form into different tenses; past tense, participle, present perfect, present continuous etc.

This is just like changing “To Eat” into “Ate” “Eating” “Did not Eat” “Won’t Eat”  etc.

Before we can put this exciting new concept into practice, firstly we need to look at the 3 Japanese verb groups in Japanese.  

To make our job of conjugating Japanese verbs easier, we can split up all Japanese verbs into 3 groups. These groups allow us to follow a set of rules which can be applied to specific verbs within each group.

Japanese Verb Group 1: Iru & Eru Verbs

Japanese Verbs ending in Iru and Eru for example

English (Meaning)Romaji日本語(Japanese)Hiragana
To EatTaberu食べるたべる
To BorrowKariru借りるかりる

Japanese Verb Group 2: Ru Verbs

This is for all Japanese verbs ending in “U” syllables: ku (く), gu (ぐ), su (す), mu (む), nu (ぬ), bu (ぶ), u (う), tsu (つ), or ru (る).

English (Meaning)Romaji日本語(Japanese)Hiragana
To Listen / AskKiku聞くきく
To SwimOyogu泳ぐおよぐ
To SpeakHanasu話すはなす
To ReadYomu読むよむ
To DieShinu死ぬしぬ
To CallYobu呼ぶよぶ
To SayIu言ういう
To WaitMatsu待つまつ
To TakeToru取るとる

Japanese Verb Group 3: Suru and Kuru

There are only 2 Japanese verbs in group 3 which makes this group a bit easier for you.

English (Meaning)Romaji日本語(Japanese)Hiragana
To DoSuruするする
To ComeKuru来るくる

So now we have covered all 3 Japanese verb groups you can use this as the basis for all of your Japanese verb conjugation. Make sure to study this thoroughly as it will be your foundation moving forward.

In this first article of the conjugation series, we are going to be concentrating on how to change dictionary form Japanese 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”

りんごをたべる
Ringo Wo Taberu
To eat an Apple

This sentence is considered very casual and should only be used between friends or people you are comfortable with as a rule

りんごをたべます
Ringo Wo Tabemasu
To eat an Apple

This is a lot more polite and would be considered much more acceptable when speaking to colleagues, teachers and generally people you respect.

Check Japanese Basic Verb Video too.

So how do we conjugate a dictionary form verb into a Masu form verb?

Each verb group conjugates to the Masu form differently  so let’s take a look.

Japanese Verb Group 1: Iru & Eru Verbs

These Japanese 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

Japanese Verb 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
To ReadYomu – Yomimasu読む – 読みますよむ – よみます
To DieShinu – Shinimasu死ぬ – 死にますしぬ – しにます
To CallYobu – Yobimasu呼ぶ – 呼びますよぶ – よびます
To SayIu – iimasu言う – 言いますいう – いいます
To WaitMatsu – machimasu待つ – 待ちますまつ – まちます
To TakeToru – Torimasu取る – 取りますとる – とります

Su す verbs are slightly different, they remove the Su す and add します

To Speak

Hanasu – Hanashimasu
はなす – はなします
話す – 話します

Tsu つ verbs are different too, they remove the Tsu つ and add  Chimasuちます

To Wait
Matsu - Machimasu
まつ – まちます
待つ – 待ちます

The last group we are going to look at is:

Japanese Verb 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.

In the next article we are going to look at conjugating the Masu form into the past, negative and past negative.

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If you want to learn more Japanese verbs, Take a look this video to learn Japanese Verb Conjugation.This video explains to you about Summary of verb forms!

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