Verbs are the most important part of Japanese sentences. Japanese verbs don't conjugate depending on the subject, but do conjugate colorfully depending on the type of predicate, such as affirmation, negation, politeness, and so forth. But, don't worry. Japanese verb system is well organized, so it isn't hard to master.
Japanese verbs are classified into three types: u-verbs, ru-verbs, and irregular verbs. Here in this lesson, let's study u-verbs. This verb type is of the majority to which most of the Japanese verbs belong. Here's an example that contains kaku (to write) as the affirmative form. In the plain form, the predicate ends in the dictionary form of the verb, besides, in the polite form the tail of the verb -u is replaced by -imasu.
Sakura wa Tomoyo ni tegami o kaku.
Sakura wa Tomoyo ni tegami o kaki-masu. (polite form)
Sakura writes a letter to Tomoyo.
Sakura wa Tomoyo ni tegami o kaku no?
Sakura wa Tomoyo ni tegami o kaki-masu ka? (polite form)
Does Sakura write a letter to Tomoyo?
To negate a sentence, change the tail -u to -anai for the plain form, and to -imasen for the polite form. Like in the noun and adjective cases, the semi-polite form -anai desu is possible as well.
Sakura wa Tomoyo ni tegami o kakanai.
Sakura wa Tomoyo ni tegami o kakimasen. (polite form)
Sakura wa Tomoyo ni tegami o kakanai desu. (semi-polite form)
Sakura doesn't write a letter to Tomoyo.
All u-type verbs conjuate the same way that was explained above. Now, let's conjuate some u-type verbs to get the hang of it.
Sakura flies on the Fly.
Sakura wa Furai de tobu. (plain affirmative)
Sakura wa Furai de tobu no? (plain interrogative)
Sakura wa Furai de tobanai. (plain negative)
Sakura wa Furai de tobimasu. (polite affirmative)
Sakura wa Furai de tobi-masu ka? (polite interrogative)
Sakura wa Furai de tobimasen. (polite negative)
Sakura wa Furai de tobanai desu. (semi-polite negative)
In Japanese ti-sound shifts to chi, and tu to tsu. Therefore, katsu (to win) conjugates as follows:
Sakura wins against Yue.
Sakura wa Yue ni katsu. (plain affirmative)
Sakura wa Yue ni katsu no? (plain interrogative)
Sakura wa Yue ni katanai. (plain negative)
Sakura wa Yue ni kachi-masu. (polite affirmative)
Sakura wa Yue ni kachi-masu ka? (polite interrogative)
Sakura wa Yue ni kachimasen. (polite negative)
Sakura wa Yue ni katanai desu. (semi-polite negative)
Similarly, si-sound shifts to shi, then hanasu (to speak) conjugates as follows:
Kero speaks to Sakura.
Kero wa Sakura ni hanasu. (plain affirmative)
Kero wa Sakura ni hanasu no? (plain interrogative)
Kero wa Sakura ni hanasanai. (plain negative)
Kero wa Sakura ni hashi-masu. (polite affirmative)
Kero wa Sakura ni hanashi-masu ka? (polite interrogative)
Kero wa Sakura ni hanashimasen. (polite negative)
Kero wa Sakura ni hanasanai desu. (semi-polite negative)
For a verb whose dictionary form ends in u-syllable with mute consonant (as in kau, not kaku), the conjuction for the plain negative is -wanai instead of -anai. For example, kau (= to buy) conjugate as follows:
Chiharu buys a stuffed animal.
Chiharu wa nuigurumi o kau. (plain affirmative)
Chiharu wa nuigurumi o kau no? (plain interrogative)
Chiharu wa nuigurumi o kawanai. (plain negative)
Chiharu wa nuigurumi o kaimasu. (polite affirmative)
Chiharu wa nuigurumi o kaimasu ka? (polite interrogative)
Chiharu wa nuigurumi o kaimasen. (polite negative)
Chiharu wa nuigurumi o kawanai desu. (semi-polite negative)
The second verb type of the three is the ru-verbs. Most of the verbs that end in -eru and -iru fall in this type. In fact, ru-verbs conjugate very simple—even simpler than u-verbs. To make the polite form, change the tail of the verb from -ru to -masu.
Dasshu no kādo ga nigeru.
Dasshu no kādo ga nigemasu. (polite form)
The Dash Card escapes.
The interrogative form of ru-verbs is just the same as u-verbs. Namely, postpose no to the plain affirmative form, and the plain interrogative form will be obtained. Besides, to obtain the polite interrogaitve form, postpose ka to the polite affirmative.
Dasshu no kādo ga nigeru no?
Dasshu no kādo ga nigemasu ka? (polite form)
Does the Dash Card escape?
Replacing the tail -ru with -nai, the plain negative form will be obtained. For the polite negative from, change -ru to -masen. Both procedures are almost the same as u-verbs. Of course the semi-polite form -nai desu is possible as well.
Dasshu no kādo ga nigenai.
Dasshu no kādo ga nigemasen. (polite form)
Dasshu no kādo ga nigenai desu. (semi-polite form)
The Dash Card does not escape.
All the ru-verbs conjugate the same way that is explained above, without exceptions. Now, let's conjugate neru (= to sleep) in cascade.
Kero sleeps in the desk drawer.
Kero wa tsukue no hikidashi de neru. (plain affirmative)
Kero wa tsukue no hikidashi de neru no? (plain interrogative)
Kero wa tsukue no hikidashi de nenai. (plain negative)
Kero wa tsukue no hikidashi de nemasu. (polite affirmative)
Kero wa tsukue no hikidashi de ne-masu ka? (polite interrogative)
Kero wa tsukue no hikidashi de nemasen. (polite negative)
Kero wa tsukue no hikidashi de nenai desu. (semi-polite negative)
tsukue [noun] desk. hikidashi [noun] (of a desk) drawer.
Another example, miru (= to see) conjugate like this. This ru-verb has one difference from the previous ones, that this verb ends in -iru, while the previous examples end in -eru. Despite the slight difference, the ru-verb conjugate the very same way.
Kero watches television in Sakura's room.
Kero wa Sakura no heya de terebi o miru. (plain affirmative)
Kero wa Sakura no heya de terebi o miru no? (plain interrogative)
Kero wa Sakura no heya de terebi o minai. (plain negative)
Kero wa Sakura no heya de terebi o mi-masu. (polite affirmative)
Kero wa Sakura no heya de terebi o mimasu ka? (polite interrogative)
Kero wa Sakura no heya de terebi o mimasen. (polite negative)
Kero wa Sakura no heya de terebi o minai desu. (semi-polite negative)
heya [noun] room; terebi [noun] television
One more example of ru-verbs: this one is iru which is often spoken, meaning “to exist” or “to be present.” This word expresses the existence of humans or other living things. In contrast, the existence of non-living things is expressed by aru that will be introdeced in the next lesson. Anyway, iru conjugates like this:
Eriol-kun is in the music classroom.
Eriol-kun wa ongaku-shitsu ni iru. (plain affirmative)
Eriol-kun wa ongaku-shitsu ni iru no? (plain interrogative)
Eriol-kun wa ongaku-shitsu ni inai. (plain negative)
Eriol-kun wa ongaku-shitsu ni imasu. (polite affirmative)
Eriol-kun wa ongaku-shitsu ni imasu ka? (polite interrogative)
Eriol-kun wa ongaku-shitsu ni imasen. (polite negative)
Eriol-kun wa ongaku-shitsu ni inai desu. (semi-polite negative)
ongaku-sitsu [noun] music classroom.
The dictionary forms of ru-verbs end in -eru or -iru, however, the reverse is not always true. As the exceptions, the words listed in the following table are u-verbs despite of their forms. Among the list, it's worth noting that iru and kiru has both ru-verb and u-verb versions; the ru-version of iru means “to exist,” and that of kiru means “to wear.”
The remaining type of Japanese verbs are the irregular verbs. Sounds like complicated, doesn't it? Don't worry. Japanese verb system is so well organized that there are only three irregular verbs. Just odd balls as they are, the three irregular verbs are often spoken in daily conversations, so it's worth memorizing how they conjugate.
The first irregular verb to master is aru which means “to exist” or “to be present” for non-living things (the counterpart of the ru-verb iru). Although most Japanese textbook classfies this word as u-verb, its negative form is irregular; that's why I introduce this word in this lesson. Now, let's see how this word conjugates:
Sakura's house is in Tomoeda.
Sakura no uchi wa Tomoeda ni aru. (plain affirmative)
Sakura no uchi wa Tomoeda ni aru no? (plain interrogative)
Sakura no uchi wa Tomoeda ni nai. (plain negative)
Sakura no uchi wa Tomoeda ni arimasu. (polite affirmative)
Sakura no uchi wa Tomoeda ni arimasu ka? (polite interrogative)
Sakura no uchi wa Tomoeda ni arimasen. (polite negative)
Sakura no uchi wa Tomoeda ni nai desu. (semi-polite interrogative)
uchi [noun] house
The remaining two irregular verbs conjugate more irregularly. The second irregular verb is kuru which means “to come.” Just because it's an irregular verb, there hardly seems to be a rule of conjugation. For this reason, instead of explaining the rule, let's conjugate it in cascade without thinking much of a rule.
Yukito-san comes to my house today.
Yukito-san ga kyou uchi ni kuru. (plain affirmative)
Yukito-san ga kyou uchi ni kuru no? (plain interrogative)
Yukito-san ga kyou uchi ni konai. (plain negative)
Yukito-san ga kyou uchi ni kimasu. (polite affirmative)
Yukito-san ga kyou uchi ni kimasu ka? (polite interrogative)
Yukito-san ga kyou uchi ni kimasen. (polite negative)
Yukito-san ga kyou uchi ni konai desu. (semi-polite negative)
kyou [adv] today.
See? This word conjugate in a defferent way than u-verbs and ru-verbs. Now, let's see the third irregular verb suru (= to do), which conjugate differently even not similar to kuru.
Today, Sakura-chan does homework with Tomoyo-chan.
Kyou, Sakura-chan wa Tomoyo-chan to shukudai o suru. (plain affirmative)
Kyou, Sakura-chan wa Tomoyo-chan to shukudai o suru no? (plain interrogative)
Kyou, Sakura-chan wa Tomoyo-chan to shukudai o shinai. (plain negative)
Kyou, Sakura-chan wa Tomoyo-chan to shukudai o shimasu. (polite affirmative)
Kyou, Sakura-chan wa Tomoyo-chan to shukudai o shimasu ka? (polite interrogative)
Kyou, Sakura-chan wa Tomoyo-chan to shukudai o shimasen. (polite negative)
Kyou, Sakura-chan wa Tomoyo-chan to shukudai o shinai desu. (semi-polite negative)
shukudai [noun] homework (assgined at school).
If something has to be stressed about this word, suru is the most important verb in Japanese. As a matter of fact, this verb is used in various situations, such that it often suffixes to a noun to form an ideomatic verb. For example, when it suffixes keisan (= calculation) it forms keisan-suru that means “to calculate,” and when it suffixes ensou (= musical play) the compound word ensou-suru means “to play (a musical instrument).” OK, let's conjugate a compound word bideo-satsuei-suru (= to videotape) for example.
Tomoyo-chan videotapes Sakura-chan.
Tomoyo-chan wa Sakura-chan o bideo-satsuei-suru. (plain affirmative)
Tomoyo-chan wa Sakura-chan o bideo-satsuei-suru no? (plain interrogative)
Tomoyo-chan wa Sakura-chan o bideo-satsuei-shinai. (plain negative)
Tomoyo-chan wa Sakura-chan o bideo-satsuei-shimasu. (polite affirmative)
Tomoyo-chan wa Sakura-chan o bideo-satsuei-shimasu ka? (polite interrogative)
Tomoyo-chan wa Sakura-chan o bideo-satsuei-shimasen. (polite negative)
Tomoyo-chan wa Sakura-chan o bideo-satsuei-shinai desu. (semi-polite negative)
satsuei [noun] shooting (of picture or video)
I found that I have never explained what to say in Japanse when you want to say yes or no. Here, let me explain Japanese yes/no, which is the very fundamental reply. Basically, hai and iie are the words for yes and no, respectively. Then, here is a sample dialog.
|Yukito||Sakura-chan tachi mo iku no?|
Are you going?
Yes, I am.
No, I'm not.
Sakura-chan tachi = Sakura-chan and the others
Very simple, isn't it? But, hai and iie are a little different than “yes” and “no.” As a matter of fact, hai expresses the agreement to the foregoing interrogation or statement, and iie expresses the disagreement; whereas in English, “yes” indicates an assent or affirmation, and “no” indicate a dissent or negation. In most cases, yes/no is translated into hai/iie, but in replying to a negative interrogation, this logic is converse.
|Yukito||Sakura-chan tachi mo ikanai no?|
You are not going?
No, I am not.
|Syaoran||Iie, ikimasu yo.|
Yes, I am.
Hai and iie are so formal that they're hardly heard in common conversations, and there are their casual versions to use in daily conversations. Various versions of hai and iie are shown in the following table.
|un||Casual version, spoken widely in conversation. But it's considered to be rude if you use this word to the superior.|
|aa||Causual, rough version spoken by males. Never spoken to the sperior.|
|ou||Causual, rough version spoken by males. Even rougher than aa, of course it's never used to the superior.|
|ie||Casual version, but it can be used toward the superior.|
|uun||Casual version, spoken widely in conversation. But it's considered to be rude if you use this word to the superior.|
|iiya||Causual, rough version spoken by males. Never spoken to the sperior.|
As you saw so far, Japanese nouns or pronouns do not take declension like European languages. In European languages, declensions can tell you the function of the noun, such as subjective, possessive, and objective. In Japanese, a tiny words so-called particles do the same way declensions do. Those partcles suffixes a noun to show its gramatical function. Here, let's see some particles.
The particle wa marks the preceding noun as the focus of topic in the sentence. In most cases, the noun should be the subject because the subject of a well-composed sentence should be the topic.
Kono neko wa kawaii.
This cat is cute.
neko [noun] cat.
But, in Japanese, the subject is not always the focus of topic. Here's an example.
Kono kādo wa Syaoran-kun ga tsukamaeta.
Syaoran-kun captured this card.
tsukamaeru [ru-verb] to catch, to capture. past: tsukamaeru.
This grammatical subject of this sentence is not the focus of topic. If you translate it into a persuasive English, it should be “This card was captured by Syoran-kun,” in which the subject and the focus are the same. However, Japanese tend to avoid making a non-living thing be the subject. That's why wa doesn't always mark the subject.
There's the dedicated subject marker, ga. The subject marker is used when the subject is not the focus of topic, or when the subject should be specially stressed.
The case when the subject and the focus are different was shown above. On the other hand, the case when the subject should be stressed is divided into two types. The first type is the introductive type, which is like of this form:
Kouen de kādo ga hatsudou-shite iru.
Sono kādo wa Pawā no kādo da.
A Card is at work in the park. The card is the Power Card.
hatusdou-suru [irr. verb] to be at work. Progressive: hatsudou-shite-iru.
In this case the subject should be stressed with an intension to set it to the focus hereafter. It is as if ga acted like the indefinite article. The second type stresses the identity of the subject, excluding anything similar. Here's an example.
Kero-chan ga heya de matteiru no.
Kero-chan is waiting for me in my room.
matsu [u-verb] to wait. Progressive: matte-iru
This sentence practically means “It's Kero-chan who's waiting for me in the room, but not anyone else.”
The particle o is often heard, too, which is used to mark the preceding noun as the direct object. How to use this particle is plain simple.
Tomoyo-chan wa uta o utaimasu.
Tomoyo-chan sings a song.
Tomoyo-chan wa Sakura-chan ni kosuchūmu o
Tomoyo-chan makes Sakura-chan a costume.
uta [noun] song;
utau [u-verb] to sing;
kosuchūmu [noun] costume, outfit; tsukuru [u-verb] to make, create, build.
If you need to mark up the noun as the indirect object, use the ni. This particle is not difficult to use, either.
Watashi wa Mizuki-sensei ni tegami o kakimasu.
I write a letter to Ms. Mizuki.
To form the possessive form of a noun, suffix the noun with no. This particle is also easy to use; see the sample sentences below.
Tomoyo-chan wa watashi no shin'yuu da yo.
Tomoyo-chan is my best friend.
Sakura-chan no otou-san wa koukogakusha desu.
Sakura-chan's father is an archeologist.
Tomoeda-chou no hana wa nadeshiko desu.
The flower of Tomoeda-chou is flower of pinks.
shin'yuu [noun] best friend;
otou-san [noun] father;
koukogakusha [noun] archeologist. cf. koukogaku = archeology.
hana [noun] flower.
This lesson explains how to count in Japanese. Reading numerals in Japanese is very simple. The numbers below or equal to 100 are listed in this table. The ones above 20 are read the same way as in English, for instance, 21 is read nijuu-ichi.
Now, here's a short dialog that contains numbers. See how to use numbers in a conversation. It is not difficult to use.
|Syaoran||Kinomoto, omae ga motteiru yon-dai genso kādo wa?|
Kinomoto, of all the four element cards, which one do you have?
|Sakura||Windi to Wōti, ni-mai dake dayo.|
Windy and Watery, I got only two.
|Syaoran||Aitsu wa Faiari no kādo da. Gojuu-ni-mai no
naka demo mottemo kougeki-teki da.|
That's the Firey Card, the most aggressive of all the 52.
Japanese nouns do not take plural-conjugation unlike English. They need a unit for being described when there's more than one, as in san-mai no kādo that means “three cards.” Here, mai is the unit for counting thin objects like cards. It just looks like “three sheets of paper” doesn't it? All Japanese nouns act like uncountable nouns, and there are various units for counting things depending on their size, shapes, and such. Some units of counting nouns are listed in the table hereunder. So many and so complicated units though there are, don't worry. Even Japanese people don't remember them all, either.
Japanese has another system of counting instead of ichi, ni, san..., but the alternative system supports only the numbers up to 10. The alternative counting system is used for small objects, or abstract objects such as ideas, as in “Watashi wa kangae ga mit-tsu arimasu,” which means “I have three ideas.” Actually, some number counters include the alternative system. Such counters are listed in the table below.
|small or abstract|
Now, let me show you some sample sentences that uses the counters.
52-mai (gojuu-ni-mai) no Kurou kādo wa
yot-tsu no genso ni shihaisareteiru.
The 52 Clow Cards are controlled by 4 elements.
Sarani, kādo ni wa futari no shugosha ga iru.
Further, the cards has two guardians.
Hitori wa Keruberosu, mou hitori ga Yue da.
First one is Keroberos, and the other is Yue.
This lesson explains the past tense of Japanese verbs. Just like English verbs change their forms for past expressions, Japanese verbs conjugate to form its past tense. As is explained in a previous section, Japanese verbs have three conjugation patterns, depending on which the past tense is obtained by a slightly different conjugation.
The conjugation rule of verbs is described in the table below. The pattern for the u-verbs is divided into subpatterns as shown in the table, though u-verbs used to conjugate from -u to -ita in obsolete Japanese. The conjugation pattern have been divided into subpatterns for the sake of easy pronunciation. Here in the table, the apostrophe (' ) means a mute consonant; -'u means a verb ending in -u syllable which is not prefixed by any consonant. For example, kau (buy) and au (meet) fall under -'u group, but kaku (write) and hashiru (run) do not.
Here, let me show you an expample of the past tense, which was truly spoken in the Japanese version of Cardcaptor Sakura. It was Sakura's line when she faced the Firey Card in the amusement park. She spoke this line at the moment she made up her mind to release Windy and Watery at the same time to overcome the Firey. In this example, kimeta is the past tense, whose root form is kimeru (= to decide), a ru-verb.
|Sakura||Sore ni, kādo zenbu atsumeru tte jibun de kimeta nda mon!|
And I decided myself to caputure every one of the Cards!
— CCS episode 35: Sakura's Wonderful Christmas
Most of you may want to know the conjugation rule for negative and polite expression as well. But let me explain their past tense later in the next lesson.
In this lesson, we will study the past tense of i-adjectives and auxiliary verbs. As is mentioned in the previous lesson, once you study this lesson you'll be able to use the past for not only adjectives but negative and polite expressions of verbs.
|Sonomi||Hontou ni kawaikatta wa, Nadeshiko wa.|
Nadeshiko was totally cute.
— CCS episode 11: Sakura, Tomoyo, and the Big House
The past forms patterns of auxilliary verbs and their examples are shown in the table below. The conjugation table will help you write various Japanese expression in the past tense. The table namely covers the past tense of na-adjecives, polite expressions, and negative polite expressions.
|affirmative||da||datta||A wa B da||A wa B datta||A was B|
|polite affirm||desu||deshita||A wa B desu||A wa B deshita||A was B|
|neg polite verb||-masen||-masen deshita||hanashimasen||hanashimasen deshita||did not speak|
did not run
was/were not long
The conjugated auxiliary verbs are used in sentences as follows:
Kinou, watashi wa nikki o kakanakatta no.
I didn't write my diary yesterday.
kinou [noun] yesterday. nikki [noun] diary.
Ore wa Sakura o minakatta zo.
I didn't see Sakura.
Watashi no okaa-san wa moderu datta no.
Watashi no okaa-san wa moderu deshita.
My mom was a model.
moderu [noun] fashion model.
Sono onna no hito wa kirei datta yo.
Sono onna no hito wa kirei deshita.
That woman was pretty.
kirei [na-adj] pretty; beautiful.
Watashi wa kinou Tomoyo-chan to kouen ni ikimashita.
I went to the park with Tomoyo-chan yesterday.
kouen [noun] park. iku [u-verb] to go.
Sono yoru, Kurou Kādo wa arawaremasen deshita.
That night, the Clow Card didn't appear.
yoru [noun] night. arawareru [ru-verb] to appear.
The rule for polite i-adjective is a little different. For example, the past form of kawaii desu should be kawaikatta desu, but not kawaii deshita. In addition, the auxiliary verb -nai (for negative expression) acts like an i-adjective, therefore its priority of conjugation is higher than that of desu. That means that the past form of a semi-polite expression suwara-nai desu (= not to sit) should be suwaranakatta desu, not suwara-nai deshita.
Unlike English, Japanese adjectives or adverbs don't conjugate for their comparative and superlative degrees. Nevertheless, there are some key words to express comperative and superlative degree respectively.
Postpose yori to the object of the comparison, and the comparative degree will be expressed. Namely, yori corresponds to “than” in English.
|Sakura||Yukito-san o kuishinbou mitai ni iwanaide!|
Don't call Yukito-san like a glutton!
|Touya||Yuki wa ore yori yoku taberu zo.|
Yuki eats more than me.
ore [pronoun] I, me (in rough manner spoken by males)
yoku [adv] much, well.
|Naoko||Sakura-chan, undou-kai no hyaku-mētoru-sou ni dete.|
Sakura, run the 100 meter dash at this sports day.
|Meiling||Nani itte'ru no? Watashi wa Kinomoto-san yori hayai wa!|
Are you sure? I run faster than Kinomoto.
undou-kai = [noun] sports day
hyaku-mētoru-sou [noun] 100 meter dash (of a track meet)
If the object of the comparison is obvious, the object can be omitted then the subject of the sentence should be postposed by no hou ga instead of wa. The second dialog, for example, can be re-written like follows:
|Naoko||Sakura-chan, undou-kai no hyaku-mētoru-sou ni dete.|
|Meiling||Nani itte'ru no? Watashi no hou ga hayai wa!|
Japanese superlative expression is very simple. All you have to do is to put ichi-ban or mottomo ahead of the adjective or adverb. Those keywords namely corresponds to the English word “most” prefixed to the adjective or adverb in a similar case.
|Sakura||Clow-san no maryoku wa tsuyokatta nda yo ne?|
Clow's magic was strong, wasn't it?
|Kero||Aa, Ajia de ichi-ban, iya, sekai de ichi-ban tsuyokatta.|
Yeah, it was the strongest in Asea, or in the world perhaps.
Ajia [noun] Asea. sekai [noun] world.
|Meiling||Kono gakkou de mottomo uta ga umai no wa dare kashira?|
Who is it that sings the best in this school?
|Rika||Kitto Tomoyo-chan yo.|
I'm sure Tomoyo is.
uta [noun] song,
gakkou [noun] school,
~ ga umai = to be good at ~.
dare [interrogative] who. kitto [adv] surely.
Did you find the comparative and superlative expression simple? I hope you can compare something or someone in Japanese, which will make your Japanese sound even more colorful.