Japanese basic grammar topic Verb Basics

Verb Basics

Role of Verbs

Vocabulary

1.    食べる た・べる (ru-verb) - to eat

2.    分かる わ・かる (u-verb) - to understand

3.    見る み・る (ru-verb) - to see

4.    寝る ね・る (ru-verb) - to sleep

5.    起きる お・きる (ru-verb) - to wake; to occur

6.    考える かんが・える (ru-verb) - to think

7.    教える おし・える (ru-verb) - to teach; to inform

8.    出る で・る (ru-verb) - to come out

9.    いる (ru-verb) - to exist (animate)

10.  着る き・る (ru-verb) - to wear

11.  話す はな・す (u-verb) - to speak

12.  聞く き・く (u-verb) - to ask; to listen

13.  泳ぐ およ・ぐ (u-verb) - to swim

14.  遊ぶ あそ・ぶ (u-verb) - to play

15.  待つ ま・つ (u-verb) - to wait

16.  飲む の・む (u-verb) - to drink

17.  買う か・う (u-verb) - to buy

18.  ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)

19.  死ぬ し・ぬ (u-verb) - to die

20.  する (exception) - to do

21.  来る く・る (exception) - to come

22.  お金 お・かね - money

23.  わたし - me, myself, I

24.  ねこ - cat

We've now learned how to describe nouns in various ways with other nouns and adjectives. This gives us quite a bit of expressive power. However, we still cannot express actions. This is where verbs come in. Verbs, in Japanese, always come at the end of clauses. Since we have not yet learned how to create more than one clause, for now it means that any sentence with a verb must end with the verb. We will now learn the three main categories of verbs, which will allow us to define conjugation rules. Before learning about verbs, there is one important thing to keep in mind.

A grammatically complete sentence requires a verb only (including state-of-being).

Or to rephrase, unlike English, the only thing you need to make a grammatically complete sentence is a verb and nothing else! That's why even the simplest, most basic Japanese sentence cannot be translated into English!

A grammatically complete sentence:

·         食べる
Eat. (possible translations include: I eat/she eats/they eat)

Classifying verbs into ru-verbs and u-verbs

Before we can learn any verb conjugations, we first need to learn how verbs are categorized. With the exception of only two exception verbs, all verbs fall into the category of ru-verb or u-verb.

All ru-verbs end in 「る」 while u-verbs can end in a number of u-vowel sounds including 「る」. Therefore, if a verb does not end in 「る」, it will always be an u-verb. For verbs ending in 「る」, if the vowel sound preceding the 「る」 is an /a/, /u/ or /o/ vowel sound, it will always be an u-verb. Otherwise, if the preceding sound is an /i/ or /e/ vowel sound, it will be a ru-verb in most cases. A list of common exceptions are at the end of this section.

Examples

1.    食べる - 「べ」 is an e-vowel sound so it is a ru-verb

2.    分かる - 「か」 is an a-vowel sound so it is an u-verb

If you're unsure which category a verb falls in, you can verify which kind it is with most dictionaries. There are only two exception verbs that are neither ru-verbs nor u-verbs as shown in the table below.

ru-verb

u-verb

exception

見る

話す

する

食べる

聞く

来る

寝る

泳ぐ

起きる

遊ぶ

考える

待つ

教える

飲む

出る

買う

いる

ある

着る

死ぬ

Examples of different verb types

Examples

Here are some example sentences using ru-verbs, u-verbs, and exception verbs.

1.    アリスは食べる
As for Alice, eat.

2.    ジムが来る
Jim is the one that comes.

3.    ボブもする
Bob also do.

4.    お金がある
There is money. (lit: Money is the thing that exists.)

5.    私は買う
As for me, buy.

6.    猫はいる
There is cat. (lit: As for cat, it exists.)

Appendix: iru/eru u-verbs

Vocabulary

1.    要る い・る (u-verb) - to need

2.    帰る かえ・る (u-verb) - to go home

3.    切る き・る (u-verb) - to cut

4.    しゃべる (u-verb) - to talk

5.    知る し・る (u-verb) - to know

6.    入る はい・る (u-verb) - to enter

7.    走る はし・る (u-verb) - to run

8.    減る へ・る (u-verb) - to decrease

9.    焦る あせ・る (u-verb) - to be in a hurry

10.  限る かぎ・る (u-verb) - to limit

11.  蹴る け・る (u-verb) - to kick

12.  滑る すべ・る (u-verb) - to be slippery

13.  握る にぎ・る (u-verb) - to grasp

14.  練る ね・る (u-verb) - to knead

15.  参る まい・る (u-verb) - to go; to come

16.  交じる まじ・る (u-verb) - to mingle

17.  嘲る あざけ・る (u-verb) - to ridicule

18.  覆る くつがえ・る (u-verb) - to overturn

19.  遮る さえぎ・る (u-verb) - to interrupt

20.  罵る ののし・る (u-verb) - to abuse verbally

21.  捻る ひね・る (u-verb) - to twist

22.  翻る ひるが・える (u-verb) - to turn over; to wave

23.  滅入る めい・る (u-verb) - to feel depressed

24.  蘇る よみがえ・る (u-verb) - to be resurrected

Below is a list of u-verbs with a preceding vowel sound of /i/ or /e/ ("iru" or "eru" sound endings). The list is notcomprehensive but it does include many of the more common verbs categorized roughly into three levels.

Basic

Intermediate

Advanced

要る

焦る

嘲る

帰る

限る

覆る

切る

蹴る

遮る

しゃべる

滑る

罵る

知る

握る

捻る

入る

練る

翻る

走る

参る

滅入る

減る

交じる

蘇る

iru/eru u-verbs grouped (roughly) by level

 

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Basic grammar

  • 1 :Addressing People
  • 2 :Adjective Practice Exercises
  • 3 :Adjectives
  • 4 :Advanced proximity of actions
  • 5 :Advanced Topics
  • 6 :Advanced Volitional
  • 7 :Adverbs and Sentence-ending particles
  • 8 :Basic Grammar
  • 9 :Casual Patterns and Slang
  • 10 :Causative and Passive Verbs
  • 11 :Compound Sentences
  • 12 :Conditionals
  • 13 :Covered by something
  • 14 :Defining and Describing
  • 15 :Desire and Suggestions
  • 16 :Essential Grammar
  • 17 :Expressing amounts
  • 18 :Expressing must or have to
  • 19 :Expressing State-of-Being
  • 20 :Expressing the minimum expectation
  • 21 :Expressing time-specific actions
  • 22 :Expressing various levels of certainty
  • 23 :Formal expressions of non-feasibility
  • 24 :Formal Expressions
  • 25 :Giving and Receiving
  • 26 :Hiragana
  • 27 :Honorific and Humble Forms
  • 28 :Hypothesizing and Concluding
  • 29 :Introduction to Particles
  • 30 :Introduction
  • 31 :Kanji
  • 32 :Katakana
  • 33 :Leaving something the way it is
  • 34 :Making requests
  • 35 :More negative verbs
  • 36 :Negative Verb Practice Exercises
  • 37 :Negative Verbs
  • 38 :Noun-related Particles
  • 39 :Numbers and Counting
  • 40 :Other Grammar
  • 41 :Other uses of the te-form
  • 42 :Particles used with verbs
  • 43 :Past Tense
  • 44 :Past Verb Practice Exercises
  • 45 :Performing an action on a relative clause
  • 46 :Polite Form and Verb Stems
  • 47 :Potential Form
  • 48 :Relative Clauses and Sentence Order
  • 49 :Review and more sentence-ending particles
  • 50 :Saying something is easy or difficult to do
  • 51 :Showing signs of something
  • 52 :Special expressions with generic nouns
  • 53 :Special Expressions
  • 54 :Tendencies
  • 55 :The Question Marker
  • 56 :The Writing System
  • 57 :Things that happen unintentionally
  • 58 :Things that should be a certain way
  • 59 :Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
  • 60 :Trying something out or attempting to do something
  • 61 :Using suru and naru with the ni particle
  • 62 :Using yoru for comparisons and other functions
  • 63 :Various ways to express similarity and hearsay
  • 64 :Verb Basics
  • 65 :Verb Practice Exercises