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<< verb stem + tai | viewpoint-group >>

    Meaning: Verb Basics
    JLPT Level: 0
    Category: lesson
    Author: TaeKim

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Role of Verbs

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 two main categories of verbs, which will allow us to accurately define rules for conjugation. Before learning about verbs, there in 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! Understanding this fundamental property is essential to understanding Japanese. That's why even the simplest most basic Japanese sentence cannot be translated into English! All conjugations will start from the dictionary form (as they appear in the dictionary).

A grammatically complete sentence:
(1) 食べる。- Eat. (possible translations include: I eat/she eats/they eat)

Classifying Verbs into ru-verbs and u-verbs

Almost all verbs in Japanese can be classified into two categories: ru-verb (一段動詞) and u-verbs (五段動詞). The only two verbs that are not considered to be in either category is 「する」 meaning 'to do' and 「来る」 meaning 'to come'. Otherwise, the rules for conjugation are almost all the same depending on what class the verb is in. The way to distinguish between these verbs is fairly straightforward.
Remember, every verb has a string of kana called okurigana, which you can modify to conjugate the verb. Well, if you convert the verb to Roman characters (called 「ローマ字」 in Japanese) and it ends in either "iru" or "eru", then it is a ru-verb. For example, 「食べる」 is romanized as 'taberu' and since it ends in 'eru', it is a ru-verb. Another example: 「起きる」, which romanizes to 'okiru', is a ru-verb. All other verbs are u-verbs. There are some exceptions to this rule where verbs that should be ru-verbs are actually u-verbs. Notice that ru-verbs always end in 「る」 and u-verbs always end in a / u / vowel sound. This, unfortunately includes 「る」, in addition to 「つ」、「す」、「く」、「ぐ」、「む」、「ぶ」、「う」、and 「ぬ」 (「死ぬ」 is the only verb that ends in 「ぬ」)

Because of the audial consistency in the rules, after a while u-verbs will start to "sound" like u-verbs and likewise for ru-verbs. But in the mean time, you may have some difficulty distinguishing from ru-verbs and u-verbs so if you have any doubts, Jim Breen's WWWJDIC will tell you what class each verb lies in. (You were looking them up right?) Ru-verb are denoted as (v1) while u-verbs are denoted as (v5r).
Sample ru-verbs
Sample u-verbs
Should be ru-verbs but are u-verbs
Neither ru-verb nor u-verb


Here are some example sentences using ru-verbs, u-verbs, and exception verbs.
(1) アリスは食べる。- Alice eat.
(2) ジムが遊ぶ。- Jim is the one that play.
(3) ボブもする。- Bob also do.

Copyright © 2003-2006 Tae Kim (
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