Welcome to Lesson 7
Japanese Verbs & The Particle 'O'


Japanese verbs truly run the whole sentence. They are king and are the real strength of the sentence structure, so it's definitely worth your time to study them intensely. In fact they're so powerful, often the verb itself will constitute an entire conversation. For example 'nomu?...nomu. (Will you have a drink?) (I will have a drink.)

Also, beginners in Japanese should note that that there are a pile of different things you can say by simply changing the end of the verb. Literally, simple suffix changes can enable you to radically jack-up your speaking power once you understand the verb and its stem. From the same verb stem I can say things like: I want to eat, wanted to eat, don't eat, don't have to eat, must eat, should eat etc.

So roll up your sleeves and dig in!


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Japanese Verbs and Sentence Order


It will take a little getting used to but the order will be the opposite of English. As in English we would normally structure things this way:  I eat meat. Subject then verb then object.

However in Japanese the order is...

watashi wa niku o tabemasu
I meat eat

The 'o'  next to 'niku' is a particle and will be explained below.  
First we need to attack the first class of Japanese verbs. (There are 3). They all end in 'eru' , 'iru' or 'i'.

Meaning
Stem
or
Base
Dictionary Form Conjunctive
i.e connects to other verbs etc.
Polite
Present Tense
i.e eat
eat tabe taberu tabete tabemasu
look mi miru mite mimasu
open ake akeru akete akemasu
close shime shimeru shimete shimemasu
show mise miseru misete misemasu
stop tome tomeru tomete tomemasu
quit yame yameru yamete yamemasu
teach oshie oshieru oshiete oshiemasu
sleep ne neru nete nemasu
believe shinji shinjiru shinjite shinjimasu
go out de deru dete demasu
exchange torikae torikaeru torikaete torikaemasu
make a mistake machigae machigaeru machigaete machigaemasu
think kangae kangaeru kangaete kangaemasu
change kae kaeru kaetete kaemasu
bring together atsume astumeru atsumete atsumemasu


Ok. Now we have some verbs to work with. First notice the stem or base in RED!!

This is the hub or center of the verb. Everything works off of it. And I mean everything!  Notice how you see the base in all forms on the chart? Because the base or stem is in every verb form. So just by memorizing the base you can conjugate the verb into all forms.

It is a a bit of a pain to memorize the stem of all Japanese verbs, but it really helps you learn much faster in the long run. Remember, once you know the stem you can conjugate the sentence into any form rapidly. For example "Let's X.  Don't X. Can't X.  In other words it puts your speaking power on steroids.

(This is just a partial list of conjugations. We'll cover more Japanese verbs later.) We also have some additional study aids. 

If you groove on Amazon you might enjoy the following picks to deepen your understanding of Japanese verbs. They are 5 star picks and are at the top of the recommended list because they also offer conjugations of the verbs so you can actually use them.


Japanese Verbs - Dictionary Form

If you look up 'eat' in the dictionary you'll find it listed as 'taberu.' This is why it's called dictionary form. Dictionary form is not polite. It's familiar. It is well beyond the scope of this lesson or site to delve into the intricacies of which form to use but we can say a thing or two here.

Generally, if you don't know someone very well, you'll use polite (masu, masen, mashita) forms. If the person out-ranks you in age, position or power, use polite forms.

Also just becasue someone uses a familiar style with you doesn't make it right to use a familiar style with them if they outrank you.

Japanese Verbs - Conjunctive

This is the style needed to connect to other verbs. You also see it in request forms like 'please do x.' We'll hit this pattern below.



Japanese Verbs - Polite Present Tense


"masu" is both present and future tense and means something does or will occur. Add 'masu' to the base of the verb. So to say the word "teach" politely, take the base (oshie) and add the polite suffix  "masu". So basically 'oshie' + 'masu'= 'oshiemasu'.  Note: "masu" is added to verbs only. You can't add it to nouns or adjectives. So you can't say something like  "niku masu". (Niku or meat is a noun.) However as written in other lessons you can say "niku desu". 

Also regarding adjectives you can't say "atusui masu" . Atsui means "hot" . However, again you can say "atsui desu" meaning:  (It's) hot.



Japanese Verbs & the Particle 'O'

Many beginning students really struggle wih particles because there simply aren't any in English. But with just a bit of study you'll be able to understand and use them.

Basically 'o' follows the noun and closely identifies the verb and noun. So in the example below, the 'o' tells you what was closed. It tells you what the verb is acting on and in this example, the verb 'shimemasu' is acting on 'mado'. So the purpose of the particle 'o' is to tell the listener what was being acted on. We get into this with video and sound and a even more detailed explanation on the page Learn Japanese Language. It's the 1st video on the page.


The Pattern Occurs This Way With Nouns...

mado o shimemasu (I'll) close the window

shigoto o yamemasu (I'll) quit work.

jikan o kaemasu (I'll) change the time (we) meet.

tansu o akemasu (I'll) open the chest of drawers.

kuruma o demasu (I'll) get out of the car.

michi o machigaemasu Take the wrong street.

hito o atsumemasu (I'll) get (some) people together.




Japanese Verbs & the Conjunctive Form -te with 'kudasai' (Please do X)


The next form is a verb plus 'kudasai'. Always connect 'kudasai' with the conjunctive or 'te' form. You can't use the dictionary form. So it's NOT correct to say 'miseru kudasai' to mean 'please show me it.

sore o misete kudasai Please show me it.


basu o tomete kudasai Please stop the bus.

eigo o oshiete kudasai Please teach (me) English.

watashi o shinjite kudasai Please believe me.

mondai o kangaete kudasai Please think about the problem.

fuku o kaete kudasai Please change clothes.



       Vocabulary Pumper - Days of the Week and Months


Days of the week are followed by the particle 'ni'. So when you use days of the week they will be followed by 'ni' meaning on. Regarding sentence order, the day will come before the day of the week. So "nichiyoubi ni eigo o oshiete kudasai' means 'teach me English on Sunday".

Learn to say the days of the week in audio. Plus there is the kanji and roman letter for each day of the week,  and the month. It changes every day so you can learn it   s  l  o  w  l  y  and work at your own pace. All audio is by native Japanese speakers. 

on Sunday nichiyoubi ni
on Monday getsuyoubi ni
on Tuesday kayoubi ni
on Wednesday suiyoubi ni
on Thursday mokuyoubi ni
on Friday kinyoubi ni
on Saturday doyoubi ni

Let's Try to Translate the Following and Answer the Questions

1. Close the window. (dictionary verb form)
2. Please look at this.
3. Please believe me.
4. Please think about the problem.
5. I’ll get out of the car. (polite form)
6. She will quit work. (polite form)
7. I will change my clothes. (polite form)
8. He will show you it. (dictionary verb form)
9. Please teach me Japanese on Friday.
10. What is a polite form of ‘torikaeru’?
11. What is the stem of ‘tomeru’?
12. What is the stem of ‘miru’?
13. Does the particle ‘o’ follow adjectives?
14. What style do you use when you want to connect a verb to ‘kudasai’
15. Which is more polite, ‘akeru’ or ‘akemasu’?

Lesson 7 Test Answers

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Return to Teaching English in Japan From Japanese Verbs

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