Japanese Grammar

Japanese Verbs: U-verbs, Ru-verbs and Conjugation

Ru-verbs vs. U-verbs

Last time, you learned how to use Japanese adjectives. By utilizing the particle が, which expresses subjects of predicates, you can describe what nouns are like. Now, you will learn how to allow nouns to take an action by using Japanese verbs. In this article, you will learn basic knowledge of Japanese verbs.

Conjugation: Japanese U-verbs, Ru-verbs, and Exceptions

Table of Contents
Ru-verbs
U-verbs
Exceptions

Japanese verbs can be divided into two categories: u-verbs and ru-verbs with just two exceptions. Conjugating verbs is significantly important and memorizing the categories will be very helpful. Let’s go over the grammatical rules.

Ru-verbs

る: to see, look (at), watch

  Casual Polite
Stem mi
Plain Form
miru
ます
mimasu
Negative Form ない
minai
ません
mimasen

Japanese verbs always contain two parts: a verb base and a suffix. Grammatically, verb bases are called “stems.” In the above example: る, the stem is “mi” and the suffix is “ru” and then they become the plain form. This is the reason why る is categorized into ru-verbs. *There are some terms to call this verbs: Ichidan verbs, V verbs, and Group II. Wasabi has adopted Ru-verbs.

Ru-verbs Become “Polite Form” When You Replace ru with masu

  Casual Polite
To see, look (at), watch
miru
ます
mimasu
To wear
kiru
ます
kimasu
To exist (animate) いる
iru
います
imasu
To eat べる
taberu
べます
tabemasu
To answer こたえる
kotaeru
こたえます
kotaemasu

Ru-verbs Become “Negative Form” When You Replace ru with nai or masen

  Casual Polite
Not to see, look (at), watch ない
minai
ません
mimasen
Not to wear ない
kinai
ません
kimasen
Not to exist (animate) いない
inai
いません
imasen
Not to eat べない
tabenai
べません
tabemasen
Not to answer こたえない
kotaenai
こたえません
kotaemasen

This is how verb conjugations work. There are other forms such as potential form, causative form, etc. However, the basic rule is same. All what you need to do is just to attach a suffix with a stem. You will learn all of the forms one by one with us.

U-verbs

く: to write

  Casual Polite
Stem kak
Plain Form
kaku
きます
kakimasu
Negative Form かない
kakanai
きません
kakimasen

U-verbs work as same as ru-verbs. The difference is just the suffix. In the above example: く, the stem is “kak” and the suffix is “u”. Be careful. It’s not necessarily that u-verbs end with Hiragana う. It means that the last vowel has to be “u” and hence the last hiragana can be く (ku), す(su), つ(tu *=tsu), ぬ (nu), and even る (ru). Let’s check more examples below. *There are some terms to call this verbs: Godan verbs, C-stem verbs, Group I. Wasabi has adopted U-verbs.

U-verbs Become “Polite Form” When You Replace u with imasu

  Casual Polite
To write
kaku
きます
kakimasu
To speak はな
hanasu
はなします
hanasimasu *si = shi
To stand
tatu *tu = tsu
ちます
tatimasu *ti = chi
To die
shinu
にます
shinimasu
To know
shiru
ります
shirimasu

U-verbs Become “Negative Form” When You Replace u with anai or imasen

  Casual Polite
Not to write かない
kakanai
きません
kakimasen
Not to speak はなさない
hanasanai
はなしません
hanasimasen *si = shi
Not to stand たない
tatanai
ちません
tatimasen *ti = chi
Not to die なない
shinanai
にません
shinimasen
Not to know らない
shiranai
りません
shirimasen

Now, you know how to make the polite and the negative form of Japanese verbs. Yet, you may wonder how to identify which category a verb belongs to. Ru-verbs always end with る (ru). If a verb doesn’t end with る, then it will always be an u-verb. In regard with verbs ending with る, you should look it up in your dictionary because the ones can be either ru-verbs or u-verbs. For reference, Jisho is a helpful resource, though it shows ru-verbs as “Ichidan-verbs” and u-verbs as “Godan-verbs.”

Advanced Topic: あ line is regarded as わ line in Conjugations

Ex. U-verb: う to buy (When the Last Hiragana is う)

  Casual Polite
Stem kaw
Plain Form
kawu
います
kawimasu
Negative Form ない
kawanai
いません
kawimasen

わ (wa) line has only わ and other combinations such as wi, wu, we, and wo don’t work and it will remain: い, う, え, and お (*を is regarded as お in verb conjugations). Therefore, they will conjugate in the negative form as above. Here are other verbs: う: to say → わない (iwanai) , う: to meet → わない (awanai), and  うたう: to sing → うたわない (utawanai).

 
 

Two Exceptions

る: to come

  Casual Polite
Stem ku / ko / ki
Plain Form
kuru
ます
kimasu
Negative Form ない
konai
ません
kimasen

する: to do

  Casual Polite
Stem su / shi
Plain Form する
suru
します
shimasu
Negative Form しない
shinai
しません
shimasen

As you can see, the stems vary depending on the form. You have to memorize the irregularity. In Japanese, する is a very helpful verb because you can oftentimes (though not always) make a noun into a verb by connecting with する. For example, you can say べんきょうする: to study, ようする: to prepare, やくする: to reserve, etc. and they conjugate just like する (to do):

Polite べんきょうします
Negative べんきょうしない
Polite-negative べんきょうしません

Advanced Topic: Particular Exceptions within the Negative Form

There are sometimes particular exceptions within a form. You also need to memorize them. Here, you will have one exception.

U-verb: ある to exist (inanimate)

  Casual Polite
Stem Ar
Plain Form ある
aru
あります
arimasu
Negative Form ない
nai
ありません
arimasen

When you make the negative form in casual tone, you delete the stem and add ない instead.

Negative Colloquial Expression

As you learned it with state-of-being and adjectives, you can express the verb negative form in polite tone by attaching です with ない. Although they are mostly used in conversations, you should be familiar with them: ないです, かないです, ないです, しないです, ないです.

Summary

  1. Japanese verb are categorized into ru-verbs and u-verbs based on suffixes.
  2. You can make the polite and the native form by replacing suffixes.
  3. In verb conjugations, あ line is regarded as わ line.
  4. There are two exceptions: する and る.
  5. ある is the exception in the negative form.

In this article, you have learned what u-verbs and ru-verbs are and how to conjugate them with exceptions. However, it’s not a complete sentence without subjects and objects. Let’s learn how to make them next.

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