Lesson 13: Verbs

You should already know that verbs appear at the end of a sentence or phrase in Japanese. The language follows the subject-object-verb form instead of subject-verb-object form that English follows.

There are three types of verbs in Japanese: るverbs, うverbs, and irregular verbs. Verbs can be conjugated into several different forms, but for now we will stick with the dictionary form of the verb and the present tense long form.

Present tense long form demonstrates a basic level of politeness. You would use this type of speech with teachers, superiors, strangers, and elders. You can use this type of speech with almost anyone; however, Japanese people tend to use casual short form when conversing with friends or younger family members.

The dictionary form of the verb is kind of like the root. This is also the form you would come across when looking up a verb in the dictionary.


To learn how to conjugate るverbs, we will use the verb たべる.  たべる is the Japanese verb meaning, “to eat.”

The dictionary form of the verb is たべる. In order to get the present tense affirmative form, we simply replace the る with ます. たべる becomes たべます.

Example: わたしはりんごをたべます。 (I am eating an apple.)

It is important to note that not all verbs that end in る are actuallyる verbs. Some verbs that end in る, such as かえる (meaning “to return”), are actually うverbs.

In order to arrive at the present negative form of a るverb, we remove るand add ません.

たべる becomesたべません, meaning “to not eat.”

Example: わたしはにくをたべません。 (I don’t eat meat.)

るverbs are the easiest verbs to conjugate.


うverbs can sometimes be confusing. In order to conjugate an う verb into present affirmative form, you must remove the “u” part of the verb and add います。 For the negative form, you add いません instead of います.

For example: いく (“to go”) This verb ends in く, but we can still remove the u, leaving us with “ik.” Next, we add います. The verb now reads いきます.

わたしはとうきょうにいきます。 (I am going to Tokyo.)

わたしはとうきょうにいきません。 (I am not going to Tokyo.)

Another way to go about conjugating うverbs is to take the last syllable in the dictionary form of the verb and change it to the symbol that appears directly above it on the hiragana chart.

Take いく as an example again. く is the symbol at the end. Directly above く in the hiragana chart is き. We replace く with き and add ます. We still end up with いきます. For the negative, you follow the same process but add ません instead of ます.

Irregular verbs

In Japanese, there are two irregular verbs. Since they follow rules of their own, unrelated to any other verbs, you must simply memorize how they function. These verbs are also often found in compound verbs. When this is the case, they are still conjugated as irregular verbs. See the example below to learn how to conjugate the irregular verbs.

する    present affirmative: します               present negative: しません

くる    present affirmative: きます               present negative: きません

する is the verb that means “to do” andくる is the verb that means “to come/arrive.”

An example of a compound verb is べんきょうする. This means “to study.” It is conjugated like so.

べんきょうする        present affirmative: べんきょうします

present negative: べんきょうしません

Further information

Conjugating Japanese verbs is relatively simple once you understand the patterns. It may take a while to become familiar with conjugation patterns, especially with うverbs. You must watch out for うverbs that look like るverbs. Each time a new verb is taught in a lesson, the type of verb will be given.

Practice conjugating the verbs below. Don’t scroll down until you’re ready for the answers!

る verbs

Dictionary Form                      Present Affirmative                Present Negative

みる (to watch)

ねる (to sleep)

おきる (to wake)

たべる (to eat)

う verbs

Dictionary Form                      Present Affirmative                Present Negative

のむ (to drink)

よむ (to read)

はなす (to speak)

きく (to hear or listen)

いく (to go)

かえる (to buy)

Irregular verbs

Dictionary Form                      Present Affirmative                Present Negative

する (to do)

べんきょうする (to study)

くる (to come)


Answer Key:

みる                みます            みません

ねる                ねます            ねません

おきる            おきます        おきません

たべる            たべます        たべません

のむ                のみます        のみません

よむ                よみます        よみません

はなす            はなします    はなしません

きく                ききます        ききません

いく                いきます        いきません

かえる            かえります    かえりません

する                します            しません

べんきょうする        べんきょうします    べんきょうしません

くる                きます            きません


Below are some example sentences to help you become familiar with verbs. Try to translate them yourself before looking at the English.


I am going to Kyoto.


I don’t eat fish.


Miura-san is returning to Japan.


(Our) Teacher is studying Korean.

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