So we finally reach the start of lesson one. Defining the terms took longer than I expected… Please make sure that you have read through the basic term definitions in Chapter 0 before continuing.
I assume that people who read this blog are, more often than not, fansub watchers. So for the first lesson today, instead of talking about “watashi wa John desu”, I’ll begin with something slightly more advance.
Part I: Verb Groups
Anyway, verbs. There are three main categories of verbs in Japanese and they are usually referred to as “Group 1”, “Group 2” and “Group 3”. Creative names huh. Usually when you start to learn Japanese as a foreigner, all the verbs you encounter end with “-masu”, such as ikimasu and tabemasu The truth is, the “-masu” suffix is a tense and you will never find the word “ikimasu” in a dictionary. The words are actually iku and taberu.
I will be presenting all the examples using the dictionary form and I will explain how and why they are converted to the “-masu” form.
存在する sonzai suru
性交する seikou suru
浮気する uwaki suru
変更する henkou suru
I think if I leave you to stare at the examples long enough, you will see some pattern as to how the groups are determined. There are some exceptions of course, but generally the pattern is easy to understand. And for those of you who read Japanese, yes some of the examples are meant to be weird. ;)
First things first, let’s get the easiest group out of the way.
There are only two Group 3 verbs: くる kuru (“to come”) and する suru (“to do”). The rest are just various combinations of noun + suru (literally “to do [noun]”).
As for differentiating Group 1 and Group 2 verbs, the first rule of thumb is by the last hiragana character.
Group 1 verbs end with one of the following hiragana:
う く ぐ す つ ぬ る む ぶ
u ku gu su tsu nu ru mu bu
Group 2 verbs always end with る ru.
The second last hiragana in a Group 2 verb will always have either a trailing “e” (read “ei” like “A” in “ABC”) or “i” (read “yi”, like “E” in “EFG”) sound. For example, 分ける wakeru.
A verb that ends with anything but -ru is ALWAYS Group 1, but the reverse is not true. 当たる ataru ends with a -ru, but it is Group 1 and not 2 because the second last hiragana does not have a trailing “e” or “i” sound. 帰る kaeru, 入る hairu and 切る kiru on the other hand all fulfill the Group 2 requirements, but yet they are in Group 1. As with all language rules, there are exceptions and there is no way around it but pure memorization.
Note that all the rules only apply for the dictionary form of verbs. The trailing hiragana changes depending on the tense, in which case it will not match the ones above. But if you are certain that a word is in its dictionary form and yet the last hiragana does not fit any of those listed above, then it is most likely not a verb.
If you observe the kanji and the trailing hiragana for each group, you can probably notice a better way to differentiate the two groups, but I am not going to cover it because it is somewhat more confusing (for those who want to try, the only exception for that rule is 寝る neru being in Group 2).
Let’s say you encounter the verb 泳ぐ oyogu (“to swim”)
First you check the trailing hiragana: ぐ gu
Result: Group 1. Only Group 1 verbs can end with -gu.
Another example: 叱る shikaru (“to scold”).
First you check the trailing hiragana: る ru
Result: Inconclusive, -ru can be found in both groups.
Then you check the second last hiragana: か ka (叱る when written out in full hiragana is しかる)
Result: ka does not end with a trailing “e” or “i” sound, therefore 叱る shikaru is Group 1.
It’s pretty simple, you just have to remember the exceptions that end with -iru or -eru and yet are in Group 1. Some common exceptions are 帰る kaeru (“to return home”), 入る hairu (“to enter”) and 切る kiru (“to cut”).
Using the rules I’ve given above, try to group the following in Group 1 or 2.
- 騒ぐ sawagu Spoiler Alert
- 入れる ireru Spoiler Alert
- 変わる kawaru Spoiler Alert
- 占う uranau Spoiler Alert
- 回る mawaru Spoiler Alert
- 避ける sakeru Spoiler Alert
- 痛む itamu Spoiler Alert
- 焼く yaku Spoiler Alert
- 生かす ikasu Spoiler Alert
- 欠ける kakeru Spoiler Alert
- 降りる oriru Spoiler Alert
- 打ち合わせる uchiawaseru Spoiler Alert
- 試す tamesu Spoiler Alert
- 猫みみ nekomimi Spoiler Alert
- ぶっ掛ける bukkakeru Spoiler Alert
Part II: “-masu” Form
I will spend the second half of this introduction to Japaese verbs by teaching the -masu form. Most language schools teaching Japanese as a foreign language will actually start with the -masu form first before teaching the dictionary form.
This is due to two main reasons. The first is because the -masu form is much more polite than the dictionary form. In fact, -masu is also known as the polite form. So by teaching a foreign student who has just started learning Japanese the polite form first, he or she would not go around offending people unknowingly. Tense manipulation in the polite form is also simpler.
Here’s how you convert dictionary form to polite form.
Example: 咲く saku (“to blossom”)
Assuming you know your hiragana table, take the trailing hiragana from the verb, which is く ku in this case, and match it with the hiragana that is in the same row but has a trailing “i” sound. What we want is ki.
The “k-” row: か ka き ki く ku け ke こ ko
Replacing ku with ki and add masu to the end, and viola! We get 咲きます sakimasu. This works for all Group 1 verbs.
打つ utsu = 打ちます uchimasu
読む yomu = 読みます yomimasu
聞く kiku = 聞きます kikimasu
突っ込む tsukkomu = 突っ込みます tsukkomimasu
戸惑う tomadou = 戸惑います tomadoimasu
犯す okasu = 犯します okashimasu
死ぬ shinu = 死にます shinimasu
当たる ataru = 当たります atarimasu
帰る kaeru = 帰ります kaerimasu
Too simple. Just take off the trailing る ru and replace with masu
消える kieru = 消えます kiemasu
着る kiru = 着ます kimasu
奏でる kanaderu = 奏でます kanademasu
逃げる nigeru = 逃げます nigemasu
変える kaeru = 変えます kaemasu
いる iru = います imasu
食べる taberu = 食べます tabemasu
There are only two of them, so just memorize.
する suru = します shimasu
くる kuru = きます kimasu
存在する sonzai suru = 存在します sonzai shimasu
性交する seikou suru = 性交します seikou shimasu
Polite Past Tense
This is pretty easy too. Just change the suffix from masu to mashita, no matter which group it is. This applies to polite form only. I will be covering tenses for dictionary form at a later date.
読みます yomimasu = 読みました yomimashita
消えます kiemasu = 消えました kiemashita
します shimasu = しました shimashita
“I [will not / do not] go.”
Japanese does not differentiate between “will not” and “do not” and uses negative in both cases. Again, what I have here is for the polite form only. The normal negative form will be covered at a later date. Simply replace all masu with masen
読みます yomimasu = 読みません yomimasen
消えます kiemasu = 消えません kiemasen
します shimasu = しません shimasen
Polite Negative Past
“I did not go.”
This is simply a matter of adding deshita to the end of the polite negative form.
読みます yomimasu = 読みませんでした yomimasen deshita
消えます kiemasu = 消えませんでした kiemasen deshita
します shimasu = しませんでした shimasen deshita
Converting to and from polite form is pretty easy so I won’t make an exercise for it. Or I’m just too lazy to. :3 You just have to remember the two Group 3 verbs and the general rule for the Group 1 verbs. Even a chimpanzee can convert Group 2 verbs to polite form.
Similarly, converting from polite present to polite past, polite negative or polite negative past is a simple matter of following the general rule. There are no exceptions for these three rules. Hurray.
In the first chapter, we talked about:
- Verb groups
- Dictonary form
- Polite / “-masu” form
- Polite past, negative and past negative
Check back some time again for the second chapter if I ever get to writing it. Turns out I did finally write it… Click on the link below.
P.S. I do realize that the pictures have nothing to do with the topic… ;)