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Lesson 6


Verb Conjugation

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Godan Verbs - 五段動詞

Now, before you can start making up sentences of your own, you need to learn how to conjugate Japanese verbs. Verbs are the most important part of the Japanese sentence. Often times Japanese people will leave out everything but the verb.

They are very big on leaving out the obvious and sometimes not so obvious which can get confusing at times. There are only 3 types of verbs in the Japanese language and they each follow a pattern that is very simple and very rarely has any exceptions. Most Japanese verbs fall into the first group, the Godan (五段) verbs. These verbs always conjugate the same way with only one exception. These verbs have five changes that follow the order of the Japanese vowels (i.e. the characters for that section of the hiragana chart), hence the name Godan (meaning 5 levels or steps), and then the "te" and "ta" forms that are common to all verbs. The chart below shows how to conjugate Japanese Godan verbs:

漢字 - Kanji ひらがな - Hiragana Romaji
(English Letters)
Verb Base
話す はなす hanasu (to speak)
話さ はなさ hanasa Base 1
話し はなし hanashi Base 2
話す はなす hanasu Base 3
話せ はなせ hanase Base 4
話そう はなそう hanasou Base 5
話して はなして hanashite Base "te"
話した はなした hanashita Base "ta"

Base 1: Base 1 can not be used by itself but becomes the plain form negative simply by adding -nai. (ex. hanasanai - I won't say anything.) If the verb ends in う (u) then the end for Base 1 becomes わ (wa). (ex. au (Base 1) -> awa)
(Plain form is what people use when talking to a friend. It would not be proper to use in a business environment. We will go over the polite form in lesson 8.)

Base 2: Base 2 is, in most cases, a noun when used by itself but is primarily used with the polite form of the verb.

Base 3: Base 3 is the main form (the one that would be found in the dictionary) and is also the plain form present/future tense.

Base 4: Base 4 is most often used as "if verb" by adding -ba. (ex. hanaseba - If he'd just say something.) It can also be used by itself as a command form but it is extremely rude and I recommend not using it at all.

Base 5: Base 5 is used by itself as the "let's" form. (ex. hanasou - Let's talk.) We will get into other ways it's used in later lessons.

Base "te": Base "te" can be used by itself as a plain form command. It is not rude but should only be used with close friends and children. By adding kudasai it becomes the polite form command. Base "te" can also be used in other ways that we will get into in later lessons.

Base "ta": Base "ta" is merely Base "te" with an "a" sound on the end instead of an "e" sound. It is mainly used by itself as the plain form past tense. (ex. hanashita - I talked.) We will get into other ways it's used in later lessons.

Notice: There is one thing that you'll need to learn in order to conjugate the "te" and "ta" forms correctly. Basically, for all Godan verbs ending in う (u), つ (tsu), or る (ru); the う (u), つ (tsu), or る (ru) becomes って (tte) in the "te" form and った (tta) in the "ta" form. (ex. katsu (to win) -> katte (Win!), katta (We won!))

For all Godan verbs ending in ぶ (bu), む (mu), or ぬ (nu); the ぶ (bu), む (mu), or ぬ (nu) becomes んで (nde) in the "te" form and んだ (nda) in the "ta" form. (ex. yomu (to read -> yonde (Read it.), yonda (I read it.))

For all Godan verbs ending in く (ku), the く (ku) becomes いて (ite) in the "te" form and いた (ita) in the "ta" form. (ex. aruku (to walk) -> aruite (Walk!), aruita (I walked here.)) The only exception to this rule is for the verb iku (to go) which becomes いって, いった (itte/itta).

For all Godan verbs ending in ぐ (gu), the ぐ (gu) becomes いで (ide) in the "te" form and いだ (ida) in the "ta" form. (ex. oyogu (to swim) -> oyoide (Swim!), oyoida (I swam.))

For all Godan verbs ending in す (su), the す (su) becomes して (shite) in the "te" form and した (shita) in the "ta" form. (ex. hanasu (to talk) -> hanashite (Say something!), hanashita (I talked (to him).))

Here are some Godan verbs. Try conjugating them on a piece of paper using what you have just learned. Click here for the answers.

漢字 - Kanji ひらがな - Hiragana Romaji
(English Letters)
English Meaning
会う あう au to meet
勝つ かつ katsu to win
売る うる uru to sell
遊ぶ あそぶ asobu to play
飲む のむ nomu to drink
死ぬ しぬ shinu to die
歩く あるく aruku to walk
泳ぐ およぐ oyogu to swim
消す けす kesu to erase, turn off
行く いく iku to go
(Remember the exception for Bases "te"and "ta")
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