In this lesson you will learn how to conjugate verbs to the informal form. This is the form that you use with for example friends. Japanese society is little by little getting less formal, so it is used more and more with strangers.
In another lesson you can learn the basics of verb conjugation in Japanese and how to construct the formal ます-form. This form is used in a formal situation when you communicate with for example strangers, older people or people that outrank you in any other way. Didn’t see that lesson? You can read it here.
It is important to note that the meaning of the verb does not change when you use the short form or the ます form. Both conjugations mean exactly the same thing, but the ます form displays a certain formality or respect.
The short form, informal form or dictionary form. It is all the same form. You have even already learned a few verbs in their short form, like たべる or ある. Compare it to たべます and あります and you can see why it is called the short form. It is also called the dictionary form because the standard way of portraying these verbs is in their short form, that always ends with a う hiragana. When you look in the dictionary for the verb ‘to eat’, you will find たべる.
It is also the easiest way to remember a verb in this short form. When you know the short form たべる you can make all the other conjugations, while if you only know the ます form, you don’t always know how to go back to the short form.
Difference between う and る verbs
Just like with conjugating the ます form, the conjugation of う verbs to the short form is different from the conjugation of る verbs. For the difference, read up on this section in the previous article. Below you can find how to conjugate these verbs.
Conjugating the short form for いる & える verbs (る verbs)
To conjugate the short form for る verbs you follow these rules:
Let’s see how this works in practice. We start with a verb you know: たべる
|たべる (to eat)||Present||Past|
|I eat, I will eat||I ate|
|I do not eat, I will not eat||I did not eat|
Easy enough right? You can see a bit of a pattern here. You use the ending た when you conjugate to the past and ない when you want to say something did not happen. Combine these two and you can understand why you get なかった. Let’s do some other る verbs you may know.
|見る (みる, to see)||Present||Past|
|I see||I saw|
|I do not see||I did not see|
|着る (きる, to wear)||Present||Past|
|I wear||I wore|
|I do not wear||I did not wear|
So, let’s do some example sentences:
Conjugating the short form for う verbs
So this is where it gets a little trickier. Especially the past positive (I drank) and past negative (I did not drink) are a little more complicated than with the いる & える verbs.
Present positive (I drink)
This stays just the same, just as with the いる and える verbs. So のむ (to drink) stays のむ. This is also a perfectly good way to end a sentence.
Past positive (I drank)
To get the past positive we’re going to divide the verbs some more categories depending on their ending.
|Conjugating う-verbs into the past positive by verb ending|
|う, る, つ||=||った|
|む, ぬ, ぶ||=||んだ|
So for example のむ turns into のんだ. Here are some other examples:
|まつ||= まった||Stood up|
Present negative (I do not drink)
To say that you do or will not do something you have to turn the last hiragana character of the verb to it’s あ equivalent and add ない. So のむ turns into のまない. There is one exception with う verbs. The last character, the う, turns into a わ. So かう turns into かわない.
- To get the present negative, switch the last hiragana character for it’s あ equivalent and add ない.
- One exception to this rule: when the verb ends with う the う changes to わ. Together with ない you end up with わない.
So with the earlier verbs you get.
|かう||= かわない||Not buy|
|かえる||= かえらない||Not return|
|まつ||= またない||Not waiting|
|のむ||= のまない||Not drink|
|はなす||= はなさない||Not speak|
Past negative (I did not drink)
To get the past negative is just as you are used to. Take the past positive, and replace the ない with なかった.
|かう||= かわなかった||I did not buy|
|かえる||= かえらなかった||I did not return|
|まつ||= またなかった||I did not wait|
|のむ||= のまなかった||I did not drink|
|はなす||= はなさなかった||I did not say|
Irregular conjugating verbs
And these are the irregular verbs you know from the earlier lesson about verbs, する (to do) and くる (to come)
|する (to do)||Present||Past|
|I do, I will do||I did not do|
|I do not, I will not do||I did not do|
|くる (to come)||Present||Past|
|I come||I did not do|
|I do not, I will not do||I did not do|
But now there is one important catch, the verb いく (to go) becomes irregular when conjugated in the short form.
|いく (to go)||Present||Past|
|I go,||I did not go|
|I do not go||I did not go|
So, if you apply what you have learned earlier in this lesson, you would expect the past positive of いく to be いいた, but in reality it’s いった with the double consonant. いかない and いかなかった are as you would expect.
So that’s it. If you already did the earlier lesson you can now conjugate in formal and informal form and have made a big step in your journey learning Japanese. Below you can find links to exercises to practice what you have learned above.