Lesson #2 – Verbs

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I assume that you have now either memorized or in the process of memorizing all the kana from the last lesson, since we will be using some of them in this lesson. Please note that, like I stated in the introduction post, I used the Genki books while learning basic Japanese and will therefore mostly stick to Genki terminology, unless I can think of a better explanation. I will try to make mention any alternative names for terms, should I know them. That being said, let us look into verbs in Japanese! :3

Placement in a sentence

The Japanese language follows a SOV-pattern, SOV being short for “Subject, Object, Verb“, meaning that the verb of a sentence will always be at the end. So a good rule of thumb about Japanese is, that if you are in doubt about what a sentence is about, look at the last word. The overall meaning of a sentence is decided by how a verb is conjugated, but we will look into that gradually with each lesson, as this would be too much to take in all at once. Instead, lets look at the three groups of verbs that exist in Japanese.

ru verbs

Ru verbs are also called group 2 verbs, vowel stem verbs, and ichidan verbs. Genki teaches that ru verbs are verbs that simply end in ru, and then makes a footnote of the exception rule. However, here is a better trick; look at the vowel preceding the final ru. If the vowel is an ‘a’, ‘u’, or ‘o’, it is not a ru verb, but a u verb (see next section). If the preceding vowel is an ‘i’ or an ‘e’, there’s a 95% chance that it is a ru verb. The last 5% are u verbs that break this rule of thumb, and one simply has to memorize which ones they are (there are about 100-150 of these verbs).


A few examples to better help understand the above ‘rant’.

ru verbs
•taberu = to eat
•nigeru = to flee
•okiru = to wake up

exceptions (u verbs ending in -iru/-eru)
•suberu = to slip
•shaberu = to chat
•kujiru = to strangle

u verbs (otherwise ending with ‘ru’)
•hikaru = to shine
•tsukuru = to make
•ogoru = to treat (someone to a meal)

u verbs

u verbs are also called group 1 verbs, consonant stem verbs, and godan verbs. U verbs are quite simply any verbs that are not ru verbs. Like the name suggests, and which you have probably inferred by now, is that all verbs in dictionary form (the form you use when you look it up in the dictionary, duh) end with the vowel ‘u’.


•kau = to buy
•hanasu = to talk
•kaku = to write
•matsu = to wait
•shinu = to die
•nomu = to drink

The lack of a verb ending in ‘yu’ is quite simply because I’ve never encountered one, so I don’t even know if such a verb exists… I strongly doubt they do, since they’d be impossible to conjugate. Anywho, the only ‘problem’ is when to know whether a verb ending in ‘ru’ is a ‘ru verb’ or a ‘u verb’, however, the method for doing this was explained in the above ‘ru verb’-section.

Irregular verbs

There are two irregular verbs in the Japanese language: ‘suru’ (to do) and ‘kuru’ (to come). They are irregular in the sense of how they are conjugated, which we’ll look into in the next lesson, for now just keep in mind that they are irregular. Suru can be attached to nouns in order to turn them into verbs, for instance そつぎょう (卒業 sotsugyou) means ‘graduation’, while そつぎょうする (卒業する sotsugyousuru) means ‘to graduate’.

And that concludes this lesson. If you have any questions in case any of this is confusing to you, feel free to ask in a comment, and I’ll answer ASAP.

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