Master Japanese Verb Conjugation in One Article

Japanese verb conjugation

Quick Introduction

Without a doubt, the key to becoming fluent in Japanese in no time is to grasp a really good understanding of Japanese verb conjugation early on. Verbs are the very foundation of the language. In fact, a sentence requires only a verb to be grammatically correct! 

With knowing as little as a few basic verbs, you can already express yourself and get by in Japan. 


Is It Difficult to Learn Japanese Verb Conjugation?

Learners often apprehend diving into Japanese grammar, anticipating that verbs will be somewhat challenging. But the truth is, Japanese verb conjugation is actually quite straightforward with hardly any exceptions. The few irregular verbs are even actually regular in their irregularities. 

Unlike English, Japanese verbs do not conjugate with the subject. Once you’ve learned the verb く, to write, you’re set to say “I write”, “you write”, “they write” and so on. Said differently, you do not have to worry about the subject’s gender or number. One form says it all! 

However, because Japanese verbs do conjugate based on their group, tenses and formality, you have to memorize their inflections. Luckily, the Japanese language has only 3 verb groups and 14 conjugation forms to have fun with.

How to Conjugate Verbs in Japanese

In order to know how to conjugate a verb in Japanese, you first must know which group it belongs to. Verbs in the same group obey the same rules when you conjugate them. 

Knowing which group a verb belongs to helps you find its stem. In other words, the base of the verb to which you attach Japanese conjugation inflections. 

Fear not, as Japanese verbs are divided into only three groups:

  • The U-verbs, also known as V1 verbs or Godan verbs
  • The Ru-verbs, also known as the V2 verbs or Ichidan verbs
  • Irregular verbs / V3

 We will start with the irregular verbs, and you’ll see why very soon.

Japanese verb group: Irregular verbs / V3

Despite its name, the irregular verb group is very easy to learn, since only two verbs fall into this category: する (to do) and くる (to come). Their conjugation forms set them aside from the other verbs, but they’re so commonly used that you’ll memorize their forms in a flash. 

A lot of verbs are made with する attached to nouns like

  • 勉強べんきょうする (studies + to do = to study) 
  • 散歩さんぽする (walk+to do = to take a walk)

Once you have memorized all the conjugation forms of する you can conjugate all these verbs too. 

Japanese verb groups: Ru-Verbs / V2

Ru verbs or V2 verbs end in any kana in the い(i)/え(e) column + る(ru). This is why sometimes ru-verbs are also known as iru-verbs and eru-verbs.

Because the base of the verb stays the same when it’s conjugated, these verbs are called 一段いちだん動詞どうし (“one-form verb”). 

Japanese verb groups: U-Verbs or V1 verbs

The U-verb group gathers all the verbs that end with a /u/ vowel sound, like はなす (to speak), う (to buy), む (to read), ぶ (to fly) etc.

When you conjugate a u-verb, the stem’s final /u/ vowel changes to another vowel in the hiragana chart: /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/. 

This is why these verbs are also called 五段ごだん動詞どうし (It literally means “five form verbs”) in Japanese. 

A chart to summarize the three groups:

Irregularverbs/V3来る来る(kuru/to come)
するする(suru/to do)
Kanji+する勉強する(benkyousuru/to study)
Ru-verbs / V2A kana from い/えcolumn +る寝る(neru/to sleep)
食べる(taberu/to eat)
着る(kiru/to wear)
U-verbs / V1Most verbs ending in a u-kana and everything except V3 and V2飲む(nomu/to drink)
買う(kau/to buy)
書く(kaku/to write)
死ぬ* (sinu/to die)

*It is worth noting that ぬ is the only Japanese verb ending with ぬ.

Can a verb ending with る actually be a U-verb? 

If the preceding hiragana vowel was /e/ like こたえる or /i/ like できる, the verb is most likely a ru-verb. As you keep on learning, you will encounter a few deceiving verbs, but their number is very limited.

Japanese Verb Conjugation Forms: For Beginners

Now that you’re familiar with Japanese verb groups and you know how to find the stem of a verb, you’re set to delve deeper and learn the 14 Japanese verb conjugation forms, starting with the easiest form of all, the polite masu form. 

Let’s start from some of the most frequently used, most basic Japanese verb conjugation: 

Masu Form and Its Derivatives

Without going too far ahead into advanced explanations, formality greatly influences Japanese language construction. The masu form, or 丁寧語ていねいご in Japanese, is the “normal” form native speakers use with people they’re not intimate with or with people that are socially higher. 

Most methods of Japanese (including LingoDeer) teach beginners the masu form early on, because of how easy it is to memorize, but also so they can speak politely in their first encounters with Japanese people. 

The ます (masu) form can translate both the English present and future tense, and as such, is said to be a state of “nonpast”. For more clarity, you can consider that it expresses the polite present affirmative. Time-related words and context will tell you whether the present or the future is intended by the speaker. 

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: ます Form

Verb groupRuleExample verbExample sentence
V1Change the u-kana to the corresponding i-kana and attach ます to the verb stem 話す → 話します教師と話します 
I speak with the teacher
V2Attach ます to the verb stem食べる→ 食べますパンを食べます
 I eat bread
V3Attach ます to the verb stem勉強する → 勉強します日本語を勉強します
くる → きますI study Japanese
I go to school

The negative form is ません (masen), and like for the affirmative form, it can express both the present and the future. The conjugation is simple after you know how to conjugate the ます-form. 

Simply replace ます with ません to conjugate the negative form:

  • えがきません = I don’t draw a picture or I won’t draw a picture
  • ほんみません = I don’t read a book (I won’t read a book)
  • 宿題しゅくだいを しません = I don’t do my homework (I won’t do my homework)

Both the past affirmative ました and past negative of the masu form ませんでした are regular and easy to remember as well:  

  • えがきました = I drew a picture
  • えがきませんでした = I didn’t draw a picture
  • ほんみました = I read a book
  • ほんみませんでした = I didn’t read a book
  • 宿題しゅくだいを しました = I did my homework
  • 宿題しゅくだいを しませんでした = I didn’t do my homework

The imperative & volitional conjugation forms also have a formal inflection. But to keep this introduction to Japanese verb conjugation clear, their formal forms will be introduced later on, with their plain counterparts. 

Following the masu form, the most important inflections you must master to have a solid handle of Japanese verb conjugation are the four basic forms that are the plain form (present affirmative & future), the nai form (present negative & future), the ta form (past affirmative) and the nakatta form (past negative). 

Beyond expressing tenses, those basic forms are the base for numerous grammatical constructions, hence you need to memorize them right. 

Plain Form

The plain form is called dictionary form in Japanese (辞書じしょけい) because it is the form you find in dictionaries when you look up a verb. This form helps you find a verb’s group and stem. All Japanese verbs in plain form end with a hiragana from the /u/ row of the hiragana table.

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Plain Form

Plain Form 
U-verbs吸う, 書く, 話す, 脱ぐ, 待つ, 死ぬ, 呼ぶ, 読む
Ru-verbs食べる, 見る, できる etc. 
するする, 勉強する, 料理する etc.

The plain form is colloquial, which means you should use this form only when interacting with familiar people such as family members, friends or a very close colleague. Also, you usually write in plain form unless it is written to a specific reader, like an email. Newspaper articles, academic papers, documents that give information and are not directly addressing the reader, are written in plain Japanese. 

You use the plain form to make simple declarative statements such as “I write” (く), “you speak”(はなす) etc. Like with the masu form, the plain form can also express the future based on the context of your sentence: 

  • えがく = I draw a picture (I will draw a picture)
  • ほんむ = I read a book (I will read a book)
  • 宿題しゅくだいを する = I do my homework (I will do my homework)

Nai form – The Plain Negative form

The nai form is the negative counterpart of the plain form. This is your go-to form when you want to make a negative statement such as “I don’t see” (ない) or “you don’t smoke” (わない) and  “I won’t see” or “you won’t smoke”. 

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Nai Form

Verb groupRuleExample verbExample sentence
V1Stem’s /u/ vowel changes to /a/.話す → 話さない教師と話さない
Verbs that ends with the hiragana う will change う to わ吸う  →  吸わないI don’t speak with the teacher
I don’t smoke tobacco
V2Attach ない to the verb stem食べる → 食べないパンを食べない
I don’t eat bread
V3する becomes しない勉強する → 勉強しない勉強する → 日本語を勉強しない
くるbecomes こないくる→こないI don’t study Japanese
くる → 学校にこない*
I don’t come to school

Ta form – The Plain Past Affirmative Form

The ta form, or plain past affirmative, expresses that an action was done in the past, like “I did my homework” (宿題しゅくだいをした) or “you ate bread” (パンをべた). 

The construction of the ta form is a little bit tricky when it comes to u-verbs depending on their last hiragana character, but the good news is that these exceptions are limited to a few verbs only! 

  • えがいた = I drew a picture
  • ほんんだ= I read a book
  • 宿題しゅくだいを した = I did my homework

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Ta Form

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsIf the last hiragana is う,つ,る, add った to the verb stem笑う → 笑った
If the last hiragana is む, ぶ, ぬ, add んだ読む → 読んだ
If the last hiragana is く, add いた to the verb stem:働く→ 働いた
If the last hiragana is ぐ, add いだ to the verb stem泳ぐ → 泳いだ
If the last hiragana is す, add した to the verb stem隠す→ 隠した
Ru-verbsAttach た to the verb stem 食べる → 食べた
するAttach た to the verb stem勉強する →勉強した
くるくる → 来た

Nakatta Form – The Plain Past Negative Form

A trick to remember how to conjugate the plain past negative form is start from the nai-form’s stem (/a/) and add “katta” to the verb. You can now casually express that action didn’t take place: 

  • ほんまなかった = I didn’t read the book
  • 夕飯ゆうはんべなかった = I didn’t eat dinner
  • 宿題しゅくだいを しなかった = I didn’t do my homework

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Nakatta Form

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsStem’s vowel /u/ changes to /a/ to which you add なかった:話す → 教師と話さなかった
I didn’t speak with the teacher
⚠︎ Verbs that end with the hiragana う will change う to わEx: 笑う  →  笑わなかった
I didn’t laugh
Ru-verbsAttach なかった to the verb stem食べる → 食事を食べなかった
I didn’t eat my meal
    -するAttach なかった to the verb stem勉強する → 日本語を勉強しなかった
I didn’t study Japanese
    -くる⚠︎ Notice that the stem for くる’s past negative form is こくる → 学校にこなかった
I didn’t come to school

Te Form

Pillar of Japanese grammar, the te-form is the cement that helps connect clauses together to build more complex sentences. For example, you use the te-form to list success actions or to show causality between several events:

  • あらって、食事しょくじべた  = I washed my hands and ate my meal
  • あさ7とききて、運動うんどうして、仕事しごとく = I wake up at 7, exercise and go to work. 
  • 時間じかんがなくて、レポートかなかった = I lacked the time and didn’t write my report. 

In principle, a sentence with a te-form inflected verb is a subordinate clause that requires the main clause to be grammatically complete. However, when casually speaking, native speakers sometimes stop at a te-form verb clause, leaving the rest of the sentence implied. 

  • A: レポートは? = What about the report?
  • B: 時間じかんがなくて・・・ = I lacked time… 

(implied sentence = レポートかなかった “I didn’t write my report”)

The te-form is also used in a gazillion of grammatical expressions that you will progressively learn. The most common construction is to make a polite request. 

  • レポート をいてください = Please write your report
  • あらってください = Please wash your hands

For u-verbs, the affirmative te-form conjugates like the ta-form form – you just need to switch the vowel /a/ to /e/. 

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Affirmative Te Form

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsLast hiragana is う,つ,る 吸う → 吸って
→ Add って to the verb stem
Last hiragana is む, ぶ, ぬ読む → 読んで
→ Add んで
Last hiragana is く 書く(to write) → 書いて
行く(to go) → 行って(irregular*)
→ Add いて to the verb stem
Last hiragana is ぐ泳ぐ (to swim) → 泳いで
→ Add いで to the verb stem
Last hiragana is す隠す (to hide) → 隠して
→ Add して to the verb stem
Ru-verbsAttach て to the stem: 食べる → 食べて
Eat, eating
するAttach て to the stem: 勉強する → 日本語を勉強してください
Study Japanese
くるくる → 学校にきてください
Come to school

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Negative Te-Form

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsTake for start base the negative plain form stem ない, drop the い and add なくて to the stem話す→ 話さない → 話さなくて 
Ru-verbsAttach ないで to the stem食べる → 食べないで
Don’t eat snacks.
Note: All verb groups have both ないで (Negative Te form) and ~なくて forms (and the rules are the same for both, per their group).
するAttach ないで to the stem: する → 音をしないでください
Don’t make noise
くるAttach ないで to the stem: 
⚠︎ Notice that the stem for くる’s negative te-form is こ
くる→ 学校にこないでください
Don’t come to school

*Please note the Negative Te Form does not just apply to the U and Ru verbs. When you use the Negative Te form, there is a simple rule: think of the negative plain form ending in ない, then simply replace ない with なくて or ないで. For example, べる → べない → べなくて/べないで

Japanese Verb Conjugation Forms: For Intermediate

Good job! Now you have mastered the basic forms of Japanese verb conjugation, it is time to go level up and challenge the more complicated ones. Let’s start!

Conditional Form ba

Japanese verb conjugation has two forms to express the conditional and make hypothetical statements: ba form and tara form. With time, their nuances won’t have any secret for you and you will know when to use one or the other. 

But for now, just remember that the ba-form is a general conditional that cannot express any form of intention, such as a command, a request, an invitation or a wish. 

The ba-form is often used to ask for or to give advice, as well as to express regret for something in the past: 

  • どうすればいいですか = What should I do?
  • 教師きょうしいてみれば = Why don’t you ask the teacher?
  • こうすればどうですか = What about doing like?
  • けばよかったのに = I wish I had gone… 

While the negative form exists, its usage is not common and doesn’t feel very natural outside of set idiomatic expressions such as なければならない “I cannot not do”:

  • 勉強べんきょうしなければならない = I have to do study (If I don’t study, something negative happens)

Like for the ta-form and the te-form, the stem of u-verbs will vary depending on their ending hiragana. The vowel /u/ changes to the corresponding hiragana with the vowel /e/. 

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Affirmative Ba Form 

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsLast hiragana is う,つ,る 吸う → 吸えば
→ Add えば to the verb stem
Last hiragana is む, ぶ, ぬ読む → 読めば
→ Add めば
Last hiragana is く 行く(to go) → 行けば
→ Add けば to the verb stem
Last hiragana is ぐ泳ぐ (to swim) → 泳げば
→ Add げば to the verb stem
Last hiragana is す隠す (to hide) → 隠せば
→ Add せば to the verb stem
ru-verbsAdd れば to the verb stem食べる → 食べれば
するAdd れば to the verb stemこうする → こうすれば
⚠︎ Notice that the stem for する’s affirmative ba-form is すIf doing like this…
くるAdd れば to the verb stemくる  → これば
⚠︎ Notice that the stem for くる’s affirmative ba-form is こIf going… 

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Negative Ba Form

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsStart from the negative plain form ない, drop the い and add ければ to the verb stem話す → 話さない → 話さなければ
ru-verbsAdd なければ to the verb stem食べる → 食べなければ
するAdd なければ to the verb stem勉強する → 勉強しなければ
くるAdd なければ to the verb stemくる → こなければ
⚠︎ Notice that the stem for くる’s negative ba-form is こ

Conditional Form tara

The tara form is another way to express the conditional and translates the hypothetical “if” with a focus on what happens after the condition is realized or not. 

  • かねがあったら、あたらしい パソコン をう = If I have the money, I’ll buy a new computer

In that sense, tara is also a form you can use to express what will happen in the future if conditions are met. 

  • 冬休ふゆやすみがきたら、地元じもともどる When the winter holidays come, I will go back to my hometown

The tara form is also the form you use when expressing an unrealistic proposition. 

  • 王様おうさまだったら、毎日まいにち日曜日にちようびにするのになぁ =  If I was the king, I would make every day to be Sundays…

Luckily, its conjugation is based on the plain past form for both the affirmative and negative and you just have to add “ra”.

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Affirmative Tara Form

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsLast hiragana is う,つ,る 笑う → 笑ったら
→ Add ったら to the verb stem
Last hiragana is む, ぶ, ぬ読む → 読んだら
→ Add んだら
Last hiragana is く 行く(to go) → 行ったら
→ Add いたら to the verb stem
Last hiragana is ぐ泳ぐ (to swim) → 泳いだら
→ Add いだら to the verb stem
Last hiragana is す隠す (to hide) → 隠したら
→ Add したら to the verb stem
Ru-verbsAdd たら to the stem食べる → 食べたら
するAdd たら to the stemする → 料理したら
くるAdd たら to the stemくる → きたら

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Negative Tara Form

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsFrom the past negative plain form stem なかった add ら話す→ 話さない → 話さなかったら
Ru-verbsAdd なかったら to the stem食べる → 食べなかったら
するAdd なかったら to the stemする → しなかったら
くるくる → こなかったら

Imperative Form

Set a rule for yourself to avoid as much as possible using the imperative form, whether casually or formally. Considered quite rude by Japanese people, the form is mostly used by authority figures, such as the police or parents with their children, and on public road signs まれ (Stop!).

The imperative should be limited to extreme contexts where you are required to give an order and there’s no time to lose with politeness and formality. 

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Imperative Form

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsThe vowel /u/ becomes /e/話す→ 話せ
Ru-verbsThe ending る becomes ろ食べる → 食べろ
するAdd ろ to the stem for するする → 勉強しろ
くるくる has an irregular formくる → こい

While formal, imperative form なさい still has to be used with care not to offend anyone. 

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsAdd なさい to the verb stem話す→ 話しなさい
Ru-verbsAdd なさい to the verb stem食べる → 食事を食べなさい
Eat your meal!
するAdd なさい to the verb stem勉強する → 日本語を勉強しなさい
Study Japanese!
くるAdd なさい to the verb stemくる → 学校にきなさい
come to school!

Volitional Form

Shortly speaking, the volitional form turns verbs into suggestions. This form expresses our intention to do an action and can be translated by “let’s” or “shall we”. 

  • こうか = Let’s go?

Beyond your intention, the volitional can also mark that you’re making an effort or an attempt to do something or that you planned to do something. 

  • やってみようとおも = I’d like to give it a try
  • 今日きょう勉強べんきょうしようとめた = I’ve decided to study today

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Volitional Form

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsThe stem vowel /u/ becomes /o/ to which you add う教師と話す→ 教師と話そう
Let’s speak with the teacher!
Ru-verbsAdd よう to the verb stem食事を食べる → 食事を食べよう
Shall we eat our meal?
するAdd よう to the verb stem勉強する → しよう
くるAdd よう to the verb stemくる→ こよう
⚠︎ Notice that the stem for くる’s plain volitional form is こ

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Volitional Form

The formal volitional form is ましょう for all 3 verb groups. 

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsAdd ましょう to the verb stem話す→教師と話しましょう
Let’s speak to the teacher
Ru-verbsAdd ましょう to the verb stem食べる→一緒に食べましょう
Let’s eat together
するAdd ましょう to the verb stem勉強する → 日本語を勉強しましょう
Study Japanese!
くるAdd ましょう to the verb stemくる → 皆さんも遊びに来ましょう
Everyone, please come to play!

Potential Form

Unlike English, Japanese language doesn’t have a modal verb like “can” to express one’s ability to do something. Instead, you have a potential form inflection which will create a new ru-verb that can be conjugated too. 

Like its name indicates, this particular conjugation allows you to express that the verb’s action is possible.  

  • 日本語にほんごはなせるようになった = I became able to speak Japanese
  • 料理りょうりができる = I can cook
  • ピーナツ がべられない = I cannot eat peanuts 

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Potential Form

Notice that the particle を becomes が with potential verbs. 

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsThe vowel /u/ changes to /e/, to which you add る日本語を話す→日本語が 話せる
I speak Japanese → I can speak Japanese
Ru-verbsAdd られる to the verb stem肉を食べる → 肉が食べられる
I eat meat → I can eat meat
するする→ できる
くる⚠︎ Notice that the stem for くる’s potential form is こくる→ こられる

You may have noticed that the potential form ending makes ru-verbs quite long to pronounce. Native speakers, when speaking casually, may shorten られる to れる, for example, られる becomes れる. However, that’s actually colloquial and not grammatically correct. 

Passive Form

While the passive form isn’t hard to memorize in itself, it can take a while to wrap your mind around passive sentences. Don’t worry, you’ll get there! 

Contrary to English and many roman languages, the passive form is commonly used in Japanese and not at all seen as a clumsy way of speaking. For Japanese native speakers, when the action “what is done”, or the consequences for the person, “what is done to you”, are more important than the subject, “who did it”, the passive form sounds more natural and is preferred. Speaking differently, it’s a matter of perspective. 

Japanese people also use the passive form to speak more politely, as it tunes out the subject (you) making you sound modest. Another nuance of the passive voice is that 

Like with the potential form, the passive inflection gives birth to new verbs that fall into the ru-verb groups and therefore, that can be conjugated. 

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Passive Form

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsThe stem vowel /u/ changes to /a/, to which you add れる聞く→ 教師は答えを聞かれる
The teacher was asked the answer. 
Ru-verbsAdd られる to the verb stem食べる → パンが誰かに食べられた
The bread was eaten by someone
するAdd れる to する‘s stemする → 部屋はよく掃除される
⚠︎ Notice that the stem for する’s passive form is される。The room is cleaned well/often.
くるAdd られる to くる’s stem:くる → ストーカーに家までこられる
⚠︎ Notice that the stem for くる’s passive form is こMy home was visited by a stalker. 

Note that the passive form of ru-verbs is identical to their potential form. The context and grammatical particles will give you clues as to which form is intended. 


Causative Form

Along with the passive form, the causative form can feel challenging to learn. This particular conjugation is used to express that you make someone do an action, let someone do an action or, on the contrary, you prevent someone from doing an action. In other words, you are the original cause for an action to take place or not and you speak from this very perspective. 

A good way to remember the causative is to think with the verb “make” or “let”. 

  • 子供こどもに タバコ をわせない = Kids are not allowed to smoke tobacco 
  • ははわたし野菜やさいべさせる = I am made to eat vegetables by my mother 
  • 週末しゅうまつ子供こどもあそばせる = I let my kid play on weekends

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Causative Form

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsThe vowel /u/ changes to /a/, to which you add せる to the stem話す→ 教師は生徒に事実を話させる
The teacher makes the student tell the truth. 
Ru-verbsAdd させる to the verb stem食べる → 父は子供に甘いものを食べさせる
The father let the kids eat sweets.
するAdd させる to the verb stemする → 勉強させる
Let to study/made to study
くるAdd させる to the verb stemくる → ウェイターをこさせる
⚠︎ Notice that the stem for くる’s causative form is こ Call the waiter (make the waiter to come)

Causative Passive Form

This ultimate form consists of adding the passive form to the causative form of a verb, making it extra long for sure, but not hard to conjugate. The newly created verb belongs to the ru-verb group and can be conjugated with all the other conjugation forms (as long as it sounds logical). 

The action of making someone do, letting someone do or preventing someone to do was done to that person. Because the form is used to express something over which the speaker has no choice or control, the causative passive has a strong negative connotation. It’s conceptually very hard for Romance language speakers to understand, so simply remember that the causative passive form is primarily used with verbs such as “to recall”, “to feel”, “to conceive” or “to think”. 

Japanese Verb Conjugation Chart: Causative Passive Form

Verb GroupRulesExamples
U-verbsThe stem vowel /u/ becomes /a/, to which you add せられる思い出す→ 嫌な記憶を思い出させられる
I am made to recall a bad memory
Ru-verbsAdd させられる to the verb stem見せる → 昔の写真を見させられる 
I am made to show my old photos
するAdd させられる to the verb stem: する → 上司に残業させられる
I’m made to do overtime by my boss. 
くるくる → 休日なのに会社に来させられる
Although it’s a day off, I’m made to go to my company

While knowing all 14 Japanese conjugation forms is critical to reaching fluency, take your studies one day at a time and focus first on mastering the masu form, following up with the basic plain forms. As you progress in Japanese, the rest will naturally come in place. 

Japanese Verb Conjugation: How to Memorize and Practice

The Japanese verb conjugation is relatively easy to learn, but memorizing all verb groups’ forms can certainly be scary at first glance. 

Every time you feel overwhelmed by your Japanese studies, remember that learning a language is like having fun with a very big puzzle. Piece by piece, the puzzle will become clearer and easier to solve. This is what language learning with LingoDeer feels like, fun, easy, and effective.

Learn Japanese Verb Conjugation by Dictionary

The first good habit you must take is to look up every new verb you encounter in the dictionary. Be active with your learning and make a conscious effort to search for information. 

Not only will you find the verb’s meaning(s), but you will also know its group, kanji, and usage. The act itself helps with memorization and to spot the verbs that have irregular conjugation forms. Keep notes of the newly learned verb as you go, on paper or in an app. 

Japanese verb conjugation Oxford Beginner's Japanese Dictionary
Oxford Beginner’s Japanese Dictionary, Image from Amazon

Learn Japanese Verb Conjugation by Checking the Verb Conjugator

You now have a good understanding of Japanese verb conjugation. Facing a new verb, trust yourself and try to conjugate on your own in the beginning. It’s very important that conjugated forms come to use naturally. 

Use a verb conjugator to check that you got the forms correctly. It’s okay if some forms give you a harder time than others, learning a language is not a sprint, but a marathon. Depending on your learning style, writing them down or reading them at loud will help your memory. 

Learn Japanese Verb Conjugation by Sentence Making

The key to actively learn a language will always be to see words used in a natural context. So take the time to write a series of sentences using new verbs you’ve just learned. This provides a good opportunity to review Japanese particles as well.

Don’t avoid the difficulties and challenge yourself with new vocabulary. Make your sentences sound fun too! Read your sentences out loud to practice your speaking skills and review them from time to time to refresh your memory. 

If you worry about making mistakes, share your sentence on HiNative for feedback and help from native speakers. Once you’ve had your sentences checked out, you can make effective flashcards to remember your verbs.  

Japanese Verb Conjugation: Self-study Resources

A good way to practice Japanese verb conjugation is to drill yourself regularly. You’ll find plenty of useful resources online. Many websites dedicated to Japanese language, starting with Genki Online and Marugoto Plus, offer some free exercises that you can do directly online, print or integrate with apps. For example, If you use Anki to study Japanese, you will find drilling decks developed by other learners to help you with your practice. 

If you dread the thought of having to do (boring) and repetitive grammar exercises and need a fun break, LingoDeer Plus turned drilling conjugation into a cool game that you’ll help improve with no pain. The awesome team of LingoDeer developed original and enjoyable content to create an engaging learning experience that’ll make you happily practice Japanese verb conjugation.


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2 years ago

Wow really great, clear and concise explanation.

2 years ago

Helpful thank you. I am trying to focus on verbs to up my Japanese. This article has a lot of good information. Was thrown off by the use of a more specialized kanji for teacher but it’s a small detail.

2 years ago

Put it into a chart format with links to the more detailed explinations

2 years ago

A great article! Verbs have been a sticking point for me. I’m not good with languages and the verb tables in the dictionary give me an instant headache! You’re article feels like a step by step that might get me off the starting block. I dont mind the lack of furigana for the kanji – thats my job to look up and try to learn in my own slow, unavoidable way. Thank you.

2 years ago

Some remarks:

You mentioned 死ぬ but the Romaji says “shine” (which would be the imperative).

In the table for う-Verbs it is said that a verb ending in く will become いく, but the example given is the only exception to the rule, namely 行く, which becomes 行って instead of “行いて”.

Apart from that it’s a great article.

2 years ago

You did a great job trying to explain Japanese as clearly as possible. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try to simplify it for everyone, most people will never be able to wrap their heads around these rules. Simply because these rules are inconsistent. For starters, traditional rules state that there are only 2 irregular verbs; when, in fact, there are a lot more. Let me give a few examples: IKU, DESU, all honorific verbs are irregular (gozaru, ossharu, irassharu, etc). The only way to explain Japanese verb conjugations in a truly easy to understand fashion is by breaking the mold and forgetting traditional rules all together.

2 years ago

Small amendment to be made, in the sentence talking about buying a new computer, an 「い」was left off 新しい

Daniel Fogli
Daniel Fogli
1 year ago

Very helpful guide on conjugation, really useful, thanks!

1 year ago

looks great!

Last edited 1 year ago by Hikari
Daniel Carlile
Daniel Carlile
1 year ago

Please, why didn’t you provide the furigana—if we’re just learning the basics of verb conjugation, how could we possibly read all the kanji?

1 year ago

I really learned a lot from even just the first half of this, but I can’t read all the kanji since I’m a beginner. Would love the hiragana above or in parentheses after.

Last edited 1 year ago by
1 year ago

If somebody doesn’t know how to conjugate verbs, why do you expect them to be able to read kanji?

1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Thanks for your suggestion! We added romaji to assist with reading. Happy learning!

1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Hello, thank you for your kind reminder. We have modified the article to assist in reading. Much appreciated your attention.

1 year ago

Very helpful, a few concerns though.
On the Affirmative Ba Form chart, for く, should say replace it with けば not いけば. Easy mistake since all the other kana swaps (た / て / たら) add い for く ending. The example is correct.
On the Negative Te-Form Chart, the Negative Te form and the Special Negative Te form are shown as if they were for Ru and U verbs respectively. To be clear, all verb groups have both ~naide (Negative Te form) and ~nakute forms (and the rules are the same for both, per their group).

That said, this was very helpful どうもありがとう

1 year ago

You have an error here:
冬休(natsu yasu)みがきたら、地元(ji moto)に戻(modo)る
The furigana is wrong. 冬 is not natsu, it’s fuyu.

1 year ago
Reply to  jzyne

Thank you for pointing this out. We have revised the article.

1 year ago

This article is proving to be really helpful! but there’s one thing in particular that had me confused and forced me to go check other sources. When explaining verbs in past plain form, your example for godan verbs ending in く is the only irregular verb on that group, no further examples are provided, and the article says nothing about it. Later on, on another instance it does point out that 行く is irregular and you do provide an example of a verb that actually follows the rules, but that information should also be added to the plain past form examples. Otherwise it makes it seem like this article is wrong or contradicting itself at first glance. My only other complaint is that the romaji system used isn’t Hepburn, and to people learning japanese it makes way more sense to read “shukudai” than “syukudai”. I’d even say that writing it on hiragana is less confusing to learners than using that romaji system, but this was just a personal gripe I had. The 行く thing though really needs to be made clear. For everything else, thanks a lot! Verbs are finally starting to make sense to me.

1 year ago

You are using an old form of romaaji. “Shukudai” not “syukudai”.

blogger deer
blogger deer
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy

Hi Jeremy, Thanks for you comment. Actually, what you mentioned is called Hepburn romanization, which is a very popular type of romaji, especially among Japanese learners. However, the other one we used in the article, Nihon-shiki romanization, is the most regular one and still widely used today. If you are learning Japanese, our suggestion is to learn kana and not rely too much on romaji, especially when it comes to pronunciation. Learn more about why from our previous article:

1 year ago


11 months ago

The ba-form of くる is くれば, not これば.

6 days ago

This was exactly what I was looking for, on one page no less. Thank you 🙂