What are verbs

Introducing Japanese verbs and the first set of verbs: る-verbs

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KanjiVocabularyWhat are verbs


Eat, Food

See, Look at, Opinion

Exit, Leave, Go out



To eat


To look at, To watch, To see


To go out

What are verbs

Verbs are a type of word which describe the action (go, eat), occurrence (become, happen), or state of being (exist, know) of something. There are three categories of Japanese verbs: る-verbs, う-verbs and irregular verbs. Much like adjectives, verbs can change form. When a verb changes form it is called conjugation.

The different categories of verbs have different conjugation patterns that you will need to learn. When learning verbs, you should take a mental note of what type of verb it is. Much like です and adjectives, verbs in Japanese only have past and non-past tense. We will first learn how to conjugate verbs to non-past tense, which is used to express habitual and future events. Past tense will be taught later on the course.

The dictionary form of verbs in Japanese will always end with the vowel , either as a character by itself () or as part of another character (く, む, る, etc).


When the dictionary form of a verb ends with , it is probably (but not always) a る-verb. If a verb ends with another character such as or then it is definitely not a る-verb.

When conjugating verbs, only part of the verb actually changes. We will call the section that doesn't change the non-conjugation part (NCP). For the verb かける, the NCP is かけ and for the verb , the NCP is the . The NCP of a る-verb is everything before the last letter and will always end in either or . This could be the vowel by itself, or a character such as which still ends with the vowel . Let's take a look at the non-past forms for る-verbs using the verb べる as an example:

Plain affirmative〜る食べる
Polite affirmative〜ます食べます
Plain negative〜ない食べない
Polite negative〜ません食べません

As you can see, you simply append the NCP of the verb with the conjugating part to create the completed form.

There is another part of verbs that you should keep in mind for future lessons: the stem. We will define the stem of a verb to be everything before the ます in the polite affirmative form. For る-verbs, this is the same as the NCP.

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