Japanese grammar
The Japanese language
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

 has a regular agglutinative verb morphology, with both productive and fixed elements. In language typology, it has many features divergent from most European languages. Its phrases are exclusively head
Head (linguistics)
In linguistics, the head is the word that determines the syntactic type of the phrase of which it is a member, or analogously the stem that determines the semantic category of a compound of which it is a component. The other elements modify the head....

-final and compound sentences are exclusively left-branching
Branching (linguistics)
In linguistics, branching is the general tendency towards a given order of words within sentences and smaller grammatical units within sentences...

. There are many such languages, but few in Europe. It is a topic-prominent language
Topic-prominent language
A topic-prominent language is a language that organizes its syntax to emphasize the topic–comment structure of the sentence. The term is best known in American linguistics from Charles N...


Word order: head final and left branching

The modern theory of constituent order ("word order"), usually attributed to Joseph Greenberg
Joseph Greenberg
Joseph Harold Greenberg was a prominent and controversial American linguist, principally known for his work in two areas, linguistic typology and the genetic classification of languages.- Early life and career :...

, identifies several kinds of phrase. Each one has a head and possibly a modifier. The head of a phrase either precedes its modifier (head initial) or follows it (head final). Some of these phrase types, with the head marked in boldface, are:
  • genitive phrase, i.e., noun modified by another noun ("the cover of the book", "the book's cover");
  • noun governed by an adposition ("on the table", "underneath the table");
  • comparison ("[X is] bigger than Y", i.e., "compared to Y, X is big").
  • noun modified by an adjective ("black cat").

Some languages are inconsistent in constituent order, having a mixture of head initial phrase types and head final phrase types. Looking at the preceding list, English for example is mostly head initial, but nouns follow the adjectives which modify them. Moreover, genitive phrases can be either head initial or head final in English. Japanese, by contrast, is the epitome of a head final language:
  • genitive phrase: neko no iro, cat GEN color = "the color (iro) of the cat (neko)";
  • noun governed by an adposition: nihon ni, Japan in = "in Japan";
  • comparison: Y yori ookii, Y than big = "bigger than Y";
  • noun modified by an adjective: kuroi neko = "black cat".

Head finality in Japanese sentence structure carries over to the building of sentences using other sentences. In sentences that have other sentences as some of their constituents, the subordinated sentences (relative clauses, for example), always precede what they refer to, since they are modifiers and what they modify has the syntactic status of phrasal head. Translating the phrase the man who was walking down the street into Japanese word order would be street down walking man. (Note that Japanese has no articles, and the different word order obviates any need for the relative pronoun who.)

Head finality prevails also when sentences are coordinated instead of subordinated. In the world's languages, it is common to avoid repetition between coordinated clauses by optionally deleting a constituent common to the two parts, as in Bob bought his mother some flowers and his father a tie, where the second bought is omitted. In Japanese, such "gapping" must precede in the reverse order: Bob mother for some flowers and father for tie bought. The reason for this is that in Japanese, sentences always end in a verb—the only exceptions being a few particles such as ka, ne, and yo. ka turns a statement into a question, while the other sentence-final particles express the speaker's attitude towards the statement.

Word class system

Japanese has five major lexical word classes:
  • nouns
    • verbal nouns (correspond to English gerunds like 'studying', 'jumping', which denote activities)
    • nominal adjectives (called "adjectival nouns" by some scholars)
  • verbs
    • adjectives (so-called i-adjectives)

Verbal nouns and nominal adjectives are in fact subcategories of noun, while i-adjectives are closely related to verbs.

The two inflected classes, verb and adjective, are closed class
Closed class
In linguistics, a closed class is a word class to which no new items can normally be added, and that usually contains a relatively small number of items. Typical closed classes found in many languages are adpositions , determiners, conjunctions, and pronouns.Contrastingly, an open class offers...

es, meaning they do not readily gain new members. Instead, new and borrowed verbs and adjectives are conjugated periphrastically as verbal noun + suru (e.g. benkyō suru 'do studying = study') and adjectival noun + na. This is unusual from a Western viewpoint
Standard Average European
Standard Average European is a concept introduced by Benjamin Whorf to group the modern, Indo-European languages of Europe in the sense of a Sprachbund.The more central members of the SAE Sprachbund are Romance and West Germanic, i.e...

, though one parallel is that new Basque verbs
Basque verbs
The verb is one of the most complex parts of Basque grammar. It is sometimes represented as a difficult challenge for learners of the language, and many Basque grammars devote most of their pages to lists or tables of verb paradigms...

 are only formed periphrastically. It is also opposite to the situation with pronouns, which are closed classes in Western languages but open class
Open class
Open class may refer to:*Open Class , an event classification*Open class , a word class readily accepting new items*Open class , a standardbred racing event open to all comers...

es in Japanese and some other East Asian languages
East Asian languages
East Asian languages describe two notional groupings of languages in East and Southeast Asia:* Languages which have been greatly influenced by Classical Chinese and the Chinese writing system, in particular Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese .* The larger grouping of languages includes the...


The conjugation
Grammatical conjugation
In linguistics, conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a verb from its principal parts by inflection . Conjugation may be affected by person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood, voice, or other grammatical categories...

 of i-adjectives has similarities to the conjugation of verbs, unlike Western languages where inflection of adjectives, where it exists, is more likely to have similarities to the declension
In linguistics, declension is the inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and articles to indicate number , case , and gender...

 of nouns.

Japanese vocabulary has a large layer of Chinese loanwords, nearly all of which go back more than one thousand years, yet virtually none of them are verbs or "i-adjectives". However a few recent loanwords are sometimes playfully conjugated as verbs, for example English Google and double, whose Japanese transliterations end in -ru which happens to be the citation form
Citation form
In linguistics the citation form of a word can mean:* its canonical form or lemma: the form of an inflected word given in dictionaries or glossaries, thus also called the dictionary form....

 ending of Japanese verbs.

Verbal nouns are uncontroversially nouns, having only minor syntactic differences to distinguish them from pure nouns like 'mountain'. Nominal adjectives have more syntactic differences versus pure nouns, but they, too, are ultimately a subcategory of nouns.

The system of word classes in Japanese has yet another typologically unusual characteristic: the subclass of nominal adjectives is syntactically heterogeneous. It has its own subdivisions defined by the array of syntactic divergences they have versus the pure nouns.

Japanese as a topic-prominent language

In discourse
Discourse generally refers to "written or spoken communication". The following are three more specific definitions:...

Pragmatics is a subfield of linguistics which studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning. Pragmatics encompasses speech act theory, conversational implicature, talk in interaction and other approaches to language behavior in philosophy, sociology, and linguistics. It studies how the...

, the term topic refers to what a section of discourse is about. At the beginning of a section of discourse, the topic is usually unknown, in which case it is usually necessary to explicitly mention it. As the discourse carries on, the topic need not be the grammatical subject of each new sentence.

Starting with Middle Japanese, the grammar evolved so as to explicitly distinguish topics from nontopics. This is done by two distinct particle
Grammatical particle
In grammar, a particle is a function word that does not belong to any of the inflected grammatical word classes . It is a catch-all term for a heterogeneous set of words and terms that lack a precise lexical definition...

s (short words which do not change form). Consider the following pair of sentences:
taiyō ga noboru
sun NONTOPIC rise
taiyō wa noboru
sun TOPIC rise

Both sentences translate as "the sun rises". In the first sentence the sun (太陽 taiyō) is not a discourse topic—not yet; in the second sentence it now is a discourse topic. In linguistics (specifically, in discourse pragmatics) a sentence such as the second one (with wa) is termed a presentational sentence because its function in the discourse is to present sun as a topic, to "broach it for discussion". Once a referent has been established as the topic of the current monolog or dialog, then in (formal) modern Japanese its marking will change from wa to ga. To better explain the difference, the translation of the second sentence can be enlarged to "As for the sun, it rises" or "Speaking of the sun, it rises"; these renderings reflect a discourse fragment in which "the sun" is being established as the topic of an extended discussion.

Liberal omission of the subject of a sentence

The grammatical subject
Subject (grammar)
The subject is one of the two main constituents of a clause, according to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and that is associated with phrase structure grammars; the other constituent is the predicate. According to another tradition, i.e...

 is commonly omitted in Japanese, as in
nihon ni ikimashita

The sentence literally expresses "went to Japan". Subjects are mentioned when a topic is introduced, or in situations where an ambiguity might result from their omission. The preceding example sentence would most likely be uttered in the middle of a discourse, where who it is that "went to Japan" will be clear from what has already been said (or written).

Sentences, phrases and words

Text (文章 bunshō) is composed of sentences
Sentence (linguistics)
In the field of linguistics, a sentence is an expression in natural language, and often defined to indicate a grammatical unit consisting of one or more words that generally bear minimal syntactic relation to the words that precede or follow it...

 (文 bun), which are in turn composed of phrase
In everyday speech, a phrase may refer to any group of words. In linguistics, a phrase is a group of words which form a constituent and so function as a single unit in the syntax of a sentence. A phrase is lower on the grammatical hierarchy than a clause....

s (文節 bunsetsu), which are its smallest coherent components. Like Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

 and classical Korean
Korean language
Korean is the official language of the country Korea, in both South and North. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in People's Republic of China. There are about 78 million Korean speakers worldwide. In the 15th century, a national writing...

, written Japanese does not typically demarcate words with spaces; its agglutinative nature further makes the concept of a word
In language, a word is the smallest free form that may be uttered in isolation with semantic or pragmatic content . This contrasts with a morpheme, which is the smallest unit of meaning but will not necessarily stand on its own...

 rather different from words in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. The listener identifies word divisions by semantic cues and a knowledge of phrase structure. Phrases have a single meaning-bearing word, followed by a string of suffix
In linguistics, a suffix is an affix which is placed after the stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, which indicate the grammatical case of nouns or adjectives, and verb endings, which form the conjugation of verbs...

es, auxiliary verb
Auxiliary verb
In linguistics, an auxiliary verb is a verb that gives further semantic or syntactic information about a main or full verb. In English, the extra meaning provided by an auxiliary verb alters the basic meaning of the main verb to make it have one or more of the following functions: passive voice,...

s and particles
Grammatical particle
In grammar, a particle is a function word that does not belong to any of the inflected grammatical word classes . It is a catch-all term for a heterogeneous set of words and terms that lack a precise lexical definition...

 to modify its meaning and designate its grammatical role. In the following example, phrases are indicated by vertical bars:
taiyō ga | higashi no | sora ni | noboru
sun SUBJECT | east POSSESSIVE | sky LOCATIVE | rise
The sun rises in the eastern sky.

Some scholars romanize
In linguistics, romanization or latinization is the representation of a written word or spoken speech with the Roman script, or a system for doing so, where the original word or language uses a different writing system . Methods of romanization include transliteration, for representing written...

 Japanese sentences by inserting spaces only at phrase boundaries (i.e., "taiyō-ga higashi-no sora-ni noboru"), treating an entire phrase as a single word. This represents an almost purely phonological conception of where one word ends and the next begins. There is some validity in taking this approach: phonologically
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

, the postpositional particles merge with the structural word that precedes them, and within a phonological phrase, the pitch can have at most one fall. Usually, however, grammarians adopt a more conventional concept of word (単語 tango), one which invokes meaning and sentence structure.

Word classification

In linguistics generally, words and affixes are often classified into two major word categories: lexical words, those that refer to the world outside of a discourse, and function words
Function word
Function words are words that have little lexical meaning or have ambiguous meaning, but instead serve to express grammatical relationships with other words within a sentence, or specify the attitude or mood of the speaker...

—also including fragments of words—which help to build the sentence in accordance with the grammar rules of the language. Lexical words include nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and sometimes prepositions and postpositions, while grammatical words or word parts include everything else. The native tradition in Japanese grammar scholarship seems to concur in this view of classification. This native Japanese tradition uses the terminology jiritsugo (自立語), "independent words", for words having lexical meaning, and fuzokugo (付属語), "ancillary words", for words having a grammatical function.

Classical Japanese had some auxiliary verbs (i.e., they were independent words) which have become grammaticized in modern Japanese as inflectional suffixes, such as the past tense suffix -ta (which might have developed as a contraction of -te ari).

Traditional scholarship proposes a system of word classes differing somewhat from the above mentioned. The "independent" words have the following categories.
katsuyōgo (活用語), word classes which have inflections
dōshi (動詞), verbs,
keiyōshi (形容詞), i-type adjectives.
keiyōdōshi (形容動詞), na-type adjectives

hikatsuyōgo (非活用語) or mukatsuyōgo (無活用語), word classes which do not have inflections
meishi (名詞), nouns
daimeishi (代名詞), pronouns
fukushi (副詞), adverbs
setsuzokushi (接続詞), conjunctions
kandōshi (感動詞), interjections
rentaishi (連体詞), prenominals

Ancillary words also divide into a nonconjugable class, containing grammatical particles (助詞 joshi) and counter words
Japanese counter word
In Japanese, counter words or counters are used along with numbers to count things, actions, and events.In Japanese, as in Chinese and Korean, numerals cannot quantify nouns by themselves...

 (助数詞 josūshi), and a conjugable class consisting of auxiliary verbs (助動詞 jodōshi). There is not wide agreement among linguists as to the English translations of the above terms.

Controversy over the characterization of nominal adjectives

Uehara (1998) observes that Japanese grammarians have disagreed as to the criteria that make some words "inflectional", katsuyō, and others not, in particular, the 形容動詞 keiyōdōshi – "na-adjectives" or "na-nominals. (It is not disputed that nouns like 'book' and 'mountain' are noninflectional and that verbs and i-adjectives are inflectional.) The claim that na-adjectives are inflectional rests on the claim that the syllable da 'is', usually regarded as a "copula verb", is really a suffix—an inflection. Thus hon 'book', generates a one-word sentence, honda 'it is a book', not a two-word sentence, hon da. However, numerous constructions seem to be incompatible with the suffixal copula claim.
Reduplication for emphasis
Hora! Hon, hon! 'See, it is a book!'
Hora! Kirei, kirei! 'See, it is pretty!'
Hora! Furui, furui! 'See, it is old!' (the adjectival inflection -i cannot be left off)
Hora! Iku, iku! 'See, it does go!' (the verbal inflection -u cannot be left off)

Questions. In Japanese, questions are formed by adding the particle ka (or in colloquial speech, just by changing the intonation of the sentence).
Hon/kirei ka? 'Is it a book? ; Is it pretty?'
Furu-i/Ik-u ka? 'Is it old? ; Does it go?' (the inflections cannot be left off)

Several auxiliary verbs, e.g., mitai, 'looks like it's'
Hon mitai da; Kirei mitai da 'It seems to be a book; It seems to be pretty'
Furu-i mitai da; Ik-u mitai da 'It seems to be old; It seems to go'

On the basis of such constructions, Uehara (1998) finds that the copula is indeed an independent word, and that regarding the parameters on which i-adjectives share the syntactic pattern of verbs, the nominal adjectives pattern with pure nouns instead.

Similarly, Eleanor Harz Jorden considers this class of words a kind of nominal, not adjective, and refers to them as na-nominals in her textbook Japanese: The Spoken Language
Japanese: The Spoken Language
Japanese: The Spoken Language is an introductory textbook series for learning Japanese. JSL was written by Eleanor Harz Jorden in collaboration with Mari Noda. Part 1 was published in 1987 by Yale Language Press, Part 2 in 1988, and Part 3 in 1990...



Japanese has no grammatical gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

, number
Grammatical number
In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

, or article
Article (grammar)
An article is a word that combines with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. Articles specify the grammatical definiteness of the noun, in some languages extending to volume or numerical scope. The articles in the English language are the and a/an, and some...

s (though the demonstrative その, sono, "that, those", is often translatable as "the"). Thus, specialists have agreed that Japanese noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

s are noninflecting
In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, grammatical mood, grammatical voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case...

: 猫 neko can be translated as "cat", "cats", "a cat", "the cat", "some cats" and so forth, depending on context. However, as part of the extensive pair of grammatical systems that Japanese possesses for honorification (making discourse deferential to the addressee or even to a third party) and politeness, nouns too can be modified. Nouns take politeness prefixes (which have not been regarded as inflections): o- for native nouns, and go- for Sino-Japanese nouns. A few examples are given in the following table. In a few cases, there is suppletion
In linguistics and etymology, suppletion is traditionally understood as the use of one word as the inflected form of another word when the two words are not cognate. For those learning a language, suppletive forms will be seen as "irregular" or even "highly irregular". The term "suppletion" implies...

, as with the first of the examples given below, 'rice'. (Note that while these prefixes are almost always in Hiragana
is a Japanese syllabary, one basic component of the Japanese writing system, along with katakana, kanji, and the Latin alphabet . Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems, in which each character represents one mora...

 — that is, as お o- or ご go — the kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

 御 is used for both o and go prefixes in formal writing.)
Lacking number, Japanese does not differentiate between count
Count noun
In linguistics, a count noun is a common noun that can be modified by a numeral and that occurs in both singular and plural form, as well as co-occurring with quantificational determiners like every, each, several, etc. A mass noun has none of these properties...

 and mass noun
Mass noun
In linguistics, a mass noun is a noun that refers to some entity as an undifferentiated unit rather than as something with discrete subsets. Non-count nouns are best identified by their syntactic properties, and especially in contrast with count nouns. The semantics of mass nouns are highly...

s. (An English speaker learning Japanese would be well advised to treat Japanese nouns as mass nouns.) A small number of nouns have collective
Collective number
In linguistics, singulative number and collective number are terms used when the grammatical number for multiple items is the unmarked form of a noun, and the noun is specially marked to indicate a single item...

s formed by reduplication
Reduplication in linguistics is a morphological process in which the root or stem of a word is repeated exactly or with a slight change....

 (possibly accompanied by voicing and related processes (rendaku
is a phenomenon in Japanese morphophonology that governs the voicing of the initial consonant of the non-initial portion of a compound or prefixed word...

)); for example: hito 'person' and hitobito 'people'. Reduplication is not productive
Productivity (linguistics)
In linguistics, productivity is the degree to which native speakers use a particular grammatical process, especially in word formation. Since use to produce novel structures is the clearest proof of usage of a grammatical process, the evidence most often appealed to as establishing productivity is...

. Words in Japanese referring to more than one of something are collectives, not plural
In linguistics, plurality or [a] plural is a concept of quantity representing a value of more-than-one. Typically applied to nouns, a plural word or marker is used to distinguish a value other than the default quantity of a noun, which is typically one...

s. Hitobito, for example, means "a lot of people" or "people in general". It is never used to mean "two people". A phrase like edo no hitobito would be taken to mean "the people of Edo
, also romanized as Yedo or Yeddo, is the former name of the Japanese capital Tokyo, and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868...

", or "the population of Edo", not "two people from Edo" or even "a few people from Edo". Similarly, yamayama means "many mountains".

A limited number of nouns have collective forms that refer to groups of people. Examples include watashi-tachi, 'we'; anata-tachi, 'you (plural)'; bokura, 'we (less formal, more masculine)'. One uncommon personal noun, ware, 'I', or in some cases, 'you', has a much more common reduplicative collective form wareware 'we'.

The suffixes -tachi (達) and -ra (等) are by far the most common collectivizing suffixes. These are, again, not pluralizing suffixes: tarō-tachi does not mean "some number of people named Taro", but instead indicates the group including Taro. Depending on context, tarō-tachi might be translated into "Taro and his friends", "Taro and his siblings", "Taro and his family", or any other logical grouping that has Taro as the representative. Some words with collectives have become fixed phrases and (commonly) refer to one person. Specifically, kodomo 'child' and tomodachi 'friend' can be singular, even though -[t]omo and -[t]achi were originally collectivizing in these words; to unambiguously refer to groups of them, an additional collectivizing suffix is added: kodomotachi 'children' and tomodachitachi 'friends', though tomodachitachi is somewhat uncommon. Tachi is sometimes applied to inanimate objects, kuruma 'car' and kuruma-tachi, 'cars', for example, but this usage is colloquial and indicates a high level of anthropomorphisation and childlikeness, and is not more generally accepted as standard.


あたし atashi (female)
私 watashi (both)
俺 ore (male)
| 私 watashi
| 私 watakushi
! second
| 君 kimi
お前 omae
手前 temae
貴様 kisama
| 貴方 anata
そちら sochira
| 貴方様 anata-sama
! third
|colspan="3"| 彼 kare (male)
彼女 kanojo (female)
あいつ aitsu (pejorative)

Although many grammars and textbooks mention pronoun
In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a pro-form that substitutes for a noun , such as, in English, the words it and he...

s (代名詞 daimeishi), Japanese lacks true pronouns. (Daimeishi can be considered a subset of nouns.) Strictly speaking, pronouns do not take modifiers, but Japanese daimeishi do: 背の高い彼 se no takai kare (lit. tall he) is valid in Japanese. Also, unlike true pronouns, Japanese daimeishi are not closed-class: new daimeishi are introduced and old ones go out of use relatively quickly.

A large number of daimeishi referring to people are translated as pronouns in their most common uses. Examples: 彼 kare, he); 彼女 kanojo, she); 私 watashi, I); see also the adjoining table or a longer list. Some of these "personal nouns" such as 己 onore, I (exceedingly humble), or 僕 boku, I (young male), also have second-person uses: おのれ onore in second-person is an extremely rude "you", and boku in second-person is a diminutive "you" used for young boys. This further differentiates daimeishi from pronouns, which cannot change their person. Kare and kanojo also mean "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" respectively, and this usage of the words is possibly more common than the use as pronouns.

Like other subject
Subject (grammar)
The subject is one of the two main constituents of a clause, according to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and that is associated with phrase structure grammars; the other constituent is the predicate. According to another tradition, i.e...

s, Japanese deemphasizes personal daimeishi, which are seldom used. This is partly because Japanese sentences do not always require explicit subjects, and partly because names or titles are often used where pronouns would appear in a translation:
Kinoshita-san wa, se ga takai desu ne.
(addressing Mr. Kinoshita) "You're pretty tall, aren't you?"
Semmu, asu Fukuoka-shi nishi-ku no Yamamoto-shōji no shachō ni atte itadakemasu ka?
(addressing the managing director) "Would it be possible for you to meet the president of Yamamoto Trading Co. in West Ward, Fukuoka
Nishi-ku, Fukuoka
is one of the seven wards of Fukuoka City, Japan. Meaning literally "west ward," it is bordered to the east by Sawara-ku, and to the west by Maebaru and Shima. As of 2003, it has a population of 173,813 people and an area of 83.81 km2...


While there is no lexical difference between nouns and daimeishi, the possible referents of daimeishi can be constrained depending on the order of occurrence. The following pair of examples (due to Bart Mathias) illustrates one such constraint.
Honda-kun ni atte, kare no hon o kaeshita (ホンダ君に会って、彼の本を返した。) met Honda and returned his book. ("His" here can refer to Honda.)
Kare ni atte, Honda-kun no hon o kaeshita (彼に会って、ホンダ君の本を返した。) met him and returned Honda's book. (Here, "him" cannot refer to Honda.)

Reflexive pronouns

English has a reflexive form of each personal pronoun
Personal pronoun
Personal pronouns are pronouns used as substitutes for proper or common nouns. All known languages contain personal pronouns.- English personal pronouns :English in common use today has seven personal pronouns:*first-person singular...

 (himself, herself, itself, themselves, etc.); Japanese, in contrast, has one main reflexive daimeishi, namely jibun (自分), which can also mean 'I'. The uses of the reflexive (pro)nouns in the two languages are very different, as demonstrated by the following literal translations (*=impossible, ??=ambiguous):
English Japanese reason
History repeats itself. *Rekishi wa jibun o kurikaesu. (*歴史は自分を繰り返す。) the target of jibun must be animate
Hiroshi talked to Kenji about himself (=Hiroshi) Hiroshi wa Kenji ni jibun no koto o hanashita. (ひろしは健司に自分のことを話した。) there is no ambiguity in the translation as explained below
*Makoto expects that Shizuko will take good care of himself (=Makoto; note that Shizuko is female) ??誠は静子が自分を大事にすることを期待している。
??Makoto wa Shizuko ga jibun o daiji ni suru koto o kitai shite iru.
either "Makoto expects that Shizuko will take good care of him", or "Makoto expects that Shizuko will take good care of herself."
jibun can be in a different sentence or dependent clause, but its target is ambiguous

If the sentence has more than one grammatical or semantic subject, then the target of jibun is the subject of the primary or most prominent action; thus in the following sentence jibun refers unambiguously to Shizuko (even though Makoto is the grammatical subject) because the primary action is Shizuko's reading.
Makoto wa Shizuko ni jibun no uchi de hon o yomaseta.
Makoto made Shizuko read book(s) in her house.

In practice the main action is not always discernible, in which case such sentences are ambiguous. The use of jibun in complex sentences follows non-trivial rules.

There are also equivalents to jibun such as mizukara. Other uses of the reflexive pronoun in English are covered by adverbs like hitorideni which is used in the sense of "by oneself". For example
kikai ga hitorideni ugokidashita
"The machine started operating by itself."

Change in a verb's valency
Valency (linguistics)
In linguistics, verb valency or valence refers to the number of arguments controlled by a verbal predicate. It is related, though not identical, to verb transitivity, which counts only object arguments of the verbal predicate...

 is not accomplished by use of reflexive pronouns (in this Japanese is like English but unlike many other European languages). Instead, separate (but usually related) intransitive verb
Intransitive verb
In grammar, an intransitive verb is a verb that has no object. This differs from a transitive verb, which takes one or more objects. Both classes of verb are related to the concept of the transitivity of a verb....

s and transitive verb
Transitive verb
In syntax, a transitive verb is a verb that requires both a direct subject and one or more objects. The term is used to contrast intransitive verbs, which do not have objects.-Examples:Some examples of sentences with transitive verbs:...

s are used. There is no longer any productive morphology to derive transitive verbs from intransitive ones, or vice versa.


In linguistics, demonstratives are deictic words that indicate which entities a speaker refers to and distinguishes those entities from others...

s occur in the ko-, so-, and a- series. The ko- (proximal) series refers to things closer to the speaker than the hearer, the so- (mesial) series for things closer to the hearer, and the a- (distal) series for things distant to both the speaker and the hearer. With do-, demonstratives turn into the corresponding interrogative form. Demonstratives can also be used to refer to people, for example
Kochira wa Hayashi-san desu.
"This is Mr. Hayashi."

Demonstratives limit, and therefore precede, nouns; thus この本 kono hon for "this/my book", and その本 sono hon for "that/your book".

When demonstratives are used to refer to things not visible to the speaker or the hearer, or to (abstract) concepts, they fulfill a related but different anaphoric
Anaphora (linguistics)
In linguistics, anaphora is an instance of an expression referring to another. Usually, an anaphoric expression is represented by a pro-form or some other kind of deictic--for instance, a pronoun referring to its antecedent...

 role. The anaphoric distals are used for shared information between the speaker and the listener.
A: Senjitsu, Sapporo ni itte kimashita.
A: I visited Sapporo recently.
B: Asoko (*Soko) wa itsu itte mo ii tokoro desu ne.
B: Yeah, that's a great place to visit whenever you go.

Soko instead of asoko would imply that B doesn't share this knowledge about Sapporo, which is inconsistent with the meaning of the sentence. The anaphoric mesials are used to refer to experience or knowledge that is not shared between the speaker and listener.
Satō : Tanaka to iu hito ga kinō shinda n da tte...
Sato: I heard that a man called Tanaka died yesterday...
Mori: E', hontō?
Mori: Oh, really?
Satō : Dakara, sono (*ano) hito, Mori-san no mukashi no rinjin ja nakatta 'kke?
Sato: It's why I asked... wasn't he an old neighbour of yours?

Again, ano is inappropriate here because Sato doesn't (didn't) know Tanaka personally. The proximal demonstratives do not have clear anaphoric uses. They can be used in situations where the distal series sound too disconnected:
Ittai nan desu ka, kore (*are) wa?
What on earth is this?

Stem forms

Prior to discussing the conjugable words, a brief note about stem forms. Conjugative suffixes and auxiliary verbs are attached to the stem forms of the affixee. In modern Japanese there are the following six stem forms.

Note that this order follows from the -a, -i, -u, -e, -o endings that these forms have in 五段 (5-row) verbs (according to the あ、い、う、え、お collation order of Japanese), where terminal and attributive forms are the same for verbs (hence only 5 surface forms), but differ for nominals, notably na-nominals.
Irrealis form (未然形 mizenkei) -a: is used for plain negative (of verbs), causative and passive constructions. The most common use of this form is with the -nai auxiliary that turns verbs into their negative (predicate) form. (See Verbs below.)
Continuative form (連用形 ren'yōkei) -i: is used in a linking role. This is the most productive stem form, taking on a variety of endings and auxiliaries, and can even occur independently in a sense similar to the -te ending. This form is also used to negate adjectives.
Terminal form (終止形 shūshikei) -u: is used at the ends of clauses in predicate
Predicate (grammar)
There are two competing notions of the predicate in theories of grammar. Traditional grammar tends to view a predicate as one of two main parts of a sentence, the other being the subject, which the predicate modifies. The other understanding of predicates is inspired from work in predicate calculus...

 positions. This form is also variously known as plain form (基本形 kihonkei) or dictionary form (辞書形 jishokei) – it is the form that verbs are listed under in a dictionary.
Attributive form ( rentaikei) -u: is prefixed to nominals and is used to define or classify the noun, similar to a relative clause
Relative clause
A relative clause is a subordinate clause that modifies a noun phrase, most commonly a noun. For example, the phrase "the man who wasn't there" contains the noun man, which is modified by the relative clause who wasn't there...

 in English. In modern Japanese it is practically identical to the terminal form, except that verbs are generally not inflected for politeness; in old Japanese these forms differed. Further, na-nominals behave differently in terminal and attributive positions; see adjectives, below.
Hypothetical form (仮定形 kateikei) -e: is used for conditional and subjunctive forms, using the -ba ending.
Imperative form (命令形 meireikei) -o: is used to turn verbs into commands. Adjectives do not have an imperative stem form.

The application of conjugative suffixes to stem forms follow certain euphonic principles (音便 onbin), which is discussed below.


Verbs (動詞 dōshi) in Japanese are rigidly constrained to the ends of clauses in what is known as the predicate position.
neko wa sakana o taberu
Cats TOPIC fish OBJECT eat
Cats eat fish.

The subject and objects of the verb are indicated by means of particles, and the grammatical functions of the verb — primarily tense and voice — are indicated by means of conjugation
Conjugation or conjugate may refer to:* Conjugation , the modification of a verb from its basic form* Conjugate , used to rationalize the denominator of a fraction...

. When the subject and the dissertative topic coincide, the subject is often omitted; if the verb is intransitive, the entire sentence may consist of a single verb. Verbs have two tenses indicated by conjugation, past and nonpast. The semantic difference between present and future is not indicated by means of conjugation. Usually there is no ambiguity as context makes it clear whether the speaker is referring to the present or future. Voice and aspect are also indicated by means of conjugation, and possibly agglutinating auxiliary verbs. For example, the continuative aspect is formed by means of the continuative conjugation known as the gerundive or -te form, and the auxiliary verb iru "to be"; to illustrate, 見る miru, "to see") → 見ている mite iru, "to be seeing").

Verbs can be semantically classified based on certain conjugations.
Stative verbs: indicate existential properties, such as "to be" (いる iru), "to be able to do" (出来る dekiru), "to need" (要る iru), etc. These verbs generally do not have a continuative conjugation with -iru because they are semantically continuative already.
Continual verbs: conjugate with the auxiliary -iru to indicate the progressive aspect. Examples: "to eat" (食べる taberu), "to drink" (飲む nomu), "to think" (考える kangaeru). To illustrate the conjugation, 食べる taberu, "to eat") → 食べている tabete iru, "to be eating").
Punctual verbs: conjugate with -iru to indicate a repeated action, or a continuing state after some action. Example: 知る shiru, "to know") → 知っている shitte iru, "to be knowing"); 打つ utsu, "to hit") → 打っている utte iru, "to be hitting (repeatedly))".
Non-volitional verb: indicate uncontrollable action or emotion. These verbs generally have no volitional, imperative or potential conjugation. Examples: 好む konomu, "to like / to prefer", emotive), 見える mieru, "to be visible", non-emotive).
Movement verbs: indicate motion. Examples: 歩く aruku, "to walk"), 帰る kaeru, "to return"). In the continuative form (see below) they take the particle ni to indicate a purpose.
There are other possible classes, and a large amount of overlap between the classes.

Lexically, nearly every verb in Japanese is a member of exactly one of the following three regular conjugation groups (see also Japanese consonant and vowel verbs
Japanese consonant and vowel verbs
Japanese has two types of regular verb,#consonant-stem, , Group I, or u verbs, and#vowel-stem, , Group II, or ru verbs.All vowel-stem verbs end in either -eru or -iru...

Group 2a (上一段 kami ichidan, lit. upper 1-row group): verbs with a stem ending in i. The terminal stem form always rhymes with -iru. Examples: 見る miru, "to see"), 着る kiru, "to wear").
Group 2b (下一段 shimo ichidan, lit. lower 1-row group): verbs with a stem ending in e. The terminal stem form always rhymes with -eru. Examples: 食べる taberu, "to eat"), くれる kureru, "to give" (to someone of lower or more intimate status)). (Note that some Group 1 verbs resemble Group 2b verbs, but their stems end in r, not e.)
Group 1 (五段 godan, lit. 5-row group): verbs with a stem ending in a consonant. When this is r and the verb ends in -eru, it is not apparent from the terminal form whether the verb is Group 1 or Group 2b, e.g. 帰る kaeru, "to return"). If the stem ends in w, that sound only appears in before the final a of the irrealis form.

The "row" in the above classification means a row in the gojūon
The is a Japanese ordering of kana.It is named for the 5×10 grid in which the characters are displayed, but the grid is not completely filled, and, further, there is an extra character added outside the grid at the end: with 5 gaps and 1 extra character, the current number of distinct kana in a...

 table. "Upper 1-row" means the row that is one row above the center row (the u-row) i.e. i-row. "Lower 1-row" means the row that is one row below the center row (the u-row) i.e. e-row. "5-row" means the conjugation runs though all 5 rows of the gojūon
The is a Japanese ordering of kana.It is named for the 5×10 grid in which the characters are displayed, but the grid is not completely filled, and, further, there is an extra character added outside the grid at the end: with 5 gaps and 1 extra character, the current number of distinct kana in a...

 table. A conjugation is fully described by identifying both the row and the column in the gojūon
The is a Japanese ordering of kana.It is named for the 5×10 grid in which the characters are displayed, but the grid is not completely filled, and, further, there is an extra character added outside the grid at the end: with 5 gaps and 1 extra character, the current number of distinct kana in a...

 table. For example, 見る miru, "to see") belongs to マ行上一段活用 (ma-column i-row conjugation), 食べる taberu, "to eat") belongs to バ行下一段活用(ba-column e-row conjugation), and 帰る kaeru, "to return") belongs to ラ行五段活用(ra-column 5-row conjugation).

One should avoid confusing verbs in ラ行五段活用 (ra-column 5-row conjugation) with verbs in 上一段活用 (i-row conjugation) or 下一段活用 (e-row conjugation). For example, 切る kiru, "to cut") belongs to ラ行五段活用 (ra-column 5-row conjugation), whereas its homophone 着る kiru, "to wear") belongs to カ行上一段活用 (ka-column i-row conjugation). Likewise, 練る neru, "to knead") belongs to ラ行五段活用 (ra-column 5-row conjugation), whereas its homophone 寝る neru, "to sleep") belongs to ナ行下一段活用 (na-column e-row conjugation).

Historical note: classical Japanese had upper and lower 1- and 2-row groups and a 4-row group (上/下一段 kami/shimo ichidan, 上/下二段 kami/shimo nidan, and 四段 yodan, the nidan verbs becoming most of today's ichidan verbs (there were only a handful of kami ichidan verbs and only one single shimo ichidan verb in classical Japanese), and the yodan group, due to the writing reform in 1946 to write Japanese as it is pronounced, naturally became the modern godan verbs. Since verbs have migrated across groups in the history of the language, conjugation of classical verbs is not predictable from a knowledge of modern Japanese alone.

Of the irregular classes, there are two:
sa-group: which has only one member, する suru, "to do"). In Japanese grammars these words are classified as サ変 sa-hen, an abbreviation of サ行変格活用 sa-gyō henkaku katsuyō, sa-row irregular conjugation).
ka-group: which also has one member, 来る kuru, "to come"). The Japanese name for this class is カ行変格活用 ka-gyō henkaku katsuyō or simply カ変 ka-hen.
Classical Japanese had two further irregular classes, the na-group, which contained 死ぬ shinu, "to die") and 往ぬ inu, "to go", "to die"), the ra-group, which included such verbs as あり ari, the equivalent of modern aru, as well as quite a number of extremely irregular verbs that cannot be classified.

The following table illustrates the stem forms of the above conjugation groups, with the root indicated with dots. For example, to find the hypothetical form of the group 1 verb 書く kaku, look in the second row to find its root, kak, then in the hypothetical row to get the ending -e, giving the stem form kake. When there are multiple possibilities, they are listed in the order of increasing rarity.
!colspan="2"| 1
! 2a
! 2b
!rowspan="2"| sa
!rowspan="2"| ka
! 使・ tsuka(w).
! 書・ kak.
! 見・ mi.
! 食べ・ tabe.
! Irrealis form1
(未然形 mizenkei)
| 使わ tsukaw.a2
使お tsuka.o
| 書か kak.a
書こ kak.o
| 見 mi.
| 食べ tabe.
| さ sa
し shi
せ se
| 来 ko
! Continuative form
(連用形 ren'yōkei)
| 使い tsuka.i
| 書き kak.i
| 見 mi.
| 食べ tabe.
| し shi
| 来 ki
! Terminal form
(終止形 shūshikei)
| 使う tsuka.u
| 書く kak.u
| 見る mi.ru
| 食べる tabe.ru
| する suru
| 来る kuru
! Attributive form
(連体形 rentaikei)
| colspan="7"| same as terminal form
! Hypothetical form
(仮定形 kateikei)
| 使え tsuka.e
| 書け kak.e
| 見れ mi.re
| 食べれ tabe.re
| すれ sure
| 来れ kure
! Imperative form
(命令形 meireikei)
| 使え tsuka.e
| 書け kak.e
| 見ろ mi.ro
見よ mi.yo
| 食べろ tabe.ro
食べよ tabe.yo
| しろ shiro
せよ seyo
せい sei
| 来い koi
  1. The -a and -o irrealis forms for Group 1 verbs were historically one, but since the post-WWII spelling reforms they have been written differently. In modern Japanese the -o form is used only for the volitional mood and the -a form is used in all other cases; see also the conjugation table below.
  2. The unexpected ending is due to the verb's root being tsukaw- but [w] only being pronounced before [a] in modern Japanese.

The above are only the stem forms of the verbs; to these one must add various verb endings in order to get the fully conjugated verb. The following table lists the most common conjugations. Note that in some cases the form is different depending on the conjugation group of the verb. See Japanese verb conjugations
Japanese verb conjugations
This is a list of Japanese verb and adjective conjugations. Almost all of these are regular, but the conjugations of the very few irregular verbs are also listed. Japanese verb conjugation is the same for all subjects, first person , second person and third person , singular and plural. The plain...

 for a full list.

Imperfective aspect
The imperfective is a grammatical aspect used to describe a situation viewed with internal structure, such as ongoing, habitual, repeated, and similar semantic roles, whether that situation occurs in the past, present, or future...

| cont. + ます masu
| 書き・ます
| 見・ます
| 食べ・ます
| し・ます
| 来・ます
! plain
Perfective aspect
The perfective aspect , sometimes called the aoristic aspect, is a grammatical aspect used to describe a situation viewed as a simple whole, whether that situation occurs in the past, present, or future. The perfective aspect is equivalent to the aspectual component of past perfective forms...

| cont. + た ta
| 書い・た
| 見・た
| 食べ・た
| し・た
| 来・た
! plain
Imperfective aspect
The imperfective is a grammatical aspect used to describe a situation viewed with internal structure, such as ongoing, habitual, repeated, and similar semantic roles, whether that situation occurs in the past, present, or future...

| irrealis + ない nai
| 書か・ない
| 見・ない
| 食べ・ない
| し・ない
| 来・ない
! plain
Perfective aspect
The perfective aspect , sometimes called the aoristic aspect, is a grammatical aspect used to describe a situation viewed as a simple whole, whether that situation occurs in the past, present, or future. The perfective aspect is equivalent to the aspectual component of past perfective forms...

| irrealis
+ なかった nakatta
| 書か・なかった
| 見・なかった
| 食べ・なかった
| し・なかった
| 来・なかった
! -te form (gerundive)
| cont. + て -te
| 書いて
| 見て
| 食べて
| して
| 来て
! provisional
| hyp. + ば ba
| 書け・ば
| 見れ・ば
| 食べれ・ば
| すれ・ば
| 来れ・ば
! past
| cont. + たら tara
| 書いたら
| 見たら
| 食べたら
| したら
| 来たら
!rowspan="2"| volitional
| irrealis + う u
| 書こ・う
| irrealis + よう -yō
| 見・よう
| 食べ・よう
| し・よう
| 来・よう
!rowspan="2"| passive
| irrealis + れる reru
| 書か・れる
| さ・れる
| irrealis + られる -rareru
| 見・られる
| 食べ・られる
| 来・られる
!rowspan="2"| causative
| irrealis + せる seru
| 書か・せる
| さ・せる
| irrealis + させる -saseru
| 見・させる
| 食べ・させる
| 来・させる
!rowspan="2"| potential
| hyp. + る ru
| 書け・る
| 出来る
| irrealis + られる -rareru
| 見・られる
| 食べ・られる
| 来・られる
  1. This is an entirely different verb; する suru has no potential form.
  2. These forms change depending on the final syllable of the verb's dictionary form (whether u, ku, gu, su, etc.). For details, see Euphonic changes, below, and the article Japanese verb conjugations and adjective declensions.

The polite ending -masu conjugates as a group 1 verb, except that the negative imperfective and perfective forms are -masen and -masen deshita respectively, and certain conjugations are in practice rarely if ever used. The passive and potential endings -reru and -rareru, and the causative endings -seru and -saseru all conjugate as group 2b verbs. Multiple verbal endings can therefore agglutinate. For example, a common formation is the causative-passive ending, -sase-rareru.
boku wa ane ni nattō o tabesaserareta.
I was made to eat natto
is a traditional Japanese food made from soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis. It is popular especially as a breakfast food. As a rich source of protein and probiotics, nattō and the soybean paste miso formed a vital source of nutrition in feudal Japan. Nattō can be an acquired taste because...

 by my (elder) sister.

As should be expected, the vast majority of theoretically possible combinations of conjugative endings are not semantically meaningful.

Transitive and intransitive verbs

Japanese has a large variety of related pairs of transitive verb
Transitive verb
In syntax, a transitive verb is a verb that requires both a direct subject and one or more objects. The term is used to contrast intransitive verbs, which do not have objects.-Examples:Some examples of sentences with transitive verbs:...

s (that take a direct object) and intransitive verb
Intransitive verb
In grammar, an intransitive verb is a verb that has no object. This differs from a transitive verb, which takes one or more objects. Both classes of verb are related to the concept of the transitivity of a verb....

s (that do not usually take a direct object), such as the transitive hajimeru (始める, an actor begins an activity), and the intransitive hajimaru (始まる, an activity begins).
For example,
先生 が 授業 を 始める。
Sensei ga jugyō o hajimeru.
The teacher starts the class.
授業 が 始まる。
Jugyō ga hajimaru.
The class starts.

Note: Some intransitive verbs (usually verbs of motion) do nevertheless take a direct object. For example, koeru (超える, to go beyond):
私 は 制限 スピード を 超える。
Watashi wa seigen speedo o koeru.
I go beyond the speed limit.


Semantically speaking, words that denote attributes or properties are primarily distributed between two morphological classes (there are also a few other classes):
  • adjectives (conventionally called "i -adjectives") (形容詞 keiyōshi) – these have roots and conjugating stem forms, and are semantically and morphologically similar to stative verb
    Stative verb
    A stative verb is one that asserts that one of its arguments has a particular property . Statives differ from other aspectual classes of verbs in that they are static; that is, they have undefined duration...

  • nominal adjectives (conventionally called "na-adjectives") (形容動詞 keiyōdōshi, lit. "adjectival verb") – these are nouns that combine with the copula.

Unlike adjectives in languages like English, i -adjectives in Japanese inflect for aspect and mood, like verbs. Japanese adjectives do not have comparative or superlative inflections; comparatives and superlatives have to be marked periphrastically using adverbs like motto 'more' and ichiban 'most'.

Every adjective in Japanese can be used in an attributive position. Nearly every Japanese adjective can be used in a predicative position; this differs from English where there are many common adjectives such as "major", as in "a major question", that cannot be used to in the predicate position (that is, *"The question is major" is not grammatical English). There are a few Japanese adjectives that cannot predicate, known as 連体詞 (rentaishi, attributives), which are derived from other word classes; examples include 大きな ōkina "big", 小さな chiisana "small", and おかしな okashina "strange" which are all stylistic na-type variants of normal i-type adjectives.

All i -adjectives except for いい ii, good) have regular conjugations, and ii is irregular only in the fact that it is a changed form of the regular adjective 良い yoi permissible in the terminal and attributive forms. For all other forms it reverts to yoi.

(未然形 mizenkei)
| 安かろ .karo
| 静かだろ -daro
! Continuative form
(連用形 ren'yōkei)
| 安く .ku
| 静かで -de
! Terminal form¹
(終止形 shūshikei)
| 安い .i
| 静かだ -da
! Attributive form¹
(連体形 rentaikei)
| 安い .i
| 静かな -na /
静かなる -naru
! Hypothetical form
(仮定形 kateikei)
| 安けれ .kere
| 静かなら -nara
! Imperative form²
(命令形 meireikei)
| 安かれ .kare
| 静かなれ -nare
  1. The attributive and terminal forms were formerly 安き .ki and 安し .shi, respectively; in modern Japanese these are used productively for stylistic reasons only, although many set phrase
    Set phrase
    A set phrase or fixed phrase is a phrase whose parts are fixed, even if the phrase could be changed without harming the literal meaning. This is because a set phrase is a culturally accepted phrase. A set phrase does not necessarily have any literal meaning in and of itself. Set phrases may...

    s such as 名無し nanashi (anonymous) and よし yoshi (sometimes written yosh, general positive interjection) derive from them.
  2. The imperative form is extremely rare in modern Japanese, restricted to set patterns like 遅かれ早かれ osokare hayakare 'sooner or later', where they are treated as adverbial phrases. It is impossible for an imperative form to be in a predicate position.

Common conjugations of adjectives are enumerated below. ii is not treated separately, because all conjugation forms are identical to those of yoi.

安い  yasui, "cheap")
!colspan="2"| na-adjectives
静か  shizuka, "quiet")
! informal
| root + -i
(Used alone, without the copula)
| 安いyasui
"is cheap"

| root + copula da
| 静かだ shizuka da
"is quiet"

! informal
| cont. + あった atta
(u + a collapse)
| 安かった
"was cheap"

| cont. + あった atta
(e + a collapse)
| 静かだった
shizuka d.atta
"was quiet"

! informal
| cont. + (は)ない (wa) nai¹
| 安く(は)ない
"isn't cheap"

| cont. + (は)ない (wa) nai
| 静かで(は)ない
shizuka de (wa) nai
"isn't quiet"

! informal
| cont. + (は)なかった (wa) nakatta¹
| 安く(は)なかった
"wasn't cheap"

| cont. + (は)なかった (wa) nakatta
| 静かで(は)なかった
shizuka de (wa) nakatta
"wasn't quiet"

! polite
| root + -i + copula です desu
| 安いです
yasui desu
"is cheap"

| root + copula です desu
| 静かです
shizuka desu
"is quiet"

!rowspan="2"| polite
non past
| inf. neg. non-past + ありません arimasen¹
| 安くありません
yasuku arimasen
| inf. cont + (は)ありません (wa) arimasen
| 静かではありません
shizuka de wa arimasen
| inf. neg. non-past + naiない + copula です desu¹
| 安くないです
yasukunai desu
| inf. cont + (は)ないです (wa) nai desu
| 静かではないです
shizuka de wa nai desu
!rowspan="2"| polite
|inf. neg. past + ありませんでした arimasen deshita
yasuku arimasen deshita
| inf. cont + (は)ありませんでした (wa) arimasen deshita
| 静かではありませんでした
shizuka de wa arimasen deshita
|inf. neg. past + copula です desu¹
| 安くなかったです
yasukunakatta desu
| inf. neg. past + なかったです nakatta desu ¹
| 静かではなかったです
shizuka de wa nakatta desu
! -te form
| cont. + て te
| 安くて
| cont.
| 静かで
shizuka de
! provisional
| hyp. + ば ba
| 安ければ
| hyp. (+ ば ba)
| 静かなら(ば)
shizuka nara(ba)
! past
| inf. past + ら ra
| 安かったら
| inf. past + ら ra
| 静かだったら
shizuka datta.ra
! volitional²
| irrealis + う u
| 安かろう yasukarō
| irrealis + う u
= root + だろう darō
| 静かだろう shizuka darō
! adverbial
| cont.
| 安く
| root + に ni
| 静かに
shizuka ni
! degree
| root + さ sa
| 安さ
| root + sa
| 静かさ
  1. note that these are just forms of the i-type adjective ない nai
  2. since most adjectives describe non-volitional conditions, the volitional form is interpreted as "it is possible", if sensible. In some rare cases it is semi-volitional: 良かろう yokarō 'OK' (lit: let it be good) in response to a report or request.

Adjectives too are governed by euphonic rules in certain cases, as noted in the section on it below. For the polite negatives of na-type adjectives, see also the section below on the copula だ da.

The copula (だ da)

The copula da behaves very much like a verb or an adjective in terms of conjugation.

(連用形 ren'youkei)
| で de
! Terminal form
(終止形 shūshikei)
| だ da (informal)
です desu (polite)
でございます de gozaimasu (respectful)
! Attributive form
(連体形 rentaikei)
| である de aru
! Hypothetical form
(仮定形 kateikei)
| なら nara
! Imperative form
(命令形 meireikei)
| impossible

Note that there are no potential, causative, or passive forms of the copula, just as with adjectives.

The following are some examples.
JON wa gakusei da
John is a student.

Ashita mo hare nara, PIKUNIKKU shiyō
If tomorrow is clear too, let's have a picnic.

In continuative conjugations, では de wa is often contracted in speech to じゃ ja; for some kinds of informal speech ja is preferable to de wa, or is the only possibility.

だった datta
! polite
|colspan="2"| でした deshita
! respectful
|colspan="2"| でございました de gozaimashita
!rowspan="3"| negative
! informal
| cont. + はない wa nai
! polite
| cont. + はありません wa arimasen
! respectful
| cont. + はございません wa gozaimasen
!rowspan="3"| negative
! informal
| cont. + はなかった wa nakatta
! polite
| cont. + はありませんでした wa arimasen deshita
! respectful
| cont. + はございませんでした wa gozaimasen deshita
!rowspan="3"| conditional
! informal
| hyp. + ば ba
! polite
|rowspan="2"| cont. + あれば areba
! respectful
!rowspan="3"| provisional
! informal
| なら nara
! polite
|rowspan="2"| same as conditional
! respectful
!rowspan="3"| volitional
! informal
| だろう darō
! polite
| でしょう deshō
! respectful
| でございましょう de gozaimashō
!rowspan="3"| adverbial and
-te forms
! informal
| cont.
! polite
| cont. + ありまして arimashite
! respectful
| cont. + ございまして gozaimashite

Euphonic changes (音便 onbin)

あ+ふ a + fu || おう ō
| い+う i + u
い+ふ i + fu || ゆう yū1
| う+ふ u + fu || うう ū
| え+う e + u
え+ふ e + fu || よう yō
| お+ふ o + fu || おう ō
| お+ほ o + ho
お+を o + wo || おお ō
| auxiliary verb む mu || ん n
| medial or final は ha || わ wa
| medial or final ひ hi, へ he, ほ ho || い i, え e, お o
(via wi, we, wo, see below)
| any ゐ i, ゑ e, を wo || い i, え e, お o1
1. usu. not reflected in spelling

Modern pronunciation is a result of a long history of phonemic drift that can be traced back to written records of the thirteenth century, and possibly earlier. However, it was only in 1946 that the Japanese ministry of education modified existing kana
Kana are the syllabic Japanese scripts, as opposed to the logographic Chinese characters known in Japan as kanji and the Roman alphabet known as rōmaji...

 usage to conform to the standard dialect (共通語 kyōtsūgo). All earlier texts used the archaic orthography, now referred to as historical kana usage
Historical kana usage
The , or , refers to the in general use until orthographic reforms after World War II; the current orthography was adopted by Cabinet order in 1946. By that point the historical orthography was no longer in accord with Japanese pronunciation...

. The adjoining table is a nearly exhaustive list of these spelling changes. Unlike the tradition found in English-speaking countries, where people learn that Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

 (e.g., Chaucer) was pronounced differently from the modern language, it is not generally understood that the historical kana spellings were, at one point, reflective of pronunciation. For example, えふ (lit. efu) for "leaf" (葉, modern ha) was pronounced something like [epu] by the Japanese at the time it was borrowed. However, a modern reader of a classical text would still read this as [yoo], the modern pronunciation.

As mentioned above, conjugations of some verbs and adjectives differ from the prescribed formation rules because of euphonic changes. Nearly all of these euphonic changes are themselves regular. For verbs the exceptions are all in the ending of the continuative form of group when the following auxiliary has a ta-sound, i.e., た ta, て te, たり tari, etc.
continuative ending changes to example
い i, ち chi or り ri っ (double consonant) *買いて *kaite → 買って katte
*打ちて *uchite → 打って utte
*知りて *shirite → 知って shitte
び bi, みmi or に ni ん (syllabic n), with the following タ t sound voiced *遊びて *asobite → 遊んで asonde
*住みて *sumite → 住んで sunde
*死にて *shinite → 死んで shinde
き ki い i *書きて *kakite → 書いて kaite
ぎ gi い i, with the following タ t sound voiced *泳ぎて *oyogite → 泳いで oyoide

* denotes impossible/ungrammatical form.

There is one other irregular change: 行く iku (to go), for which there is an exceptional continuative form: 行き iki + て te → 行って itte, 行き iki + た ta → 行った itta, etc.

The continuative form of proper adjectives, when followed by polite forms such as ございます gozaimasu 'to be' or 存じます zonjimasu 'to know, undergo a transformation.
continuative ending description examples
[not し] + く う, possibly also combining with the previous syllable according to the spelling reform chart *寒くございます *samuku gozaimasu → 寒うございます samū gozaimasu
*おはやくございます ohayaku gozaimasu → おはようございます ohayō gozaimasu
しく しゅう *涼しくございます *suzushiku gozaimasu → 涼しゅうございます suzushū gozaimasu

Respectful verbs such as くださる kudasaru 'to get', なさる nasaru 'to do', ござる gozaru 'to be', いらっしゃる irassharu 'to be/come/go', おっしゃる ossharu 'to say', etc. behave like group 1 verbs, except in the continuative and imperative forms.
change examples
continuative ーり changed to ーい *ござります *gozarimasu → ございます gozaimasu
*いらっしゃりませ *irassharimase → いらっしゃいませ irasshaimase
imperative ーれ changed to ーい *くだされ *kudasare → ください kudasai
*なされ *nasare → なさい nasai

In speech, common combinations of conjugation and auxiliary verbs are contracted in a fairly regular manner.
Colloquial contractions
full form colloquial !! example
-te shimau
group 1
負けてしまう makete shimau 'lose' → 負けちゃう/負けちまう makechau/makechimau
-de shimau
group 1
死んでしまう shinde shimau 'die' → 死んじゃう shinjau or 死んじまう  shinjimau
-te wa
食べてはいけない tabete wa ikenai 'must not eat' → 食べちゃいけない tabecha ikenai
-de wa
飲んではいけない nonde wa ikenai 'must not drink' → 飲んじゃいけない nonja ikenai
-te iru
group 2b
寝ている nete iru 'is sleeping' → 寝てる neteru
-te oku
group 1
しておく shite oku 'will do it so' → しとく shitoku
-te iku
group 1
出て行け dete ike 'get out!' → 出てけ deteke
-ru no
何しているの nani shite iru no 'what are you doing?' → 何してんの nani shitenno
やりなさい yarinasai 'do it!' → やんなさい yannasai
やるな yaruna 'don't do it!' → やんな yanna


Adverbs in Japanese are not as tightly integrated into the morphology as in many other languages. Indeed, adverbs are not an independent class of words, but rather a role played by other words. For example, every adjective in the continuative form can be used as an adverb; thus, 弱い yowai 'weak' (adj) → 弱く yowaku 'weakly' (adv). The primary distinguishing characteristic of adverbs is that they cannot occur in a predicate position, just as it is in English. The following classification of adverbs is not intended to be authoritative or exhaustive.
Verbal adverbs: are verbs in the continuative form with the particle ni. E.g. 見る miru 'to see' → 見に mi ni 'for the purpose of seeing', used for instance as: 見に行く mi ni iku, go to see (something).
Adjectival adverbs: are adjectives in the continuative form, as mentioned above.
Nominal adverbs: are grammatical nouns that function as adverbs. Example: 一番 ichiban 'most highly'.
Sound symbolism: are words that mimic sounds or concepts. Examples: きらきら kirakira 'sparklingly', ぽっくり pokkuri 'suddenly', するする surusuru 'smoothly (sliding)', etc.

Often, especially for sound symbolism, the particle to "as if" is used. See the article on Japanese sound symbolism
Japanese sound symbolism
This article describes sound symbolic or mimetic words in the Japanese language. Most languages have such words; for example, "bang", "zap", "ding", "slither", "pop", etc. in English. Sound symbolic words occur more often in Japanese than in English—they are found in formal as well as vernacular...


Conjunctions and interjections

These parts of speech are not very different from English.

Examples of conjunctions: そして soshite 'and then', また mata 'and then/again', etc.

Examples of interjections: はい (hai, yes/OK/uh), へえ (hē, wow!), いいえ (īe, no/no way), おい (oi, hey!), etc.


Particles in Japanese are postpositional, as they immediately follow the modified component. A full listing of particles is beyond the scope of this article, so only a few prominent particles are listed here. Keep in mind that the pronunciation and spelling differ for the particles wa (は), e (へ) and o (を): This article follows the Hepburn-style
Hepburn romanization
The is named after James Curtis Hepburn, who used it to transcribe the sounds of the Japanese language into the Latin alphabet in the third edition of his Japanese–English dictionary, published in 1887. The system was originally proposed by the in 1885...

 of romanizing them according to the pronunciation rather than spelling.

Topic, theme, and subject: は wa and が ga

The complex distinction between the so-called topic (は wa) and subject (が ga) particles has been the theme of many doctoral dissertations and scholarly disputes. A Japanese sentence, 象は鼻が長い "Elephant is nose is long", i.e. is well known among Japanese linguists where the above sentence appears to contain two subjects. The above sentence does not mean "the nose of elephant is long" as this can be translated back to 象の鼻は長い. Rather it means, "(speaking of) elephant, (its) nose is long."

Two major scholarly surveys of Japanese linguistics in English, (Shibatani 1990) and (Kuno 1973), clarify the distinction. To simplify matters, the referents of wa and ga in this section are called the topic and subject respectively, with the understanding that if either is absent, the grammatical topic and subject may coincide.

As an abstract and rough approximation, the difference between wa and ga is a matter of focus: wa gives focus to the action of the sentence, i.e., to the verb or adjective, whereas ga gives focus to the subject of the action. However, a more useful description must proceed by enumerating uses of these particles.

However, when first being introduced to the subject and topic markers wa and ga most are told that the difference between the two is simpler. The topic marker, wa, is used to declare or to make a statement. The subject marker, ga, is used for new information, or asking for new information.

See Topic marker: Japanese: は.
Thematic wa

The use of wa to introduce a new theme of discourse is directly linked to the notion of grammatical theme. Opinions differ on the structure of discourse theme, though it seems fairly uncontroversial to imagine a first-in-first-out hierarchy of themes that is threaded through the discourse. Of course, human limitations restrict the scope and depth of themes, and later themes may cause earlier themes to expire. In these sorts of sentences, the steadfast translation into English uses constructs like "speaking of X" or "on the topic of X", though such translations tend to be bulky as they fail to use the thematic mechanisms of English. For lack of a comprehensive strategy, many teachers of Japanese emphasize the "speaking of X" pattern without sufficient warning.
JON wa gakusei de aru
(On the topic of John), John is a student.

A common linguistic joke shows the insufficiency of rote translation with the sentence 僕は鰻だ boku wa unagi da, which per the pattern would translate as "I am an eel." (or "(As of) me is eel"). Yet, in a restaurant this sentence can reasonably be used to say "My order is eel" (or "I would like to order an eel"), with no intended humour. This is because the sentence should be literally read, "As for me, it is an eel," with "it" referring to the speaker's order. The topic of the sentence is clearly not its subject.
Contrastive wa

Related to the role of wa in introducing themes is its use in contrasting the current topic and its aspects from other possible topics and their aspects. The suggestive pattern is "X, but..." or "as for X, ...".
ame wa futte imasu ga...
The rain is falling, but...

Because of its contrastive nature, the topic cannot be undefined.
*dareka wa hon o yonde iru
*Someone is reading the book.

In this use, ga is required.

In practice, the distinction between thematic and contrastive wa is not that useful. Suffice it to say that there can be at most one thematic wa in a sentence, and it has to be the first wa if one exists, and the remaining was are contrastive. For completeness, the following sentence (due to Kuno) illustrates the difference.
boku ga shitte iru hito wa daremo konakatta Of all the people I know, none came. (People came but), there weren't any of the people I know.

The first interpretation is the thematic wa, treating "the people I know" (boku ga shitte iru hito) as the theme of the predicate "none came" (dare mo konakatta). That is, if I know A, B, ..., Z, then none of the people who came were A, B, ..., Z. The second interpretation is the contrastive wa. If the likely attendees were A, B, ..., Z, and of them I know P, Q and R, then the sentence says that P, Q and R did not come. The sentence says nothing about A', B', ..., Z', all of whom I know, but none of whom were likely to come. (In practice the first interpretation is the likely one.)
Exhaustive ga

Unlike wa, the subject particle ga nominates its referent as the sole satisfier of the predicate. This distinction is famously illustrated by the following pair of sentences.
JON wa gakusei desu
John is a student. (There may be other students among the people we're talking about.)
JON ga gakusei desu it is John who is the student.

It may be useful to think of the distinction in terms of the question each statement could answer, e.g.:
JON no shigoto wa nan desu ka
What is John's occupation?

for the first statement, versus
Dochira no kata ga gakusei desu ka
Which one (of them) is the student?

for the second.

Similarly, in a restaurant, if the waitress asks who has ordered the eel, the customer who ordered it can specify himself with
boku ga unagi da
The eel is for me (not these other people).

Objective ga

For stative transitive verbs, ga instead of o is typically used to mark the object.
JON wa FURANSU-go ga dekiru
John knows French.

Objects, locatives, instrumentals: を o, で de, に ni, へ e

The direct object of non-stative transitive verbs is indicated by the object particle を o.
JON wa aoi SĒTĀ o kite iru
John is wearing a blue sweater.

This particle can also mean "through" or "along" or "out of" when used with motion verbs.
MEARI ga hosoi michi o aruite ita
Mary was walking along a narrow road.
kokkyō no nagai TONNERU o nukeru to yukiguni de atta
The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country.

The general instrumental particle is で de, which can be translated as "using" or "by":
niku wa NAIFU de kiru koto
Meat must be cut with a knife.
densha de ikimashō
Let's go by train.

This particle also has other uses: "at" (temporary location):
machikado de sensei ni atta met my teacher at the street corner.

umi de oyogu no wa muzukashii
Swimming in the sea is hard.

"With" or "in (the span of)":
geki wa shujinkō no shi de owaru
The play ends with the protagonist's death.
ore wa nibyō de katsu
I'll win in two seconds.

The general locative particle is に ni.
Tōkyō ni ikimashō
Let's go to Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

In this function it is interchangeable with へ e. However, ni has additional uses: "at (prolonged)":
watashi wa GUROSUTĀ dōri 99 ban ni sunde imasu
I live at 99 Gloucester road

kōri wa mizu ni uku
Ice floats on water.

"In (some year)", "at (some point in time)":
haru no yūgure ni...
On a spring eve...

Quantity and extents: と to, も mo, か ka, や ya, から kara, まで made

To conjoin nouns, と to is used.
Kaban ni wa kyōkasho san-satsu to manga-bon go-satsu o irete imasu
I have three textbooks and five comic books in the bag.

The additive particle も mo can be used to conjoin larger nominals and clauses.
Johan is a German. Brigette is a German too.
kare wa eiga SUTĀ de ari, seijika de mo aru
He is a movie star and also a politician.

For an incomplete list of conjuncts, や ya is used.
BORISU ya AIBAN o yobe
Call Boris, Ivan, etc.

When only one of the conjuncts is necessary, the disjunctive particle か ka is used.
SUSHI ka SASHIMI ka, nanika chūmon shite ne
Order sushi or sashimi or something.

Quantities are listed between から kara 'from' and まで made 'to'.
Kashi 92 do kara 96 do made no netsu wa shinpai suru mono de wa nai
A temperature between 92 Fahrenheit and 96 is not worrisome.

This pair can also be used to indicate time or space.
asa hachi-ji kara jūichi-ji made jugyō ga aru n da
You see, I have classes between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Because kara indicates starting point or origin, it has a related use as "because", analogously to English "since" (in the sense of both "from" and "because"):
SUMISU-san wa gōin na hito desu kara, itsumo tanomarete iru kamoshirenai
Mr. Smith, I think it's because you're so assertive that you're always asked to do everything.

The particle kara and a related particle yori are used to indicate lowest extents: prices, business hours, etc.
wareware wa shichi-ji yori eigyō shite orimasu
We are open for business from 7 onwards.

Yori is also used in the sense of "than".
omae wa nē-chan yori urusai n da
You are louder/more talkative than my sister!

Coordinating: と to, に ni, よ yo

The particle と to is used to set off quotations.
"koroshite... koroshite" to ano ko wa itte'ta no
The girl was saying, "Kill... kill."
neko wa NYĀ NYĀ to naku
The cat says: meow, meow.

It is also used to indicate a manner of similarity, "as if" or "like".
kare wa "aishite'ru yo" to itte, pokkuri to shinda
He said "I love you," and dropped dead.

In a related conditional use, it functions like "after", or "upon".
ame ga agaru to, kodomo-tachi wa mou gakushū o wasurete, taiyō ni omote o mukeru mizu-tamari no yūwaku ni shitagau
Rain stops and then: children, forgetting their lessons, give in to the temptation of sun-faced puddles.

Finally it is used with verbs like to meet (with) (会う au) or to speak (with) (話す hanasu).
JON ga MEARI to hajimete atta no wa, 1942 nen no haru no yūgure datta
John met Mary for the first time on a dusky spring afternoon in 1942.

This last use is also a function of the particle に ni, but to indicates reciprocation which ni does not.
JON ga MEARI to ren'ai shite iru
John and Mary are in love.
JON ga MEARI ni ren'ai shite iru
John loves Mary (but Mary might not love John back).

Finally, the particle よ yo is used in a hortative or vocative sense.
kawaii musume yo, kao o shikamete watashi o miruna
O my beloved daughter, don't frown at me so!

Final: か ka, ね ne, よ yo and related

The sentence-final particle か ka turns a declarative sentence into a question.
sochira wa amerika-jin deshō ka?
Are you perchance an American?

Other sentence-final particles add emotional or emphatic impact to the sentence. The particle ね ne softens a declarative sentence, similar to English "you know?", "eh?", "I tell you!", "isn't it?", "aren't you?", etc.
kare ni denwa shinakatta no ne
You didn't call him up, did you?
chikajika rondon ni hikkosareru sou desu ne.
I hear you're moving to London soon. Is that true?

A final よ yo is used in order to soften insistence, warning or command, which would sound very strong without any final particles.
uso tsuite nai yo!
I'm not lying!

There are many such emphatic particles; some examples: ぜ ze and ぞ zo usually used by males; な na a less formal form of ne; わ wa used by females (and males in the Kansai
The or the lies in the southern-central region of Japan's main island Honshū. The region includes the prefectures of Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo, and Shiga. Depending on who makes the distinction, Fukui, Tokushima and even Tottori Prefecture are also included...

 region) like yo, etc. They are essentially limited to speech or transcribed dialogue.

Compound particles

Compound particles are formed with at least one particle together with other words, including other particles. The commonly seen forms are:

Other structures are rarer, though possible. A few examples:
sono ken ni kan-shite shitte-iru kagiri no koto o oshiete moraitai
Kindly tell me everything you know concerning that case. (particle + verb in cont.)
gaikokugo o gakushū suru ue de taisetsu na koto wa mainichi no doryoku ga mono o iu to iu koto de aru
In studying a foreign language, daily effort gives the most rewards. (noun + particle)
ani wa ryōshin no shinpai o yoso ni, daigaku o yamete shimatta
Ignoring my parents' worries, my brother dropped out of college. (particle + noun + particle)

Auxiliary verbs

All auxiliary verbs attach to a verbal or adjectival stem form and conjugate as verbs. In modern Japanese there are two distinct classes of auxiliary verbs:
Pure auxiliaries (助動詞 jodōshi) : are usually just called verb endings or conjugated forms. These auxiliaries do not function as independent verbs.
Helper auxiliaries (補助動詞 hojodōshi) : are normal verbs that lose their independent meaning when used as auxiliaries.

In classical Japanese, which was more heavily agglutinating than modern Japanese, the category of auxiliary verb included every verbal ending after the stem form, and most of these endings were themselves inflected. In modern Japanese, however, some of them have stopped being productive. The prime example is the classical auxiliary たり -tari, whose modern forms た -ta and て -te are no longer viewed as inflections of the same suffix, and can take no further affixes.
Some pure auxiliary verbs
auxiliary group attaches to meaning modification example
ます masu irregular1 continuative makes the sentence polite 書く kaku 'to write' → 書きます kakimasu
られる rareru2 2b irrealis of grp. 2 makes V passive/honorific/potential 見る miru 'to see' → 見られる mirareru 'to be able to see'
食べる taberu 'to eat' → 食べられる taberareru 'to be able to eat'
れる reru irrealis of grp. 1 makes V passive/honorific 飲む nomu 'to drink/swallow' → 飲まれる nomareru 'to be drunk'
る ru3 hyp. of grp. 1 makes V potential 飲む nomu 'to drink/swallow' → 飲める nomeru 'to be able to drink'
させる saseru4 2b irrealis of grp. 2 makes V causative 考える kangaeru 'to think' → 考えさせる kangaesaseru 'to cause to think'
せる seru irrealis of grp. 1 思い知る omoishiru 'to realize' → 思い知らせる omoishiraseru 'to cause to realize/to teach a lesson'
1 ます masu has stem forms: irrealis ませ and ましょ, continuative まし, terminal ます, attributive ます, hypothetical ますれ, imperative ませ.
2 られる rareru in potential usage is sometimes shortened to れる reru (grp. 2); thus 食べれる tabereru 'to be able to eat' instead of 食べられる taberareru. But it is considered non-standard.
3 Technically, such an auxiliary verb る, ru, denoting the potential form, does not exist, as for example 飲める nomeru is thought to actually come from the contraction of 飲み得る, nomieru (see below). However, textbooks tend to teach it this way. (飲める in old texts would have been the attributive past tense form of 飲む instead of the potential meaning.)
4 させる saseru is sometimes shortened to さす sasu (grp. 1), but this usage is somewhat literary.

Much of the agglutinative flavour of Japanese stems from helper auxiliaries, however. The following table contains a small selection of an abundant store of such auxiliary verbs.
Some helper auxiliary verbs
auxiliary group attaches to meaning modification example
ある aru 'to be (inanimate)' 1 -te form
only for trans.
indicates state modification 開く hiraku 'to open' → 開いてある hiraite-aru 'opened and is still open'
いる iru 'to be (animate)' 2a -te form
for trans.
progressive aspect 寝る neru 'to sleep' → 寝ている nete-iru 'is sleeping'
2a -te form
for intrans.
indicates state modification 閉まる shimaru 'to close (intransitive)' → 閉まっている shimatte-iru 'is closed'
行く iku 'to go' 1 -te form "goes on V-ing" 歩く aruku 'to walk' → 歩いて行く aruite-iku 'keep walking'
くる kuru 'to come' ka -te form inception, "start to V" 降る furu 'fall' → 降ってくる futte-kuru 'start to fall'
perfection, "have V-ed" (only past-tense) 死ぬ shinu 'die' → 死んできた shinde-kita 'have died'
conclusion, "come to V" 異なる kotonaru 'differ' → 異なってくる kotonatte-kuru 'come to differ'
始める hajimeru 'to begin' 2b continuative
"V begins", "begin to V" 書く kaku 'to write' → 書き始める kaki-hajimeru 'start to write'
punctual & subj. must be plural
着く tsuku 'to arrive' → 着き始める tsuki-hajimeru 'have all started to arrive'
出す dasu 'to emit' 1 continuative "start to V" 輝く kagayaku 'to shine' → 輝き出す kagayaki-dasu 'to start shining'
みる miru 'to see' 1 -te form "try to V" する suru 'do' → してみる shite-miru 'try to do'
なおす naosu 'to correct/heal' 1 continuative "do V again, correcting mistakes" 書く kaku 'to write' → 書きなおす kaki-naosu 'rewrite'
あがる agaru 'to rise' 1 continuative "do V thoroughly" / "V happens upwards" 立つ tatsu 'to stand' → 立ち上がる tachi-agaru 'stand up'

出来る dekiru 'to come out' → 出来上がる deki-agaru 'be completed'
得る eru/uru 'to be able' (see note at bottom) continuative indicates potential ある aru 'to be' → あり得る ariuru 'is possible'
かかる/かける kakaru/kakeru 'to hang/catch/obtain' 1 continuative
only for intrans., non-volit.
"about to V", "almost V",
"to start to V"
溺れる oboreru 'drown' → 溺れかける obore-kakeru 'about to drown'
きる kiru 'to cut' 1 continuative "do V completely" 食べる taberu 'to eat' → 食べきる tabe-kiru 'to eat it all'
消す kesu 'to erase' 1 continuative "cancel by V"
"deny with V"
揉む momu 'to rub' → 揉み消す momi-kesu 'to rub out, to extinguish'
込む komu 'to enter deeply/plunge' 1 continuative "V deep in", "V into" 話す hanasu 'to speak' → 話し込む hanashi-komu 'to be deep in conversation'
下げる sageru 'to lower' 2b continuative "V down" 引く hiku 'to pull' → 引き下げる hiki-sageru 'to pull down'
過ぎる sugiru 'to exceed' 2a continuative "overdo V" 言う iu 'to say' → 言いすぎる ii-sugiru 'to say too much, to overstate'
付ける tsukeru 'to attach' 2b continuative "become accustomed to V" 行く iku 'to go' → 行き付ける iki-tsukeru 'be used to (going)'
続ける tsuzukeru 'to continue' 2b continuative "keep on V" 降る furu 'to fall' (e.g. rain) → 降り続ける furi-tsuzukeru 'to keep falling'
通す tōsu 'to show/thread/lead' 1 continuative "finish V-ing" 読む yomu 'to read' → 読み通す yomi-tōsu 'to finish reading'
抜ける nukeru 'to shed/spill/desert' 2b continuative
only for intrans.
"V through" 走る hashiru 'to run' → 走り抜ける hashiri-nukeru 'to run through (swh)'
残す nokosu 'to leave behind' 1 continuative by doing V, leave something behind 思う omou 'to think' → 思い残す omoi-nokosu 'to regret' (lit: to have something left to think about)
残る nokoru 'to be left behind' 1 continuative
for intrans. only
be left behind, doing V 生きる ikiru 'live' → 生き残る iki-nokoru 'to survive' (lit: to be left alive)
分ける wakeru 'to divide/split/classify' 2b continuative the proper way to V 使う tsukau 'use' → 使い分ける tsukai-wakeru 'to indicate the proper way to use'
忘れる wasureru 'to forget' 2b continuative to forget to V 聞く kiku 'to ask' → 聞き忘れる kiki-wasureru 'to forget to ask'

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