Verb Conjugation | Present Tense

In this article, you will learn how to conjugate Japanese verbs into polite form and present tense. If you are a complete beginner, you better to know!


Before I explain how verbs conjugation works, you need to know that we have 3 types of conjugational groups in Japanese. And every Japanese dictionary form (= known as infinitive form and/or basic form as well) have ‘U’ VOWEL at the end.


Three Verb’s conjugation groups

Firstly, you take a verb in a dictionary form. If the verb’s dictionary form finishes with る (ru), it might be る (ru); Otherwise, it is u verb, unless it is not irregular verbs.

To find out if the verb is theる (ru) verb or not, you need to look into the syllable right before る (ru). In case, the 2nd last syllable has ‘i’ or ‘e’ vowels, they are qualified to be in a る (ru) verb group.

Therefore, the easiest way to recognize verb’s conjugation groups is understanding the rules above, and remember special verbs which are eligible to be in the る (ru) verb, but actually are not.

Here are examples of special U verbs cases;

知る、走る、切る、要る、帰る、焦る、喋る, etc.

For the pronunciations and the meanings, I indicate them on the chart of U verbs. Please see below.


1、Ru Verb

If the verb is Ru verb, all you need is removing る (ru) at the end of the dictionary form, and add ます (ma su) instead.

– affirmative form –

食べ(たべ・ta be ru)  →
to eat 
食べます
たべます
ta be ma su
(ね・ne ru)  →
to sleep 
ます
ます
ne ma su
起き(おき・o ki ru)  →
to wake up / to happen
起きます
おきます
o ki ma su
(い・i ru) →
to be
*existence of something which can move by its will.
(People, animals, etc.)
ます
ます
i ma su

– Negative form –

For negative form, you need to replace affirmative form ます to ません.

食べ(たべ・ta be ru)  →
to eat 
食べません
たべません
ta be ma se n
(ね・ne ru)  →
to sleep 
ません
ません
ne ma se n
起き(おき・o ki ru)  →
to wake up / to happen
起きません
おきません
o ki ma se n
(い・i ru) →
to be
*existence of something which can move by its will.
(People, animals, etc.)
ません
ません
i ma se n

2、U Verb

If the verb is not Ru verb, it is U verb.

The conjugation for U verb is different from Ru verb. Firstly, you take a dictionary form. You need to change the last syllable’s VOWEL from U to I. Then you add ます(ma su).

– affirmative form –

(の・no mu)  →
to drink
ます
ます
no mi ma su
(か・ka ku)  →
to write
ます
ます
ka ki ma su
(うた・u ta u)  →
to sing
ます
うたます
u ta i ma su

– negative form –

For negative form, you need to replace affirmative form ます to ません.

(の・no mu)  →
to drink
ません
ません
no mi ma se n
(か・ka ku)  →
to write
ません
ません
ka ki ma se n
(うた・u ta u)  →
to sing
ません
うたません
u ta i ma se n

Exceptions

Those which look like Ru verbs, but they are U verbs

(し・shi ru)  →
to know (something)
ます
ます

shi ri ma su
(はし・ha shi ru)  →
to run (somewhere)
ます
ます

ha shi ri ma su
(き・ki ru)  →
to cut (something)
ます
ます

ki ri ma su
(い・i ru)  →
(Something) is needed
ます
ます

i ri ma su
(かえ・ka e ru)  →
to go home, to return (to where you belong)
ます
かえます

ka e ri ma su
(かえる・ka e ru)  →
(Something) turn over, be overturned, be reversed
ます
かえます

ka e ri ma su
(あせ・a se ru)  →
to be hasty, be in a hurry (*feeling)
ます
あせます

a se ri ma su
(しゃべ・sha be ru) →
(To talk), to chat
ます
しゃべます

sha be ri ma su
(はい・ha i ru) →
to enter (to somewhere)
ます
はいます

ha i ri ma su
(へ・heru) →
(Sth) decrease
ます
ます

ha i ri ma su

– negative form –

For negative form, you need to replace affirmative form ます to ません.

(し・shi ru)  →
to know (something)
ません
ません

shi ri ma se n
(はし・ha shi ru)  →
to run (somewhere)
ません
ません

ha shi ri ma se n
(き・ki ru)  →
to cut (something)
ません
ません

ki ri ma se n
(い・i ru)  →
(Something) is needed
ません
ません

i ri ma se n
(かえ・ka e ru)  →
to go home, to return (to where you belong)
ません
かえません

ka e ri ma se n
(かえ・ka e ru)  →
(Something) turn over, be overturned, be reversed
ません
かえません

ka e ri ma se n
(あせ・a se ru)  →
to be hasty, be in a hurry (*feeling)
ません
あせません

a se ri ma se n
(しゃべ・sha be ru) →
(To talk), to chat
ません
しゃべません

sha be ri ma se n
(はい・ha i ru) →
to enter (to somewhere)
ません
はいません

ha i ri ma sen
(へ・heru) →
(Sth) decrease
ません
へりません

ha i ri ma sen

3、Irregular Verb

In Japanese, irregular verbs are only 2 as below;

– affirmative form –

する (su ru)  →
to do 
ます
shi ma su
来る (くる・ku ru)  →
to come 
ます
ます
ki ma su
ある(a ru)
to be, there is/are →
*existence of something which cannot move by their will.
(Plants, objects)
ます
a ri ma su

– negative form –

For negative form, you need to replace affirmative form ます to ません.

する (su ru)  →
to do 
ません
shi ma se n
来る (くる・ku ru)  →
to come 
ません
ません
ki ma se n
ある(a ru)
to be, there is/are →
*existence of something which cannot move by its will.
(Plants, objects)
ません
a ri ma se n

Noun + する = new verb!

する can be combined with a lot of nouns to make new verbs. However, not with every verb. In particular, it is with nouns which describe actions. Examples for basic forms  are as below;

nounto donew verb
料理(りょうり・ryo u ri)
cooking
+する
su ru
=料理する
to cook
旅行(りょこう・ryo ko u)
travelling
+する
su ru
=旅行する
to travel
運転(うんてん・u n te n)
driving
+する
su ru
=運転する
to drive
運動(うんどう・u n do u)
exercise
+する
su ru
=運動する
to do exercise
掃除(そうじ・so u ji)
cleaning
+する
su ru
=掃除する
to clean

When you talk politely, you need to change する to します as below;

– affirmative form, polite –

nounto do (polite)new verb
料理(りょうり・ryo u ri)
cooking
+します
shi ma su
=料理します
I cook.
I will cook.
旅行(りょこう・ryo ko u)
travelling
+します
shi ma su
=旅行します
I travel.
I will travel.
運転(うんてん・u n te n)
driving
+します
shi ma su
=運転します
I drive.
I will drive.
運動(うんどう・u n do u)
exercise
+します
shi ma su
=運動します
I do exercise.
I will do exercise.
掃除(そうじ・so u ji)
cleaning
+します
shi ma su
=掃除します
I clean.
I will clean.

– negative form, polite –

For negative form, you need to replace affirmative form ます to ません.

nounto do (polite)new verb
料理(りょうり・ryo u ri)
cooking
+ます
shi ma su
=料理しません
ryo u ri shi ma se n
I don’t cook.
I won’t cook.
旅行(りょこう・ryo ko u)
travelling
+ます
shi ma su
=旅行しません
ryo ko u shi ma se n
I don’t travel.
I won’t travel.
運転(うんてん・u n te n)
driving
+ます
shi ma su
=運転しません
u n te n shi ma se n
I don’t drive.
I won’t drive.
運動(うんどう・u n do u)
exercise
+ます
shi ma su
=運動しません
u n do u shi ma se n
I don’t do exercise.
I won’t do exercise.
掃除(そうじ・so u ji)
cleaning
+ます
shi ma su
=掃除しません
so u ji shi ma se n
I don’t clean.
I won’t clean.

おまけ (o ma ke)! Bonus★

When to use Casual form?

In fact, dictionary forms are used as a casual, present and future tense. However, if you are a beginner, you need to know how to talk politely. If you are more than 90 years old, you might not need to use polite language (maybe, maybe not). Otherwise, you will have the opportunity to use polite form.


In Japanese culture, we use polite form when we talk to someone older than you (even 1 year difference), and when we meet someone new. If our age differences are obvious, let’s say I look around 25 years old, and you are 50 years old, you can use casual form from the first greeting. However, the first impression of you may be different from when you use casual form and when you use polite form. Even though the cases like that, you are better to use polite form especially at the first meeting. I guess this is not only in our culture, but let me tell you! First impressions are very important!


If the age seems closer, then you better go with polite form. We consider someone who cannot use polite form at the first meeting as TOO friendly (なれなれしい), and we may shut down a door of our hearts (this is Japanese expression) to those who do not know how to communicate with people. In private, I prefer not to keep conversation with those who なれなれしい people in Japanese from the first meeting. That is strange, but when I talk in Japanese, I care about politeness. When I talk in English, I do not feel that way, though. In French, we have Vous and Tu. When I talk in French, I have similar feeling to Japanese. That is the magic of the language, I guess. After we are getting along, and we are getting closer, we start to use casual form. When you talk in Japanese, you need to know how to keep the accurate distance.

In Japanese conversation lessons, if you mistakenly use casual form from the first lesson, that is no problem at all! I will teach you polite form. After we have a lot of lessons, I will change the language to casual form unconsciously. That means I start to open myself to you and you are comfortable to talk to! You need to keep using Japanese to improve! 🙂


Therefore, once you become closer and be friends, there is no problem to use casual form. You need to be careful especially for the first impression.


Talk with me in Japanese!

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https://teach.italki.com/teacher/6889429



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