Plain Form 2017-08-21T20:46:06+00:00
Learn Japanese Verbs - Lesson 1: The "Plain Form"

Learn Japanese Verbs – Lesson 1: The “Plain Form

Welcome to the wonderful world of Japanese verbs!  In Japanese, there are two basic forms of verbs – casual and polite.  The casual form is what we will use when we are talking to friends and family, while the polite form is only used in a formal setting.  For example, The Japanese verb iku means “to go“, and is already in the casual form.  Ikimasu means “to go” as well, but it’s in the polite form.

Casual Form Polite Form
iku ikimasu

In this lesson we will only talk about the casual form.  Now, I don’t want to scare you too much, but the “present” tense and the “future” tense are actually the same in Japanese.  In other words, 

iku is the same as.. iku
(“I go“) (“I will go“)

That might seem rather strange right now, but it also means there will be less to remember!  That’s always a good thing, right?  From now on, I am going to refer to the present tense and the future tense as the same.  Let’s call it the “present/future” tense.  There will be no need to separate them as we would in English.

The casual form of a verb in it’s present/future tense is the foundation that we will use to create other forms.  Imagine “iku” is the trunk of a tree.  In each of my following lessons, you will learn one “branch” that grows from the tree.  For example, “ikimasu” will be one branch.  There will be many branches of course, but let’s focus on the trunk of our tree for now, iku.

This is such a basic form, that if you open a Japanese dictionary right now and search for this verb, you will only find “iku“.  This is why we are going to call this the “dictionary form” or “plain form” of a verb.  From this point on, when I talk about the plain form, I am referring to the casual form in it’s present/future tense.

Another important point to learn right now is that the placement of a verb in a sentence is much different than English.  In English, you will usually find the verb after the subject (“I will go to the park”).  In Japanese, we always put the verb at the end of the sentence, which I will demonstrate to you in just a minute.  Before we do anything more, make sure you have learned how the Japanese particles “WA” and “DESU” function in a sentence.  It is required to know how to build a basic sentence in Japanese with these particles before continuing on with the verb section.  You can go directly to the lesson here:

Learn Japanese Grammar: Build a basic sentence with WA and DESU.

If you are familiar with basic sentence construction, then you should continue on below!

So this is what we have learned so far:
  English Verbs Japanese Verbs
Tenses Past, Present, Future Past and Present/Future
(3 tenses) (2 tenses)
Placement After the Subject At the end of a sentence.
Let’s demonstrate these differences with Japanese sentences:
I go to school
watashi wa gakkou ni iku
I will go to school
watashi wa gakkou ni iku
As you can see, we are expressing the present and future tense with different words in English (“go” and “will go“).  In Japanese, both tenses are used with the same verb (“iku“).  Also, look at the placement.  In the English versions, “go” comes after the subject, “I”.  In Japanese, “iku” is placed as the end. 


Now we know that the plain form is used to casually refer to an action that is happening now or later.  It is the foundation for which other forms and tenses are created.
Wait, there’s one last thing!  Japanese verbs work perfectly fine on their own.  If the context is understood, you don’t need to include anything else.  We don’t always have that same luxury in English.  For example,
watashi wa taberu
(I am eating)
can be the same as…


(I am eating)

That’s all for this lesson!  If you would like, you can study my Japanese verb flashcards in their plain-form below!

Don’t worry if you don’t master them all right now.  We will be re-visiting these same verbs later when we learn other forms and tenses.  Since these Japanese verbs are in their most basic form, you should at least go through a few of them.

[qdeck align=”center”; style=”width: 440px; height: 315px; border: 4px solid #000080;” random=”false”] [h] Verb Flashcards – Plain Form[q]あく
(aku)[a] あく (aku)

(something) opens
[q] あるく
(aruku)[a] あるく (aruku)

to walk
[q] いく
(iku)[a] いく (iku)

to go
[q] おく
(oku)[a] おく (oku)

to put
[q] かく
(kaku)[a] かく (kaku)

to write / draw
[q] きく
(kiku)[a] きく (kiku)

to listen / hear / ask
[q] さく
(saku)[a] さく (saku)

to bloom / flower
[q] つく
(tsuku)[a] つく (tsuku)

to arrive
[q] なく
(naku)[a] なく (naku)

to bark / mew / cry
[q] はく
(haku)[a] はく (haku)

to put on shoes or pants / to sweep
[q] はたらく
(hataraku)[a] はたらく (hataraku)

to work
[q] ひく
(hiku)[a] ひく (hiku)

to pull something / to play an instrument
[q] ふく
(fuku)[a] ふく (fuku)

to blow
[q] みがく
(migaku)[a] みがく (migaku)

to polish / brush
[q] およぐ
(oyogu)[a] およぐ (oyogu)

to swim
[q] ぬぐ
(nugu)[a] ぬぐ (nugu)

to take off / undress
[q] おす
(osu)[a] おす (osu)

to push
[q] かえす
(kaesu)[a] かえす (kaesu)

to return (something)
[q] かす
(kasu)[a] かす (kasu)

to lend
[q] けす
(kesu)[a] けす (kesu)

to turn off / put out
[q] さす
(sasu)[a] さす (sasu)

to put (up an umbrella) / to point out
[q] だす
(dasu)[a] だす (dasu)

to extract / take out
[q] なくす
(nakusu)[a] なくす (nakusu)

to lose (something)
[q] はなす
(hanasu)[a] はなす (hanasu)

to speak/talk/tell
[q] わたす
(watasu)[a] わたす (watasu)

to hand over
[q] しぬ
(shinu)[a] しぬ (shinu)

to die
[q] あそぶ
(asobu)[a] あそぶ (asobu)

to play
[q] よぶ
(yobu)[a] よぶ (yobu)

to call/invite
[q] すむ
(sumu)[a] すむ (sumu)

to live/reside (in)
[q] たのむ
(tanomu)[a] たのむ (tanomu)

to ask (a favor)
[q] のむ
(nomu)[a] のむ (nomu)

to drink
[q] やすむ
(yasumu)[a] やすむ (yasumu)

to take a rest / be absent
[q] よむ
(yomu)[a] よむ (yomu)

to read
[q] あう
(au)[a] あう (au)

to meet / to fit
[q] あらう
(arau)[a] あらう (arau)

to wash
[q] いう
(iu)[a] いう (iu)

to say/speak/tell/talk
[q] うたう
(utau)[a] うたう (utau)

to sing
[q] かう
(kau)[a] かう (kau)

to buy
[q] すう
(suu)[a] すう (suu)

to inhale
[q] ちがう
(chigau)[a] ちがう (chigau)

to be different / wrong
[q] つかう
(tsukau)[a] つかう (tsukau)

to use
[q] ならう
(narau)[a] ならう (narau)

to learn
[q] たつ
(tatsu)[a] たつ (tatsu)

to stand up
[q] まつ
(matsu)[a] まつ (matsu)

to wait
[q] もつ
(motsu)[a] もつ (motsu)

to have / hold
[q] ある
(aru)[a] ある (aru)

to be (inanimate) / have
[q] うる
(uru)[a] うる (uru)

to sell
[q] おわる
(owaru)[a] おわる (owaru)

to finish
[q] かえる
(kaeru)[a] かえる (kaeru)

to return / go home
[q] かかる
(kakaru)[a] かかる (kakaru)

to take (time / money)
[q] かぶる
(kaburu)[a] かぶる (kaburu)

to put on (a hat)
[q] きる
not “to wear”[a] きる (kiru)

to cut
[q] こまる
(komaru)[a] こまる (komaru)

to be in trouble
[q] しまる
(shimaru)[a] しまる (shimaru)

(something) closes
[q] しる
(shiru)[a] しる (shiru)

to know
[q] すわる
(suwaru)[a] すわる (suwaru)

to sit down
[q] つくる
(tsukuru)[a] つくる (tsukuru)

to make / form / cook
[q] とまる
(tomaru)[a] とまる (tomaru)

(something) stops
[q] とる
(toru)[a] とる (toru)

to take
[q] なる
(naru)[a] なる (naru)

to become
[q] のぼる
(noboru)[a] のぼる (noboru)

to climb
[q] のる
(noru)[a] のる (noru)

to get on
[q] はいる
(hairu)[a] はいる (hairu)

to enter
[q] はしる
(hashiru)[a] はしる (hashiru)

to run
[q] はじまる
(hajimaru)[a] はじまる (hajimaru)

(something) starts
[q] はる
(haru)[a] はる (haru)

to put / stick
[q] ふる
(furu)[a] ふる (furu)

to fall (rain / snow)
[q] まがる
(magaru)[a] まがる (magaru)

to turn
[q] やる
(yaru)[a] やる (yaru)

to do
[q] わかる
(wakaru)[a] わかる (wakaru)

to understand
[q] わたる
(wataru)[a] わたる (wataru)

to cross
[q] あける
(akeru)[a] あける (akeru)

to open something
[q] あげる
(ageru)[a] あげる (ageru)

to give
[q] いれる
(ireru)[a] いれる (ireru)

to put in
[q] うまれる
(umareru)[a] うまれる (umareru)

to be born
[q] おしえる
(oshieru)[a] おしえる (oshieru)

to tell / teach
[q] おぼえる
(oboeru)[a] おぼえる (oboeru)

to memorize
[q] かける
not to “put on glasses”[a] かける (kakeru)

to make a phone call / hang
[q] かける
not “to make a phone call”[a] かける (kakeru)

to put on glasses
[q] きえる
(kieru)[a] きえる (kieru)

to disappear
[q] こたえる
(kotaeru)[a] こたえる (kotaeru)

to answer / reply
[q] しめる
(shimeru)[a] しめる (shimeru)

to close something
[q] たべる
(taberu)[a] たべる (taberu)

to eat
[q] つかれる
(tsukareru)[a] つかれる (tsukareru)

to get tired
[q] つける
(tsukeru)[a] つける (tsukeru)

to turn on / light
[q] つとめる
(tsutomeru)[a] つとめる (tsutomeru)

to work for
[q] でる
(deru)[a] でる (deru)

to leave / attend
[q] ならべる
(naraberu)[a] ならべる (naraberu)

to line (things) up
[q] はれる
(hareru)[a] はれる (hareru)

to clear up
[q] みせる
(miseru)[a] みせる (miseru)

to show
[q] わすれる
(wasureru)[a] わすれる (wasureru)

to forget
[q] あびる
(abiru)[a] あびる (abiru)

to take (a shower)
[q] いる
not “to need”[a] いる (iru)

(for people) to exist / to stay
[q] おきる
(okiru)[a] おきる (okiru)

to get up
[q] おりる
(oriru)[a] おりる (oriru)

to get off
[q] かりる
(kariru)[a] かりる (kariru)

to borrow / rent
[q] きる
not “to cut”[a] きる (kiru)

to wear / put on
[q] できる
(dekiru)[a] できる (dekiru)

can (do)
[q] みる
(miru)[a] みる (miru)

to see / watch / look
[q] かいぎ(を)する
(kaigi o suru)[a] かいぎ(を)する (kaigi o suru)

to hold a meeting
[q] かいもの(を)する
(kaimono o suru)[a] かいもの(を)する (kaimono o suru)

to go shopping
[q] けっこん(を)する
(kekkon o suru)[a] けっこん(を)する (kekkon o suru)

to get married
[q] コピー(を)する
(copii o suru)[a] コピー(を)する (copii o suru)

to make a copy
[q] さんぽ(を)する
(sanpo o suru)[a] さんぽ(を)する (sanpo o suru)

to take a walk
[q] しごと(を)する
(shigoto o suru)[a] しごと(を)する (shigoto o suru)

to work
[q] しつもん(を)する
(shitsumon o suru)[a] しつもん(を)する (shitsumon o suru)

to ask somebody a question
[q] する
(suru)[a] する (suru)

to do
[q] しゅくだい(を)する
(shukudai o suru)[a] しゅくだい(を)する (shukudai o suru)

to do homework
[q] せんたく(を)する
(sentaku o suru)[a] せんたく(を)する (sentaku o suru)

to do laundry
[q] そうじ(を)する
(souji o suru)[a] そうじ(を)する (souji o suru)

to clean
[q] でんわ(を)する
(denwa o suru)[a] でんわ(を)する (denwa o suru)

to make a phone call
[q] はなし(を)する
(hanashi o suru)[a] はなし(を)する (hanashi o suru)

to have a talk
[q] パーティー(を)する
(paatii o suru)[a] パーティー(を)する (paatii o suru)

to have a party
[q] べんきょう(を)する
(benkyou o suru)[a] べんきょう(を)する (benkyou o suru)

to study
[q] りょうり(を)する
(ryouri o suru)[a] りょうり(を)する (ryouri o suru)

to cook
[q] りょこう(を)する
(ryokou o suru)[a] りょこう(を)する (ryokou o suru)

to take a trip
[q] れんしゅう(を)する
(renshuu o suru)[a] れんしゅう(を)する (renshuu o suru)

to practice
[q] くる
(kuru)[a] くる (kuru)

to come
Polite Form. Non-Past Tense
Japanese Verbs Index Polite Form, Non-Past Tense