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Casual Japanese Verbs – The Plain Form / Dictionary Form

Welcome to the 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.  The Japanese verb iku means “to go“, and is already in the casual form.  So convenient, right?  It’s usually used with a friend or family member as shown below.  

     
かあさん、いつ かいものに  
Okaasan, itsu kaimono ni iku Example 1
Mom, when will we go shopping?

 

The polite form on the other hand is only used in a formal setting.  To use the polite form, we conjugate iku into ikimasu.  Ikimasu means “to go” as well, but it’s more appropriate when a dose of respect is needed, such as in a business situation.  Since this lesson is about the plain/casual form, we will only concern ourselves with iku at the moment.  Just remember for now that ikimasu is derived, or “conjugated” from iku. 

Casual Form (informal)   Polite Form (formal)
iku changes to ikimasu
 

The casual form of a verb is the foundation that we will use to create other forms, such as the case with iku changing into ikimasu.  In our later lessons, we will show you the rules that we follow to make such a transformation, but we’re not quite there yet.  By the way, it’s also important to know that 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“)  
         
 

You will find after some time though that context is all we need to distinguish between present and future.  As blown as your mind may feel at this moment as you begin questioning how time in our universe works and maybe even your own sanity, it’s really not that bad.  After some practice, it is actually quite easy to get used to.  Moving on…

If you open a Japanese dictionary right now and search for our verb, “iku“, you will only find it in the casual form.  Although there are 10 other conjugations of the same word, including ikimasu, the raw version that we always start with is iku.  Therefor, we can also say that “iku” is the “dictionary form” or “plain form” of a verb, which you will also hear often.  To summarize this new terminology with one clean statement, we can say:

“The dictionary form or plain form of a verb is the casual form in it’s present/future tense.” 

It’s as basic as the present form of the English words “sit”, “eat” or “study”, keeping in mind that if you want to say these same words to someone in a formal (polite) setting then you cannot rely on the casual dictionary/plain form.

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, which I will demonstrate to you in just a minute.  First, make sure that you know the basics from the following lesson before continuing:

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

Once you are familiar with the basic sentence construction (a WA b DESU), then all that’s left is plugging in our verb at the end in after our topic.

A basic sentence construction with a noun:

A basic sentence construction with a verb:

わたしはけいこです

watashi wa Keiko desu.

(I am Keiko)

わたしはたべる

watashi wa taberu.

(I am eating / I will eat)

Example 2
Here are the differences we have covered so far between English verbs and Japanese verbs:
    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 this one more time with the following:
I go to school
watashi wa gakkou ni iku
 
and…
 
I will go to school
watashi wa gakkou ni iku
 
Example 3
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. 

 

I hope this lesson has helped you understand how the plain form is used to casually refer to an action that is happening now or later.  It is also the foundation for which other forms and tenses are created.
One last thing I would like to show you in this lesson is that Japanese verbs usually work perfectly fine on their own.  If the context is understood, you don’t need to include anything else.  We don’t have that same luxury in English.  For example,
         
  watashi wa taberu
(I am eating)
can be the same as…

 

taberu
(I am eating)
 

Flashcards to practice Japanese verbs in the Plain/Dictionary Form

If you would like, you can study my Japanese verb flashcards in their plain form below.

Don’t worry if you don’t master these flashcards 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.  These flashcards are based on my Beginners Vocabulary List (N5 Level).

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

to make a phone call / hang
[q] かける
(kakeru)
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
(iru)
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
(kiru)
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
[/qdeck]

Some more examples of Japanese verbs in the Plain/Dictionary Form

はなさく。
hana ga saku.
(The flower will blossom)
10ぷんぐらいかかる。
juppun gurai kakaru.
(It takes about 10 minutes.)
Example 5  Example 10
えきく。
eki ni tsuku.
(We will arrive at the station)
やまのぼ
yama o noboru.
(I will climb the mountain)
 Example 6  Example 11
ギターを
gitaa o hiku
(I play the guitar)
コンサートがはじまる。
konsaato ga hajimaru
(The concert will start.)
 Example 7  Example 12
わたしはコーヒーを
watashi wa koohii o nomu.
(I don’t drink coffee)
わたしみぎがる
watashi wa migi ni magaru.
(I will turn right)
 Example 8  Example 13
いいえ、ちがう。
iie, chigau.
(No, that’s wrong)
いえ
ie o deru.
(We will leave the house)
Example 9 Example 14
Go here for a full list of Beginner Japanese verbs.
Polite Form. Non-Past Tense
Japanese Verbs Index Polite Form, Non-Past Tense