Beginner Japanese/Godan Verbs

Godan Verbs


Japanese Verbs are very easy to conjugate, especially the 五段(ごだん)  godan ones. Remember the order of vowels from the Japanese Roman Character Pronunciation Guide? Just to refresh your memory, they are あ, い, う, え, and お. It is from these five sounds that the conjugation gets its name: 五 go means "5", and 段 dan means "step".

Japanese verbs have a style of conjugation completely different than English verbs. They conjugate to express not only time, but certain feelings we would express using more words. godan verbs include all verbs that do not end with the -iru or -eru sounds (the "i" and "e" can be preceded by a consonantal sound) as well as some that actually do end with them but are not する suru or くる kuru, the most common irregular verbs in Japanese. Most verbs ending with the letters -いる -iru or -える -eru are 一段 ichidan verbs, with some exceptions, such as the word いる iru (to be needed/wanted), which is a godan verb.

The conjugation follows this pattern:

  • a – negative form.
  • i – infinitive form.
  • u – dictionary form.
  • e – conditional form.
  • o – volitional form.

In order to show you how this works, we'll follow the godan verb 行く(いく)  iku (to go) through a full five conjugations. Conjugation deals only with changing the vowel at the end of the original dictionary form verb, and sometimes adding a suffix. The Dictionary form is so called because this is the way you will find a verb in the dictionary. They will always end with う u in this form without exception.



To change a godan verb to its negative form, drop the "u" and add "a". Then add the negative suffix -ない -nai. The negative form of 行く iku is 行かない ikanai (do not go).

There are some exceptions to this rule, however. For verbs whose last letter is う u, such as 会う(あう)  au (to meet), the う is replaced with わ wa instead of あ. This means the negative of 会う au is 会わない awanai (to not meet). Also, for verbs whose last character is つ tsu, such as 立つ tatsu (to stand), the つ tsu is replaced with た ta instead of あ a. This means the negative of 立つ tatsu is 立たない tatanai (to not stand).



Infinitive form is the form into which you may add other verbs, other levels of honour, or both. It is also the base form from which the standard "desu-masu" Japanese is spoken.

The infinitive form is almost a stand-alone form. You can speak very basic Japanese almost entirely with this form. In order to change the dictionary form to infinitive form, we drop the "u" and add "i". Then, we add -ます -masu as a suffix. The infinitive form of 行く iku is 行きます ikimasu.

To make the verb infinitive-negative, change the -ます -masu to -ません -masen, as in 行きません ikimasen (do not go).

Similar to the non-infinitive form, verbs whose last character is つ tsu, such as 立つ tatsu (to stand), have their own unique ending. In this case, つ tsu is replaced with ち chi before adding ます -masu (or ません -masen) as a suffix to get the infinitive form. Thus, 立つ tatsu becomes 立ちます tachimasu (or 立ちません tachimasen in the infinitive-negative).



As said previously, dictionary form is the standardized form for finding verbs in dictionaries. All verbs of all types end in "-u" in the dictionary form.



The え e form is used in giving commands, suggestions, or making hypothetical statements. There is occasionally no suffix to this form. To change a godan verb to the imperative form, drop the "u" and add "e". The imperative form of 行く iku is 行け ike. (A warning: Do not say 行け ike to anyone as it is considered slightly vulgar and offensive.) When you add ば ba to this form, it becomes a true conditional. 行けば ikeba could variously be translated as "why don't you go?" or "what if you went?" You might also hear the phrase 行けば判る ikeba wakaru; 判る wakaru means "to know" or "to understand". This phrase therefore means "If [you] went, [you'd] understand."



The お o form is the one that is confusing to most English speakers. It is the "let's" form. To change a godan verb to this form, drop the "u" and add "ou". The suffix in this case is not easy to notice, as it is a "u". This simply extends the o sound. The volitional form of 行く iku is 行こう ikou (let's go).

To make an infinitive infinitive-volitional, simply replace "-masu" with "-mashou". The infinitive-volitional form of 行きます ikimasu is 行きましょう ikimashou.



Conjugate these verbs in all five forms:

  • 洗う ー arau (to wash)
  • 会う ー au (to meet)
  • 頑張る ー ganbaru (to do well)
  • 入る ー hairu (to enter)
  • 行く ー iku (to go)
  • 言う ー iu (to say)
  • 書く ー kaku (to write/draw/paint)
  • 買う ー kau (to buy)
  • 聞く ー kiku (to hear)
  • 下る ー kudaru (to go down/descend)
  • 食う ー kuu (to eat, vulgar, used when talking of animals)
  • 回る ー mawaru (to turn)
  • なる ー naru (to become)
  • 上る ー noboru (to climb)
  • 飲む ー nomu (to drink)
  • 乗る ー noru (to board/enter/mount)
  • 踊る ー odoru (to dance)
  • 怒る ー okoru (to get mad)
  • 思う ー omou (to think)
  • サボる ー saboru (to skip, i.e. class)
  • 悟る ー satoru (to sense)
  • 死ぬ ー shinu (to die)
  • 頼む ー tanomu (to request)
  • 立つ ー tatsu (to stand)
  • 飛ぶ ー tobu (to fly)
  • 取る ー toru (to take)
  • 売る ー uru (to sell)
  • 分かる ー wakaru (to understand)
  • 焼く ー yaku (to burn/roast)



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