TIL: Human Japanese 21

Verbs are simpler than in other languages in the sense that there is no plural or masculine/feminine, ex: He is / I am / We are. It’s all just です. They’re also more complex in that there must be various levels of politeness. Almost all sources teach polite versions… it’s what people use when meeting strangers, and there seems to be a larger focus on it in general in Japan. They also conjugate more uniformly, so it’s great for people who like rules.

All polite verbs end with ます, and the only part of the verb that changes is the ending.

Positive Negative
Present/Future ~ます ~ません
Past ~ました ~ませんでした
Present/Future いきます いきません
Past いきました いきませんでした

て is another form. The conjugation isn’t as simple, but it has five basic forms which are:

te verb conjugation

KANJI – Link’s YouTube video explains it reasonably well.

~ます ~て Meaning
いきます いって to go
きます きて to come
みます みて to see
よみます よんで to read
たべます たべて to eat
のみます のんで to drink

So … as you can see even with that above chart…. there are some exceptions. English has it’s own ie ei garbage, so it’s to be expected I guess.

– たべました。 - I ate.
– いきます。 - I am going.
– みましたか。 - Did you see?
– のみません。 - I don’t drink.
– よみませんでした。 - I didn’t read.

These of course, would only be understood as sentences if used in context, but used on context they would be perfectly acceptable as sentences.

Negative questions can be used as invitations:
– よみませんか。 - Won’t you read?
– いきませんか。 - Won’t you come?
– みませんか。 - Won’t you look?

Responding affirmatively would be an agreement. Either はい or ええ could work, but you could also use the positive form of the verb:
– たべませんか。 - Won’t you eat?
– たべます。 - I’ll eat

らいしゅう and せんげつ can be used to express time…

– らいしゅういきます。 - I’ll go next week.
– せんしゅうみました。 - I saw it last week.
– まいにちのみます。 - I drink every day.
– あしたいきません。 - I won’t go tomorrow.
– きょねんよみませんでした。 - I didn’t read last year.

いきます can mean either – I go habitually, or I will go at some point in the future. Adding an element of time makes it more clear what we mean. まいにち can be used to make it clear that we do something every day rather than we will do something. And of course, by adding は we can specify who is doing an action.

– まりこさんはらいねんいきます。 - As for Mariko, Next year she will go.
– せんげつジョンさんはきませんでした。 - Last month, John didn’t come.
– せんしゅうすずきさんはよみました。 - Last week, Suzuki read.

Both “まりこさんはらいねんいきます。” and “らいねんまりこさんはいきます。” are legitimate sentences that have the same meaning. It’s important to pay attention for particles to be able to understand sentences. Generally speaking, whatever is closest to the end of the sentence carries more weight… so the first sentence has more of an emphasis that something is happening next year, whereas the second sentence has more of an emphasis that it is Mariko who will be doing something.

If no special emphasis is intended, generally it’s more natural to put time elements first, then the subject, then the verb.

– ください - please
– ~ てください - please do ~

Adding ください to the end of て verbs is a polite request to carry out the verb.

– たべてください - please eat 
– みてください - please look

There’s also the ましょう form of verbs. Changing ます to ましょう adds a volitional use to the verb. It turns it into a suggestion.

– ~ ましょう - Let’s do ~

And よ could be added at the end to add extra emphasis..

– たべましょうよ - Let’s eat already (Interestingly, you can add yo at the end of English sentences for the same effect! “Let’s eat, yo”)
– のみましょうよ - Let’s drink already

And か of course turns it into a question..

– いきましょう。 - Let’s go.
– いきましょうか。 - Shall we go?
– あしたみましょう。 - Tomorrow, let’s look.
– らいしゅうみましょうか。 - Next week, shall we look?

ましょうか is a polite, considerate way to ask someone to do something.