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Auxiliary verbs

All auxiliary verbs attach to a verbal or adjectival stem form and conjugate as verbs, but
they differ from normal verbs in having no independent meaning. In modern Japanese there
are two distinct classes of auxiliary verbs:
Pure auxiliaries (助動詞 jodōshi)
are usually just called verb endings or conjugated forms. These auxiliaries cannot
possibly function as an independent verb.
Helper auxiliaries (補助動詞 hododōshi)
are normal verbs that lose their independent meaning when used as auxiliaries.
In classical Japanese which was more purely agglutinating than modern Japanese, the
category of auxiliary verb included every possible verb ending after the stem form, and
most of these endings were themselves active participants in composition. In modern
Japanese, however, some auxiliaries have stopped being productive. The most classic
example is the classical auxiliary たり (-tari) whose forms た (-ta), て (-te), etc. are now no
longer viewed as verbal endings, i.e., they can take no further affixes.

some pure auxiliary verbs
auxiliary group attaches to meaning modification example
ます 書く (kaku, to write) → 書きま
1 continuative makes V polite
(masu) す (kakimasu)
られる cont. of grp. 見る (miru, to see) → 見られる
(rareru)1 2 (mirareru, to be able to see)
増える (fueru, to increae) → 増
えられる (fuerareru, to have
makes V the ability to increase)
2b hyp. of grp.
る (ru) passive/polite/potential
1 飲む (nomu, to drink/swallow)
→ 飲める (nomeru, to be able
to drink)

させる cont. of grp. 考える (kangaeru, to think) →
(saseru)2 2 考えさせる (kangaesaseru, to
cause to think)

2b makes V causative 思い知る (omoishiru, to realize)
imperf. of
せる (seru) → 思い知らせる (omoishiraseru,
grp. 1
to cause to realize/to teach a
lesson)

1
られる (rareru) is often shortened to れる (reru, grp. 2); thus 食べれる (tabereru, to
be able to eat) instead of 食べられる (taberareru).
2
させる (saseru) is sometimes shortened to さす (sasu, grp. 1), but this usage is
somewhat literary.
Much of the agglutinative flavour of Japanese stems from helper auxiliaries, however. The
following table contains a small selection of an abundant store of such auxiliary verbs.
some helper auxiliary verbs
meaning
auxiliary group attaches to example
modification
開く (aku, to open) → 開
ある (aru, to be -te form indicates state
1 いてある (aite-aru,
(inanimate)) only for trans. modification
opened and is still open)
寝る (neru, to sleep) →
-te form progressive
2a 寝ている (nete-iru, is
for trans. aspect
sleeping)
いる (iru, to be 閉まる (shimaru,
(animate)) -te form indicates state (intransitive) to close) →
2a
for intrans. modification 閉まっている (shimatte-
iru, is closed)

歩く (aruku, to walk) →
いく (iku, to go) 1 -te form "goes on V-ing" 歩いていく (aruite-iku,
keep walking)
なる (naru, become) →
inception, "start
くる (kuru, to come) ka -te form なってくる (natte-kuru,
to V"
start becoming)
continuative 書く (kaku, to write) →
non-punctual 書き始める (kaki-
hajimeru, start to write)
始める (hajimeru, to continuative "V begins",
2b 着く (tsuku, to arrive) →
begin) punctual & "begin to V" 着き始める (tsuki-
subj. must be
hajimeru, have all
plural
started to arrive)

輝く (kagayaku, to
shine) → 輝き出す
出す (dasu, to emit) 1 continuative "start to V"
(kagayaki-dasu, to start
shining)
する (suru, do) → してみ
みる (miru, to see) 1 -te form "try to V" たい (shite-mitai, try to
do)
"do V again, 書く (kaku, to write) →
なおす (naosu, to
1 continuative correcting 書きなおす (kaki-naosu,
correct/heal)
mistakes" rewrite)
立つ (tatsu, to stand) →
立ち上がる (tachi-agaru,
"do V thoroughly" stand up)
あがる (agaru, to rise) 1 continuative / "V happens
upwards" 出来る (dekiru, to come
out) → 出来上がる (deki-
agaru, be completed)
continuative
得る (eru/uru, to be indicates ある (aru, to be) → あり
2b/1 only for group
able) potential 得る (arieru, is possible)
1 verbs
continuative
溺れる (oboreru, drown)
かかる (kakaru, to only for "about to V",
1 → 溺れかかる (obore-
hang/catch/obtain) intrans., non- "almost V"
kakaru, about to drown)
volit.
食べる (taberu, to eat) →
"do V
きる (kiru, to cut) 1 continuative 食べきる (tabe-kiru, to
completely"
eat it all)
揉む (momu, to rub) →
"cancel by V"
消す (kesu, to erase) 1 continuative 揉み消す (momi-kesu, to
"deny with V"
rub out, to extinguish)
話す (hanasu, to speak)
込む (komu, to enter "V deep in", "V → 話し込む (hanashi-
1 continuative
deeply/plunge) into" komu, to be deep in
conversation)
引く (hiku, to pull) → 引
下げる (sageru, to
2b continuative "V down" き下げる (hiki-sageru, to
lower)
pull down)
言う (iu, to say) → 言いす
過ぎる (sugiru, to
2a continuative "overdo V" ぎる (ii-sugiru, to say too
exceed)
much, to overstate)
行く (iku, to go) → 行き
付ける (tsukeru, to "become
2b continuative 付ける (iki-tsukeru, be
attach) accustomed to V"
used to (going))
降る (furu, to fall (eg.
続ける (tsuzukeru, to rain)) → 降り続ける (furi-
2b continuative "keep on V"
continue) tsuzukeru, to keep
falling)
通す (tōsu, to 1 continuative "finish V-ing" 読む (yomu, to read) →
show/thread/lead) 読み通す (yomi-tōsu, to
finish reading)
走る (hashiru, to run) →
continuative
抜ける (nukeru, to 走り抜ける (hashiri-
2b only for "V through"
shed/spill/desert) nukeru, to run through
intrans.
(swh))
思う (omou, to think) →
残す (nokosu, to leave by doing V, leave 思い残す (omoi-nokosu,
1 continuative
behind) sth behind to regret (lit: to have
sth left to think about))
生きる (ikiru, live) → 生き
continuative
残る (nokoru, to be be left behind, 残る (iki-nokoru, to
1 for intrans.
left behind) doing V survive (lit: to be left
only
alive))
使う (tsukau, use) → 使
分ける (wakeru, to the proper way い分ける (tsukai-wakeru,
2b continuative
divide/split/classify) to V. to indicate the proper
way to use)
聞く (kiku, to ask) → 聞
忘れる (wasureru, to
2b continuative to forget to V き忘れる (kiki-wasureru,
forget)
to forget to ask)