P. 1
Japanese Verbs

Japanese Verbs

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In Lesson 9 anata was introduced as meaning "you." Actually, the word "you" is not used
in Japanese as often as in English, especially when talking to an individual. Once a
person's name is known, it is usually used in place of "you" (as a native English speaker
would consider it), when speaking to that person, which may sound a bit childish until
you get used to it. For example, an English speaker wouldn't turn to his friend Bob and
ask, "What does Bob want to eat for lunch?" but in Japanese that's exactly how it's done.

Additionally, names are usually not used alone; suffixes are attached depending on the
person and situation. The ones you'll hear the most are san, sama, chan, and kun.
Generally speaking, san is the "default" suffix for a person when none of the others are
suitable. You will most likely want to use san with neighbors and business associates that
you see regularly but perhaps not every day. San denotes friendliness and perhaps even
familiarity while still including at least a touch of respectful distance.

Sama is an "honorific" suffix which is attached to the names of superiors or people you
want to show special respect to, real or pretended. Customers who go into new car
dealerships will have the luxury of hearing sama added to their names -- for a while, at
any rate. After the sale is made, time passes, and the car is brought in for routine checks
or service, the customer will find that he or she is no longer a "sama," but is now a "san."
This is normal and good, however, because san shows that a closer, more familiar (and,
hopefully, a more trusting) relationship has been created between customer and service

Among close friends and family members chan is usually heard. Parents add chan to their
children's names, and children add it to the words for father, mother, grandfather,
grandmother, older brother or sister (but not younger), aunt, uncle, etc. Customarily,
within families chan is added to the first names of those younger than yourself and to the
names of cousins, but to the title of those older. Also, names are often shortened before
adding chan. For example, a girl named Emiko would probably be called Emiko-chan or
Emi-chan by older family members, cousins, and playmates, as well as classmates and
co-workers later in life. A boy named Hiroki might go by Hiro-chan unless he's going by
Hiroki-kun or Hiro-kun. For those older, these are commonly used:

otou-chan (dad)
okaa-chan (mom)
ojii-chan (grandpa)
obaa-chan (grandma)
onii-chan (elder brother, older neighbor boy)
onee-chan (elder sister, older neighbor girl)
oji-chan (uncle, adult male neighbor, friend's father)
oba-chan (aunt, adult female neighbor, friend's mother)

Chan is also used with the names of pets.

Among male friends kun is used as the name suffix, unless an individual prefers chan.
Teachers add kun to the names of male students, chan to female students. Bosses add
these to the names of subordinates sometimes, though san is probably more common for
females. Family, company, and personal preferences all come into play when choosing
these suffixes.

As a safe rule, use san with colleague's names, kun with boys, and chan with girls. You
most likely won't use sama unless you meet a company president or owner. Being
observant and attentive will be the best guide for mastering name suffixes for the people
you work with or know. And, you can always ask.

Now, let's get back to you. Again, "you" normally wouldn't be used when speaking to an
individual when his or her name is known. If I wanted to ask my student Hiroki if he did
his homework, the literal translation of the English sentence "Hiroki, did you do your
homework?" would be: "Hiroki, anata wa anata no shukudai o shimashita ka", where
anata is used for "you." This Japanese would be understood, of course, but would also

sound very stiff, formal, and very odd. A native Japanese speaker would never use this
kind of construction. The natural Japanese would be:"Hiroki-kun wa shukudai o
shimashita ka"
, where the name of the person is used in place of the subject you. So, even
though I introduced anata in Lesson 9, the fact is that it is very rarely used. It works fine,
however, in problem #4 of C of Mini Test 5 because there is no name connected with the
"you" -- anata becomes the necessary "default" subject of the sentence.

It's when speaking to groups that "you" becomes useful. Anatatachi could be used, but it
conveys a certain distance, even displeasure: a teacher reprimanding a class might use
this. So, the one left would be kimitachi, which shows familiarity, even some affection,
toward the group concerned. There may be a certain feeling of "being talked down to"
when kimi or kimitachi are used, but as long as the situation warrants it and the
relationship between speaker and listener(s) makes it sound natural, there's no problem.
When I first came to Japan and was only several years older than my students, I really
didn't feel comfortable using kimitachi, but now that I'm old enough to be their father it
feels very natural and fitting. I would not use this with a class of people my age or older,
I'd probably use mina-san (everyone), which is the best choice when talking to large,
mixed groups.

I may as well say here that much, much more could be said concerning all the various
words and "levels" used when addressing others, but the above should suffice for most
students of Japanese for the first year or so.

Base 1 + nakereba narimasen

This verb ending is not only a long one, it's a bit of a tongue twister. It's used quite a lot,
because it means "must do." Let's take iku (to go), change it to Base 1 ika, and add
nakereba narimasen to make this simple example sentence: Watashi wa ikanakereba
(I have to go.)

Looking at it literally, the nakereba means "if one does not...", as you'll remember from
Lesson 15, and narimasen means "will not become"; so in the example above you're
saying "If I don't go it won't do."

Let's look at some more examples:

Jim wa ima kaeranakereba narimasen. (Jim has to return now.)
Laura wa kasa o kawanakereba narimasen. (Laura has to buy an umbrella.)
Kodomotachi wa tabenakereba narimasen. (The children must eat.)

You're probably clever enough to notice that the polite negative ending masen is stuck on
the end here. Yes, this is a verb within a verb ending: naru (to become) is the root word
here, which is in its Base 2 form with masen added on (narimasen). Accordingly, if we
use the the plain negative form of naru instead (naranai), the ending becomes nakereba
, which changes the whole sentence to its plain form. This can be handy when

adding other endings, like deshou from Lesson 14. Let's use this ending with the three
examples above and see how the meanings are "softened":

Jim wa ima kaeranakereba naranai deshou. (Jim probably has to return now.)
Laura wa kasa o kawanakereba naranai deshou. (Laura probably needs to buy an
Kodomotachi wa tabenakereba naranai deshou. (The children probably need to


As you grow accustomed to Japanese verb usage and ending patterns, you will see how
the entire meaning or "feeling" of a sentence can be adjusted or "fine tuned" at will by
combining the right ending components as you finish the sentence up.

Good luck with nakereba narimasen. I already mentioned it's a tongue twister. More
than memorizing its meaning, mastering a clean, clear pronunciation of it is usually the
most difficult part.

Base 1 + seru / saseru

These are used when you want to let/have/make someone do something. In English we
fortunately have these three different words to conveniently adjust the meaning which we
want to convey. Accordingly, "I'll let him go to the store", "I'll have him go to the store",
and "I'll make him go to the store" all have different nuances. In Japanese, however, seru,
for yodan verbs, and saseru, for the others, are used for all of these. By the overall
context and by using other "helper" words the different meanings, or feelings, as in "let
him" or "make him," can be conveyed.

The important thing to remember is that yodan verbs use seru, like this:

Ojii-san wa kodomotachi ni asobaseru. (Grandpa lets the children play.)
Okaa-chan wa Kimiko ni kasa o kawaseru. (Mom will have Kimiko buy an
Sensei wa gakusei ni mainichi shimbun o yomaseru. (The teacher makes the
students read the newspaper every day.)

And ichidan verbs and the irregular kuru use saseru :

Roku ji ni kodomotachi ni yuushoku o tabesaseru. (I'll have the kids eat dinner at


John ni raishuu made ni kimesaseru. (I'll have John decide by next week.)
Kare ni ashita kosaseru. (I'll have him come tomorrow.)

With "suru verbs," suru is simply replaced with saseru :

Otou-san wa Bob ni benkyou saseru. (Dad will make Bob study.)
Kanojo ni saseru. (I'll have her do it.)

As you can see, in these constructions the person being let or made to do something
becomes the indirect object, which is signified by adding ni afterwards. Another tricky
thing is that some verbs already have a set form to convey this meaning, like miseru,
which means "to show" or "to let see," as in:

Kare wa karera ni mainichi terebi o miseru. (He lets them watch TV every day.)

So, although miru is an ichidan verb, you won't hear or see "misaseru." As you get used
to more and more natural Japanese expressions, you will know which verbs are
conjugated as outlined above and which have their own "set forms" which are used

Now for the easy part: Since seru and saseru can be conjugated like any other ichidan
verb, it should be easy for you to apply what has been learned in the previous lessons to
make them negative, past tense, polite, and etc:

Ritsuko wa Kumi ni pen o kawasemashita. (Ritsuko had Kumi buy a pen.)
Ojii-san wa kodomotachi ni candy o tabesasemasen. (Grandpa won't let the
children eat candy.)
Watashi wa Kenji ni eigo o benkyou sasetai desu. (I want to have Kenji study
John ni mise ni ikasemashou. (Let's have John go to the store.)
Kodomotachi ni terebi o misemashou ka. (Shall we let the kids watch TV?)

Please review any of these endings you're not sure of.

Word Check

kodomotachi: children
asobu: to play
sensei: teacher
gakusei: student(s)
mainichi: every day
shimbun: newspaper
yomu: to read
yuushoku: dinner
taberu: to eat
raishuu: next week
made ni: by (a deadline): by 5:00, by tomorrow, etc.
kimeru: to decide
kare: he, him
ashita: tomorrow
kuru: to come

benkyou suru: to study
kanojo: she, her
karera: they, them
eigo: the English language
mise: a store, a shop
iku: to go

(Verbs are shown in their plain form.)

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