Beginner Japanese/Godan Verbs

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Godan Verbs[edit]

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 , , , , and . It is from these five sounds that the conjugation gets its name: (Go) means "5", and (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. 五段 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, one step) verbs, with some exceptions, such as the word いる (iru, to be needed/wanted), which is a 五段 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 五段 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 (u) in this form without exception (finally!).


To change a 五段 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 (u), such as 会う(あう)  (au, to meet), the is replaced with (wa) instead of . This means the negative of 会う is 会わない (awanai, to not meet). Also, for verbs whose last character is (tsu), such as 立つ (tatsu, to stand), the is replaced with (ta) instead of . This means the negative of 立つ 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 "-masu" to "-ません (-masen)", as in 行きません (ikimasen, do not go).


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 (e) form is used in giving commands, suggestions, or making hypothetical statements. There is occasionally no suffix to this form. To change a 五段 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 to anyone as it is considered slightly vulgar and offensive.) When you add the particle (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 (o) form is the one that is confusing to most English speakers. It is the "let's" form. To change a 五段 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 -> informal)
  • 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, ie. 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)


Leave any question here.

Project: Beginner Japanese
Japanese Verbs: Verb Conjugation - Godan Verbs
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