Japanese Verb Conjugation - Godan Verbs

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Godan Verbs[edit]

Japanese Verbs are very easy to put together, 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 go あ, い, う, え, お. There are 5 sounds obviously, and it is this number that the conjugation gets its name from. ()  (Go) means 5, and (だん)   (dan) means stage.

Japanese verbs have a completely different style of conjugation than English verbs. They conjugate to express not only time, but certain feelings we would express using more words. 五段(ごだん)   (Godan) verbs include all verbs that do not end with -iru or -eru sound (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 and くる (suru or kuru). Most verbs ending with the letters -いる and -える (-iru and -eru) are ichidan verbs (one stage), with some exceptions, while する and くる (suru and kuru) are the most common irregular verbs in Japanese.

The conjugation follows this pattern:

  • あ(a) negative form
  • い(I) infinitive form
  • う(U) dictionary form
  • え(E) conditional form
  • お(O) volitional form

In order to show you how this works, let's select one 五段(ごだん)   (Godan) verb: 行く(いく)   (iku), which means "to go" and follow it 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, it will always end with う(u) in this form without exception.


行く(いく)   (iku), when changed to negative, must first take the vowel with which this form is associated as its last vowel. Since the negative form is associated with あ(a), 行く(いく)   (iku) drops the う(u) from its dictionary form past and becomes () か (Ika). The next step is to add the negative suffix to the word Ika. This suffix is "nai." The negative form of 行く(いく)  (iku) is 行かない(いかない)  (ikanai): "Not go."

There are exceptions: for verbs whose last letter is う, 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 is 会わない (awanai). Also, for verbs whose last character is つ, such as 立つ (tatsu, to stand), the つ is replaced with た (ta) instead of あ. This means the negative of 立つ is 立たない (tatanai).


Infinitive form is the form into which you may add either other verbs, other levels of honour, or both. It is also the base form which the standard "desu-masu" Japanese is spoken. This is the kind of Japanese this course will teach you.

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 "う(u)" and add "い(i)", making our "行く(いく)  (iku)" become "行き(いき)  (iki)". Onto the new-made "行き(いき)  (iki)" we affix "-masu" as a suffix, making the complete word 行きます(いきます)  (ikimasu): "go".

additional example

Drink のむ becomes のみます

As I said, this form is pretty stand-alone, and onto the positive for this form, you may add another suffix to make it negative. Change the "-masu" to "-masen" and you have your negative: 行きません(いきません)  (ikimasen), meaning "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 Iku to the imperative, drop the "u" and add "e." The imperative form of "Iku" is "Ike." Do not say 'ike' (いけ!) to anyone because it is slightly vulgar and is offensive. When you add the suffix "-ba" to this form, it becomes a true conditional. "Ikeba" could variously be translated to "why don't you go?" or "what if you went?" You might also hear the phrase "ikeba wakaru." Wakaru is dictionary form of the verb to know or 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. If you were to change Iku to the volitional form, you would 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. Iku becomes Ikou: "let's go". The word Ikimasu may also be conjugated in this form, simply converting the "-masu" ending to a "-mashou", making the whole word "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)


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