う verbs, which are more correctly known as 五段 verbs (五段活用動詞 godan conjugating verbs), are harder than 一段 verbs. Unlike 一段 verbs, the roots (not in reference to the bases) end in consonants. This is the larger and original verb class of Japanese.
The bases are made by adding vowels to the final consonant of the root. The class is called 五段 because all of the vowels can be seen making the bases of these verbs. Combined with "u", which makes the しゅうしけい・れんたいけい, these verbs end in either う, く, す, つ, ぬ, む, る, ぐ, or ぶ. These endings form five sub-categories based on sound changes when used with ～た (past tense).
|Group||Final Sound||未然形||連用形||終止形||連体形||已然形||命令形||Example Verb|
|1||う||わ-||い-||う||う||え-||え||買う (to buy)|
|1||つ||た-||ち-||つ||つ||て-||て||待つ (to wait)|
|1||る||ら-||り-||る||る||れ-||れ||走る (to run)|
|2||く||か-||き-||く||く||け-||け||動く (to move)|
|3||ぐ||が-||ぎ-||ぐ||ぐ||げ-||げ||急ぐ (to hurry)|
|4||す||さ-||し-||す||す||せ-||せ||壊す (to break/destroy)|
|5||ぬ||な-||に-||ぬ||ぬ||ね-||ね||死ぬ (to die)|
|5||ぶ||ば-||び-||ぶ||ぶ||べ-||べ||選ぶ (to choose)|
|5||む||ま-||み-||む||む||め-||め||飲む (to drink)|
1. The vowel お will appear in conjugation for these verbs later on.
2. A w actually ends the stems of verbs that end in う. It only remains spoken in the みぜんけい.
3. Don't use a polite ending in the れんたいけい. Though we will see instances of this rule being violated, it is not supposed to occur. So, something like ”Verb + ます + Noun" would be bad.
Verb Note: The only verb in Standard Japanese that ends in ぬ is 死ぬ "to die".
Conjugating 五段 Verbs
All endings up to this point apply to 五段 verbs. However, the plain past tense is more complicated because of sound changes. First, though, look at the following forms with the verb 話す (to speak).
|Plain Negative Past||～なかった||みぜんけい||話さなかった|
|Polite Negative Past||～ませんでした||れんようけい||話しませんでした|
Base Note: Endings have their own bases. For instance, ～ます uses its みぜんけい, ませ-, with ～ん. The polite negative past irregularly adds でした.
Practice (1): With the aid of a dictionary and or past lessons, translate the following.
1. I buy. (Polite)
2. You die. (Plain)
3. I broke the watch. (Plain）
4. He didn't talk. (Polite)
5. To not run. (Plain)
れんようけい Changes with ～た
When the り in the original form ～たり dropped, ～た was born. For verbs with a k and g at the end of the root, the consonant dropped. For g, though, the voicing shifted onto ～た. Thus, you get およいだ from およぎた. For the other verbs, i dropped out from the 連用形, and further changes occurred. Whether all this internal change happened before り dropped or not is not important.
So, consider 買った. As the original form shows, there was a consonant as implied by ひ. If the consonant was "t", "f", or "r", this changed to a small っ. For those whose roots end in "n", "m", or "b", た voices to だ.
|Verb||Original Form → Modern Form||Change Description|
|聞く||聞きたり → 聞いた||Medial k in 連用形 dropped|
|急ぐ||急ぎたり → 急いだ||Medial g in 連用形 dropped and ～た became voiced ～だ|
|買う||買ひたり → 買った||ひ (fi sound at time) contracted to っ|
|待つ||待ちたり → 待った||ち contracted to っ|
|売る||売りたり → 売った||り contracted to っ|
|死ぬ||死にたり → 死んだ||に contracted to ん and ～た became voiced ～だ|
|呼ぶ||呼びたり → 呼んだ||び contracted to ん and ～た became voiced ～だ|
|読む||読みたり → 読んだ||み contracted to ん and ～た became voiced ～だ|
Exception Note: Using ～た after う is common for 問う (to ask), 乞う (to beg), 覆う (to cover), 負う (to bear), etc. Many speakers don't do this for even these verbs, but examples pervade literature. This exceptional pattern comes from Kansai Dialects.
Common 五段 Verbs
Below are even more common verbs to add to your vocabulary. Try to conjugate them into the different forms introduced thus far. You will need to have remembered the sound changes for ～た above for those that don't end in す. So, be careful.
|To fight||戦う||To kill||殺す||To win||勝つ||To chat||しゃべる|
|To sit||座る||To connect||繋ぐ||To say||言う||To steal||盗む|
| To hear|| 聞く||To call||呼ぶ||To run||走る||To go||行く|
| To sell|| 売る||To take|| 取る||To talk/speak||話す||To think||思う|
|To shine; glisten||光る||To savor||味わう||To enshrine||祭る||To occur||起こる|
Word Note: 言う is pronounced as ゆう even though its reading is いう. For many speakers, its past tense becomes ゆった instead of いった, though it is never spelled this way.
Practice (2): Translate the following.
1. He read the newspaper. (Plain)
2. I sold the fish. (Polite)
3. The man died. (Plain)
4. I bought a car. (Polite)
5. He didn't take it. (Plain)
1. The past tense form of 行く is 行った. いく may also poetically be ゆく. ゆいた is old-fashioned.
2. The negative of ある is ない.
There isn't such thing (event).
2. 僕は学校に行った。(Guy speech)
I went to school.
So, we've seen a lot of interesting things about this verb class. Now, it's time to go over the conjugations for this class one last time with the following verbs.
|Plain Non-Past||歌う (to sing)||知る (to know)||立つ (to stand)||泳ぐ (to swim)||死ぬ (to die)|
|Plain Neg. Past||歌わなかった||知らなかった||立たなかった||泳がなかった||死ななかった|
|Polite Neg. Past||歌いませんでした||知りませんでした||立ちませんでした||泳ぎませんでした||死にませんでした|
I sold butter.
The island sank.
I received a letter.
She didn't read the book.
They didn't contest the seat.
He said so.
Word Note: "To say" in Japanese can only refer to what people say. Personified objects can be used with いう, but for other situations you have to use other phrases.
To take medicine.
Translation Note: 飲む may mean "to drink", "to have (a drink)", "to take (medicine)", "to swallow (pill, etc.), "to suck", or "to eat (soup)".
To drink [coffee/water/milk].
No verb stems actually end in -eru or -iru. Rather, either -ru or -u follows the root of a verb. Verbs that are homophones almost always have different conjugations and pitches.
|To return||返る||To go home||帰る||To enter||入る|
|To cut||切る||To run||走る||To need||要る|
To run through the town.
He didn't come home.
I don't need help.
Practice (3): Translate the following.
1. I saw the dog. (Plain)
2. I ran. (Polite)
3. It didn't fall. (Polite)
Part II: Conjugate the following verbs in the tense in parentheses.
4. 教わる…To be taught/learn (Polite negative past)
5. 寝る…To sleep (Polite past)