第18課: The Irregular Verbs: Suru する & Kuru 来る

Out of all the verbs in Modern Japanese, there are only two that can be called truly irregular. These verbs are suru する and kuru 来る. Yet, even though they're called irregular, their conjugations are only minutely different from any other verbs. Meaning-wise, their basic usages are simple. As such, this lesson will not be as difficult as you might have thought.

Vocabulary List


・宿題 Shukudai – Homework

・上司 Jōshi –  Boss/superior authority

・こと Koto – Thing/matter/event

・無理 Muri – Something unreasonable

・仕事 Shigoto – Job/work

・弟 Otōto – Little brother

・掃除 Sōji – Cleaning/sweeping

・皿洗い Sara’arai – Dish-washing

・研究 Kenkyū – Research/study

・不正行為 Fusei kōi – Malpractice/unfair practice

・息 Iki – Breath/breathing

・あくび Akubi – Yawn/yawning

・恋 Koi – (Romantic) love

・旅 Tabi – Travel/journey

・運転 Unten – Driving

・英文 Eibun – English text

・Tシャツ Tii-shatsu – T-shirt

・カレンダー Karendā – Calendar

・勉強 Benkyō – Study/studying

・フィンランド語 Finrandogo – Finnish

・広東語 Kantongo – Cantonese

・レンタル Rentaru – Rental

・ワイン Wain – Wine

・関税 Kanzei – Customs duties

・料金 Ryōkin – Fee/charge/fare

・手袋 Tebukuro – Gloves

・サラリーマン Sarariiman – Businessman

・ネクタイ Nekutai – Necktie

・靴 Kutsu – Shoe(s)

・眼鏡 Megane – Glasses

・帽子 Bōshi – Hat

・手錠 Tejō – Handcuffs

・匂い Nioi – Smell/scent

・味 Aji – Flavor/taste

・感じ Kanji – Feeling/sense

・量 Ryō – Quantity

・音 Oto – Sound

・気持ち Kimochi – Feeling

・家庭教師 Katei kyōshi – Private tutor

・料理人 Ryōrinin – Cook

・銀行員 Ginkōin – Bank clerk

・形 Katachi – Form/shape

・顔 Kao – Face

・目付き Metsuki – Expression of the eyes

・目 Me – Eye(s)

・格好 Kakkō – Appearance/posture

・振り Furi – Pretense/behavior/swing

・建物 Tatemono – Building

・スタンプ Sutampu – Stamp (on SNS)

・パチンコ Pachinko – Japanese pinball

・生け花 Ikebana – Flower arrangement

・スポーツ Supōtsu – Sport(s)

・野球 Yakyū – Baseball

・サッカー Sakkā – Soccer

・アメフト Amefuto – American football

・相撲 Sumō – Sumo wrestling

・水泳 Suiei – Swimming

・格闘技 Kakutōgi – Martial arts

・スキー Sukii – Skiing

・ゴルフ Gorufu – Golf

・テニス Tenisu – Tennis

・卓球 Takkyū – Ping pong

・子 Ko – Child

・CD  Shiidii – CD

・春 Haru – Spring

・電車 Densha – (Electric) train

・連絡 Renraku – Communication

・返事 Henji – Response/reply

・嵐 Arashi – Storm  

・雪 Yuki – Snow

・手紙 Tegami – Letter

・日 Hi – Day/sun


・私 Wata(ku)shi – I

・僕 Boku – I (male)

・彼 Kare – He

Proper Nouns

・LINE Rain – LINE  

・サンタさん Santa-san – Santa


・いい Ii – Good

・強い Tsuyoi – Strong

・甘い Amai – Sweet

・少ない Sukunai – Few/lacking/insufficient

・悲しい Kanashii – Sad

・丸いMarui – Round

・四角い Shikakui  - Square

・可愛い Kawaii – Cute

・鋭い Surudoi – Sharp

・冷たい Tsumetai – Cold

Adjectival Nouns

・変{な}Hen [na] – Weird

・ラフ{な} Rafu [na] – Rough


・この Kono – This (adj.)

・その Sono – That (adj.)

・あの Ano – That (over there) (adj.)

Number Phrases

・100円 Hyakuen – 100 yen

・2千円 Nisen’en – 2,000 yen

・5000円 Gosen’en – 5,000 yen

・2万円 Niman’en – 20,000 yen

・500ユーロ Gohyaku-yūro – 500 euro


・今年 Kotoshi – This year

・今夜 Kon’ya – Tonight

・今朝 Kesa – This morning

・今回 Konkai – This time

・あまり Amari – Much

・おおよそ Ōyoso – About/approximately

・普通 Futsū – Usually

・昨日 Kinō – Yesterday

・やっと Yatto –  Finally

・ついに Tsui ni – At last

Ichidan (ru) Verbs

・着る Kiru – To wear

・付ける Tsukeru – To put on/append/turn on

・締める Shimeru – To fasten/wear

・かける Kakeru – To put on (glasses), etc.

・はめる Hameru - To put on (gloves, etc.)/insert 

Godan (u)  Verbs

・かかる Kakaru – To cost, etc.

・穿く Haku – To wear (on legs)

・履く Haku – To wear (on feet)

・被るKaburu  –  To put on (one’s head), etc.

・脱ぐ Nugu – To take off

・取る Toru – To take

・遊ぶ Asobu – To have a good time

・やる Yaru – To do/play, etc.


・運転する Unten suru – To drive

・販売する Hambai suru – To sell/market

・注文する Chūmon suru – To order

・確保する Kakuho suru – To guarantee

・翻訳する Hon’yaku suru – To translate

・サインインする Sain’in suru – To sign-in

・キャンセルする Kyanseru suru – To cancel

・勉強する Benkyō suru – To study

・電話する Denwa suru – To call on the phone

・投票する Tōhyō suru – To vote

・混乱する Konran suru – To be confused

・構築する Kōchiku suru – To construct 

Suru する: To Do

The basic meaning of suru する is “to do.” As the "to do" verb of Japanese, it is extensively used. Consequently, it also has many other usages that may or may not relate to the English understanding of “to do” as in actions.

Before we look at its most important usages, we will first learn how to conjugate it into its basic forms. As you can see from the chart below, it isn’t that different from other verbs.

Plain Conjugations

 Non-Past Suru する Past Shita した
 Negative Shinai しない Negative Past Shinakatta しなかった

As you can see, all you do is change /su/ to /shi/ and then add any of the endings you’ve learned thus far. To see how these forms look in practice, here are a few examples using suru する in the sense of “to do” in ways that don’t require additional considerations.

1. (ぼく)宿題(しゅくだい)をしなかった。
Boku wa shukudai wo shinakatta.
I didn’t do my homework.

2. 上司(じょうし)不正行為(ふせいこうい)をした。
Jōshi wa fusei kōi wo shita.
The boss did something illegal/improper.

3. (へん)なことをする。
Hen na koto wo suru.
To do something weird.

4. 無理(むり)はしない。
Muri wa shinai.
I won’t do anything unreasonable.

Polite Conjugations

 Non-Past Shimasu します Past Shimashita しました
 Negative Shinai desu しないです
 Shimasen しません
 Negative Past Shinakatta desuしなかったです
 Shimasendeshita しませんでした

Just as with other verbs, using -nai desu ないです and -nakatta desu なかったです instead of –masen ません and –masendeshita ませんでした is done in colloquial polite speech. In other words, they're not as polite as their latter counterparts, but they’re appropriate in lax situations.

5. いい仕事(しごと)をしますね。
Ii shigoto wo shimasu ne.
You do a good job, don’t you.

6. (おとうと)掃除(そうじ)をしました。
Otōto wa sōji wo shimashita.
My little brother did cleaning.

7. (いや)なことはしないです。
Iya na koto wa shinai desu.
I won’t do anything unpleasant.

8. 皿洗(さらあら)いはしません。
Sara’arai wa shimasen.
I won’t do the dishes.

Note: With the use of the particle は instead of を, the speaker implies that he may be willing to do other tasks, just not the dishes. 

9. (かれ)宿題(しゅくだい)をしなかったです。
Kare mo shukudai wo shinakatta desu.
He too didn’t do his homework.

10. (わたし)今年(ことし)、あまり研究(けんきゅう)をしませんでした。
Watashi wa kotoshi, amari kenkyū wo shimasendeshita.
I didn’t do much studies/research this year.


Making Nouns Verbs
Now that we have gone through the basic conjugations for both plain speech and polite speech, it is now time for us to go over the most important usages of suru する.

Firstly, suru する is “to do” in a much larger sense both grammatically and semantically speaking. In English, many words can be used as a noun or verb depending on context, but in Japanese, words usually can’t change their part of speech without some sort of change in appearance. For example, the noun for “yawn” is akubi あくび, but “to yawn” is akubi wo suru あくびをする. Even if  “to do" is not used in any way in English, suru する is used to help a wide variety of nouns behave as verbs in this manner.

11. (いき)をする。
Iki wo suru.
To breathe.

12. (こい)をする。
Koi wo suru.
To be in love

13. (たび)をする。
Tabi wo suru.
To go on a journey.

Perhaps most importantly, suru する helps make countless words, many of Chinese origin, usable as verbs. For instance, unten 運転 means “driving,” but to say “to drive,” you say unten (wo) suru 運転(を)する. Whether you use wo suru をする or suru する is a discussion we'll leave for another time because it can get complicated, but before we move on to other meanings, here are more examples of “suru-verbs.”

 Hambai suru 販売する To sell/market Chūmon suru 注文する To order
 Kakuho suru 確保する To guarantee Hon’yaku suru 翻訳する To translate
 Sain’in suru サインインする To sign-in Kyanseru suru キャンセルする To cancel
 Benkyō suru 勉強する To study Denwa suru 電話する To call on the phone
Tōhyō suru 投票する To vote Konran suru 混乱する To be confused

14. 英文えいぶん翻訳ほんやくしました。
Eibun wo hon’yaku shimashita.
I translated the English sentences.

15. Tシャツを販売(はんばい)します。
Tii-shatsu wo hambai shimasu.
(I/we) will sell T-shirts.

16. カレンダーを注文(ちゅうもん)しませんか。
Karendā wo chūmon shimasen ka?
How about ordering a calendar?

17. 今回(こんかい)投票(とうひょう)しませんでした。
Konkai wa tōhyō shimasendeshita.
I did not vote this time.

18. フィンランド()勉強(べんきょう)をしました。
Finrandogo no benkyo wo shimashita.
I did my Finnish studies.

19. 広東語(かんとんご)勉強(べんきょう)しませんか。
Kantongo wo benkyō shimasen ka?
Why don’t you study Cantonese?

20. 今夜電話(こんやでんわ)しますね。
Kon’ya denwa shimasu ne.
I’ll call you tonight, ok?

Grammar Note: In Ex. 18, the word benkyō 勉強 is used as a noun attached to the previous word with no to create the compound phrase “Finnish studies.” This is done to simply mention studying, and the studying incidentally happens to be for Finnish. However, simply saying “I study…” involves using benkyō 勉強 as a verb in benkyō suru 勉強する. You will see that manner suru-verbs can be rephrased to “X no Y wo suru,” with Y standing for what makes up the suru-verb.

Other Meanings of suru する 

Now that we’ve seen to some extent how suru する can be used to mean “to do” and help nouns become verbs, it’s time to look at some of its other usages. It's important to note that not all usages will use wo を.

To Cost: When used to mean “to cost,” suru する can indicate the sticker price of something.

21. レンタルもおおよそ5000(ごせん)(えん)します。
Rentaru mo ōyoso gosen’en shimasu.
Rental also costs about 5000 yen.  

22. LINEスタンプは100(ひゃく)(えん)します。
Rain sutampu wa hyakuen shimasu.
LINE stamps cost 100 yen.

23. このワインは2()千円(せんえん)もしません。
Kono wain wa nisen’en mo shimasen.
This wine doesn’t even cost 2000 yen.

The verb kakaru かかる is used to mean “to cost” as well, and it is used in contexts regarding costs beyond price tags on items. You could also just use the copula, da だ/desu です, to discuss charges and fees. 

24. 関税(かんぜい)は2万円(まんえん)かかりました。
Kanzei wa niman’en kakarimashita
The customs duties cost 20,000 yen.

25. その料金(りょうきん)500(ごひゃく)ユーロです。
Sono ryōkin wa gohyaku-yūro desu.
That fee is 500 euros.

To Wear (Accessories): To express “to wear,” you have a lot of options. You use suru する for accessories. The other “to wear” verbs, though, are important to know. While we’re at it, we will learn how to say “to take off,” which is also somewhat complicated.

Part of the Body

To Wear

To Take Off

The upper body/torso

Kiru 着る (ichidan)


Nugu 脱ぐ (godan)


Haku 穿く (godan)


Haku 履く(godan)


Kaburu 被る (godan)

Nugu 脱ぐ/Toru 取る (godan)


Hameru はめる (ichidan)


Toru 取る/Hazusu 外す (godan)


General accessories

Suru する/Tsukeru 付ける (ichidan)

Neckties, etc.

Shimeru 締める (ichidan)/Suru する

Glasses, etc.

Kakeru かける (ichidan)

Consequently, some of these verbs overlap with each other and create variation among speakers depending on what item you’re wearing.

26. 手袋(てぶくろ)を{する・はめる・()ける}。
Tebukuro wo [suru/hameru/tsukeru].
To wear gloves.

27. サラリーマンは普通(ふつう)、ネクタイを{します・()めます}。
Sarariiman wa futsū, nekutai wo [shimasu/shimemasu].
Businessmen usually wear neckties.

28. (くつ)()く。
Kutsu wo haku.
To wear shoes.

29. ズボンを()ぐ。
Zubon wo nugu.
To take off one’s pants.

30. 眼鏡(めがね)はかけません。
Megane wa kakemasen.
I don’t wear glasses.

31. 帽子(ぼうし)を{()る・()ぐ}。
Bōshi wo [toru/nugu].
To take off one’s hat.

32. 手錠(てじょう)(はず)す。
Tejō wo hazusu.
To take off handcuffs.

To be Sensed: The sensing of natural phenomena can be expressed with suru する. In this usage, the particle wo を is not used.

33. (つよ)(にお)いがしました。
Tsuyoi nioi ga shimashita.
There was a strong scent.

34. (あま)(あじ)がしますね。
Amai aji ga shimasu ne.
It has a sweet taste, doesn’t it?

35. (りょう)(すく)ない(かん)じがしました。
Ryō ga sukunai kanji ga shimashita.
I felt that the amount was lacking.

36. (へん)(おと)がした。
Hen na oto ga shita.
There was a strange sound.

37. (かな)しい気持(きも)ちがする。
Kanashii kimochi ga suru.
To have sad feelings.

To Be… (Occupation/Role): Whenever you want to say what you do as in what your job/role/occupation is, you typically use suru する. However, to use this correctly, you need to use the ending ~ている. This is used to show that what you ‘do’ is an ongoing state. Although  we haven’t covered this grammar point yet, all you need to know now is to use “…wo shite imasu  ~をしています” in this situation for generic, polite conversations.

38. 家庭教師(かていきょうし)をしています。
Katei kyōshi wo shite imasu.
I am a private tutor.

39. 料理人(りょうりにん)をしています。
Ryōrinin wo shite imasu.
I am a cook.

40. 銀行員(ぎんこういん)をしています。
Ginkōin wo shite imasu.
I am a bank clerk.

To Be/Have: Another instance in which suru する may function as “to be” is in the sense of taking a certain state or condition. Key phrases to remember for this include the following.

 ...katachi wo suru
 To take the form of… ~顔をする
 ...kao wo suru
 To have…face
 ...metsuki wo suru
 To have a…expression ~目をする
 ...me wo suru
 To have…eyes
 ...kakkō wo suru
 To have a…figure/appearance ~振りをする
 ...furi wo suru
 To pretend to be…

Similarly to the grammar point above, to use these phrases in truly functioning sentences, you’ll need to use -te imasu ~ています to indicate the above phrases as an “ongoing state.” For general purposes, when before nouns,  suru する  should be changed to shita した. This is not the literal past tense, but we will revisit why this is grammatically so later in IMABI.

41. (かれ)はラフな格好(かっこう)をしていますね。
Kare wa rafu na kakkō wo shite imasu ne.
He has a rough appearance, doesn’t he?

42. {(まる)い・四角(しかく)い}(かたち)をした建物(たてもの)構築(こうちく)する。
[Marui/shikakui] katachi wo shita tatemono wo kōchiku suru.
To construct a [round/square] shaped building.

43. あの()可愛(かわい)(かお)をしていますね。
Ano ko wa kawaii kao wo shite imasu ne.
That kid has a cute face, doesn’t he/she?

44. (するど)目付(めつ)きをする。
Surudoi metsuki wo suru.
To have a sharp expression.

45. (つめ)たい()をする。
Tsumetai me wo suru. 
To have cold eyes.

To Play: Although the word asobu 遊ぶ is often translated as "to play,” it is best translated as “to have a fun time.” As such, the act of playing some specific game or sport is expressed with suru する. In fact, suru する also encompasses doing general activities of any sort. In casual contexts, you may also use the verb yaru やる for this meaning.

46. パチンコをしませんか。
Pachinko wo shimasen ka?
Why not play pachinko (Japanese pinball)?

 47. ()(ばな)をします。
Ikebana wo shimasu.
I will practice flower arrangement.

Since sports (supōtsu スポーツ) are used frequently with this meaning, it’s best to learn the Japanese words for some of the most common sports out there.

 Baseball Yakyū 野球 American football Amefuto アメフト
 Soccer Sakkā サッカー Basketball Basuke(ttobōru) バスケ(ットボール)
 Sumo Sumō 相撲 Swimming Suiei 水泳
 Martial arts Kakutōgi 格闘技 Gymnastics Taisō 体操
 Skiing Sukii スキー Golf Gorufu ゴルフ
 Tennis Tenisu テニス Ping pong Takkyū 卓球

48. アメフトを{します・やります}。
Amefuto wo [shimasu/yarimasu].
I’ll play American football.

49. スキーはしません。
Sukii wa shimasen.
I don’t ski.

50. (わたし)昨日(きのう)、サッカーをしました。
Watashi wa kinō, sakkā wo shimashita.
I played soccer yesterday. 

Kuru 来る: To Come

You may be wondering if kuru 来る will be as intricate as suru する, but rest assured, it’s extremely straightforward. It means “to come” and is used in much the same way as in English. The only difference is that in its basic understanding as a direction verb, it refers to entities coming toward the speaker. Movement away from the speaker, regardless of the situation, is expressed with iku 行く (to go).

Before we see example sentences, we need to know how to conjugate it and see just how irregular it really is. Don’t worry, though. It isn’t all that different from the other verbs.

 Plain Non-Past

 Kuru くる

 Polite Non-Past

 Kimasu きます

 Plain Past

 Kita きた

 Polite Past

 Kimashita きました

 Plain Negative

 Konai こない

 Polite Negative

 Konai desu こないです 
Kimasen きません

 Plain Neg. Past

 Konakatta こなかった

 Polite Neg. Past

 Konakatta desu こなかったです
 Kimasendeshita きませんでした

As you can see, the reason why it's irregular is because of what happens to the vowel after the initial /k/. Other than that, all the endings are the same as you’re used to.

51. (わたし)注文(ちゅうもん)したCDが()ました。
Watashi ga chūmon shita shiidii ga kimashita.
The CD(s) I ordered have arrived/come.

52. 今朝(けさ)サンタさんが()なかった。
Kesa Santa-san ga konakatta.
Santa didn’t come this morning.

53. ついに(はる)()た!
Tsui ni haru ga kita!
Spring has finally arrived/come!

54. 電車(でんしゃ)()ないよ。
Densha, konai yo.
The train won’t come/hasn’t come!

55. ()()()()(ゆき)だった。
Kuru hi mo kuru hi mo yuki datta.
It was snow day after day.

56. 連絡(れんらく)()ませんでした。
Renraku ga kimasendeshita.
No contact came.

57. 手紙(てがみ)()なかったです。
Tegami ga konakatta desu.
A letter didn’t come.

58. (あらし)()たぞ!
Arashi ga kita zo!
The storm’s here!

Particle Note: Using zo ぞ at the end of the sentence is used in this casual context to draw attention to the situation at hand.

59. 返事(へんじ)()なかった。
Henji mo konakatta.
Not even a reply has come.

60. やっとこの()()ました!
Yatto kono hi ga kimashita!
This day has arrived/come at last!


Why don't we go back to the dorms?