〈9〉2-3 The secret of verb inflections !


〈9〉  ◆ chap 2 " the Japanese Mystery Theater "               

  part . The secret of verb inflections !


One of the biggest headaches for foreign language learners is the conjugated or inflected form of verbs. Especially in my European region, the verb changes in Latin languages such as Spanish, Italian, and French are quite amazing. There are 15 past tenses in Spanish, all of which vary according to the person, so it's almost impossible to remember them all.

On the other hand, our neighbor Chinese don't have a past tense or a future tense. It's all in the present tense. How do they distinguish between the times? Ha-ha, I also wondered and asked them, and they said without a second thought, 

             " No problem !!,  if there is "tomorrow" in the story, it's the future tense, 
                                                                 if there is "yesterday", it's the past tense ! ". 

                                      Hmmm, that's really right !
                                                                 


                                                So what about Japanese?

There are two types of past tenses for verbs in Japanese. One is the normal past tense and the other is the past progressive tense. The past tense of "taberu (eat)" is "tabeta (ate)" and the progressive tense means "tabeteita (was eating)". But for now, the past tense is would be enough for the conjugation of the verb.

There are various theories about the future tense. Two of them are "There is no future tense in Japanese" vs "Wrong. There is a future tense in Japanese, but it's a little different from Western languages". I tend to teach my students the latter theory, but for now just take that the present tense is usually used in Japanese as if it is was the future tense.

                             So far, we needed two tenses, the present and the past.

But to this, we must add one more: the negative form. In Western languages, you can use "no" or "not" to negate verbs, etc., but we don't have them in Japanese. Instead, in Japanese, they change the verbs. We change "iku (go)" to "ikanai (not go)" and "taberu (eat)" to "tabenai (not eat)".

              Now we have four forms, the present, the past, the affirmative and the negative.

But there is still one thing missing. It's the difference between informal and formal. As I mentioned before, there are many different ways to say things in Japanese, depending on whom you are speaking with, and the difference between informal and formal phrases is what you need to remember at the basic level.

                               Now we have everything we need !

In Japanese, there are a total of 8 minimum required combinations in verb conjugations (or inflections) by distinguishing 3 types of forms: present or past form, positive or negative form, and informal or formal form.

        Now make it easier to understand, by preparing the table of conjugations of a verb,

                           行く                                                         
                                                           " IKU  (go) "

                  ーーーーーーーーーーpositiveーーーーnegativeーーーーーー
          informal
                     present   IKU                   IKANAI
                                                 (・u)       (・anai

                     past        ITTA       IKANAKATTA 
                                                 (??ta             (・anakatta                            
                                                 (??da
           formal
                     present    IKIMASU     IKIMASEN
                                                 (・imasu          (・imasen

                     past       IKIMASHITA    IKIMASENDESHITA
                                                 (・imashita      (・imasendeshita
              ーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーーー

For those of you who have just started learning Japanese, this is enough to know how to inflect verbs. It's a little more complicated than Chinese, but compared to Spanish, which has 15 different past tenses, and the end of the word changes according to each person, it's nothing ! 

There is absolutely no variation based on the person (such as first-person singular or second-person plural) in Japanese. It doesn't matter what the subject is, it should be the same.


I heard that Japanese language schools outside of Japan only teach the formal form but not the informal form, and many students complain that they can't read manga, animation, etc.  But the problem doesn't stop there, you can't really speak or write with the formal form alone. Try to master all the above verb changes collectively, including informal, from the entry level.


                                    (It is taught only formal form in the textbook)                 


                                               Let's review again !!

It's very easy to use. Most Japanese verb infinitives end with (u). Just change that (u) to (imasu) or (imashita) or (imasen) or (imasendeshita) or (anai) or (anakatta).

The exception is the past tense of the affirmative informal form. Not only does this change to (tta), (ita), (nda) or (ida) depending on the verb, but the letter just before the (u) also changes. Therefore, the past tense of the affirmative informal form should be memorized for each verb.In other words, when you will memorize one verb, it's sufficient to remember only present tense and past tense of the affirmative informal form. 

                                  But these are just the cases of regular-form verbs.

In addition to this, there are other irregular verbs in Japanese that can be said to be exceptions. I'll explain more about that in the next article, "Strange verbs". Have a good one day !


                                  ーーーThe next post will be                             

                                 <10> chap 2 "the Japanese Mystery Theater"

                                                 part 3. "Strange verbs", now what is it?. 
                                                                    "-ru" type verb (1)

                                                               See you!!



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