Particles used with verbs

In this section, we will learn some new particles essential for using verbs. We will learn how to specify the direct object of a verb and the location where a verb takes place whether it’s physical or abstract.

The direct object 「を」 particle


  1. 魚 【さかな】 – fish
  2. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  3. ジュース – juice
  4. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) – to drink
  5. 街 【まち】 – town
  6. ぶらぶら – wandering; aimlessly
  7. 歩く 【ある・く】 (u-verb) – to walk
  8. 高速 【こう・そく】 – high-speed
  9. 道路 【どう・ろ】 – route
  10. 走る 【はし・る】 (u-verb) – to run
  11. 毎日 【まい・にち】 – everyday
  12. 日本語 【に・ほん・ご】 – Japanese (language)
  13. 勉強 【べん・きょう】 – study
  14. する (exception) – to do
  15. メールアドレス – email address
  16. 登録 【とう・ろく】 – register

The first particle we will learn is the object particle because it is a very straightforward particle. The 「を」 character is attached to the end of a word to signify that that word is the direct object of the verb. This character is essentially never used anywhere else. That is why the katakana equivalent 「ヲ」 is almost never used since particles are always written in hiragana. The 「を」 character, while technically pronounced as /wo/ essentially sounds like /o/ in real speech. Here are some examples of the direct object particle in action.


  1. 食べる
    Eat fish.
  2. ジュース飲んだ
    Drank juice.

Unlike the direct object we’re familiar with in English, places can also be the direct object of motion verbs such as 「歩く」 and 「走る」. Since the motion verb is done to the location, the concept of direct object is the same in Japanese. However, as you can see by the next examples, it often translates to something different in English due to the slight difference of the concept of direct object.

  1. ぶらぶら歩く
    Aimlessly walk through town. (Lit: Aimlessly walk town)
  2. 高速道路走る
    Run through expressway. (Lit: Run expressway)

When you use 「する」 with a noun, the 「を」 particle is optional and you can treat the whole [noun+する] as one verb.

  1. 毎日日本語勉強する
    Study Japanese everyday.
  2. メールアドレス登録した
    Registered email address.

The target 「に」 particle


  1. 日本 【に・ほん】 – Japan
  2. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  3. 家 【1) うち; 2) いえ】 – 1) one’s own home; 2) house
  4. 帰る 【かえ・る】 (u-verb) – to go home
  5. 部屋 【へ・や】 – room
  6. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) – to come
  7. アメリカ – America
  8. 宿題 【しゅく・だい】 – homework
  9. 今日 【きょう】 – today
  10. 明日 【あした】 – tomorrow
  11. 猫 【ねこ】 – cat
  12. いる (ru-verb) – to exist (animate)
  13. いす – chair
  14. 台所 【だい・どころ】 – kitchen
  15. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  16. いい (i-adj) – good
  17. 友達 【とも・だち】 – friend
  18. 会う 【あう】 (u-verb) – to meet
  19. 医者 【い・しゃ】 – doctor
  20. なる (u-verb) – to become
  21. 先週 【せん・しゅう】 – last week
  22. 図書館 【と・しょ・かん】 – library
  23. 来年 【らい・ねん】 – next year

The 「に」 particle can specify a target of a verb. This is different from the 「を」 particle in which the verb does something to the direct object. With the 「に」 particle, the verb does something toward the word associated with the 「に」 particle. For example, the target of any motion verb is specified by the 「に」 particle.


  1. ボブは日本行った
    Bob went to Japan.
  2. 帰らない
    Not go back home.
  3. 部屋くる
    Come to room.

As you can see in the last example, the target particle always targets “to” rather than “from”. If you wanted to say, “come from” for example, you would need to use 「から」, which means “from”. If you used 「に」, it would instead mean “come to“. 「から」 is also often paired with 「まで」, which means “up to”.

  1. アリスは、アメリカからきた
    Alice came from America.
  2. 宿題今日から明日までする
    Will do homework from today to tomorrow.

The idea of a target in Japanese is very general and is not restricted to motion verbs. For example, the location of an object is defined as the target of the verb for existence (ある and いる). Time is also a common target. Here are some examples of non-motion verbs and their targets

  1. 部屋いる
    Cat is in room.
  2. いす台所あった
    Chair was in the kitchen.
  3. いい友達会った
    Met good friend.
  4. ジムは医者なる
    Jim will become doctor.
  5. 先週図書館行った
    Went to library last week.

Note: Don’t forget to use 「ある」 for inanimate objects such as the chair and 「いる」 for animate objects such as the cat.

While the 「に」 particle is not always required to indicate time, there is a slight difference in meaning between using the target particle and not using anything at all. In the following examples, the target particle makes the date a specific target emphasizing that the friend will go to Japan at that time. Without the particle, there is no special emphasis.

  1. 友達は、来年日本行く
    Next year, friend go to Japan.
  2. 友達は、来年日本行く
    Friend go to Japan next year.

The directional 「へ」 particle


  1. 日本 【に・ほん】 – Japan
  2. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  3. 家 【1) うち; 2) いえ】 – 1) one’s own home; 2) house
  4. 帰る 【かえ・る】 (u-verb) – to go home
  5. 部屋 【へ・や】 – room
  6. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) – to come
  7. 医者 【い・しゃ】 – doctor
  8. なる (u-verb) – to become
  9. 勝ち 【か・ち】 – victory
  10. 向かう 【むか・う】 (u-verb) – to face; to go towards

While 「へ」 is normally pronounced /he/, when it is being used as a particle, it is always pronounced /e/ (え). The primary difference between the 「に」 and 「へ」 particle is that 「に」 goes to a target as the final, intended destination (both physical or abstract). The 「へ」 particle, on the other hand, is used to express the fact that one is setting out towards the direction of the target. As a result, it is only used with directional motion verbs. It also does not guarantee whether the target is the final intended destination, only that one is heading towards that direction. In other words, the 「に」 particle sticks to the destination while the 「へ」 particle is fuzzy about where one is ultimately headed. For example, if we choose to replace 「に」 with 「へ」 in the first three examples of the previous section, the nuance changes slightly.


  1. ボブは日本行った
    Bob headed towards Japan.
  2. 帰らない
    Not go home toward house.
  3. 部屋くる
    Come towards room.

Note that we cannot use the 「へ」 particle with verbs that have no physical direction. For example, the following is incorrect.

  • 医者なる
    (Grammatically incorrect version of 「医者なる」.)

This does not mean to say that 「へ」 cannot set out towards an abstract concept. In fact, because of the fuzzy directional meaning of this particle, the 「へ」 particle can also be used to talk about setting out towards certain future goals or expectations.

  • 勝ち向かう
    Go towards victory.

The contextual 「で」 particle


  1. 映画館 【えい・が・かん】 – movie theatre
  2. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) – to see
  3. バス – bus
  4. 帰る 【かえ・る】 (u-verb) – to go home
  5. レストラン – restaurant
  6. 昼ご飯 【ひる・ご・はん】 – lunch
  7. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  8. 何 【なに/なん】 – what
  9. 暇 【ひま】 – free (as in not busy)

The 「で」 particle will allow us to specify the context in which the action is performed. For example, if a person ate a fish, where did he eat it? If a person went to school, by what means did she go? With what will you eat the soup? All of these questions can be answered with the 「で」 particle. Here are some examples.


  1. 映画館見た
    Saw at movie theater.
  2. バス帰る
    Go home by bus.
  3. レストラン昼ご飯食べた
    Ate lunch at restaurant.

It may help to think of 「で」 as meaning “by way of”. This way, the same meaning will kind of translate into what the sentence means. The examples will then read: “Saw by way of movie theater”, “Go home by way of bus”, and “Ate lunch by way of restaurant.”

Using 「で」 with 「

The word for “what” () is quite annoying because while it’s usually read as 「なに」, sometimes it is read as 「なん」 depending on how it’s used. And since it’s always written in Kanji, you can’t tell which it is. I would suggest sticking with 「なに」 until someone corrects you for when it should be 「なん」. With the 「で」 particle, it is read as 「なに」 as well. (Hold the mouse cursor over the word to check the reading.)

  1. きた
    Came by the way of what?
  2. バスきた
    Came by the way of bus.

Here’s the confusing part. There is a colloquial version of the word “why” that is used much more often than the less colloquial version 「どうして」 or the more forceful 「なぜ」. It is also written as 「何で」 but it is read as 「なんで」. This is a completely separate word and has nothing to do with the 「で」 particle.

  1. 何できた
    Why did you come?
  2. だから。
    Because I am free (as in have nothing to do).

The 「から」 here meaning “because” is different from the 「から」 we just learned and will be covered later in the compound sentence section. Basically the point is that the two sentences, while written the same way, are read differently and mean completely different things. Don’t worry. This causes less confusion than you think because 95% of the time, the latter is used rather than the former. And even when 「なにで」 is intended, the context will leave no mistake on which one is being used. Even in this short example snippet, you can tell which it is by looking at the answer to the question.

When location is the topic


  1. 学校 【がっ・こう】 – school
  2. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  3. 図書館 【と・しょ・かん】 – library
  4. どこ – where
  5. イタリア – Italy
  6. レストラン – restaurant
  7. どう – how

There are times when the location of an action is also the topic of a sentence. You can attach the topic particle (「は」 and 「も」) to the three particles that indicate location (「に」、「へ」、「で」) when the location is the topic. We’ll see how location might become the topic in the following examples.

Example 1

Bob: (Did you) go to school?

Alice: Didn’t go.

Bob: What about library?

Alice: Also didn’t go to library.

In this example, Bob brings up a new topic (library) and so the location becomes the topic. The sentence is actually an abbreviated version of 「図書館には行った?」 which you can ascertain from the context.

Example 2

Bob: Eat where?

Alice: How about Italian restaurant?

Bob asks, “Where shall we eat?” and Alice suggests an Italian restaurant. A sentence like, “How about…” usually brings up a new topic because the person is suggesting something new. In this case, the location (restaurant) is being suggested so it becomes the topic.

When direct object is the topic


  1. 日本語 【に・ほん・ご】 – Japanese (language)
  2. 習う 【なら・う】 (u-verb) – to learn

The direct object particle is different from particles related to location in that you cannot use any other particles at the same time. For example, going by the previous section, you might have guessed that you can say 「をは」 to express a direct object that is also the topic but this is not the case. A topic can be a direct object without using the 「を」 particle. In fact, putting the 「を」 particle in will make it wrong.


  1. 日本語習う
    Learn Japanese.
  2. 日本語習う
    About Japanese, (will) learn it.

Please take care to not make this mistake.

  • 日本語をは習う
    (This is incorrect.)

Past Verb Practice Exercises

Vocabulary used in this section

This is the same list of verbs from the previous practice exercise with a couple additions. We will use mostly the same verbs from the last exercise to practice conjugating to the past and the past negative tense.

I have listed the kanji you will need for the vocabulary for your convenience. The link will take you to a diagram of the stroke order. I recommend practicing the kanji in the context of real words (such as the ones below).

  1. – story
  2. – see
  3. – come; next
  4. – go; conduct
  5. – go home
  6. – eat; food
  7. – drink
  8. – buy
  9. – sell
  10. – hold
  11. – wait
  12. – read
  13. – walk
  14. – run
  15. – play
  16. – swim
  17. – death

Here is a list of some common verbs you will definitely want to learn at some point.

  1. する – to do
  2. しゃべる – to talk; to chat
  3. 話す【はなす】 – to talk
  4. 見る【みる】 – to see
  5. 来る【くる】 – to come
  6. 行く【いく】 – to go
  7. 帰る 【かえる】 – to go home
  8. 食べる 【たべる】 – to eat
  9. 飲む 【のむ】 – to drink
  10. 買う 【かう】 – to buy
  11. 売る 【うる】 – to sell
  12. 切る 【きる】 – to cut
  13. 入る 【はいる】 – to enter
  14. 出る 【でる】 – to come out
  15. 持つ 【もつ】 – to hold
  16. 待つ 【まつ】 – to wait
  17. 書く【かく】 – to write
  18. 読む 【よむ】 – to read
  19. 歩く 【あるく】 – to walk
  20. 走る 【はしる】 – to run
  21. 遊ぶ 【あそぶ】 – to play
  22. 泳ぐ 【およぐ】 – to swim
  23. 死ぬ 【しぬ】 – to die

Practice with Past Verb Conjugations

We learned how to classify the following verbs in the first verb practice exercise. Now, we are going to put that knowledge to use by conjugating the same verbs into the past tense depending on which type of verb it is. The first answer has been given as an example.

verb past tense
出る 出た
行く 行った
する した
買う 買った
売る 売った
食べる 食べた
入る 入った
来る きた
飲む 飲んだ
しゃべる しゃべった
見る 見た
切る 切った
帰る 帰った
書く 書いた
待つ 待った
話す 話した
泳ぐ 泳いだ
死ぬ 死んだ

Practice with Past Negative Verb Conjugations

Now, we are going to do the same thing for the past negative verb conjugations.

verb past negative tense
出る 出なかった
行く 行かなかった
する しなかった
買う 買わなかった
売る 売らなかった
食べる 食べなかった
入る 入らなかった
来る こなかった
飲む 飲まなかった
しゃべる しゃべらなかった
見る 見なかった
切る 切らなかった
帰る 帰らなかった
書く 書かなかった
待つ 待たなかった
話す 話さなかった
泳ぐ 泳がなかった
死ぬ 死ななかった

Past Tense

We will finish defining all the basic properties of verbs by learning how to express the past and past-negative tense of actions. I will warn you in advance that the conjugation rules in this section will be the most complex rules you will learn in all of Japanese. On the one hand, once you have this section nailed, all other rules of conjugation will seem simple. On the other hand, you might need to refer back to this section many times before you finally get all the rules. You will probably need a great deal of practice until you can become familiar with all the different conjugations.

Past tense for ru-verbs


  1. 出る 【で・る】 (ru-verb) – to come out
  2. 捨てる 【す・てる】 (ru-verb) – to throw away
  3. ご飯 【ご・はん】 – rice; meal
  4. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  5. 映画 【えい・が】 – movie
  6. 全部 【ぜん・ぶ】 – everything
  7. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) – to see

We will start off with the easy ru-verb category. To change a ru-verb from the dictionary form into the past tense, you simply drop the 「る」 and add 「た」.

To change ru-verbs into the past tense

  • Drop the 「る」 part of the ru-verb and add 「た」

    1. 捨て捨て


  1. ご飯は、食べた
    As for meal, ate.
  2. 映画は、全部見た
    As for movie, saw them all.

Past tense for u-verbs


  1. 話す 【はな・す】 (u-verb) – to speak
  2. 書く 【か・く】 (u-verb) – to write
  3. 泳ぐ 【およ・ぐ】 (u-verb) – to swim
  4. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) – to drink
  5. 遊ぶ 【あそ・ぶ】 (u-verb) – to play
  6. 死ぬ 【し・ぬ】 (u-verb) – to die
  7. 切る 【き・る】 (u-verb) – to cut
  8. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) – to buy
  9. 持つ 【も・つ】 (u-verb) – to hold
  10. する (exception) – to do
  11. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) – to come
  12. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  13. 今日 【きょう】 – today
  14. 走る 【はし・る】 (u-verb) – to run
  15. 友達 【とも・だち】 – friend
  16. 私 【わたし】 – me, myself, I
  17. 勉強 【べん・きょう】 – study

Changing a u-verb from dictionary form to the past tense is difficult because we must break up u-verbs into four additional categories. These four categories depend on the last character of the verb. The table below illustrates the different sub-categories. In addition, there is one exception to the rules, which is the verb 「行く」. I’ve bundled it with the regular exception verbs 「する」 and 「来る」 even though 「行く」 is a regular u-verb in all other conjugations.

Past tense conjugations for u-verbs
Ending Non-Past changes to… Past
す→した した



Non-Past Past
行く った*

* exceptions particular to this conjugation


  1. 今日は、走った
    As for today, ran.
  2. 友達来た
    Friend is the one that came.
  3. 遊んだ
    I also played.
  4. 勉強は、した
    About study, did it.

Past-negative tense for all verbs


  1. 捨てる 【す・てる】 (ru-verb) – to throw away
  2. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  3. 食べる 【たべ・る】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  4. する (exception) – to do
  5. お金 【お・かね】 – money
  6. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  7. 私 【わたし】 – me, myself, I
  8. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) – to buy
  9. 猫 【ねこ】 – cat
  10. いる (ru-verb) – to exist (animate)

The conjugation rules for the past-negative tense are the same for all verbs. You might have noticed that the negative of just about everything always end in 「ない」. The conjugation rule for the past-negative tense of verbs is pretty much the same as all the other negatives that end in 「ない」. You simply take the negative of any verb, remove the 「い」 from the 「ない」 ending, and replace it with 「かった」.

To change verbs into the past-negative tense

  • Change the verb to the negative and replace the 「い」 with 「かった」

    1. 捨て捨てな捨てなかった
    2. 行かな行かなかった


  1. アリスは食べなかった
    As for Alice, did not eat.
  2. ジムがしなかった
    Jim is the one that did not do.
  3. ボブも行かなかった
    Bob also did not go.
  4. お金なかった
    There was no money. (lit: As for money, did not exist.)
  5. 買わなかった
    As for me, did not buy.
  6. いなかった
    There was no cat. (lit: As for cat, did not exist.)

Negative Verb Practice Exercises

Vocabulary used in this section

This is the same list of verbs from the previous practice exercise. We will use the same verbs from the last exercise to practice conjugating to the negative.

I have listed the kanji you will need for the vocabulary for your convenience. The link will take you to a diagram of the stroke order. I recommend practicing the kanji in the context of real words (such as the ones below).

  1. – see
  2. – come; next
  3. – go; conduct
  4. – go home
  5. – eat; food
  6. – drink
  7. – buy
  8. – sell
  9. – hold
  10. – wait
  11. – read
  12. – walk
  13. – run
  14. – play

Here is a list of some common verbs you will definitely want to learn at some point.

  1. する – to do
  2. しゃべる – to talk; to chat
  3. 見る【みる】 – to see
  4. 来る【くる】 – to come
  5. 行く【いく】 – to go
  6. 帰る 【かえる】 – to go home
  7. 食べる 【たべる】 – to eat
  8. 飲む 【のむ】 – to drink
  9. 買う 【かう】 – to buy
  10. 売る 【うる】 – to sell
  11. 切る 【きる】 – to cut
  12. 入る 【はいる】 – to enter
  13. 出る 【でる】 – to come out
  14. 持つ 【もつ】 – to hold
  15. 待つ 【まつ】 – to wait
  16. 書く【かく】 – to write
  17. 読む 【よむ】 – to read
  18. 歩く 【あるく】 – to walk
  19. 走る 【はしる】 – to run
  20. 遊ぶ 【あそぶ】 – to play

Practice with Negative Verb Conjugations

We learned how to classify the following verbs in the previous practice exercise. Now, we are going to put that knowledge to use by conjugating the same verbs into the negative depending on which type of verb it is. The first answer has been given as an example.

verb negative
行く 行かない
出る 出ない
する しない
買う 買わない
売る 売らない
食べる 食べない
入る 入らない
来る こない
飲む 飲まない
しゃべる しゃべらない
見る 見ない
切る 切らない
帰る 帰らない
書く 書かない

Negative Verbs

Now that we’ve seen how to declare things and perform actions with verbs, we want to be able to say the negative. In other words, we want to say that such-and-such action was not performed. This is done by conjugating the verb to the negative form just like the state-of-being for nouns and adjectives. However, the rules are a tad more complicated.

Conjugating verbs into the negative


  1. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  2. いる (ru-verb) – to exist (animate)
  3. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  4. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) – to buy
  5. 待つ 【ま・つ】 (u-verb) – to wait
  6. する (exception) – to do
  7. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) – to come
  8. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) – to see
  9. 寝る 【ね・る】 (ru-verb) – to sleep
  10. 起きる 【お・きる】 (ru-verb) – to wake; to occur
  11. 考える 【かんが・える】 (ru-verb) – to think
  12. 教える 【おし・える】 (ru-verb) – to teach; to inform
  13. 出る 【で・る】 (ru-verb) – to come out
  14. 着る 【き・る】 (ru-verb) – to wear
  15. 話す 【はな・す】 (u-verb) – to speak
  16. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) – to ask; to listen
  17. 泳ぐ 【およ・ぐ】 (u-verb) – to swim
  18. 遊ぶ 【あそ・ぶ】 (u-verb) – to play
  19. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) – to drink
  20. 帰る 【かえ・る】 (u-verb) – to go home
  21. 死ぬ 【し・ぬ】 (u-verb) – to die
  22. お金 【お・かね】 – money
  23. 私 【わたし】 – me, myself, I
  24. 猫 【ねこ】 – cat

We will now make use of the verb classifications we learned in the last section to define the rules for conjugation. But before we get into that, we need to cover one very important exception to the negative conjugation rules: 「ある」.

  • ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  • いる (ru-verb) – to exist (animate)

ある」 is an u-verb used to express existence of inanimate objects. The equivalent verb for animate objects (such as people or animals) is 「いる」, which is a normal ru-verb. For example, if you wanted to say that a chair is in the room, you would use the verb 「ある」, but if you wanted to say that a person is in the room, you must use the verb 「いる」 instead. These two verbs 「ある」 and 「いる」 are quite different from all other verbs because they describe existence and are not actual actions. You also need to be careful to choose the correct one based on animate or inanimate objects.

Anyway, the reason I bring it up here is because the negative of 「ある」 is 「ない」 (meaning that something does not exist). The conjugation rules for all other verbs are listed below as well as a list of example verbs and their negative forms.

* = exceptions particular to this conjugation

Conjugation rules for negative verbs

  • For ru-verbs: Drop the 「る」 and attach 「ない」
    Example: 食べ + ない = 食べない
  • *For u-verbs that end in 「う」: Replace 「う」 with 「わ」 and attach 「ない」
    Example: 買 + わ + ない = 買わない
  • For all other u-verbs: Replace the u-vowel sound with the a-vowel equivalent and attach 「ない」
    Example: 待 + た = 待たない
  • Exceptions:
    1. する → しない
    2. くる → こない
    3. *ある → ない
Negative form conjugation examples
ru-verb u-verb exception
見る → 見ない 話す → 話さない する → しない
食べる → 食べない 聞く → 聞かない くる → こない
寝る → 寝ない 泳ぐ → 泳がない *ある → ない
起きる → 起きない 遊ぶ → 遊ばない
考える → 考えない 待つ → 待たない
教える → 教えない 飲む → 飲まない
出る → 出ない *買う → 買ない
着る → 着ない 帰る → 帰らない
いる → いない 死ぬ → 死なない


Here are the example sentences from the last section conjugated to the negative form.

  1. アリスは食べない
    As for Alice, does not eat.
  2. ジムが遊ばない
    Jim is the one that does not play.
  3. ボブもしない
    Bob also does not do.
  4. お金ない
    There is no money. (lit: Money is the thing that does not exist.)
  5. 買わない
    As for me, not buy.
  6. いない
    There is no cat. (lit: As for cat, does not exist.)

Verb Practice Exercises

Vocabulary used in this section

Here is a list of a few verbs and the accompanying kanji that you will find useful.

I have listed the kanji you will need for the vocabulary for your convenience. The link will take you to a diagram of the stroke order. I recommend practicing the kanji in the context of real words (such as the ones below).

  1. – see
  2. – come; next
  3. – go; conduct
  4. – go home
  5. – eat; food
  6. – drink
  7. – buy
  8. – sell
  9. – hold
  10. – wait
  11. – read
  12. – walk
  13. – run
  14. – cut

Here is a list of some common verbs you will definitely want to learn at some point.

  1. する – to do
  2. しゃべる – to talk; to chat
  3. 見る【み・る】 – to see
  4. 来る【く・る】 – to come
  5. 行く【い・く】 – to go
  6. 帰る 【かえ・る】 – to go home
  7. 食べる 【たべ・る】 – to eat
  8. 飲む 【の・む】 – to drink
  9. 買う 【か・う】 – to buy
  10. 売る 【う・る】 – to sell
  11. 切る 【き・る】 – to cut
  12. 入る 【はい・る】 – to enter
  13. 出る 【で・る】 – to come out
  14. 持つ 【も・つ】 – to hold
  15. 待つ 【まvつ】 – to wait
  16. 書く【か・く】 – to write
  17. 読む 【よ・む】 – to read
  18. 歩く 【あるvく】 – to walk
  19. 走る 【はし・る】 – to run
  20. 切る 【き・る】 – to cut

Practice with Verb Classification

There’s really not much to do at this point except to practice classifying verbs as either a ru-verb or an u-verb. You can also take this opportunity to learn some useful verbs if you do not know them already. We’ll learn how to conjugate these verbs according to their category in the next few sections.

In the chart below, you should mark whether the given verb is either an u-verb or a ru-verb. The first answer is given as an example of what you need to do. Obviously, verbs that do not end in 「る」 are always going to be u-verbs so the tricky part is figuring out the category for verbs that end in 「る」. Remember that verbs that do not end in “eru” or “iru” will always be u-verbs. While most verbs that do end in “eru” or “iru” are ru-verbs, to make things interesting, I’ve also included a number of u-verbs that also end in eru/iru. Though you do not need to memorize every word in the list by any means, you should at least memorize the basic verbs.

verb ru-verb u-verb exception verb

Verb Basics

Role of Verbs


  1. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  2. 分かる 【わ・かる】 (u-verb) – to understand
  3. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) – to see
  4. 寝る 【ね・る】 (ru-verb) – to sleep
  5. 起きる 【お・きる】 (ru-verb) – to wake; to occur
  6. 考える 【かんが・える】 (ru-verb) – to think
  7. 教える 【おし・える】 (ru-verb) – to teach; to inform
  8. 出る 【で・る】 (ru-verb) – to come out
  9. いる (ru-verb) – to exist (animate)
  10. 着る 【き・る】 (ru-verb) – to wear
  11. 話す 【はな・す】 (u-verb) – to speak
  12. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) – to ask; to listen
  13. 泳ぐ 【およ・ぐ】 (u-verb) – to swim
  14. 遊ぶ 【あそ・ぶ】 (u-verb) – to play
  15. 待つ 【ま・つ】 (u-verb) – to wait
  16. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) – to drink
  17. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) – to buy
  18. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  19. 死ぬ 【し・ぬ】 (u-verb) – to die
  20. する (exception) – to do
  21. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) – to come
  22. お金 【お・かね】 – money
  23. 私 【わたし】 – me, myself, I
  24. 猫 【ねこ】 – cat

We’ve now learned how to describe nouns in various ways with other nouns and adjectives. This gives us quite a bit of expressive power. However, we still cannot express actions. This is where verbs come in. Verbs, in Japanese, always come at the end of clauses. Since we have not yet learned how to create more than one clause, for now it means that any sentence with a verb must end with the verb. We will now learn the three main categories of verbs, which will allow us to define conjugation rules. Before learning about verbs, there is one important thing to keep in mind.

A grammatically complete sentence requires a verb only (including state-of-being).

Or to rephrase, unlike English, the only thing you need to make a grammatically complete sentence is a verb and nothing else! That’s why even the simplest, most basic Japanese sentence cannot be translated into English!

A grammatically complete sentence:

  • 食べる
    Eat. (possible translations include: I eat/she eats/they eat)

Classifying verbs into ru-verbs and u-verbs

Before we can learn any verb conjugations, we first need to learn how verbs are categorized. With the exception of only two exception verbs, all verbs fall into the category of ru-verb or u-verb.

All ru-verbs end in 「る」 while u-verbs can end in a number of u-vowel sounds including 「る」. Therefore, if a verb does not end in 「る」, it will always be an u-verb. For verbs ending in 「る」, if the vowel sound preceding the 「る」 is an /a/, /u/ or /o/ vowel sound, it will always be an u-verb. Otherwise, if the preceding sound is an /i/ or /e/ vowel sound, it will be a ru-verb in most cases. A list of common exceptions are at the end of this section.


  1. 食べる – 「べ」 is an e-vowel sound so it is a ru-verb
  2. 分かる – 「か」 is an a-vowel sound so it is an u-verb

If you’re unsure which category a verb falls in, you can verify which kind it is with most dictionaries. There are only two exception verbs that are neither ru-verbs nor u-verbs as shown in the table below.

Examples of different verb types
ru-verb u-verb exception
見る 話す する
食べる 聞く 来る
寝る 泳ぐ
起きる 遊ぶ
考える 待つ
教える 飲む
出る 買う
いる ある
着る 死ぬ


Here are some example sentences using ru-verbs, u-verbs, and exception verbs.

  1. アリスは食べる
    As for Alice, eat.
  2. ジムが来る
    Jim is the one that comes.
  3. ボブもする
    Bob also do.
  4. お金ある
    There is money. (lit: Money is the thing that exists.)
  5. 買う
    As for me, buy.
  6. いる
    There is cat. (lit: As for cat, it exists.)

Appendix: iru/eru u-verbs


  1. 要る 【い・る】 (u-verb) – to need
  2. 帰る 【かえ・る】 (u-verb) – to go home
  3. 切る 【き・る】 (u-verb) – to cut
  4. しゃべる (u-verb) – to talk
  5. 知る 【し・る】 (u-verb) – to know
  6. 入る 【はい・る】 (u-verb) – to enter
  7. 走る 【はし・る】 (u-verb) – to run
  8. 減る 【へ・る】 (u-verb) – to decrease
  9. 焦る 【あせ・る】 (u-verb) – to be in a hurry
  10. 限る 【かぎ・る】 (u-verb) – to limit
  11. 蹴る 【け・る】 (u-verb) – to kick
  12. 滑る 【すべ・る】 (u-verb) – to be slippery
  13. 握る 【にぎ・る】 (u-verb) – to grasp
  14. 練る 【ね・る】 (u-verb) – to knead
  15. 参る 【まい・る】 (u-verb) – to go; to come
  16. 交じる 【まじ・る】 (u-verb) – to mingle
  17. 嘲る 【あざけ・る】 (u-verb) – to ridicule
  18. 覆る 【くつがえ・る】 (u-verb) – to overturn
  19. 遮る 【さえぎ・る】 (u-verb) – to interrupt
  20. 罵る 【ののし・る】 (u-verb) – to abuse verbally
  21. 捻る 【ひね・る】 (u-verb) – to twist
  22. 翻る 【ひるが・える】 (u-verb) – to turn over; to wave
  23. 滅入る 【めい・る】 (u-verb) – to feel depressed
  24. 蘇る 【よみがえ・る】 (u-verb) – to be resurrected

Below is a list of u-verbs with a preceding vowel sound of /i/ or /e/ (“iru” or “eru” sound endings). The list is not comprehensive but it does include many of the more common verbs categorized roughly into three levels.

iru/eru u-verbs grouped (roughly) by level
Basic Intermediate Advanced
要る 焦る 嘲る
帰る 限る 覆る
切る 蹴る 遮る
しゃべる 滑る 罵る
知る 握る 捻る
入る 練る 翻る
走る 参る 滅入る
減る 交じる 蘇る

Adjective Practice Exercises

Vocabulary used in this section

In the following exercises, we will practice the conjugations for adjectives. But first, you might want to learn or review the following useful adjectives that will be used in the exercises.

I have listed the kanji you will need for the vocabulary for your convenience. The link will take you to a diagram of the stroke order. I recommend practicing the kanji in the context of real words (such as the ones below).

  1. – mask; face
  2. – white
  3. – exist
  4. – name
  5. – hate
  6. – like
  7. – quiet
  8. – music; comfort
  9. – cut
  10. – spicy; bitter
  11. – materials
  12. – reason

Here is a list of some simple adjectives (and one noun) that might be used in the exercises.

  1. きれい – pretty; neat
  2. いい – good
  3. かっこいい – cool; good-looking
  4. 面白い 【おもしろい】 – interesting
  5. 有名 【ゆうめい】 – famous
  6. 嫌い 【きらい】 – dislike; hate
  7. 好き 【すき】 – like
  8. 大きい 【おおきい】 – big
  9. 小さい 【ちいさい】 – small
  10. 静か 【しずか】 – quiet
  11. 高い 【たかい】 – high; expensive
  12. 楽しい 【たのしい】 – fun
  13. 大切 【たいせつ】 – important
  14. 辛い 【からい】 – spicy
  15. 料理 【りょうり】 – cuisine

Conjugation Exercise

We are now going to practice the adjectives conjugations in order. Take each adjective and conjugate it to the following forms: the declarative (when applicable), negative, past, and negative past. In order to emphasize the fact that you can’t use the declarative 「だ」 with i-adjectives, you should just write “n/a” (or just leave it blank) when a conjugation does not apply.

plain declarative negative past negative-past
面白い n/a 面白くない 面白かった 面白くなかった
有名 有名だ 有名じゃない 有名だった 有名じゃなかった
嫌い 嫌いだ 嫌いじゃない 嫌いだった 嫌いじゃなかった
好き 好きだ 好きじゃない 好きだった 好きじゃなかった
大きい n/a 大きくない 大きかった 大きくなかった
きれい きれいだ きれいじゃない きれいだった きれいじゃなかった
小さい n/a 小さくない 小さかった 小さくなかった
いい n/a よくない よかった よくなかった
静か 静かだ 静かじゃない 静かだった 静かじゃなかった
高い n/a 高くない 高かった 高くなかった
かっこいい n/a かっこよくない かっこよかった かっこよくなかった
楽しい n/a 楽しくない 楽しかった 楽しくなかった
大切 大切だ 大切じゃない 大切だった 大切じゃなかった

Sentence completion exercise

Now that we’ve practiced the basic conjugations for adjectives, we are going to practice using them in actual sentences using the particles covered in the last section.

Fill in the blank with the appropriate adjective or particle


Q) 学生?

A) ううん、学生じゃない

ジム) アリス、今   忙しい?
アリス) ううん、       
ジム) アリス、今忙しい?
アリス) ううん、忙しくない
アリス) 何   楽しい?
ボブ) ゲーム   楽しい。
アリス) 何楽しい?
ボブ) ゲーム楽しい。。
アリス)        人は誰?
ボブ) ジム   大切だ。
アリス) 大切な人は誰?
ボブ) ジム大切だ。
アリス)       料理は、好き?
ボブ) ううん、辛くない料理   好きだ。
アリス) 辛い料理は、好き?
ボブ) ううん、辛くない料理好きだ。
アリス) ジム   、かっこいい人?
ボブ) ううん、         
アリス) ジム、かっこいい人?
ボブ) ううん、かっこよくない
アリス) ボブは、       人?
ボブ) ううん、有名じゃない。
アリス) ボブは、有名な人?
ボブ) ううん、有名じゃない。
アリス) 昨日のテストは、よかった?
ボブ) ううん、     
アリス) 昨日のテストは、よかった?
ボブ) ううん、よくなかった


Properties of Adjectives

Now that we can connect two nouns together in various ways using particles, we want to describe our nouns with adjectives. An adjective can directly modify a noun that immediately follows it. It can also be connected in the same way we did with nouns using particles. All adjectives fall under two categories: na-adjectives and i-adjectives.

The na-adjective


  1. 静か 【しず・か】 (na-adj) – quiet
  2. 人 【ひと】 – person
  3. きれい (na-adj) – pretty; clean
  4. 友達 【とも・だち】 – friend
  5. 親切 【しん・せつ】 (na-adj) – kind
  6. 魚 【さかな】 – fish
  7. 好き 【す・き】 (na-adj) – likable; desirable
  8. 肉 【にく】 – meat
  9. 野菜 【や・さい】 – vegetables

The na-adjective is very simple to learn because it acts essentially like a noun. All the conjugation rules for both nouns and na-adjectives are the same. One main difference is that a na-adjective can directly modify a noun following it by sticking 「な」 between the adjective and noun. (Hence the name, na-adjective.)


  1. 静か
    Quiet person.
  2. きれい
    Pretty person.

You can also use adjectives with particles just like we did in the last lesson with nouns.


  1. 友達親切
    Friend is kind.
  2. 友達親切だ。
    Friend is kind person.

As shown by the following examples, the conjugation rules for na-adjectives are the same as nouns.


  1. ボブは好きだ。
    Bob likes fish.
  2. ボブは好きじゃない
    Bob does not like fish.
  3. ボブは好きだった
    Bob liked fish.
  4. ボブは好きじゃなかった
    Bob did not like fish.

If it bothers you that “like” is an adjective and not a verb in Japanese, you can think of 「好き」 as meaning “desirable”. Also, you can see a good example of the topic and identifier particle working in harmony. The sentence is about the topic “Bob” and “fish” identifies specifically what Bob likes.

You can also use the last three conjugations to directly modify the noun. (Remember to attach 「な」 for positive non-past tense.)


  1. 好きな
    Person that likes fish.
  2. 好きじゃない
    Person that does not like fish.
  3. 好きだった
    Person that liked fish.
  4. 好きじゃなかった
    Person that did not like fish.

Here, the entire clause 「好き」、「好きじゃない」、etc. is modifying “person” to talk about people that like or dislike fish. You can see why this type of sentence is useful because 「好きだ」 would mean “People like fish”, which isn’t always the case.

We can even treat the whole descriptive noun clause as we would a single noun. For instance, we can make the whole clause a topic like the following example.


  1. 好きじゃないは、好きだ。
    Person who does not like fish like meat.
  2. 好きは、野菜好きだ。
    Person who likes fish also likes vegetables.

The i-adjective


  1. 嫌い 【きら・い】 (na-adj) – distasteful, hateful
  2. 食べ物 【た・べ・もの】 – food
  3. おいしい (i-adj) – tasty
  4. 高い 【たか・い】 (i-adj) – high; tall; expensive
  5. ビル – building
  6. 値段 【ね・だん】 – price
  7. レストラン – restaurant
  8. あまり/あんまり – not very (when used with negative)
  9. 好き 【す・き】 (na-adj) – likable; desirable
  10. いい (i-adj) – good

All i-adjectives always end in the Hiragana character: 「い」. However, you may have noticed that some na-adjectives also end in 「い」 such as 「きれい(な)」. So how can you tell the difference? There are actually very few na-adjectives that end with 「い」 that is usually not written in Kanji. Two of the most common include: 「きれい」 and 「嫌い」. Almost all other na-adjectives that end in 「い」 are usually written in Kanji and so you can easily tell that it’s not an i-adjective. For instance, 「きれい」 written in Kanji looks like 「綺麗」 or 「奇麗」. Since the 「い」 part of 「麗」 is part of a Kanji character, you know that it can’t be an i-adjective. That’s because the whole point of the 「い」 in i-adjectives is to allow conjugation without changing the Kanji. In fact, 「嫌い」 is one of the rare na-adjectives that ends in 「い」 without a Kanji. This has to do with the fact that 「嫌い」 is actually derived from the verb 「嫌う」.

Unlike na-adjectives, you do not need to add 「な」 to directly modify a noun with an i-adjective.


  1. 嫌い食べ物
    Hated food.
  2. おいしい食べ物
    Tasty food.

Remember how the negative state-of-being for nouns also ended in 「い」 (じゃな)? Well, just like the negative state-of-being for nouns, you can never attach the declarative 「だ」 to i-adjectives.

Do NOT attach 「だ」 to i-adjectives.

Now that we got that matter cleared up, below are the rules for conjugating i-adjectives. Notice that the rule for conjugating to negative past tense is the same as the rule for the past tense.

Conjugation rules for i-adjectives

  • Negative: First remove the trailing 「い」 from the i-adjective and then attach 「くない」
  • Example: くない
  • Past-tense: First remove the trailing 「い」 from the i-adjective or negative i-adjective and then attach 「かった」

    1. かった
    2. 高くな高くなかった
Summary of i-adjective conjugations
Positive Negative
Non-Past 高い 高くない
Past 高かった 高くなかった


  1. 高いビル
    Tall building.
  2. 高くないビル
    Not tall building.
  3. 高かったビル
    Building that was tall.
  4. 高くなかったビル
    Building that was not tall.

Note that you can make the same type of descriptive noun clause as we have done with na-adjectives. The only difference is that we don’t need 「な」 to directly modify the noun.


  • 値段高いレストランあまり好きじゃない
    Don’t like high price restaurants very much.

In this example, the descriptive clause 「値段高い」 is directly modifying 「レストラン」.

An annoying exception


  1. 値段 【ね・だん】 – price
  2. あまり/あんまり – not very (when used with negative)
  3. いい (i-adj) – good
  4. 彼 【かれ】 – he; boyfriend
  5. かっこいい (i-adj) – cool; handsome

There is one i-adjective meaning “good” that acts slightly differently from all other i-adjectives. This is a classic case of how learning Japanese is harder for beginners because the most common and useful words also have the most exceptions. The word for “good” was originally 「よい(良い)」. However, with time, it soon became 「いい」. When it is written in Kanji, it is usually read as 「よい」 so 「いい」 is almost always Hiragana. That’s all fine and good. Unfortunately, all the conjugations are still derived from 「よい」 and not 「いい」. This is shown in the next table.

Another adjective that acts like this is 「かっこいい」 because it is an abbreviated version of two words merged together: 「格好」 and 「いい」. Since it uses the same 「いい」, you need to use the same conjugations.

Conjugation for 「いい
Positive Negative
Non-Past いい よくない
Past よかった よくなかった
Conjugation for 「かっこいい
Positive Negative
Non-Past かっこいい かっこよくない
Past かっこよかった かっこよくなかった

Take care to make all the conjugations from 「よい」 not 「いい」.


  1. 値段あんまりよくない
    Price isn’t very good.
  2. かっこよかった
    He looked really cool!


Disclaimer: This is still a work in progress!

What is a complete guide to Japanese?

Despite what many are led to believe, learning Japanese is not significantly more difficult than learning any other language. The truth is mastering any foreign language is quite an endeavor. If you think about it, you are essentially taking everything you’ve learned in life and re-learning it in a completely different way. Obviously, no single book can really claim to teach you everything about a language including all the vocabulary a fluent adult commonly obtains during her life. So what do I mean by a complete guide to Japanese?

Most Japanese textbooks only go over a small subset of what you need to learn Japanese, typically covering a certain amount of grammar and vocabulary with a smattering of dialogues and readings. However, mastering a language requires much more than just learning grammar and vocabulary. What most Japanese textbooks fail to recognize is that they can’t possibly hope to cover all the necessary vocabulary and kanji (Chinese characters) to obtain full fluency. This guide fully recognizes that it cannot teach you everything word by word and character by character. Instead, it will give you a solid understanding of the fundamentals with a wide collection of dialogues and examples. In addition, it will go over various techniques and tools to enable you to teach yourself. Essentially, this book is a guide on how you can learn Japanese to complete fluency by actually using Japanese in the areas of reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

Another important distinction in the complete guide is that it does not try to hide or avoid more casual but perfectly acceptable aspects of the language. Many textbooks often avoid styles of speech and vocabulary you would normally use regularly with close friends, family, and acquaintances! In this guide, you will be introduced to all aspects of the language based on real-world practicality and usefulness; not on an artificial, filtered version of what others consider to be “proper” Japanese.

Resources and Tools

There are a large number of useful tools on the web for learning Japanese. Not only are there excellent online dictionaries, which are often better than many print dictionaries, there are also great tools and social networking sites for online collaboration and language study.

In order to fully utilize these online resources or if you’re reading this book online, you’ll need to setup your computer to support Japanese.

You can see a full list of these resources and instructions on how to setup your computer at the following link:


I’m currently writing this as quickly as possible without a lot of proofreading so there WILL be many typos and mistakes for the first few revisions.


The Complete Guide is currently NOT licensed under a creative commons or any other license. I might consider some kind of license when I finish the first draft.