How to conjugate the Japanese present tense

The Japanese present tense in Japanese is known as the indicative tense. This tense is then split down in formal, informal, affirmative and negative form. It might seem complicated to learn this tense, however if you could realise that there is a pattern for all Japanese verbs you might just get on top of it in no time.

Let’s dive in and see how we can visualise this conjugation pattern. Form the indicative (present and future tense) in Japanese by following these rules:

Japanese conjugation chart - form the present tense

Form the informal present tense in Japanese:

Godan verbs (-u verbs)Ichidan verbs (-ru verbs)
Negative Negative
stem + ////さ/た/わ  +  ないstem + ない
stem + anaistem + nai

Godan verbs: Create the stem by removing the last character.

Ichidan verbs: Create the stem by removing the last two latin letters or る.

Remember that for Godan verbs the middle vowel depends on the vowel of the infinitive.

Form the formal present tense in Japanese:

Godan verbs (-u verbs)Ichidan verbs (-ru verbs)
stem + ///////ち  +  ますstem + ます
stem + imasustem + masu
Negative Negative
stem + ///////ち  +  ませんstem + ません
stem + imasenstem + masen 

Above are the key learnings to master the indicative tense in Japanese. If it does not make any sense it means you might need some background information before you can put the dots together with the charts above. Start here:

Forming the Japanese present tense for beginners:

Understanding the present tense in Japanese:

In Japanese, the present tense is used to describe actions that are currently happening, habitual actions, general truths, or future events. Forming the present tense in Japanese involves a straightforward approach, mainly revolving around verb conjugation. Here’s how it works:

1. Base Form of Verbs:
In Japanese, verbs have a base form that doesn’t change. This base form is what you’ll find in dictionaries and is the form from which all other tenses are derived.

For example:

  • 食べる (taberu) – to eat
  • 行く (iku) – to go
  • 話す (hanasu) – to speak

2. Regular Verb Conjugation:
Regular verbs in Japanese follow a pattern when conjugating for the present tense. This pattern involves replacing the last syllable of the verb with a corresponding ending based on the type of verb.

– For Group 1, Godan or also known as U-verbs:
Group 1 or Godan verbs, also known as U-verbs, typically end in the syllable う (u), く (ku), ぐ (gu), す (su), つ (tsu), る (ru), ぬ (nu), む (mu), or ぶ (bu).

To conjugate for the present tense, simply remove the final character and replace it with the appropriate ending:

  • 食べる (taberu) becomes 食べます (tabemasu)
  • 行く (iku) becomes 行きます (ikimasu)
  • 話す (hanasu) becomes 話します (hanashimasu)

See charts above to have the visual overview of which suffix to add to the verbs.

– For Group 2, Ichidan or also known as RU-verbs:
Group 2 or Ichidan verbs, also known as RU-verbs, end in the syllable る (ru).

To conjugate for the present tense, simply remove the final る or RU and replace it with the ending as seen in the chart above:

  • 見る (miru) becomes 見ます (mimasu)
  • 飲む (nomu) becomes 飲みます (nomimasu)
  • 起きる (okiru) becomes 起きます (okimasu)

3. Irregular Verbs:
While most verbs in Japanese follow the regular conjugation patterns, there are a few irregular verbs that don’t adhere to these rules. Some common irregular verbs include:

  • する (suru) – to do
  • 来る (kuru) – to come

These verbs have their own unique conjugation forms for the present tense:

  • する (suru) becomes します (shimasu)
  • 来る (kuru) becomes 来ます (kimasu)

4. Politeness Levels:
In Japanese, the level of politeness in speech is crucial. When using the present tense, you’ll often see the polite form, which ends in ます (masu). This form is appropriate for most situations, especially in formal or polite conversations.

However, in informal settings or when speaking with close friends or family, you can drop the ます (masu) ending to form the plain present tense. For example:

  • 食べます (tabemasu) → 食べる (taberu)
  • 行きます (ikimasu) → 行く (iku)

Example Sentences:

  1. 私は毎日日本語を勉強します。 (Watashi wa mainichi nihongo o benkyou shimasu.)
  • I study Japanese every day.
  1. 彼はテレビを見ます。 (Kare wa terebi o mimasu.)
  • He watches TV.
  1. 今日、友達と遊びます。 (Kyou, tomodachi to asobimasu.)
  • Today, I play with my friends.

By understanding these simple rules and conjugation patterns, you can easily form the present tense in Japanese and express yourself effectively in various situations. Practice and exposure to the language will help reinforce these concepts over time.




Other guides about Japanese language:




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