Japanese consonant and vowel verbs

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The Japanese language has two types of regular verbs that involve the stem, and can be referred to as Japanese consonant and vowel verbs.

Verb groups[edit]

The two groups of verbs are:

  1. consonant-stem, godan-katsuyō (五段活用, "5-class conjugation"), Group I, or -u verbs; and
  2. vowel-stem, ichidan-katsuyō (一段活用, "1-class conjugation"), Group II, or -ru verbs.

Most verbs are consonant-stem, but vowel-stem verbs are also common, hence the numbering "Group I" (consonant-stem, more common) and "Group II" (vowel-stem, less common). Sometimes categorization is expanded to include "Group III" (special cases) for the irregular verbs する suru and 来る kuru; note however that there are other Japanese irregular verbs, though they are generally only slightly irregular.

Consonant-stem verbs end in -u (-au, -iu, -uu, -ou), -ku, -gu, -su, -tsu, -nu, -bu, -mu or -ru, but not -eu, -zu, -dzu, -fu, -pu, or the defective columns -yu or -wu.

All vowel-stem verbs end in either -iru or -eru. However, not all verbs ending in -iru or -eru are vowel-stem verbs; for example, hashiru, "run", is a consonant-stem verb. Verbs ending in -aru, -uru and -oru also exist, and are all consonant-stem.

The Japanese names ("5-class" and "1-class") are based on the number of vowel suffixes used to form verb roots for conjugations. Classical Japanese had more verb groups (such as 2-class and 4-class) which are archaic in Modern Japanese.

Conjugation[edit]

Consonant-stem verbs conjugate differently from the vowel-stem verbs. Consonant-stem verbs conjugate after a consonant, and vowel-stem verbs conjugate after a vowel, as can be seen in the following examples:

consonant-stem vowel-stem
Plain form yom.u ("read")
読む (godan, u-verb)
hashir.u ("run")
走る (godan, u-verb, -iru verb)
mi.ru ("see")
見る (kami ichidan, ru-verb, -iru verb)
tabe.ru ("eat")
食べる (shimo ichidan, ru-verb, -eru verb)
Negative yom.anai
読ま-ない
hashir.anai
走-らない
mi.nai
見-ない
tabe.nai
食べ-ない
Polite form yom.imasu
読み-ます
hashir.imasu
走-ります
mi.masu
見-ます
tabe.masu
食べ-ます
Potential form yom.eru
読め-る
hashir.eru
走-れる
mi.(ra)reru
見-(ら)れる¹ ²
tabe.(ra)reru
食べ-(ら)れる¹
Volitional form yom.ou
読も-う
hashir.ou
走-ろう
mi.you
見-よう
tabe.you
食べ-よう
  1. Note that colloquially the ら ra is dropped meaning these two become 見れる mireru and 食べれる tabereru.
  2. Can also be written as mi.eru. The difference is like the difference between "can see" and "can be seen."[1] Two consonant-stems that have also irregular potential forms are ik.eru/ik.areru ("can go") and kik.eru/kik.oeru ("can hear"). Other irregular potential forms are surudekiru ("can do") and kurukorareru ("can come").

Consonant-stem verbs ending in -u (-au, -iu and -ou) may not appear to conjugate "after a consonant"; for example, the polite form of kau (買う, "buy") is kaimasu (ka.uka.imasu). However, the stem is in these cases technically considered to end in the consonant w. The w is normally suppressed, but surfaces in the negative form, as in kaw.anai ("does not buy"). Traditionally these verbs ended in -hu, which is still seen on occasion in historical kana usage, and thus unambiguously ended in h.

Terminology[edit]

The terms "consonant-stem" and "vowel-stem" come from considering the invariant part of the verb (the verb stem) on the basis of phonemes – concretely, by writing in rōmaji. This is an abstract perspective, as the consonant stem itself never occurs independently, but only with a following vowel, as Japanese words are formed of morae – concretely, writing in kana. For example, while the stem of yomu is yom-, the bare *yom is not an independent word.

The standard Japanese terms, ichidan and godan, literally "one row" and "five rows", more formally monograde and pentagrade, correspond to the number of different morae (kana) that appear in the stem forms of the verb, which are then optionally combined with a suffix to form a conjugated word. Formally, verbs are classified by which column of the gojūon their stem ends in, with vowel stem verbs further distinguished into i and e type. For example, 読む yomu is of マ行五段活用 ma-gyō go-dan katsuyō "ma-column five-row conjugation" type, as its stem form end in each of the five rows of the ま column, namely まみむめも:

  • 読ま よま yoma- as in yomanai (negative, irrealis),
  • 読み よみ yomi- as in yomimasu (polite non-past),
  • 読む よむ yomu- as in yomu (plain non-past; dictionary form),
  • 読め よめ yome- as in yomeba (conditional),
  • 読も よも yomo- as in yomō (yomou) (hortative/volitional).

Note that the volitional o stem is historically the negative a stem with euphonic sound change – and the o stem is only used for the volitional form – so these verbs were traditionally called 四段 yodan "four-row, tetragrade", omitting the o form.

While the above uses are the most common uses of the respective stems, they are used in various other ways, particularly the i stem – for example 読み物 yomi-mono "reading material"; compare 食べ物 tabe-mono "food" for vowel stem.

By contrast, vowel stem verbs have a single stem form, ending either in i or e, accordingly as -iru or -eru. These are referred to respectively as 上一段 kami ichi-dan "upper one-row" and 下一段 shimo ichi-dan "lower one-row", due to i being above e in the aiueo vowel ordering. In full terminology, the column of the final kana is also listed. For 見る みる miru is of マ行上一段活用 ma-gyō kami ichidan katsuyō "ma-column upper one-row conjugation" type and has stem:

  • 見 み mi-

while 食べる たべる taberu is of バ行下一段活用 ba-gyō shimo ichidan katsuyō "ba-column lower one-row conjugation" and has stem:

  • 食べ たべ tabe-

In Japanese dictionaries, in the readings of conjugable words the stem and the inflectional suffix are separated by a dot (・), as in 赤い あか・い aka.i "red". This is used to distinguish verb type, with consonant stem verbs having only the last kana treated as suffix, while in vowel stem verbs the last two kana are treated as suffix. The column 行 of the conjugation form corresponds to the kana immediately after the dot. For example:

  • 帰る かえ・る kae.ru "return" – consonant stem ラ行五段
  • 変える か・える ka.eru "change" – vowel stem ア行下一段

Note that for one-row verbs with only two kana, the entire verb is treated as a suffix, and no dot is displayed, as it would appear before the word. For example:

  • 要る い・る i.ru "need" – consonant stem ラ行五段
  • 居る いる iru "be (animate)" – vowel stem ア行上一段

The terms "Group I", "Group II", and "Group III" are primarily used in Japanese language education, and may be notated as (I), (II), (III) next to a verb. Similarly, the terms "u verb" (う verb) and "ru verb" (る verb) are educational terms, and may be notated as (う) or (る).

Verbs ending in -iru and -eru[edit]

General[edit]

Vowel-stem verbs, such as 見る miru "to see" and 食べる taberu "to eat," end either in -iru or -eru (there are no other basic-form endings for this group), but some consonant-stem verbs have these endings, too (e.g. 散る chiru "to scatter," 抓める tsumeru "to pinch"), and there are also "homophone verbs" that have either a vowel stem or a consonant stem (e.g. ikiru vowel 生きる "to live, to stay alive," consonant 熱る "to become sultry"; shimeru vowel 閉める "to close [something]," consonant 湿る "to be damp").

Rules of thumb[edit]

  • There are more consonant verbs than vowel verbs.
  • All verbs not ending in -iru/-eru are consonant-stem verbs; this includes -aru/-uru/-oru verbs and verbs with a vowel ending in the basic form, such as 買う kau "to buy" and 言う iu "to say."
  • Over half of verbs ending in -iru has a consonant stem (e.g., of the 419 -iru verbs listed in EDICT, 248 [ca. 60%] have a consonant stem), and the majority of verbs ending in -eru has a vowel stem (e.g., of the 3013 -eru verbs listed in EDICT, 2886 [ca. 95%] have a vowel stem).
  • If the vowel i/e of the ending -iru/-eru is part of a kanji (as in 契る chigi-ru "to pledge" and 嘲る azake-ru "to ridicule"), as opposed to being part of an okurigana, chances are high that the verb has a consonant stem.
    • However, this rule is not applicable for two-syllable verbs (⾒る mi-ru, for example, has a vowel stem) and verbs written only in hiragana (for example, びびる bibiru "to be surprised" and のめる nomeru "to fall forward" have consonant stems). Some consonant-stem verbs also have the syllable with the ending vowel written in hiragana, e.g. 混じる ma-jiru "to mingle" and the mentioned-above verb 抓める tsu-meru "to pinch."
    • -eru verbs having the e sound written in hiragana listed in EDICT: 2934 (ca. 97% of -eru verbs listed there, of them 2901 vowel verbs and 33 consonant verbs)
    • -eru verbs having the e sound in a kanji listed in EDICT: 139 (of them 39 vowel verbs and 100 consonant verbs).

Examples of conjugation[edit]

The "homophone verbs" iru (vowel: いる (居る) to be [animated] ; consonant: 炒る to boil down, to roast, 入る to go in, 要る to need) and eru (vowel: 得る to get, to obtain; consonant: 彫る to carve, 選る to choose, 啁る to ridicule):

Vowel stem (-iru) Consonant stem (-iru) Vowel stem (-eru) Consonant stem (-eru)
Plain form i.ru ir.u e.ru er.u
Negative i.nai ir.anai e.nai er.anai
Polite form i.masu ir.imasu e.masu er.imasu
Potential form 1 i.rareru ir.eru e.rareru er.eru
Volitional form i.you ir.ou e.you er.ou

1 Potential forms of consonant verbs are conjugated like vowel verbs: ireru / ereruiremasu / eremasu, etc. The same is true for passive forms (irareru / erareruiraremasu / eraremasu, etc.). In vowel verbs, potential and passive forms are identical (irareru / erareru).

Rule of thumb: In vowel verbs, the basic-ending -ru is completely replaced by the new ending (e.g. iru / eruinai / enai), while in consonant verbs, the -r sound is kept and followed by another vowel, to which the new ending is added (e.g. iru / eruiranai / eranai). However, in the -te/-ta forms, consonant verbs drop the -r sound and replace it by -tte/-tta (e.g. itte, itta / ette, etta), while vowel verbs have -te/-ta (e.g. ite, ita / ete, eta).

Lists of verbs (examples)[edit]

The following lists are not complete; feel free to add other verbs.

Homophone vowel-stem and consonant-stem verbs ending in -iru[edit]

Verb Vowel stem Consonant stem
chibiru 禿びる to get blunt, to dull, to wear out ちびる 1. to wet oneself, to shit oneself 2. to be miserly
hiru 干る to dry 嚏る to sneeze 放る to expel (from the body)
ikiru 生きる to live, to stay alive 熱る to become sultry
iru 射る to shoot 居る to be (animated)

鋳る・鑄る to cast, to mint, to coin 癒る to calm down

煎る・炒る・熬る to boil down, to roast 入る to go in 要る to need

沒る・没る to set beyond the Western horizon (i.e. the sun)

kiru 着る・著る to put on clothing 霧る to become misty 斬る to kill someone with a blade 切る to cut 剪る to cut, to prune, to trim (plants) 截る to cut (e.g. cloth) 伐る to cut down (e.g. trees) 鑽る・鑚る to start a fire (with wood-wood friction or by striking metal against stone)
komiiru 込み居る to push in, to be crowded 込み入る・込入る to push in, to be crowded, to be complicated

Homophone vowel-stem and consonant-stem verbs ending in -eru[edit]

Verb Vowel stem Consonant stem
eru 得る・獲る to get, obtain 彫る・雕る・鐫る to carve

選る・択る to choose
啁る to ridicule

fukeru 更ける・深ける to get late, to advance, to wear on

蒸ける to become ready to eat (as a result of steaming)
老ける・化ける to age, to grow old
ふける to run away (e.g. from work)

耽る・耽ける

1. to indulge in, to give oneself up to, to be obsessed by 2. to be engrossed in, to be lost in, to be absorbed in

furikaeru 振り替える・振りかえる・振替える to change (e.g. a bill), to transfer (e.g. money), to switch over, to move over 振り返る・振りかえる・ふり返る・振返る to turn head, to look over one's shoulder, to turn around, to look back
fuseru 伏せる

1. to bend down, to bow down
3. to hide oneself

臥せる to lie down, to retire, to go to bed
heru 経る・歴る to pass (time/through) 減る to decrease
hineru 陳ねる to age 捻る・拈る・撚る

1. to twist, to wrench, to turn (off/on), to wring (a neck)
2. to puzzle over
3. to defeat easily

kaeru 変える to change, to alter

換える・替える・代える to exchange

帰る・還る・歸る to return

返る・反る to return 孵る to hatch out

kakeru 掛ける・懸ける1. to hang (e.g. picture), to hoist (e.g. sail), to raise (e.g. flag) 2. to sit 3. to be partway (verb), to begin (but not complete) 4. to take (time, money), to expend (money, time, etc.) 5. to make (a call)
6. to multiply 7. to secure (e.g. lock) 8. to put on (glasses, etc.) 9. to cover 10. to burden someone
11. to apply (insurance) 12. to turn on (an engine, etc.), to set (a dial, an alarm clock, etc.) 13. to put an effect (spell, anaesthetic, etc.) on 14. to hold an emotion for (pity, hope, etc.) 15. to bind
16. to pour (or sprinkle, spray, etc.) onto 17. to argue (in court), to deliberate (in a meeting), to present (e.g. idea to a conference, etc.) 18. to increase further 19. to catch (in a trap, etc.) 20. to set atop
21. to erect (a makeshift building) 22. to hold (a play, festival, etc.) 23. (after -masu stem of verb) indicates (verb) is being directed to (someone)

駆ける・駈ける 1. to run (race, esp. horse), to dash 2. to gallop (one's horse), to canter 3. to advance (against one's enemy) 4. to soar, to fly 5. to run, to dash
欠ける・缺ける・闕ける 1. to be chipped, to be damaged, to be broken 2. to be lacking, to be missing 3. to be insufficient, to be short, to be deficient, to be negligent toward 4. (of the moon) to wane, to go into eclipse
賭ける to wager, to bet, to risk, to stake, to gamble
架ける to suspend between two points, to build (a bridge, etc.), to put up on something (e.g. legs up on table)

翔る・駆ける・翔ける 1. to soar, to fly 2. to run, to dash
michikaeru 持ち替える・持替える・持ち換える to change way one holds something (esp. transferring it from one hand to the other) 持ち帰る・持帰る to bring back, to carry home, to take out (e.g. food)
mikaeru 見変える・見替える to forsake one thing for another 見返る to look back
nameru 舐める・嘗める,甞める 1. to lick 2. to taste 3. to experience (esp. a hardship) 4. to make fun of, to trer with contempt 滑る to be slippery, to be slimy
neru 寝る・寐る to sleep 練る・煉るto temper, to refine, to knead
okikaeru 置き換える・置き替える to replace, to move, to change the position of 起き返る to rise, to erect, to get up
shimeru 閉める to close (something) 湿る to be damp
suberu 統べる・総べる to control, to supervise 滑る・辷る 1. to glide, to slide 2. to fail 3. to drop, to go/come down, to fall (e.g. in status)
takeru 炊ける to be boiled/cooked/ready
長ける・闌ける 1. to excel at, to be proficient 2. to grow old 3. to ripen 4. to rise high (e.g. the sun)
猛る 1. to rage, to be fierce 2. to be excited
哮る to roar, to howl

Consonant-stem verbs ending in -iru[edit]

Note: Homophone verbs listed above are not repeated here.

Verb Kanji and/or hiragana English
aburagiru 脂ぎる to be greasy
bibiru びびる to be surprised
chigiru 契る to pledge
chiru 散る to scatter
dojiru どじる to mess up
guchiru 愚痴る to grumble
hairu 入る to enter
hashiru 走る to run
hojiru 穿る to pick, dig out
hotobashiru 迸る to gush, spurt
ibiru いびる to torment, roast
ijiru 弄る to fiddle with
kagiru 限る to limit
kajiru 齧る to gnaw
kashiru 呪る to curse
kishiru きしる to become misty
kishiru 軋る to squeak, creak
kojiru 抉る to gouge, wrench
kubiru 括る to grip, strangle
kujiru 抉る to gouge, scoop
mairu 参る to come/go - humble
majiru 混じる to mingle
meiru 滅入る to feel depressed
mikubiru 見縊る to belittle; to despise
minagiru 漲る to overflow
mogiru 捥る to wrench
mojiru 捩る to parody, to twist
mushiru 毟る to pluck, to pick, to tear
najiru 詰る to rebuke
nejiru 捩じる to twist
nigiru 握る to grasp
nijiru 躙る to edge forward
nonoshiru 罵る to abuse verbally
ochiiru 陥る to fall, sink
omoiiru 思い入る to ponder, to contemplate
omoikiru 思い切る to dare to (usually in the form omoikitte (思い切って) or omoikitta (思い切った).)
sebiru せびる to pester for
shiru 知る to know
soshiru 謗る to slander
sujiru 捩る to wriggle
tagiru 滾る to boil, to seethe
tamagiru 魂消る to be frightened
tobashiru 迸る to gush
tochiru とちる to muff lines
yajiru 弥次る・野次る to jeer at
yogiru 過る to pass by, to drop in
yojiru 捩る to twist, distort
yokogiru 横切る to traverse

Consonant-stem verbs ending in -eru[edit]

Note: Homophone verbs listed above are not repeated here.

Verb Kanji and/or hiragana English
aseru 焦る to be in a hurry
azakeru 嘲る to ridicule
daberu 駄弁る to chatter
haberu 侍る to attend on
hirugaeru 翻る to turn over, to wave
hoteru 火照る to flush, to feel hot
kageru 陰る to become dark, to be in shadow or shade
keru 蹴る to kick
kuneru くねる to be crooked
kutsugaeru 覆る to be overturned
numeru 滑る to be slippery
omoneru 阿る to flatter
seru 競る to compete
seseru 挵る to pick, play with
shaberu 喋る to talk, to chat
shigeru 茂る to grow thick
shikeru 湿気る to become damp
soberu そべる to lie sprawled
teru 照る to shine
tsumeru 抓める to pinch
tsuneru 抓る to pinch
uneru うねる to undulate
yomigaeru 蘇る to be brought back to life, to be refreshed

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Young, John; Nakajima-Okano, Kimiko. Learn Japanese: New College Text. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 9780824809515.
  • Seiichi Makino and Michio Tsutsui, A dictionary of intermediate Japanese grammar, published by The Japan Times, ISBN 4-7890-0775-8.