Japanese - Lesson 3 - Easy Verbal Tenses

Easy Verbals

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In English, we often use helper words to adjust the tense of a verb or negate it. For example, for "I eat", we can say "I don't eat", "I will eat", "I didn't eat", etc. In Japanese, these adjustments are usually made by altering the verb endings.

Here is a chart showing the some simple forms of the verbal "taberu", meaning "to eat". Fortunately, this pattern can be used with any verbal that ends in "-masu (ます)".

Tense Japanese (日本語) English
Formal non-past tabemasu (食べます) eat
Formal negative non-past tabemasen (食べません) not eat
Formal past tabemashita (食べました) ate
Formal negative past tabemasen deshita (食べませんでした) did not eat

You may have noticed that in Japanese, when the subject is a simple pronoun (like "I", "you", etc.), it is often omitted. It is usually understood from context of the sentence. So if you wanted to say, "I eat", it would typically just be "tabemasu (食べます)". "He eats" would also usually just be "tabemasu (食べます)". Unlike many Western languages, there are no verb conjugations in Japanese based on 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person, singular, or plural. So whether it's just you eating or 50 elephants, it would be "tabemasu (食べます)"!

Here are some more vocabulary words. Once again, if you'd prefer having these introduced as part of a dialog, you can simply go on to the next lesson.

sakana (魚) fish
tabemasu (食べます) eat
hai (はい) yes
niku (肉) meat
tabemasen (食べません) do not eat
orenji (オレンジ) orange
jūsu (ジュース) juice
nomimashita (飲みました) drank
kinō (昨日) yesterday
(o)mizu (お水) water
mo (も) also, too

Additional Notes

To make a noun more polite, you will often hear "o (お)" added at the beginning, for example "oniku (お肉)" for "meat". Note this does not apply to all nouns. There are generally many ways of saying the same thing in Japanese, and there are many complicated rules for various levels of politeness. These will be covered later.

There are many, many more verbal forms. From wanting to eat to doing something provided somebody eats, there are a multitude of different endings that you may encounter. And these endings can be combined in ever-complicated ways, like "tabesaseraremasu (食べさせられます)" or "be made to eat"!

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