AH, you can't! (Unit 2)

Things are about to start getting more difficult, as we're starting to look at stem changes.

Specifically, we're exploring this rule:

The verb-ending kana changes from a "-u" sound to an "-a" sound (e.g. ~く [-ku]、~つ [-tsu]、and ~る [-ru] become ~か [-ka]、~た [-ta]、and ~ら [-ra]). Irregular: ~う (-u) becomes ~わ (-wa).

I mentioned this a couple of lectures ago, but I will point out again that verbs ending in ~う are irregular here. We DON'T put -あ onto the end of the verb stem. Instead, we're putting -わ:

✕ 買ない (かあない)
✕ 買れる (かあれる)
✕ 買せる (かあせる)

〇 買ない (かわない)
〇 買れる (かわれる)
〇 買せる (かわせる)

Anyway, let's take a brief look at what each of these conjugation forms means…


Negative Plain Form

This is your standard negative verb conjugation. You'll use this when saying "not VERB," "won't VERB," "don't VERB," etc.  It has a wide variety of potential uses, and we can't get into all of them here.

For example, you can use this form when saying that you won't do something or that you generally don't do something. Accordingly, this sentence could have two varying translations, depending on the context:

おさけ のまない。
I'm not going to drink alcohol. // I don't drink alcohol.
Literally: "alcohol + don't/won't drink."

You can also use negative plain form when making informal invitations, as in this sentence:

いっしょ に すわらない?
Do you wanna sit together?
Literally: “together + に + won't sit?”

Since I also want to include one of our irregular verbs, let's look at a quick dialogue.

Person A — let's call her Yukiko — is waiting to meet some friends at the station. She expects that one of her friends, Miho, will be bringing her boyfriend, Daisuke. When Miho shows up, though, Daisuke isn't with her. The following conversation ensues…

あれ? ダイスケくん は?
Huh? Where's Daisuke-kun?
Literally: “huh? + Daisuke-kun + は?”

こない って。
He's not coming. // He said he's not coming.
Literally: “won't come + って.”
Note: This って is a "hearsay marker," by the way. It's used for quoting information gotten from someone else. We'll talk about it time and time again in future lessons.


Passive Form

↑ If you have a keen eye, you'll notice that the verb endings are somewhat different for godan and ichidan verbs. With godan verbs, we add ~れる (-reru) to our verb stems after changing the final sound to an "-a" sound:

行く → 行か- → 行れる
いく → いか- → いかれる

飲む → 飲ま- → 飲れる
のむ → のま- → のまれる

With ichidan verbs, however, we add ~られる to an unchanged verb stem:

食べる → 食べ- → 食べられる
たべる → たべ- → たべられる

As is usually the case, the Group III / Irregular Verbs should just be memorized as is.

As for the various uses of passive form, there are a bit too many of them for us to get a good understanding of in this introductory grammar course. Luckily, we have almost 10 different JLPT N4 and N3 grammar lessons that explain this conjugation pattern's uses. Something to look forward to.

In a basic sense, it means "be VERB-ed." For example, we are putting the passive form into plain past tense (by replacing the final ~る with ~た) in the following sentence:

さかな が とり に たべられた。
The fish was eaten by a bird.
Literally: "fish + が + bird + に + was eaten."

食べる → 食べられる → 食べられた
たべる → たべられる → たべられた
to eat → to be eaten → was eaten

↑ が marks our subject, yeah? So the subject is 魚 (さかな // fish). The passive verb is 食べられた (たべられた // was eaten). Thus, 魚が食べられた (さかながたべられた) gives us: "The fish was eaten." The use of に after 鳥 (とり // bird) is something that we'll worry about in a future lesson.

Saying that the passive form always translates to "be VERB-ed," however, would be misleading. Also, it doesn’t exactly make sense to say something like "be slept," does it? So our translations are a bit confusing in the passive form chart above.

You might be wondering why we are using the pattern "have (someone) VERB" for some of the verbs in that chart. The reason is that one of the many uses of passive form is to describe an undesirable action that you had done to you.

For example, let's say that you and your significant other had big plans to eat a ton of popcorn and binge-watch your favorite new series on Netflix. Five minutes in, however, your significant other falls asleep on you! In Japanese, you could describe that as:

He/She fell asleep on me.
Literally: "(I) had (him/her) fall asleep (on me)."

寝る → 寝られる → 寝られた
ねる → ねられる → ねられた

Maybe that all sounds a bit confusing. Fear not, fellow student. This is one of the more complex JLPT N4 grammar points. Let's at least go through all of our JLPT N5 grammar before we start worrying about it.


Causative Form

↑ Similar to what happens with the passive form, the verb endings for the causative form are somewhat different for godan and ichidan verbs. With godan verbs, we add ~せる (-seru) to our verb stems after changing the final sound to an "-a" sound:

行く → 行か- → 行せる
いく → いか- → いかせる

飲む → 飲ま- → 飲せる
のむ → のま- → のませる

With ichidan verbs, however, we add ~させる to an unchanged verb stem:

食べる → 食べ- → 食べさせる
たべる → たべ- → たべさせる

The causative form is used when talking about making or letting someone do something. It's usually not too hard to guess which meaning is being used.

For example, if a mother was talking about her son and said:

たまに アイス たべさせる。
Literally: "sometimes + ice cream + make/let (him) eat."

…then it's not too hard to infer that she is saying "I sometimes let him eat ice cream."

But if she said:

くすり のませた から ないてる。
Literally: "medicine + made/let (him) drink + because + is crying."

…then it's not too hard to infer that she is saying "He's crying because I made him take his medicine."


Problems with our Cheat Sheet

I'd like to think that our conjugation cheat sheet is pretty sweet. It doesn't contain everything you need to know about conjugation, however.

One good example of this is the fact that certain verbs would rarely be used with the causative form.

Take the ichidan verb 起きる (おきる), for example, which means "to wake up; to get up."  When you want to say "to make/let (someone) wake up," you might be tempted to say:

△ 起きさせる
△ おきさせる

There are limited situations in which that would sound natural, however. Instead, you'd just use the verb 起こす (おこす // to wake [someone] up).  We'll talk about this more toward the end of Bunkai Beast, when we get to our lessons on transitive and intransitive verbs, and then even more once we get to our JLPT N4 and N3 lessons on the causative form.

Our cheat sheet also does not include the passive causative form, which is a combination of the causative and passive forms. This combination form has quite possibly the most difficult conjugation patterns you'll face in your Japanese studies, and it's a bit too complicated to try mashing them into our table. Instead, you can look forward to (or dread) a future JLPT N4 lesson on this conjugation type.

Agh! That was a lot of information, yeah?

Don't worry if you're not retaining all of it just yet.

At the moment, we're just trying to get a big-picture view of different Japanese verb conjugations.

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