Take the T's One at a Time (Unit 6)

We've made it! The last section of our conjugation cheat sheet:

Unfortunately, the stem-change patterns we're looking at here are arguably the most complicated ones that we need to learn.


Let's start from the bottom, with...

 Irregular Verbs 

We're just going to have to memorize the changes for our Group III / Irregular verbs:

Te form:
する → して
来る (くる) → 来て (きて)

Ta form (i.e. plain past tense):
する → した
来る (くる) → 来た (きた)

Tara conditional form:
する → したら
来る (くる) → 来たら (きたら)

Rote memorization, eww.


 Ichidan Verbs 

There are no surprises for our ichidan verbs: The stem doesn't change at all.

So, for て-form (te form), we have:

食べる → 食べ- → 食べて
たべる → たべ- → たべて

寝る → 寝- → 寝て
ねる → ね- → ねて

た-form (ta form) is the same, except we're saying ~た instead of ~て:

食べる → 食べ- → 食べた
たべる → たべ- → たべた

寝る → 寝- → 寝た
ねる → ね- → ねた

We already talked about て-form a bit earlier in this course, yeah? It has a wide variety of uses. For example, it can be used when listing multiple actions:

たべて ねた。
I ate and then slept.
Literally: "eat (and) + slept."

↑ Did you see how た-form is used to describe a past action? For example, you could also say something like:

あさ なに たべた?
What did you eat this morning?
Literally: "morning + what + ate?"


きのう なんじ に ねた?
What time did you go to bed last night?
Literally: "yesterday + what time + に + slept?"

The たら-form (tara [conditional] form) can be made by sticking a ~ら onto our た-form conjugation (i.e. by sticking ~たら onto an unchanged verb stem):

食べる → 食べ- → 食べたら
たべる → たべ- → たべたら

寝る → 寝- → 寝たら
ねる → ね- → ねたら

There are a few different conditional forms in Japanese, and we'll spend quite a few lessons figuring out which ones to use in various situations in our JLPT N4 and N3 courses. For now, suffice it to say that ~たら is a verb ending for saying "if/when VERB-ed."

One of the simpler ways to start using ~たら right away is when describing actions that would/should/will be done after other actions. For example:

たべたら ねる。
I'll go to sleep after I eat.
Literally: "if/when (I) ate + sleep."

Or we could take the ichidan verb 起きる (おきる // to wake up; to get up), for example, and say:

おきたら でんわ する ね。
I'll call you when I wake up, OK?
Literally: "if/when (I) woke up + phone (call) + do + ね."

Hopefully all of this is making sense. If not, take comfort in the fact that there will be plenty of time to learn all of this in future lessons.


 Godan Verbs 

Now, the truly tricky part of て-form, た-form, and たら-form is godan verb conjugations.  There are four different patterns that can occur:

First, note that for verbs ending in ~す, the stem change is the same as when making ます-stems: The verb-ending kana changes from a "-u" sound to an "-i" sound. In other words, the final す becomes し, which is then followed by the verb ending:

押す → 押し- → 押して
おす → おし- → おして

押す → 押し- → 押した
おす → おし- → おした

押す → 押し- → 押したら
おす → おし- → おしたら

この ボタン を おしたら ドア が あきます。
If you press the button, the door will open.
Literally: "this + button + を + if/when (you) pushed + door + が + opens."

Second, note that for verbs ending in ~く or ~ぐ, we add い (i) to the end of the verb stem. Furthermore, for verbs ending in ~ぐ only, "t" sounds become "d" sounds, so ~て (-te), ~た (-ta), and ~たら (-tara) become ~で (-de), ~だ (-da), and ~だら (-dara).

書く → 書い- → 書いて
かく → かい- → かいて

書く → 書い- → 書いた
かく → かい- → かいた

書く → 書い- → 書いたら
かく → かい- → かいたら

脱ぐ → 脱い- → 脱いで
ぬぐ → ぬい- → ぬいで

脱ぐ → 脱い- → 脱いだ
ぬぐ → ぬい- → ぬいだ

脱ぐ → 脱い- → 脱いだら
ぬぐ → ぬい- → ぬいだら

なまえ を かいて ください。
Please write your name.
Literally: "name + を + write (and) + please."
Note: We'll talk more about ~てください in the next section of lectures.

くつ を ぬいだ。
I took off my shoes.
Literally: "shoes + を + took off."

I should mention, as I did in a previous lesson, that the verb 行く (いく) is irregular, so it does not conjugate like other ~く verbs for て-form, た-form, or たら-form. Instead, it follows the third pattern we're looking at...

Third, note that godan verbs ending in ~う, ~つ, and ~る, along with the verb 行く (いく), have a small っ added to the end of the verb stem before adding ~て, ~た, or ~たら. Examples:

買う → 買っ- → 買って
かう → かっ- → かって

買う → 買っ- → 買った
かう → かっ- → かった

買う → 買っ- → 買ったら
かう → かっ- → かったら

立つ → 立っ- → 立って
たつ → たっ- → たって

立つ → 立っ- → 立った
たつ → たっ- → たった

立つ → 立っ- → 立ったら
たつ → たっ- → たったら

座る → 座っ- → 座って
すわる → すわっ- → すわって

座る → 座っ- → 座った
すわる → すわっ- → すわった

座る → 座っ- → 座ったら
すわる → すわっ- → すわったら

行く → 行っ- → 行って
いく → いっ- → いって

行く → 行っ- → 行った
いく → いっ- → いった

行く → 行っ- → 行ったら
いく → いっ- → いったら

あたらしい パソコン かった。
I bought a new computer.
Literally: "new + PC (lit. "personal computer") + bought."

たって ください。
Please stand up.
Literally: "stand (and) + please."

Sit down.
Literally: "sit down (and)."

きのう どこ いった?
Where did you go yesterday?
Literally: "yesterday + where + went?"

Fourth and finally, note that for verbs ending in ~ぬ, ~ぶ, or ~む, we add ん (n) to the end of the verb stem. Furthermore, the final "t" sound becomes a "d" sound, so ~て (-te), ~た (-ta), and ~たら (-tara) become ~で (-de), ~だ (-da), and ~だら (-dara).

死ぬ → 死ん- → 死んで
しぬ → しん- → しんで

死ぬ → 死ん- → 死んだ
しぬ → しん- → しんだ

死ぬ → 死ん- → 死んだら
しぬ → しん- → しんだら

遊ぶ → 遊ん- → 遊んで
あそぶ → あそん- → あそんで

遊ぶ → 遊ん- → 遊んだ
あそぶ → あそん- → あそんだ

遊ぶ → 遊ん- → 遊んだら
あそぶ → あそん- → あそんだら

飲む → 飲ん- → 飲んで
のむ → のん- → のんで

飲む → 飲ん- → 飲んだ
のむ → のん- → のんだ

飲む → 飲ん- → 飲んだら
のむ → のん- → のんだら

Did it die? // Is he dead?
Literally: "died?"

こどもたち と あそんでた。
I was playing with the kids.
Literally: "children + と + was playing."
Note: Hopefully you remember our lesson on ~ていた…?

きのう ともだち と のんだ。
I drank with my friends yesterday.
Literally: "yesterday + friends + と + drank."
Note: Depending on the context, I might say "last night" in my translation instead of "yesterday."


Too many lists in this one, yeah? Sorry about that. It's a bit difficult to study conjugation patterns without using lists.

On the bright side, you've now seen pretty much all of the stem changes that occur for Japanese verbs. Score!

In the next section of the course, we'll take a closer look at some of the things we can say by using the various stem-change patterns/conjugations we've been looking at in this section.

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