There are 2 main kinds of verbs in Japanese: u verbs and ru verbs. Both of these verb types have plain speech forms and masu forms. The masu forms are more polite.
The root of a verb is the pre-u or pre-ru form. The stem of a verb is the pre-masu form. For an ru verb, the root and the stem forms are the same.
For example, nomu is a u verb; it means ‘drink.’ Nomimasu is the masu form of nomu. The root of nomu is nom. The stem of nomu is nomi.
Taberu is an ru verb; it means ‘eat.’ Tabemasu is the masu form of taberu. The root of taberu is tabe. The stem of taberu is also tabe.
Nomu and taberu are plain speech verbs. Their masu forms are nomimasu and tabemasu.
U and ru verbs are often used as adjectives. For example, watashi ga taberu pan = ‘the bread I eat.’ Anata ga nonda biiru = ‘the beer that you drank.’
Desu (meaning ‘it is’) is a copula, or linking verb. It is neither a u verb, nor an ru verb. Its plain speech
form is da.
There are 2 main kinds of adjectives in Japanese: i (pronounced ‘ee’) adjectives and na adjectives. I adjectives end in ‘i’ and modify a noun directly. For example, oishii = ‘delicious.’ Oishii pan = ‘delicious bread.’
To make the stem of an i adjective remove the final ‘i.’ For example, the stem of oishii is oishi.
Na adjectives are followed by na when they are used to modify a noun. For example, shizuka = ‘quiet.’ Shizuka na heya = ‘a quiet room.’
You may use desu after an i adjective. However, you may not use da after an i adjective. Oishii desu (meaning, 'it's delicious') is OK. Oishii da is not OK. Using plain speech, you may simply say oishii
by itself, if you mean 'it's delicious.'
You may use either desu or da after a na adjective. For example, kono heya wa shizuka desu = kono heya wa shizuka da = ‘as for this room, it’s quiet.’
Pasupooto o misete kudasai.
(‘Please show the passport.’)
O, sometimes written as wo, is used to show that the preceding term is a direct object. For example, hon o kau = hon o kaimasu = ‘I will buy a book’ or ‘I buy a book’ (or books).
Misete is the te form of miseru = ‘show.’ Since the te or de form of a verb sometimes adds the meaning ‘ing,’ misete can sometimes be translated as ‘showing.’ Verbs ending in ru, tsu, ku, su and u have te forms. Verbs ending in mu, nu, gu and bu have de forms. Verbs also have past forms. The past tense of plain speech verbs ends in ta or da. For example, the plain speech past form of miseru is miseta = ‘showed.’ The past tense of masu verbs ends in mashita. For example, the past form of misemasu is misemashita = 'showed.'
Kudasai = ‘please.’ Kudasai is often preceded by the te or de form of a verb. For example, hon o katte kudasai = ‘please buy the book.’ (Kau = ‘buy’; katte is the te form of kau.) Kudasaiis the imperative form of kudasaru, a humble verb meaning ‘to honorably give to me or to someone in my in-group.’ For example, sensei ga hon o kudasaru = ‘the teacher honorably gives (or will give) a book to me’ (or to someone in my in-group).
Maikeru Uebbu san desu ne.
(‘It’s Michael Webb, huh.’)
San is an honorific term used after another person’s name.
Kankoo desu ka shigoto desu ka.
(‘Is it sightseeing? Is it work?’)
Ka is used to indicate a question.
Kankoo ja arimasen.
(‘It isn’t sightseeing.’)
Ja is the short form of dewa, which forms the first part of the phrase dewa arimasen = ja arimasen = ‘something is not something else.’ For example hon dewa arimasen = hon ja arimasen = ‘it isn't a book.’
Arimasu is the masu form of the plain speech verb aru = ‘exist’ (used for inanimate things, including plants). Arimasen is the negative form of arimasu. The masu form of u verbs is formed by adding ‘imasu’ to the root (the pre-u form). For example, nomu = nomimasu = ‘drink.’
You may be surprised to learn that aru is a u verb, not an ru verb. There are a number of u verbs that end in ru, including aru (‘exist’). What these verbs have in common is that you ‘double the t’ when making the te or ta forms. In this case, aru = ‘exist.’ Atte = ‘existing.’ Atta = ‘existed.’
Ru verbs always end with iru or eru. The masu formof ru verbs is formed by replacing ‘ru’ with ‘masu.’ With ru verbs, you do not 'double the t’ when making the te or ta forms. For example, taberu = tabemasu = ‘eat.’ Tabete = ‘eating.’ Tabeta = ‘ate.’
There are three irregular verbs: Suru = shimasu = ‘do.’ Shite = ‘doing.’ Shita = ‘did.’
Kuru = kimasu = ‘come.’ Kite = ‘coming.’ Kita = ‘came.’
Iku= ikimasu = ‘go.’ Itte = ‘going.’ Itta = ‘went.’
To change a masu verb (whether u verb, ru verb or irregular verb) to a negative form, change the ‘u’ at the end to ‘en.’ For example, nomimasu = ‘I drink’or ‘I will drink.’ Nomimasen = ‘I don’t drink ’ or ‘I won’t drink.’
Kore wa nan desu ka.
(‘As for this, what is it?’)
Kore = ‘this,’ sore = ‘that,’ are = ‘that over there.’
Wa is used to show the topic, as opposed to the subject, of a sentence. Ga is used to show the subject. In this key sentence, the subject is the silent pronoun ‘it,’ and ga does not appear. This sentence is an example of sentence pattern A: it begins with a noun or pronoun followed by wa (indicating a topic) and then goes on to ask a question about, or make a comment on, this topic. For example, kono mise wa ookii desu = ‘as for this store, it's big.’
Nan = nani= ‘what.’ Nan is the shorter form of this pronoun. Use nan, rather than nani, before the verb desu.
Ja, nan desu ka.
(‘Well, what is it?’)
Ja can also mean ‘well.’
Hai。Ii desu yo.(‘Yes. It’s good for sure.’)
Ii is an i adjective meaning ‘good.’
Yo is used for emphasis. It can be roughly translated as ‘for sure.’
Dore desu ka.(‘Which is it?’)
Dore = ‘which.’
Hon o misete kudasaimasen ka.
(‘Won’t you show the book and give?’)
The te or de form of a verb can add the meaning ‘and’ to a verb. For example, tabete ikimasu =
“I (or ‘someone,’ since the subject is often not specified in Japanese sentences) will eat and go.”
Kudasaimasu is the ‘masu’ form of kudasaru = ‘honorably give to me or someone in my in-group.’ Kudasaimasen is the negative form of kudasaimasu. Kudasaimasenka means ‘won’t you ... and honorably give?’ or ‘won’t you do it for me?’
(‘Yes, I understood.’)
To make the past form of a masu verb, change ‘masu’ to ‘mashita.’ For example, taberu = tabemasu = ‘I eat’ (or ‘I will eat’). Tabemashita = ‘I ate’; the plain speech form is tabeta. Nomu = nomimasu = ‘I drink’ (or ‘I will drink’). Nomimashita = ‘I drank’; the plain speech form is nonda.
Da = desu = ‘it is.’ To make the past form of desu, say deshita. To make the past form of da, say datta.
In order to make your speech more friendly, you can ‘soften’ the word nai, as well as i adjectives and plain speech verbs, by adding ‘n’ or ‘no’ to them. If you soften a word by using ‘n,’ you must follow it with the copula ‘desu’ or ‘da’ (or by their negative equivalents ‘ja arimasen’ or ‘jai nai’; or by kamoshiremasen = kamoshirenai = ‘it might be’) You can only soften plain speech verbs, not ‘masu’ verbs.
For example, nai = nai desu = nain desu = nai no = ‘it doesn’t exist.’ Oishii = oishii desu = oishiin desu = oishii no = ‘it’s delicious.’ Ikimasu = iku = ikun desu = iku no = ‘I will go.’
When asking questions, you can soften the word desu by putting no in front of it. For example, nai no desu ka = ‘is there nothing?’ Oishii no desu ka = ‘is it delicious?’
You can use nowith a rising intonation to suggest a question and soften the sentence at the same time. For example, iku no = ‘will you go?’ Oishii no = ‘is it delicious?’ Nai no = ‘is there nothing?’
You can soften nouns and na adjectives by adding nan to them. For example, kuruma desu = kuruma nan desu = ‘it’s a car.’ Shizuka desu = shizuka nan desu = ‘it’s quiet.’
Ga can mean ‘but.’ For example, ikimasu ga, sugu kaerimasu = ‘I will go, but I will soon return.’
(‘Thank you for what you did.’)
Gozaimashita is the past form of gozaimasu = ‘to
exist humbly’ (or ‘honorably,’ depending on the
Doo itashimashite = ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘it’s nothing.’
Sumimasen ga, moo ichido namae o kaite kudasaimasenka.
(‘Excuse me, but one more time, won’t you write the name and honorably give?’)
Moo = ‘another,’ ‘more,’ or ‘again’; moo can also mean ‘already.’
Do means ‘times.’ Ichido = ‘one time’; nido = ‘two times,’ etc.