Japanese Language and Culture

Verb Expressions

Verb Expressions and Compound Verbs Constructed Using the い-stem (Under Construction)

What I call the "i-stem" in these pages is often called the "masu-stem" in many sources. It's Japanese name is 連用形 (ren'youkei). Attaching "masu" endings is only one of its uses. Most compound verbs are made by attaching another verb to the i-stem. Such verbs must be learned case by case, but there are also many productive attachments that work with almost any verb.

Note: In case you did not read the overview, note that the "i-stem" does not end in "i" for an ichidan verb ending in "-eru". For instance, the "i-stem" or ren'youkei of "taberu" is "tabe".

Noun Form

This is not a productive rule, but a pattern which happens to occur with many different verbs allowing the formation of a noun in a similar fashion to the -ing ending in English. Check with a dictionary for individual cases of verbs which can form nouns using this pattern.

Rule [い-stem]
Meaning [noun form]

始め (hajime) beginning, from 始める (hajimeru) to begin
騒ぎ (sawagi) uproar, commotion, from 騒ぐ (sawagu) to make a disturbance

Occasionally in nouns formed from this pattern, the okurigana is left off when writing the noun:
話 (hanashi) story, talk, from 話す (hanasu) to speak
係 (kakari) official, person in charge, from 係る (kakaru) to concern, to involve


Rule [い-stem]
Meaning [do] and

Forms a continuative similar to, but more literary-sounding than the te-form. The interpreted tense of the continuative is relative to the main verb which completes the sentence.

o-tegami wo yomi, sugu ni henji wo kakimashita.
I read your letter and immediately wrote a reply.

"Easy to do"

Rule [い-stem] + やすい
[i-stem] + yasui
Meaning easy to [do]

Note that "yasui" as an adjective by itself means "cheap" not "easy" as in "easy to do something". For the latter meaning, the correct adjective is "yasashii".

"Unable/reluctant to do" / "might happen"

Rule [い-stem] + かねる
[i-stem] + kaneru
Meaning unable/reluctant to [do]

This is a frequently misused expression, even by native speakers. The reason is that it has the negative connotation of inability or reluctance already built in, so when negated it flips back to a positive meaning again. Still, it will often be negated where the speaker meant the original sense. It's similar to how English speakers say "I could care less" when they mean "I couldn't care less".

In the negative [i-stem] + kanenai it means that there is a danger or possibility that the adverse situation expressed by the verb may come to pass.

See this JeKai entry for a discussion of this expression.

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