Japanese Language and Culture

Nonpast Indicative

Production Rules:

Rule Meaning
Plain Affirmative [う-stem]
[u-stem]
X [does],
X will [do]
Polite Affirmative [い-stem] + ます
[i-stem] + masu
Plain Negative [あ-stem] + ない
[a-stem] + nai
X doesn't [do],
X will not [do]
Polite Negative [い-stem] + ません
[i-stem] + masen

Inflection Examples:

Plain Affirmative Polite Affirmative Plain Negative Polite Negative
食べる
taberu
(to eat)
食べる
taberu
食べます
tabemasu
食べない
tabenai
食べません
tabemasen
話す
hanasu
(to speak)
話す
hanasu
話します
hanashimasu
話さない
hanasanai
話しません
hanashimasen
歩く
aruku
(to walk)
歩く
aruku
歩きます
arukimasu
歩かない
arukanai
歩きません
arukimasen
泳ぐ
oyogu
(to swim)
泳ぐ
oyogu
泳ぎます
oyogimasu
泳がない
oyoganai
泳ぎません
oyogimasen
呼ぶ
yobu
(to call)
呼ぶ
yobu
呼びます
yobimasu
呼ばない
yobanai
呼びません
yobimasen
飲む
nomu
(to drink)
飲む
nomu
飲みます
nomimasu
飲まない
nomanai
飲みません
nomimasen
死ぬ
shinu
(to die)
死ぬ
shinu
死にます
shinimasu
死なない
shinanai
死にません
shinimasen
作る
tsukuru
(to make)
作る
tsukuru
作ります
tsukurimasu
作らない
tsukuranai
作りません
tsukurimasen
待つ
matsu
(to wait)
待つ
matsu
待ちます
machimasu
待たない
matanai
待ちません
machimasen
洗う
arau
(to wash)
洗う
arau
洗います
araimasu
洗わない
arawanai
洗いません
araimasen

Irregulars:

Plain Affirmative Polite Affirmative Plain Negative Polite Negative
する
suru
(to do)
する
suru
します
shimasu
しない
shinai
しません
shimasen
来る
kuru
(to come)
来る
kuru
来ます
kimasu
来ない
konai
来ません
kimasen

Usage Notes & Examples:

  1. The plain affirmative of this inflection is what you will find listed in dictionaries, and accordingly it is often called the "dictionary form." In almost all conjugation methods, the plain affirmative is where you start applying the rules, and as such, it is also considered the "infinitive."
  2. This form is used to express habitual action, and in general can be used where the present indicative tense is used in Engish.
    • 毎朝味噌汁を食べる
      maiasa miso shiru wo taberu.
      I eat miso soup every morning.
    • あまり車を洗わないからいつも汚い。
      amari kuruma wo arawanai kara itsumo kitanai.
      I don't wash the car much so it's always dirty.
    • バスをどこで待ちますか。
      basu wo doko de machimasu ka?
      Where do you wait for the bus?
    • 好きじゃない本を読みません
      suki ja nai hon wo yomimasen.
      I don't read books I don't like.
  3. This form is used to express future action, and in general can be used where the future tense is used in English. Japanese is a highly contextual language, and context will generally determine that it's the future that's being talked about (e.g., when you are talking with your friend about tomorrow's plans), assuming it matters. It can be made clearer with adverbs or adverbial phrases (e.g. "ashita," "raishuu," etc.) if need be.
    • 明日から学校が始まる
      ashita kara gakkou ga hajimaru.
      Starting tomorrow school will begin.
    • お金が全然ないから、デパートで何も買わない
      okane ga zenzen nai kara, depaato de nanimo kawanai.
      Because I have absolutely no money, I won't buy anything at the department store.
    • いつ日本に行きますか。
      itsu nihon ni ikimasu ka?
      When will you go to Japan?
    • ワインを飲みませんか。
      wain wo nomimasen ka?
      Won't you have (drink) some wine?
  4. As in the last example above, the negative of this tense is often used to make an invitation or offer. It can be translated literally ("won't you...?") or into the affirmative question ("will you...?") in English.
    • 今夜私といっしょに晩ご飯を食べない
      kon'ya watashi to issho ni bangohan wo tabenai?
      Won't you (will you) have dinner with me tonight?
    • 金曜日の晩、私の所に来ませんか。
      kin'youbi no ban, watashi no tokoro ni kimasen ka?
      Won't you come to my place on Friday night?
  5. Placing the plain affirmative or negative of this form before a noun or noun phrase creates a relative clause. In English, a relative clause is usually set apart by who, that, which, etc., but in Japanese there is no connecting word. Instead, Japanese has a simple rule that modifiers come before the things they modify.
    • 毎日公園を歩くおじいさん
      mainichi kouen wo aruku ojiisan
      old man who walks in the park everyday
    • 服を洗う機械
      fuku wo arau kikai
      machine that washes the clothes
    • 寿司を食べないアメリカ人
      sushi wo tabenai amerikajin
      americans who don't eat sushi [or, depending on context, "the american who doesn't eat sushi"]
    • 動かない
      ugokanai kuruma
      car that doesn't move
    • 大学入試を受ける学生
      daigakunyuushi wo ukeru gakusei
      students who will take college entrance exams
  6. Be sure to draw the distinction between habitual and progressive action. Continuing actions which are expressed by a form of "to be" plus "‑ing" (e.g. "I am eating now.") in English are expressed similarly by the progressive form in Japanese. See the section on the progressive for more information.
  7. Some verbs in Japanese express a momentary change of state, so when they are used to express a state that is the result of that change, they require the progressive form. The grammatical name for these is "punctual" verbs. The verb 知る (shiru - to know) is a key example. In English, we would say "I know him". In Japanese, however, you would not say *"彼を知る" (*"kare wo shiru"). Rather, the verb expresses the change of state from not knowing to knowing, so to express that the state continues into the present one would say "彼を知っている" ("kare wo shitte iru"). This latter form is explained in the section on progressives. You will become aware of which verbs require this form to sound natural on a case by case basis.

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