Japanese Language and Culture

Past Presumptive

Production Rules:

Rule Meaning
Plain Affirmative [た-stem] & だろう
[ta-stem] & darou
X probably [did], X probably has/had [done]
Polite Affirmative [た-stem] & でしょう
[ta-stem] & deshou
Plain Negative [あ-stem] + なかった & だろう
[a-stem] + nakatta & darou
X probably didn't [do], X probably hasn't/hadn't [done]
Polite Negative [あ-stem] + なかった & でしょう
[a-stem] + nakatta & deshou

Note that the presumptive is formed by simply adding だろう (darou) for the plain case or でしょう (deshou) for the polite case to the plain forms of the past indicative.

Inflection Examples:

Plain Affirmative Polite Affirmative Plain Negative Polite Negative
食べる
taberu
(to eat)
食べただろう
tabeta darou
食べたでしょう
tabeta deshou
食べなかっただろう
tabenakatta darou
食べなかったでしょう
tabenakatta deshou
話す
hanasu
(to speak)
話しただろう
hanashita darou
話したでしょう
hanashita deshou
話さなかっただろう
hanasanakatta darou
話さなかったでしょう
hanasanakatta deshou
歩く
aruku
(to walk)
歩いただろう
aruita darou
歩いたでしょう
aruita deshou
歩かなかっただろう
arukanakatta darou
歩かなかったでしょう
arukanakatta deshou
泳ぐ
oyogu
(to swim)
泳いだだろう
oyoida darou
泳いだでしょう
oyoida deshou
泳がなかっただろう
oyoganakatta darou
泳がなかったでしょう
oyoganakatta deshou
呼ぶ
yobu
(to call)
呼んだだろう
yonda darou
呼んだでしょう
yonda deshou
呼ばなかっただろう
yobanakatta darou
呼ばなかったでしょう
yobanakatta deshou
飲む
nomu
(to drink)
飲んだだろう
nonda darou
飲んだでしょう
nonda deshou
飲まなかっただろう
nomanakatta darou
飲まなかったでしょう
nomanakatta deshou
死ぬ
shinu
(to die)
死んだだろう
shinda darou
死んだでしょう
shinda deshou
死ななかっただろう
shinanakatta darou
死ななかったでしょう
shinanakatta deshou
作る
tsukuru
(to make)
作っただろう
tsukutta darou
作ったでしょう
tsukutta deshou
作らなかっただろう
tsukuranakatta darou
作らなかったでしょう
tsukuranakatta deshou
待つ
matsu
(to wait)
待っただろう
matta darou
待ったでしょう
matta deshou
待たなかっただろう
matanakatta darou
待たなかったでしょう
matanakatta deshou
洗う
arau
(to wash)
洗っただろう
aratta darou
洗ったでしょう
aratta deshou
洗わなかっただろう
arawanakatta darou
洗わなかったでしょう
arawanakatta deshou

Irregulars:

Plain Affirmative Polite Affirmative Plain Negative Polite Negative
する
suru
(to do)
しただろう
shita darou
したでしょう
shita deshou
しなかっただろう
shinakatta darou
しなかったでしょう
shinakatta deshou
来る
kuru
(to come)
来ただろう
kita darou
来たでしょう
kita deshou
来なかっただろう
konakatta darou
来なかったでしょう
konakatta deshou

Usage Notes & Examples:

  1. This form is used to express some doubt or conjecture on the part of the speaker, similar to interjecting "probably" in English. Without combining it with another form like the progressive, the meaning is similar to the past indicative, expressing a conjecture about action that may have already taken place or a state that may have existed. In Japanese one doesn't speak of someone else's presumptive actions (desires, etc.) with any certainty, so among other ways, this form can be used to add the necessary uncertainty.
    • 三週間前送って、いままでにそこに 届いただろう
      san shuukan mae okutte, ima made ni soko ni todoita darou.
      I sent it three weeks ago and it's probably gotten there by now.
    • 一時間以上遅れたので、彼は待たなかっただろう
      ichi jikan ijou okureta no de, kare wa matanakatta darou.
      We're over an hour late so he might not have waited.
  2. This form is also used to solicit agreement or soften the tone of a statement by using a conjectural question.
  3. The plain forms using だろう (darou) can sound somewhat abrupt or assertive, even when talking to equals. You may want to use the polite forms even in friendly contexts. It is acceptable to use the plain forms when talking to yourself, or to people you would otherwise be on informal terms with about impersonal third-party subjects. Of course, this is all a matter of degree. An all-male group of friends, or a superior speaking to an inferior would not be likely to use the polite forms.

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