Japanese Language and Culture

Volitional

Production Rules:

Rule Meaning
Plain Affirmative [お-stem]
[o-stem]
I/we will [do]; I/we intend to do; Let's [do]
Polite Affirmative [い-stem] + ましょう
[i-stem] + mashou
Plain Negative Ichidan:
[root] + まい
[root] + mai
Godan:
[う-stem] + まい
[u-stem] + mai
I will not [do]; I do not intend to [do]
Polite Negative [い-stem] + ますまい
[i-stem] + masumai

Inflection Examples:

Plain Affirmative Polite Affirmative Plain Negative Polite Negative
食べる
taberu (to eat)
食べよう
tabeyou
食べましょう
tabemashou
食べまい
tabemai
食べますまい
tabemasumai
話す
hanasu (to speak)
話そう
hanasou
話しましょう
hanashimashou
話すまい
hanasumai
話しますまい
hanashimasumai
歩く
aruku (to walk)
歩こう
arukou
歩きましょう
arukimashou
歩くまい
arukumai
歩きますまい
arukimasumai
泳ぐ
oyogu (to swim)
泳ごう
oyogou
泳ぎましょう
oyogimashou
泳ぐまい
oyogumai
泳ぎますまい
oyogimasumai
呼ぶ
yobu (to call)
呼ぼう
yobou
呼びましょう
yobimashou
呼ぶまい
yobumai
呼びますまい
yobimasumai
飲む
nomu (to drink)
飲もう
nomou
飲みましょう
nomimashou
飲むまい
nomumai
飲みますまい
nomimasumai
死ぬ
shinu (to die)
死のう
shinou
死にましょう
shinimashou
死ぬまい
shinumai
死にますまい
shinimasumai
作る
tsukuru (to make)
作ろう
tsukurou
作りましょう
tsukurimashou
作るまい
tsukurumai
作りますまい
tsukurimasumai
待つ
matsu (to wait)
待とう
matou
待ちましょう
machimashou
待つまい
matsumai
待ちますまい
machimasumai
洗う
arau (to wash)
洗おう
araou
洗いましょう
araimashou
洗うまい
araumai
洗いますまい
araimasumai

Irregulars:

Plain Affirmative Polite Affirmative Plain Negative Polite Negative
する
suru
(to do)
しよう
shiyou
しましょう
shimashou
するまい
surumai
しますまい
shimasumai
来る
kuru
(to come)
来よう
koyou
来ましょう
kimashou
くるまい
kurumai
来ますまい
kimasumai

Usage Notes & Examples:

  1. The plain affirmative of this form is used to indicate that the speaker intends to do something. Note that in a polite context this would be expressed using the polite form of the nonpast indicative. Strong desires or volitions are usually not expressed directly in a polite context, but are softened in a number of different ways.
    • お昼は? お寿司食べよう
      o-hiru wa? o-sushi tabeyou.
      Lunch? I'm going to eat sushi.
  2. The polite affirmative of this form expressed as a statement is used as an inclusive suggestion of the form usually expressed by "let's..." in English.
    • 映画に行きましょう
      eiga ni ikimashou.
      Let's go to the movies.
  3. Similar to above, the plain and polite affirmative expressed as a question is a softer form of the suggestion, similar to "shall we...?" in English.
    • お医者さんに聞こうか。
      o-isha-san ni kikou ka.
      Shall we ask the physician?
    • バスはあまり来ないのでタクシーで 行きましょうか。
      basu wa amari konai no de takushii de ikimashou ka.
      The bus doesn't come often so shall we go by taxi?
  4. The negative forms of the volitional are relatively rare. They can convey a very strong intention not to do something, or intention to not let something happen, and therefore there would often be some emotion involved in the situation. Thus, the place you will see this the most is in literary or dramatic contexts.
    • よし、この男にだけは負けるまい。
      yoshi, kono otoko ni dake wa makerumai.
      Alright, I absolutely will not lose to this guy at least.
  5. The negative is used in the pattern "[plain volitional] to [negative volitional] to ..." meaning regardless of whether or not the action of the verb takes place. There is some implied frustration, anger, impatience, etc. in this pattern: the speaker no longer cares whether the cited action occurs or not.
    • プロジェクトが成功しようと成功するまいと、彼は首にする。
      purojekuto ga seikou shiyou to seikou surumai to, kare wa kubi ni suru.
      Regardless of whether the project succeeds or not, I'm firing him.
  6. Although these volitional forms were once used presumptively (i.e. with a meaning of "probably [does]"), the use of what's called the volitional here is outmoded as a presumptive in modern Japanese. For that meaning, use the presumptive form and past presumptive form.
  7. There is a past tense of this form which, rather than being a volitional meaning, is an outmoded past presumptive (i.e. with a meaning of "probably [did]"). It can be formed by taking the past indicative form and adding -ろう (-rou) directly to it. For example, for 呼ぶ (yobu, to call), the conjugation would be 呼んだろう (yondarou), 呼びましたろう (yobimashitarou), 呼ばなかったろう (yobanakattarou), 呼びませんでしたろう (yobimasen deshitarou). While the form exists and you might run across it in drama or literature, it is not used in modern Japanese and you can basically just forget it.

Expressions

-ou to suru

-ou to shita

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