Japanese grammar

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日本語 文法 ("Japanese grammar")

The grammar of the Japanese language has the following characteristic properties:

Of the modern languages, the grammar is most similar to the Korean language , although both languages ​​are very different in vocabulary . As a result, linguists disagree as to whether or not both languages ​​belong in a family.

The Japanese language is classified as an SOP language, but this classification is not entirely accurate. The predicate is always last, but not every Japanese sentence has a subject. Often the topic expresses where a subject would be in a German sentence and the subject particle ga marks an object in some constructions. Since topic, subject and object are clearly marked by particles, their order can also be changed.

Example sentences in this article are mostly in their basic form, i.e. in an informal style.

Text components

Sentence structure

Text ( 文章 bunshō ) consists of sentences, ( bun ), which in turn are divided into clauses ( 文 節 bunsetsu ). In the typeface , the Japanese used similar to Chinese and Classical Korean , no spaces . Instead, a demarcation is created by alternating between meaningful words in Chinese characters and katakana on the one hand and attached grammatical elements in hiragana on the other. If the meaningful elements are also in Hiragana, the reader must recognize the underlying grammatical structures and then subdivide the sentence.

In the following examples, the parts of the sentence are separated from each other by vertical bars. Text in small caps indicates the grammatical function of the respective particles:

太陽 が | 東 の | 空 に | 昇 る。
taiyō ga | higashi no | sora ni | noboru
Sun subject | East possessive | Sky locative | rise up. predicate
The sun rises in the sky of the east.

When transcribing in Latin script, there are several ways to delimit sentence components. The first is to only put spaces between clauses.

taiyōga higashino sorani noboru.

The second is to separate meaningful and grammatical components with hyphens:

taiyō-ga higashi-no sora-ni noboru.

The usual procedure, however, is to interpret meaningful components and particles as individual words ( 単 語 tango ) and separate them with spaces, as above.

taiyō ga higashi no sora ni noboru.

Only auxiliary verbs that have been ground down to such an extent that they can no longer be recognized as such, such as the ending of the perfect aspect - -ta , are not regarded as separate words and are therefore not separated from the verb.

The predicate

In Japanese sentences, the predicate is always at the end of the sentence. Four different types of words can be used as predicates: Verbs and i-adjectives can form the predicate alone, nouns and na-adjectives require a copula (for an explanation of the parts of speech see below):

predicate example
stand-alone verb 父 は 本 を 買 う。 Chichi wa hon o kau. ("The father is buying a book.")
stand-alone i-adjective 本 は 高 い。 Hon wa takai. ("The book is expensive.")
Noun + copula there 母 は 先生 だ。 Haha wa sensei there. ("The mother is a teacher.")
na-adjective + copula there 学生 は 親切 だ。 Gakusei wa shinsetsu da. ("The student is friendly.")

Since Japanese is an agglutinating language , tense (time), aspect , mode , diathesis (active / passive) and negation (negation) are formed by adding suffixes and auxiliary verbs to the predicate. The verb is not changed by other sentence components, in contrast to inflected languages (“go” - “I go”).

Agglutinating languages ​​are very regular due to their systematic structure, in contrast to inflected languages, which often have a large number of irregular verbs . The only irregular verbs in Japanese are す る suru (to do) and 来 る kuru (to come).

Conjunctions and subordinate clauses

There are two ways to insert a subordinate clause into a Japanese sentence. In the first method, a conjunction is added to the predicate of the subordinate clause .

今日 は | 寒 い か ら | 手袋 を は め る。
kyō wa | samui kara | tebukuro o hameru.
today | cold because | Put on gloves. (literally translated)
Today I'm putting on gloves because it's cold.

The main difference between a sentence and a subordinate clause is that a topic cannot be placed in the subordinate clause, i.e. no can appear in it. The kyō wa from the above sentence therefore does not belong to the subordinate clause, but to the main clause.

母 が | 作 る 料理 は | 世界 で | 一番 だ。
haha ga | tsukuru ryōri wa | sekai de | ichiban da.
Mother SUBJECT | made food THEME | World on | Number one. (literally translated)
The food my mother cooks is the best in the world.

Parts of speech

Japanese distinguishes between the following parts of speech.

自立 語
( jiritsugo )
itself. Full words
活 用語
( katsuyōgo )
inflectable words
動詞 ( dōshi )
形容詞 ( keiyōshi )
Qualitativa, " i-adjectives "
形容 動詞 ( keiyōdōshi )
verbal qualitatives, " na-adjectives "
非 活 用語
( hikatsuyōgo )
unflexible words
名詞 ( meishi )
代名詞 ( daimeishi )
数詞 ( sūshi )
副詞 ( fukushi )
連体 詞 ( rentaishi )
接 続 詞 ( setsuzokushi )
感動 詞 ( kandōshi )
附属 語
( fuzokugo )
dependent auxiliary words
inflectable words
助動詞 ( jodōshi )
Verbal suffixes
unflexible words
助詞 ( joshi )
Post positions

Verbs and qualitatives (i- and na-adjectives) are also referred to together as yōgen ( 用 言 ), nouns, demonstratives and numeralia together also as taigen ( 体 言 ). In some representations, the term taigen even summarizes all non-inflectable, independent full words. The terminology is not completely fixed: there are slight differences between German textbooks as well as between Japanese. The classification given above can be found in Hashimoto Shinkichi : kokugohōyōsetsu (German floor plan of the [Japanese] national language), 1934.


In Japanese, all parts of speech except verbs and adjectives are immutable. But it is possible to attach z. B. Particles or prefixes to express grammatical functions; see below for more information.


The Japanese noun is not declined , as it is in German . Gender and number are not marked, the case is expressed exclusively by adding case particles . There is no article in the Japanese language.

To express the honorific (polite form) a noun can be preceded by honorific prefixes .


Unlike, for example, in European languages, there are no grammatical pronouns in Japanese. However, there are nouns that appear exclusively or predominantly in place of the missing pronouns. It should be noted, however, that Japanese is a so-called pro-drop language . This means that pronouns are only used if the statement would otherwise not be apparent from the context.


Japanese has no plural marking in our sense and therefore does not differentiate between countable and uncountable nouns . hito can mean a single person, any number of people or people in general; a more precise distinction can only be made through an additional description or the context. If it is necessary to determine the amount more precisely , this must be done by additional determinations in the sentence, for example takusan (沢 山) = "many".

A small number of nouns have collective forms in which the word is doubled. 人 々 ( hitobito ) can be rendered quite aptly as “crowd”, 山 々 yamayama turns “mountain” into “mountain”. In contrast to the German plural, which starts with the number two, these forms denote an indefinite, coherent larger amount.

There are also four suffixes that can be used to express the plural in people: -tachi (more polite: -gata , informal: -ra , pejorative : -domo )

singular Plural
kodomo = child kodomo- tachi = (the) children
sensei = teacher sensei -gata = (the) teachers
kare = he kare -ra = she (Mz. male)
oni = demon oni -domo = the demons


see also: Particle (Japanese)

In order to identify the function of nouns in a sentence, they are followed by particles.

Bullet particles

The most important bullet points are to for a complete list, ya for an incomplete list and ka with the meaning "or". This category also includes な ど nado , which is appended to the last link of an incomplete list with the meaning “for example” or “and so on”.

Case particles and post positions

The case particles and postpositions take on the tasks of cases and prepositions in European languages. They follow the noun directly.

wa (otherwise the character stands for the syllable ha ) Sentence subject; already known subject
ga Subject in the subordinate clause
Subject not mentioned before
no Possessive (genitive)
Subject of an attributive sentence (alternative to ga )
ni Specification of the recipient
Indication of the agent in the passive and verbs of receiving ( from whom? )
Specification of the movement goal ( where to? ) (Partly alternative to e )
Place ( where? ) (For some verbs)
Specification of a point in time
o (otherwise the character stands for the syllable where ) Accusative object
de Place ( where? ) (For most verbs)
Instrumental (with what? )
Statement of the reason ( why? )
to Comitive ( with whom? )
e (otherwise the character stands for the syllable he ) Indication of the direction of movement ( where to? )
か ら kara Specification of the starting point ( from when / where? )
ま で made Specification of the destination ( until when / where to? )
よ り yori Specification of the comparison partner

Modal particles

The modal particles follow the case particles / postpositions. The case particles wa and o are often omitted, ga rarely.

wa identifies the topic or serves as a contrast.

mo means "also".


Inflection and conjugation

In Japanese, four parts of speech are inflected: verbs, auxiliary verbs, i-adjectives and na-adjectives. When flexing, the trunk remains unchanged, only the ending changes. The grammatical form formed is then determined by the auxiliary verb, the copula or the particle that is added to the conjugated verb. Number , gender, or person are not marked in Japanese.

The classic Japanese has six Konjugationsstufen. When switching to modern Japanese, two of them collapsed (Shūshikei and Rentaikei), while additional forms (Shikōkei, e.g. 読 も う yomou and Onbinkei, e.g. 読 ん で yonde ) were formed by shifting sounds . Depending on the author, Japanese grammar therefore has six or seven levels of conjugation. The numbering used below corresponds to Japanese school grammar. Since there is no standardized German translation of the Japanese terms, they are listed here under the Japanese name.

  1. Mizenkei ( 未然 形 ), "indefinite form", dependent verb connection form; serves to connect Jodōshi, especially the negation -nai
  2. Shikōkei ( 志向 形 ) "intentional form", to connect the Jodōshi u . (This form is sometimes classified under the Mizenkei for historical reasons. The Shikōkei is sometimes also called Onbinkei, which leads to confusion with the Onbinkei of the Ren'yōkei, e.g. yonde .)
  3. Ren'yōkei ( 連用 形 ), "conjunctive form"; can appear independently as an intermediate predicate; serves to connect Jodōshi, especially -masu
    Onbinkei ( 音 便 形 ), "loop form"; for connecting Joshi and Jodōshi such as te , ta and tari . (This form is sometimes classified under the Ren'yōkei for historical reasons.)
  4. Shūshikei ( 終止 形 ), "final form"; forms the final predicate as an independent form, also known as “basic form” ( 基本 kihonkei ) or “dictionary form” ( 辞書 形 jishokei )
  5. Rentaikei ( 連体形 ), "Attributivform" is, for nominalisation, for a more detailed determination of nouns and for the formation of relative clauses used
  6. Cateikei ( 仮 定形 ), “hypothetical form”, dependent connection form, is used to form the conditional, by connecting the Joshi -ba
  7. Meireikei ( 命令 形 ), "imperative form", forms the imperative ; only verbs have a Meireikei, adjectives it is through the auxiliary verbs suru or naru formed
Mizenkei Shikōkei Ren'yōkei Shūshikei
Rentaikei *
Cateikei Meireikei
未然 形 志向 形 連用 形 終止 形
連 体形
仮 定形 命令 形
translation Indefinite form Intentional form Conjunctive form Final form
attributive form
Hypothetical shape Imperative form
Use (example)
Negation (for verbs)
な い + nai
Will expression
+ u
Verb, adjective or auxiliary verb follows
ま す masu
End of sentence
+ ba
five-stage verb 書 か な い
ka kanai
書 こ う
ka kou
書 き ま す
ka kimasu
書 く
ka ku
書 け ば
ka keba
書 け
ka ke
five-stage verb ending in -u 使 わ な い
tsuka w anai
使 お う
tsuka ou
使 い ま す
tsuka imasu
使 う
tsuka u
使 え ば
tsuka eba
使 え
tsuka e
single-stage verb in -iru 見 な い
mi nai
見 よ う
mi you
見 ま す
mi masu
見 る
mi ru
見 れ ば
mi reba
見 ろ
mi ro
single-stage verb in -eru 食 べ な い
tabe nai
食 べ よ う
tabe you
食 べ ま す
tabe masu
食 べ る
tabe ru
食 べ れ ば
tabe reba
食 べ ろ
tabe ro
i adjective - 安 か ろ う
yasu karou
安 く
yasu ku naru
安 い
yasu i
安 け れ ば
yasu kereba
安 か れ
yasu kare
na adjective - 静 か だ ろ う
shizuka darou
静 か で
shizuka de kirei
静 か に
shizuka ni naru
静 か だ
shizuka da / na
静 か な ら ば
shizuka naraba
静 か な れ
shizuka nare
+ ( ) れ る
+ (ra) reru
+ ( ) せ る
+ (sa) seru
causative passive
( せ ら ) れ る
+ sa (sera) reru
Expression of will
た い + tai
Te form *
+ te
(perfect) conditional
た ら + tara
そ う + sō
Potential form
+ ru
ど も + domo
  • Te form: also "participle" or "gerund"


The Mizenkei ( Japanese 未然 形 ) occurs in verbs ( 動詞 , dōshi ) and adjectives ( 形容詞 , keiyōshi ). In Japanese school grammar, it is listed first of the six conjugation forms. Five-stage verbs in Mizenkei end in -a .

Mizen ( 未然 ) literally means “not yet occurred”. Mizenkei is therefore translated as "indefinite form" in some works. The form got its name because in classical Japanese the auxiliary verbs for negation -zu and expression of will or assumption -mu were added to the mizenkei .

In modern Japanese it is used to connect negation -nai , passive - (ra) reru and causative - (sa) seru .

With the mizenkei in -a , the form of the will expression with + u was also formed in classical Japanese , but -au has changed to -ou due to a sound shift , which is why this form is an independent form in modern Japanese, Shikōkei, in German "intentional form" to be led.


The Ren'yōkei ( Japanese 連用 形 ) occurs in verbs ( 動詞 , dōshi ) and adjectives ( 形容詞 , keiyōshi ). In Japanese school grammar, it is listed second out of the six conjugation forms. Five-stage verbs in Ren'yōkei end in -i .

Ren'yō ( 連用 ) literally means "used to connect".

A number of suffixes are attached to the stem in the Renyōkei , which themselves were originally verbs or adjectives.

connection verb translation
Shūshikei / basic form nomu ( 飲 む ) drink
+ yasui easy to nomiyasui ( み や す い ) goes down your throat well
+ sugiru to do too much nomisugiru ( み す ぎ る ) drink too much or drink too much
+ masu Courtesy form nomimasu ( み ま す ) = drink
+ tai Expression of will nomitai ( み た い ) want to drink
+ nikui difficult to nominikui ( み に く い ) difficult to drink (because half frozen, ...)
+ tsurai unbearable too nomizurai ( み づ ら い ) unbearable to drink (because bitter, ...)

The Renyōkei is also used to connect the suffixes -te , -ta and -tara , but a sound shift has taken place here, so that these forms differ from the standard. For details see Te form .


For Renyōkei ( 連用 形 ) there is an Onbinkei variant ( Japanese 音 便 形 ), which was created by sound shifting ( Onbin ( 音 便 ) means sound shifting in Japanese ). Some Japanese grammar books therefore do not use the onbinkei as a separate form, but as a second form of the Renyōkei. Onbinkei appeared in the written language only after 1945 as a result of the replacement of classic Japanese by modern Japanese.

The onbinkei functions in verbs of five-stage verbal inflection (cf. five-stage verb) before verbal suffixes and postpositions that start with t (te, ta, tara, tari). In some of these forms, nigorization occurs, ie a change from the initial, hard t to the soft d in direct connection with the onbinkei. All possible forms are compiled in the following table with the help of example words. The ending is exemplarily ta, nigorized to da in some forms.

Verb ending Example word translation Verb stem Onbinkei to Renyōkei
ku kiku ( 聞 く ) Listen ki- kiita ( 聞 い た )
gu oyogu ( 泳 ぐ ) swim oyo- oyoida ( 泳 い だ )
see below osu ( 押 す ) to press O- oshita ( 押 し た )
tsu tatsu ( 立 つ ) stand ta- tatta ( 立 っ た )
nu shinu ( 死 ぬ ) to die shi- shinda ( 死 ん だ )
bu tobu ( 飛 ぶ ) to fly to- tonda ( 飛 ん だ )
must yomu ( 読 む ) read yo- yonda ( 読 ん だ )
ru toru ( 取 る ) to take to- totta ( 取 っ た )
u iu ( 言 う ) say i- itta ( 言 っ た )

The only irregular verb is iku ( 行 く , to go). From this the onbinkei with the exemplary ending ta is also itta ( 行 っ た ).

To form the other forms, only the ending ta has to be replaced by te, tara or tari, taking the nigorisation into account. For example, yomu has the following forms: yonde ( 読 ん で ), yondara ( 読 ん だ ら ), yondari ( 読 ん だ り ) and for kiku the forms: kiite ( 聞 い て ), kiitara ( 聞 い た ら ), kiitari ( ) た た た た .


The Shūshikei ( Japanese 終止 形 ) occurs in verbs ( 動詞 , dōshi ) and adjectives ( 形容詞 , keiyōshi ). In Japanese school grammar, it is listed third out of the six conjugation forms. The Shūshikei forms the final predicate of a sentence as an independent form. Therefore, the Shūshikei is the form in which Japanese verbs and adjectives are listed in dictionaries, which is why it is also known as the dictionary form.

In contemporary Japanese, all verbs in Shūshikei end in -u, i-adjectives end in -i, na-adjectives are connected with the copula da .

Furthermore, in the contemporary language, in contrast to classical Japanese, the Shūshikei coincided with the Rentaikei.


Rentaikei ( Japanese 連 体形 ) occurs in verbs ( 動詞 , dōshi ) and adjectives ( 形容詞 , keiyōshi ). In Japanese school grammar, it is listed fourth out of the six conjugation forms. Rentaikei is used when a participle is used as an attribute , i.e. in relative clauses .

In modern Japanese (after 1945) the formation of Rentaikei corresponds to Shūshikei, i.e. the dictionary form. The only exception are the na-adjectives where the copula because by na is replaced.


町 は 静 か だ machi wa shizuka da. (Shushikei)
The city is calm.
静 か な 町 shizuka na machi. (Rentaikei)
a quiet city


The cateikei ( Japanese 仮 定形 ) is mainly used to form a conditional and a potential form . It occurs with verbs ( 動詞 , dōshi ) and adjectives ( 形容詞 , keiyōshi ). In Japanese school grammar, it is listed in fifth position of the six conjugation forms. Five-level verbs in the cateikei end in -e .

Katei ( 仮 定 ) literally means hypothesis or conjecture. Cateikei is therefore translated as “hypothetical form” in some works. The form got its name because it is used together with the conditional particle ba .

With the particle ru , the cateikei forms the potential form (“can”).

With the particle domo , the cateikei forms a less common concessive (“although”).

In old Japanese and in classical Japanese, the use of the particle ba with this shape still had the meaning of a provisional, so that it is referred to as izenkei ( 已然 形 , realisform ). The name stands in contrast to the Mizenkei (also irrealisform) with which ba realized the conditionalis.


The Meireikei ( Japanese 命令 形 ) is literally the form of command . This conjugation level occurs only with verbs ( 動詞 , dōshi ).

In Japanese school grammar, it is listed last of the six conjugation forms.

Five-stage verbs in Meireikei end in -e , vowel verbs are followed by -ro or -yo .

With the irregular forms, suru becomes shiro or seyo (upscale, ancient), and kuru becomes koi .

Historically, i and na adjectives also had Meireikei forms, but these are no longer used in modern Japanese. Instead, to form the form suru “do” for na adjectives and naru “are” for i adjectives are used as auxiliary verbs. From shizuka na ( 静かな ) "quiet" is shizuka ni shiro ( 静かにしろ off), "Be quiet," yoi ( 良い is "good") yoku nare ( 良くなれ ) "Be good."


Single-stage verbs

Single-stage verbs, also called vowel verbs (Japanese 一段 動詞 ichidandōshi or 母音 語 幹 動詞 boin gokan dōshi ), end in -eru or -iru . However, there are some verbs, such as kaeru or hairu , that look like they end in -eru or -iru , but are actually five-stage verbs ending in -ru . The verbs on -iru are also referred to as "upper one-step" ( 上 一段 kami ichidan), those on -eru as "lower one-step" ( 下 一段 shimo ichidan).

Single-stage verbs got their name because the -ru is omitted in the conjugation and the ending is added directly or with a connective syllable. The root of the word ends in i or e, hence the term "vocal verbs".

The verb miru ( 見 る ), in English “to see”, is intended to clarify the situation. The word stem and connective syllable on one side and the attached suffix are separated in the table by a period (·). In mire · ba, for example, mi is the root of the word, re is a syllable that marks the conjugation stage cateikei and ba is the suffix of the conditional .

Conjugation form example
Mizenkei · な い mi · nai
Renyōkei · ま す mi · masu
Shushikei 見 る miru
Cateikei 見 れ · mire · ba
Meireikei 見 ろ miro
Shikōkei 見 よ · miyo u

Five-stage verbs

Five-level verbs, also called consonant verbs (Japanese 五 段 動詞 godan dōshi or 子音 語 幹 動詞 shiin gokan dōshi ), end in the basic form (or the shūshikei) on one of the syllables -u , -ku , -gu , -su , -tsu , -nu , -bu , -mu or -ru .

With the ending -ru , however, the classification is not clear: the single-stage or vowel verbs only have the endings -eru or -iru , but there are also verbs that end in -eru or -iru and still have five stages .

In the conjugation of five-level verbs, the final syllable changes after the line in the 50-sound table : depending on the form , -ku can become -ka , -ki , -ke or -ko . These five different levels gave the five-level verbs their name. Because the last letter of the unchanged word stem is a consonant in the spelling with Latin letters (in the example the k), they are also called consonantic verbs.

The verb kaku ( 書 く ), in German "to write", should serve to clarify:

Conjugation form vocal example
Mizenkei a 書 か · な い kaka · nai
Renyōkei i 書 き · ま す kaki · masu
Shushikei u 書 く kaku
Cateikei e 書 け · kake · ba
Meireikei e 書 け kake
Shikōkei O 書 こ · kako u

There is an irregularity in the verbs with the ending -u that arose from historical sound changes. With them that changes in the Mizenkei -u to a -wa , iu ( "talk") is therefore in the negation to i wa nai .

The five-stage verbs form four different Te forms through sound shifts : Verbs that end in -su have not undergone any shift and regularly connect the te to the Renyōkei. The shifted shapes can be seen in the following table.

Final syllable Te shape example meaning
see below し て shite 消 す kesu 消 し て keshite Clear
u っ て tte 買 う chew 買 っ て katte to buy
tsu っ て tte 打 つ utsu 打 っ て utte beat
ru っ て tte 知 る shiru 知 っ て shitte knowledge
bu ん で nde 遊 ぶ asobu 遊 ん で asonde play
mu ん で nde 住 む sumu 住 ん で sunde dwell
nu ん で nde 死 ぬ shinu 死 ん で shinde to die
ku い て ite 書 く kaku 書 い て kaite write
gu い で ide 泳 ぐ oyogu 泳 い で oyoide swim
irregular 行 く iku 行 っ て itte go

Irregular verbs

As an agglutinating language, the Japanese language has few irregular verbs . The existing ones are listed in this article. This regularity is in part due to language reforms in 1900 and 1946, which smoothed out some irregularities.

The two verbs usually used as irregular verbs in Japanese are suru ( す る , tun) and kuru ( 来 る , come). In Japanese grammars there is an sa and a ka conjugation, the only elements of which are then suru and kuru .

There are also minor irregularities in the verb nasaru , which is an example of four verbs from the polite language , nasaru , kudasaru , irassharu and ossharu . They have the same conjugation that differs from other five-stage verbs.

Conjugation stages
verb す る suru 来 る kuru な さ る nasaru
translation to do come do ( Sonkeigo )
Mizenkei sa
ko な さ ら nasara
Renyōkei shi ki な さ い nasai
す る suru 来 る kuru な さ る nasaru
Cateikei す れ sure 来 れ kure な さ れ nasars
Meireikei し ろ shiro
せ よ seyo
せ い sei
来 い koi な さ い nasai
Forms formed with the conjugation stages
shape Conjugation stage す る suru 来 る kuru な さ る nasaru
to do come do ( Sonkeigo )
negation Mizenkei し な い shinai 来 な い konai な さ ら な い nasaranai
Masu form Renyōkei し ま す shimasu 来 ま す kimasu な さ い ま す nasaimasu
Te shape Renyōkei し て shite 来 て kite な さ っ て nasaturated
Potential form Cateikei 出来 る dekiru (!) 来 ら れ る korareru な さ れ る nasareru
Intentional form Shikōkei し よ う shiyō 来 よ う koyō な さ ろ う nasarō

Suru verbs

Suru verbs are formed by adding the verb suru (to do) to a Sino-Japanese compound . This type of word formation is very productive and, especially in the written language , the majority of verbs are suru verbs. The counterpart to this are the Japanese verbs, i.e. the verbs in the Kun reading of a character . For many Japanese verbs there are synonymous Suru verbs, which stylistically mostly sound a bit more formal, similar to the Latin loan words in German. (Compare, for example, “participate” with “participate”.)

Examples of suru verbs
verb Suru verb Pure Japanese verb
learn 勉強 す る benkyō suru 習 う narau
to order 注 文 す る chūmon suru 頼 む tanomu
enter 乗車 す る jōsha suru 乗 る noru

The conjugation of the suru verbs corresponds to the verb suru , see also the irregular verbs.

The suru verbs have their origin from the construction XY を す る XY o suru , "XY to do". Frequently used expressions of this kind became idiomatic and the object particle o could be omitted. Whether a certain compound forms a suru verb or has to be used with the object particle is a matter of feeling for language. In case of doubt, a dictionary will help. Due to the vast number of compounds, it is not possible to create a representative list here. With benkyō suru, for example, “to study”, both are possible, including the variant 勉強 を す る benkyō o suru . If the suru-verb is in connection with an accusative object, no further object particles are inserted between the compound and suru , e.g. B. 日本 学 を 勉強 す る nihongaku o benkyō suru ( Eng . "Study Japanese studies").

Suru verbs with a single kanji

Related to the Suru verbs are verbs that consist of only one Kanji in the On reading and the endings -suru , -zuru or -jiru . In the variants auf zuru , the syllable su has become voiced by rendaku . Verbs in jiru are an older form of Suru verbs and are regularly conjugated as one-step verbs.

In contrast to the suru verbs made from compound words, there are only a few characters in which a verb of the three above categories exists. In most cases, these are verbs for which there is no pure Japanese verb ( Kun reading ).

With the exception of shinjiru and kanjiru , which are also used colloquially, all of these verbs are more formal and written.

verb Jiru verb
believe 信 じ る shinjiru
feel 感 じ る kanjiru
knowledge 存 じ る zonjiru ( Kenjōgo , 謙 譲 語)
exist 存 す る sonsuru *
throw 投 じ る tōjiru *
see 観 じ る kanjiru * or 観 ず る kanzuru *
give a lecture 講 じ る kōjiru *
have 有 す る yūsuru
put under house arrest 幽 す る yūsuru *
suppress 圧 す る atsusuru
agree 同 ず る dōzuru * or 同 じ る dōjiru
getting nervous 動 ず る dōzuru * or 動 じ る dōjiru

Verbs marked with an asterisk (*) are written.

Transitive and intransitive verbs

The Japanese language makes a very clear distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs . Almost all verbs that express an action appear in transitive-intransitive pairs. According to a more or less fixed scheme, changing the final syllables from a transitive verb can be converted into an intransitive verb and vice versa.

Intransitive verbs (vi) have no direct object, they just make a statement about the state or action of the subject. Transitive verbs (vt), on the other hand, require a direct object, since they describe the influence of the subject on an object. An example from German is the couple “wake up” (vi) - “wake up” (vt) . The corresponding pair in Japanese is 起 き る okiru - 起 こ す okosu . As in the example, the Japanese verb pairs are written with the same Kanji , but differ in the Okurigana , i.e. the attached characters in syllabary. The linguistic term for this type of relationship between clauses is rection .

Couples (selection)

The following table gives examples. Many of the verbs listed have other meanings in addition to the one given and can sometimes be written with alternative characters.

Intransitive verb Transitive verb
leave 出 る deru 出 す dasu issue
flee 逃 げ る nigeru 逃 す nigasu let escape
dissolve 溶 け る tokeru 溶 か す tokasu dissolve
wilt 枯 れ る kareru 枯 ら す karasu let it wither
improve 増 え る for u 増 や す fuyasu increase
to cool off 冷 え る hereu 冷 や す hiyasu cool
to grow 生 え る haeru 生 や す hayasu let grow / cultivate
wake up 起 き る okiru 起 こ す okosu wake
get out 降 り る oriru 降 ろ す orosu unload
fall 落 ち る ochiru 落 す otosu drop
pass (time) 過 ぎ る sugiru 過 ご す sugosu to spend time)
become less 減 る heru 減 ら す herasu reduce
Cook 沸 く waku 沸 か す wakasu bring to a boil
dry (yourself) 乾 く kawaku 乾 か す kawakasu dry (a little)
rejoice 喜 ぶ yorokobu 喜 ば す yorokobasu make a pleasure
open 開 く acu 開 け る akeru to open
to reach 届 く todoku 届 け る todokeru deliver
grow up 育 つ sodatsu 育 て る sodateru raise / educate
stand 立 つ tatsu 立 て る tateru put up
enter 乗 る noru 乗 せ る noseru take on board
approach 寄 る yoru 寄 せ る yoseru get closer
to return 返 る kaeru 返 す kaesu return
go through 通 る tōru 通 す tōsu let through
turn around 回 る mawaru 回 す mawasu rotate
to be repaired 直 る naoru 直 す naosu repair
cross 渡 る wataru 渡 す watasu carried over
separate 離 れ る hanareru 離 す hanasu separate
dissolve 外 れ る hazureru 外 す hazusu to replace sth
fall over 倒 れ る taoreru 倒 す taosu upset
to collapse 潰 れ る tsubureru 潰 す tsubusu smashed
get dirty 汚 れ る yogoreru 汚 す yogosu get dirty
appear 現 れ る arawareru 現 す arawasu bring out
coincide 崩 れ る kuzureru 崩 す kuzusu tear down
break down 壊 れ る kowareru 壊 す kowasu break something
climb 上 が る agaru 上 げ る ageru raise
to be decided 決 ま る kimaru 決 め る kimeru decide on
close 閉 ま る shimaru 閉 め る shimeru conclude
gather 集 ま る atsumaru 集 め る atsumeru collect
kick off 始 ま る hajimaru 始 め る hajimeru kick off
increase 高 ま る takamaru 高 め る takameru increase
get low 低 ま る hikumaru 低 め る hikumeru make low
harden 固 ま る katamaru 固 め る katameru harden
being found 見 付 か る mitsukaru 見 付 け る mitsukeru Find
color 染 ま る somaru 染 め る someru to color sth
hang 掛 か る kakaru 掛 け る kakeru hanging
to be saved 助 か る tasukaru 助 け る tasukeru save
change 変 わ る kawaru 変 え る kaeru to change
Be in circulation 伝 わ る tsutawaru 伝 え る tsutaeru circulate
be equipped 備 わ る sonawaru 備 え る sonaeru equip
to join 加 わ る kuwawaru 加 え る kuwaeru Add
burn 焼 け る yakeru 焼 く yaku throw in fire
sell yourself 売 れ る ureru 売 る uru to sell
go off 取 れ る toreru 取 る toru to take
tear 切 れ る kireru 切 る kiru to cut
tear 破 れ る yabureru 破 る yaburu tear
break 折 れ る oreru 折 る oru break
break 割 れ る wareru 割 る waru divide
come out 抜 け る nukeru 抜 く nuku pull out
dissolve 解 け る t o keru 解 く toku dissolve
lose (clothes) 脱 げ る nugeru 脱 ぐ nugu take off (clothes)
being visible 見 え る mieru 見 る miru see
be audible 聞 こ え る kikoeru 聞 く kiku Listen
go out 消 え る kieru 消 す kesu Clear
enter 入 る hairu 入 れ る ireru insert
split 分 か れ る wakareru 分 け る wakeru columns
end up 終 わ る owaru 終 え る終 わ る oeru / owaru break up
become な る naru す る suru to do
Progressive form

An important difference between transitive and intransitive verbs can be seen in the course form , which is formed in Japanese with te + iru .

In transitive verbs it expresses an action, in intransitive verbs a state:

ド ア を 開 け て い るdoa o akete iru ( vt , action)
I'm opening (man opening) the door.
ド ア が 開 い て い るdoa ga aite iru ( vi , state)
The door is open.

In standard German there is no progressive form, in contrast to some dialects. In the Rhenish form , the translation of the first sentence would be "I am opening the door."


Japanese has two forms of adjectives :

  • Inflected adjectives ( keiyōshi 形容詞 or i-keiyōshi ), which are mostly of old Japanese origin and in the dictionary form (finite and adnominal present tense) end in -i.
  • Non-reflective nominal adjectives ( keiyōdōshi 形容 動詞 or na-keiyōshi ), which are mostly of other languages ​​(especially Chinese or English) and are nominally with the particle na (more rarely also no ), adverbial with the particle ni . Nominal adjectives largely behave like nouns and must therefore be verbalized like these as a predicate with a copula such as da or desu .

Keiyōshi ("i-adjectives")

Japanese German
chiisai kodomo the little child
kodomo wa chiisai the child is small

Keiyōdōshi ("na adjectives")

Japanese German
kirei na hon the beautiful book
hon wa kirei da the book is beautiful

However, in everyday use, the two i-adjectives chiisai (小 さ い) and ōkii (大 き い) are often used as if they were keiyōdōshi. So “chiisana hon” (the little book) and “ōkina hon” (the big book).

I adjectives

The term i-adjectives (Japanese 形容詞 keiyōshi ) is derived from the basic form, here all i-adjectives end in -i .

First a table of the conjugation levels using the example of takai ( 高 い , "high"). The point (·) is used to separate the root word with the ending of the conjugation stage from an appended suffix .

Conjugation form example
Mizenkei 高 か ろ takakaro
Renyōkei 高 く takaku
Shushikei 高 い takai
Cateikei 高 け れ · ば takakere · ba
Adverbial 高 く takaku
Nouning 高 さ takasa
Masu form 高 い · で す takai desu
Te shape 高 く · て takaku · te
Perfect 高 か · っ た takaka · tta

The conjugation of the i-adjectives differs in some respects from that of the five-stage and one-stage verbs. In particular, some forms are not formed directly, but using auxiliary verbs.

  • The negation with -nai is not attached to the Mizenkei, but to the Renyōkei. From takai so takakunai .
  • Adjectives do not form their own Meireikei (imperative), the form still present in classical Japanese is omitted in modern Japanese. Instead, the auxiliary verb naru (to be) is attached to the Renyōkei in the Meireikei: takaku nare means “grow bigger!”.
  • The Masu form formed in the verbs with the Renyōkei is instead formed with Shūshikei and desu .
  • The Te form and perfect (with -ta ) derived from Renyōkei have experienced a sound shift .
  • The nouns are only used in the i-adjectives. The example takasa means “height”.
  • The adjectives chiisai and ōkii , with chiisana and ōkina, are the only ones that still have an independent Rentaikei belonging to the part of speech called Rentaishi (連体 詞).

The Shii adjectives form a special group within the i-adjectives. In classical Japanese these were conjugated differently and therefore formed a separate group, but in modern Japanese their conjugation coincided with the i-adjectives. They are therefore no longer treated separately in grammar, but differ in terms of nuances of meaning. While the other i-adjectives mostly describe objective properties of an object, shii-adjectives tend to have the meaning of feelings.

Shii adjectives

Shii adjectives are a special group of adjectives in the Japanese language. The name comes from the fact that all of these adjectives end in the syllables -shii (- し い ). Grammatically they are used like normal i-adjectives, the peculiarity lies in the meaning.

  • They express a sensation, either a feeling or a sensory impression such as temperature or taste.
  • They are subjective and I-related.

First an example: The adjective suzushii ( 涼 し い ) does not simply mean “cool”, but rather “I feel refreshed.” Sabishii ( 寂 し い ) stands in the dictionary as “lonely”, but the word is used to express: “I feel lonely . ”Since the word“ I ”is usually left out in Japanese (a so-called ellipse ) and the i-adjectives can also be used as a predicate , a word like sabishii already forms a complete sentence.

In the German language, there is no word-to-word equivalent for these words, as German adjectives tend to express an objective state. For subjective sensations you use sentences like "I feel ..." or "I feel ...".

In Japanese, on the other hand, you have to use paraphrases when you want to express that someone else has a certain sensation. The ending -garu ( が る ) is used for this (the second i is omitted). Akiko wa sabishigaru ( 明子 は 寂 し が る ) would therefore be “Akiko feels lonely” or “Akiko is lonely”. A second possibility is formation with - (- そ う ), which means "it seems that ...". Example: The Japanese like to say oishii to show that they like something. oishii expresses a sensation, in this case the taste, and therefore refers to what is currently in your mouth. If the food just comes to the table, one uses instead oishisō , which means "That looks delicious from ". If you do not use these descriptions when talking about another person, you are expressing that you fully identify with that person's situation.

If the adjective is used attributive, it is expressed that something triggers a subjective feeling. A sabishii tokoro is a lonely place that makes you feel anxious .

The Shii adjectives are mainly used in women's language. Japanese men are less likely to express themselves emotionally. Example: oishii , "delicious", is more associated with the female language. umai ( 旨 い ) also means delicious, but comes from the male language. The word umai also means “clever, well done” and should be understood more as praise to the chef than as an expression of emotion.


Some, but not all, of the adjectives are derived from a verb. The ending - shii is added to the a-stage of the verb. Example: nozomu ( 望 む ), "wish, hope" → nozomashii ( 望 ま し い ), "desirable".

From some of the words also exist adverbial - forms that take on shii - on shige na end.

Derived verbs that end in - shimu mean: "create this feeling", example: tanoshii , "happy" → tanoshimu , "sb. cheer".


atarashii ( 新 し い ), "new", has lost its emotional meaning and simply means "new".

Japanese adjective reading corresponds to German adjective literal translation
怪 し い ayashii doubtful, suspicious "That seems strange to me"
羨 ま し い urayamashii enviable "I envy (him / her ...)"
嬉 し い ureshii happy "I could jump in the air for joy"
美味 し い oishii delicious "That tastes delicious" (what I'm eating right now)
可笑 し い okashii ridiculous, laughable
惜 し い oshii Too bad "I'm sorry"
悲 し い kanashii Sad "I feel sad"
厳 し い kibishii harsh, strict
香 ば し い koubashii - describes a smoky, aromatic taste
寂 し い sabishii lonely
騒 が し い sawagashii noisy "This noise gets on my mind"
清 々 し い sugasugashii - describes the feeling when you are in untouched nature
素 晴 ら し い subarashii wonderful, great "I am impressed"
涼 し い suzushii cool
楽 し い tanoshii Happy "I'm happy"
憎 ら し い nikurashii hateful
望 ま し い nozomashii desirable
馬鹿 馬鹿 し い bakabakashii absurd, ridiculous "That seems completely absurd to me"
激 し い hageshii strong, violent "I think that's pretty intense"
恥 ず か し い hazukashii shy / shameful "I'm too scared" / "I get red from it"
欲 し い hoshii desired "I want that"
貧 し い mazushii poor
珍 し い mezurashii out of the ordinary
優 し い yasashii gently
(Noun) + ら し い -rashii - "Sounds like" / "looks like" (noun)

Na adjectives

The term na-adjectives ( Japanese 形容 動詞 keiyōdōshi or ナ 形容詞 na-keiyōshi ) is derived from the conjugation stage Rentaikei, in which the Keiyōdōshi have the ending na . The other group of adjectives in the Japanese language are the i-adjectives.

While the i-adjectives are all of old Japanese origin, the na-adjectives also contain many loan words from Chinese.

In the following, the conjugation will be illustrated using the example of shizuka na ( 静 か な , "calm"). The na adjectives have a fixed root word, in the example shizuka , to which the changeable part, an ending or a copula , is appended depending on the interpretation . In Latin transcription there is a space between the stem and the ending / copula .

Conjugation form example
Mizenkei 静 か だ ろ shizuka daro
Renyōkei 静 か で shizuka de
Shushikei 静 か だ shizuka there
Rentaikei 静 か な shizuka na
Cateikei 静 か な ら · ば shizuka nara ba
Adverbial 静 か に shizuka ni
Masu form 静 か で す shizuka desu
Te shape 静 か で shizuka de
Perfect 静 か だ っ た shizuka datta

The conjugation of the na adjectives differs in some points from that of the five-stage and one-stage verbs. In particular, some forms are not formed directly, but rather using auxiliary verbs.

  • The negation with -nai is not connected to the Mizenkei, but to the Renyōkei with the particle wa ( ). From shizukana so shizuka dewanai ( 静かではない ). Often, however, dewanai is shortened to janai ( じ ゃ な い ).
  • Only the na adjectives have a separate adverbial form: the particle ni is attached to the stem
  • Adjectives do not form a Meireikei (imperative) of their own, the form still present in classical Japanese is omitted in modern Japanese. Instead, the adverbial form with ni ( ) and the auxiliary verb suru (to do) or naru are added in the Meireikei: shizuka ni shiro means "be calm", shizuka ni nare "become calm".
  • The Te form is the same as the Renyōkei
  • The Masu form formed in the verbs with the Renyōkei is instead formed with the root word and desu ; a shortening of de arimasu .
  • The perfect is formed with stem + datta .

Personal pronouns

Strictly speaking, historical Japanese has no personal pronouns at all . Even today it is customary to speak of yourself by your own name or your position towards the person you are speaking to. In the same way, you can use the name of the person you are speaking to in a sentence.

There are a number of expressions for self-designation derived from “self” or “personal”. One of these words is watakushi ( ; literally "private"), which represents the highest level of courtesy in modern Japanese for "I" and has a number of increasingly informal abbreviations ( watashi ; atashi ; ashi , etc.). Boku ( ) and ore ( ) are other more informal words that mean “I” and are used exclusively by men, plus dialectal expressions.

Wherever the personal pronoun is necessary in German to denote who it is about, in Japanese it is rather omitted and from the “direction” of the action expressed by auxiliary verbs (“upwards” = towards the listener; “downwards” = towards the speaker out), as well as inferred from the general context who it is actually about. What is listed as a personal pronoun in Japanese textbooks has completely different uses in everyday Japanese. With kare ( , polite kareshi 彼氏 ) and kanojo 彼女 the friend or the girlfriend is sometimes meant. So if someone is single you ask with “ kare / kanojo ga imasu ka? "(" Does a boyfriend / girlfriend exist? ")

anata あ な た is the only word used in current Japanese with the meaning “you” that can be used as “you” in neutral contexts. It comes from an address of the same name by women for their husbands. Addressing unknown adults directly with anata is possible, but this would not be considered polite enough to people of higher rank . It should also be mentioned in this context that former very polite you-words have often become impolite in the history of the language. Examples are:

  • kimi (master, ruler), now an expression for "you" in the male language
  • omae お 前 (honorable counterpart) formerly you, now “hey you!” (exclamation, rude) or in a familiar context a simple “you” (also male language)
  • kisama 貴 様 (honorable, highly esteemed lord ) is extremely offensive in today's usage.

See also: Gender Differences in Spoken Japanese .

Grammatical categories not available

Some grammatical categories do not exist in Japanese. There are no articles for the parts of speech . Nouns have no grammatical gender , a plural is only available in exceptional cases , first, second and third person and declension are omitted.


  • Taka Bluhme-Kojima, Johannes Fröhlich: Basic grammar of contemporary Japanese . Japan special series. Japaninfo Verlag, Ulm 2001, ISBN 3-924468-26-5 .
  • Seiichi Makino and Michio Tsutsui: A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar. Tokyo: The Japan Times Ltd., 1986 ISBN 4-7890-0454-6
  • Jens Rickmeyer : Japanese Morphosyntax. Julius Groos Verlag, Heidelberg, 1995, ISBN 3-87276-718-6

Web links