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Goin’ Japanesque!

Basics of Japanese: Top 15 Verbs

Knowing a few verbs in Japanese can suddenly open many conversation possibilities to you. When you speak Japanese, you rarely mention the subject or topic of the sentence because it’s usually obvious from context. Although this might seem like it’d be confusing, from a speaking stand-point it’s very convenient. From a learning stand-point, it means less work for you as a new Japanese speaker! Saying “tabemasu,” for instance, can mean “I eat” but also “you/he/she/they/sensei/the dog/etc eats” as well. It will vary by context.

These 15 verbs are some of the most important ones to know. They represent very basic actions that you likely do every single day, multiple times a day, or they help you to express important pieces of conversation. For instance, in Japan a good conversation starter is to talk about the weather. But how do you say it’s raining or snowing? Read on to find out!

And, as you’ll remember from Lesson 10, particles are important. As such, we’ve divided these verbs up based on the particle they most often use.

 

Verbs that often use Wo

The main particle for these verbs is を or wo (pronounced the same as ‘o’). The vast majority of verbs are verbs that use this particle to show the relationship between the verb and the main noun (known as the ‘direct object’) of the sentence.

Eat

たべます / tabemasu

  • すし を たべます / sushi wo tabemasu
    • I eat sushi

Drink

のみます / nomimasu

  • みず を のみます / mizu wo nomimasu
    • I drink water

Do or Play (a game)

します / shimasu

  • しゅくだい を します / shukudai wo shimasu
    • I do my homework
  • サッカー を します / sakkaa wo shimasu
    • I play soccer

Read

よみます / yomimasu

  • ほん を よみます / hon wo yomimasu
    • I read books

Write

かきます / kakimasu

  • なまえ を かきます / namae wo kakimasu
    • I write my name

Speak

はなします / hanashimasu

  • えいご を はなします / eigo wo hanashimasu
    • I speak English

Study

べんきょうします / benkyou shimasu

  •  にほんご を べんきょうします / nihongo wo benkyou shimasu
    • I study Japanese

Leave

でます / demasu

  • いえ を でます / ie wo demasu
    • I leave the house

 

Verbs that often use Ni

These verbs mainly use the particle に (ni). They use ni to show that the verb is an action that has a direction of doing something toward a location.

Enter

はいります / hairimasu

  • いえ に はいります / ie ni hairimasu
    • I enter the house

Go

いきます / ikimasu

  • がっこう に いきます / gakkou ni ikimasu
    • I go to school

Come

きます / kimasu

  • にほん に きます / nihon ni kimasu
    • He will come to Japan

Meet

あいます / aimasu

  • ともだち に あいます / tomodachi ni aimasu
    • I meet my friend

 

Verbs that often use Ga

These verbs all use the particle が (ga). These verbs are considered “static” verbs because they’re more describing a certain state of being (state of existing, being owned, or falling from the sky) so they use ga instead of wo.

Exist/Have (for inanimate objects like plants or chairs)

あります / arimasu

  • いす が あります / isu ga arimasu
    • There is (exists) a chair
  • おかね が あります / okane ga arimasu
    • I have the money

Exist/Have (for animate objects like dogs or people)

います / imasu

  • さんにん の おんな が います / sannin no onna ga imasu
    • There are (exists) three women
  • かれし が います / kareshi ga imasu
    • I have a boyfriend

Fall (for rain or snow)

ふります / furimasu

  • あめ が ふります / ame ga furimasu
    • It rains
  • ゆき が ふります / yuki ga furimasu
    • It snows

 

Want to know more?

Can you think of other important verbs that should be added to this list? Is there a particular verb you’ve always wanted to know how to say in Japanese but haven’t quite figured it out? Ask in our forums and we’ll give you your answers!

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Katrina

About the author

Katrina has worked as a Japanese language teacher and freelance translator for several years. She loves traveling and has been all over Japan. Click here --> Free Japanese Lessons Practical Japanese Lessons

View all articles by Katrina
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