Japanese Verb Classification
To study this grammar point, please make sure you understand the following:
A Japanese verb, with its stem mostly written in kanji, always has kana suffixes (called okurigana).
When the verb is in dictionary form (the form you can look up from a dictionary), its last kana is always in the う-column of the hiragana table.
Japanese verbs are generally classified into 2 main categories, namely う-verbs (u-verbs) and る-verbs (ru-verbs).
There are irregular verbs that do not belong to these categories, when the verbs are associated with する (meaning to do) and くる (meaning to come).
Like English, for example, goes is a modified form of go, Japanese verbs can be modified from their dictionary form.
It is very important to be able to distinguish between う-verbs and る-verbs, because they have different rules for their modified forms.
Learn this classification rule:
Japanese Verb Classification Rule
- Is the verb related to する or くる? (e.g. する, べんきょうする, 来る, もってくる)
- If yes, it is an irregular verb.
- Otherwise, look up the dictionary form of the verb, including its kanji stem.
- Is its last kana suffix る?
- If yes, its last suffix is る. Does it have a second-to-last kana suffix, and is it under い-column or え-column of the hiragana table?
- If yes, it is a る-verb, with some exceptions (which beginners can ignore).
- Otherwise, it is an う-verb, with some exceptions (and a few of them beginners should memorize. See Exceptions below).
If the rule seems long, here is an easy shortcut to identify most of the Japanese verbs:
If a verb in dictionary form does not end with る, then it must be an う-verb.
If it ends with る and has a second-to-last kana suffix under い or え-column, then it is most probably a る-verb.
Examples of る-verb
|起きる||おきる||/okiru/||to get up|
Examples of う-verb
Exceptions to the Categorization Rule
The following are る-verbs, even they do not have second-to-last kana suffix.
For advanced learners:
The followings are う-verbs, even they have their second-to-last kana suffixes under い-column or え-column of the hiragana table. You don’t have to worry about them unless you are an advanced learner.