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Learning Japanese Verb Endings

Learning Japanese Verb Endings has been transcribed from Steve’s YouTube channel.  The original video was published on March 12, 2018


Hi there, Steve Kaufmann here. Today I want to talk about Japanese verbs and Japanese verb endings, but first I want to make a confession.


I do these videos based on stuff that kind of crosses my mind for whatever reason. I do them without an awful lot of planning because I find that when it comes to languages and language learning and talking about languages spontaneity, randomness is somehow more effective than too much systemization. So I have no terms to describe Japanese verbs.


The reason I am on this subject of Japanese verbs is that in a video that I made quite a while ago about Japanese I said there are no verb endings to worry about in Japanese and someone commented and said there are. And, of course, when I think about it that person is right. What I meant was that I have never consulted Japanese verb tables the way I have consulted verb tables for Spanish, Portuguese, even Russian and so forth because the verbs don’t change for a person. I shouldn’t say that. There are not as many different possible endings as, for example, in the case of say Russian pronouns and adjectives.


Steve Kaufmann


There’s not that tremendous variety of endings, so how do Japanese verbs work and why is it that I never really looked upon them as having the same verb ending problems as these other languages. Mostly, I just got used to Japanese because in Japanese not only for verbs, but for adjectives and for nouns stuff happens at the end that determines the function of that word.


Kaku is to write. kakimasu is more formal, so you’ve got kakimasu. If it’s past tense it’s kakimashita. But, again, it doesn’t change for you, I, we, they. Kakimashita. If it’s we might write it’s kakudarou, so it’s kaku darou. “If”, it’s kakimashitara. So you have these endings. If you get someone to write it’s kakasareru. I find that I just got used to these things by seeing them in context.


If I look at a table of these there’s no way I can remember them all, but if I see them in different contexts and I question why is this this, then eventually you start to get used to them. If you have yasui, yasui is inexpensive, cheap. Yasui darou, like kaku darou, probably we’ll write. Yasui, inexpensive, yasui daro. Even nouns, kore wa hon.


So, basically, I don’t see them as sort of verb endings per se. I just see them as sort of suffixes, call them endings, that have meanings that are attached to verbs, nouns, whatever, and there’s an unlimited number of them.


What’s delightful in Japanese is you can say kaku darou. The kaku can sometimes become kaitara. Kakunaraba, is another way of saying it. So there’s this variety. It seems to me in Japanese there’s two or three different ways of arriving at the same result. We can look at a table of these. In fact, it might be useful to get some kind of an overall comprehensive sense of how all this stuff works, but ultimately you just have to expose yourself to enough of the language in meaningful contexts where you start to see these.


I’m trying to think of some others. Nazenaraba is because. I don’t know why, but the naraba is there again. In other words, you can say soudeshitara. I mean there are just all kinds of ways in Japanese.


Every language has almost a sensual delight that we get in using the sort of idiosyncrasies of the language. In the case of Japanese, it’s playing with all these different things that get stacked onto the end of words to shape what we’re trying to say, to put in a certain amount of, again typically in Japanese, some hesitation and a chance to think about what you’re going to say.


Those are the delights of the Japanese language. I don’t see them as the same kind of problem as case endings in Russian or in the Slavic languages where ooh could be this case for this gender and it could be something else for some other gender, singular or plural. It’s this endless struggle to try and remember these very specific endings, whereas in Japanese you have these sort of functional suffixes, endings that can be attached to verbs, adjectives, sometimes nouns. You just kind of get used to them, but if you want to consult a list by all means do so.


Again, it’s partly in response to this person who corrected me when I said there are no verb endings in Japanese. In fact there are, but to me it’s a different kind of animal and just a perspective. If this kind of chat about specific aspects of different languages is of interest, please let me know and please let me know what aspects of which languages you would like to get my perspective on.


So thank you for listening, bye for now.

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