First Aid in Japanese

Overview of verb forms
Verb tenses
Using verbs in combination
Talking about experiences and skills

The magic of verbs. Describing your life: experiences, activities, logical connections.

1. Overview of verb forms

This material does not cover how to use the Group I, II, III system to make the forms below!

by Transformation by Adding-on
verb styles ~て、~た、~ない +ん
(see tenses below)
verb possibilities
- noun
- potential
- intention


verb commands
じょうけん (-えば)、
relationship tokens うけみ(ーあれ)
じょどうし (ーあせ)


2. Verb tenses

Verbs are the words that end with 〜ます in its polite form.

To note when something is being done, you can use the following forms

Polite form Informal-plain form
do, will do します する present tense,
future tense
did, had done しました した past tense
had done しまいました しまった past perfect tense
doing して して continuous form
is doing して います して いる present continuous
is doing right now
been doing
して いるん です

するん です
して いるんだ

するん だ
present continuous
have been doing now するん いるん です するん いるん だ present continuous
perfect complete
doing して して continuous form
was doing して いました して いった past continuous
was doing back then
had been doing
して いたん です

したん です
して いたんだ

したん だ
past continuous
had been doing then したん いたん です したん いたんだ past continuous
perfect complete

(One way to think about the "perfect" and "perfect complete" forms is to think of the perfect form as a way to talk about the verb as a framed-up painting. Like a framed-up painting in the next-door room, we put the verb in a space its own that we can talk about. (It is out of sight, but available for us to talk about.) This space helps to make the sentence more formal. )

(If we don't want to be too formal, we can use the present complete form, which makes it feel like you are holding the painting next to you or talking about it like it's near to you (or was near to you), or to say it a different way, makes it feel like you are or were close enough to the verb to have watched it as it happened. )


3. Using verbs in combination

So far, we have looked at different verb types and looked at how to make different verb tenses. This section covers how to describe different verbs being used at the same time. This section will cover how to juggle sentences with the two combinations:

You will be able to tell by whether the sentence uses the 〜 form (the ます-less form) or uses the 〜る/て/た verb to describe the first action.

*Another way to remember these sentence structures is to think about them using the に、で、と particles.

Two actions in one sentence (simple compound form)

Use 〜 に 〜ます。to describe doing an action to accomplish another action (a stream of actions).
For example:
「かいもの に いきます。」means "Acting on shopping, go."
(Since the first verb is 〜 form, it is a supporting action, do not use 〜る form. In a way, the two verbs 'share' the same ます in the sentence.)

Use [plainform]/〜る/て/た に 〜ます。 to describe doing an action for a reason.
For example:
「かえる に ちょきんします。」meaning "To go home, [I am] saving money."

Use 〜る で、 〜ます。to describe when an action creates a lasting situation for the second action.

Use 〜ないで、〜ます。to describe when witholding from an action to do something else.
For example:
「かさ を さす で、かえりました。」means "Umbrella opened, I went home."
「くつ を ぬいた で、うちに はいりました。」means "With shoes taken off, I entered the house."
「がっこうへ いかない で、うち で やすみます。」means, "Not going to school, I rest at home."

Use 〜と、〜ます。to describe when something outside, when done, will definitely result in something else.
For example:
「この ボタン を おしと、のみもの を 出ます。」

Use 〜る/て/た と、〜ます。to describe doing something as a result of another action.
For example:
「この ばんぐみ を みると、レポート を かいて ください。」meaning "Upon watching this programme, please write a report."

Mixing your actions with other actions (complex compound forms)

The following forms combine the Equal and Unequal forms with different linking words to convey more complex relationships between verbs.

Use 〜る/て/た ときに、to describe the time when something is done, is being done, or has been done.
For example:
「しゅくだいする ときに、いいしつもん が つくりました。」means "During/At the time of doing homework, [I] made a good question."

Use ーの/〜た とおりに、〜ます。to describe following another action or instruction.
For example:
「せんせい が した とおりに、れんしゅうします。」means "As teacher completes the exercise, revise."
「せつめいしょ の とおりに、わたし が りょうり を つくります。」means "Instructions' leading, I make food."
「せつめいしょ を よんた とおりに、りょうり を つくります。」means "As the instructions are being read to the end, make food."

Use ーの/〜た あとで、to describe one action coming after another.
For example:
「テニス の あとで、シャワー を あびます。」meaning "After tennis, take a shower."

Use 〜 ながら、 to describe actions happening at the same time. (Note this 〜 is a ます-less verb.)
For example:
「わたあしは、えいが を み ながら、おかし を たべます。 」meaning "While movie-watching, I eat snacks."

(Note that the first verb is ます-less. This is the overriding verb for the sentence. The order of the verbs here indicates which one is the main action and which one is the side-action. In this case, movie-watching is the main activity.)


4. Talking about experiences, and skills

Describe your abilities with 〜が できます。and 〜え ます potential form。

- Using nouns and できます:
「テニス が できます。」means "Tennis, can do."
「わたしは、りょうり が できます。」means "As for me, cuisine is doable."
- Using 〜え ます potential form only:
「いまは、ならえます。」 means "Right now, can study."
「わたしは、りょうり を つくれます。」means "As for me, cuisine is makeable."

Describe your experiences with 〜たこと が あります。

For example:
「にほんへ いったことが あります か? 」which means "Gone to Japan stories, do you have?"
「わたしは、あちらへ いったこと が あります。」which means "As for me, Going There experience, I have."

To talk about an activity (to make an action the subject of the sentence),
use 〜る/て/た + こと to turn a verb into an activity.
「わすれたこと が あります。」means "Forgotten, I have."
use 〜る/て/た の as a noun in the sentence, plus を、は、が.

For example:
「ひと が あるくの が、おもしろいます。」which means "The walking of the people, thinking about now."
(Another way to think about this is to think about it as 〜る/て/た + のを to mean "the objectification of 〜る/て/た”. )

If you want to talk about more than one activity as a subject, you can combine the above with the next point:


Use 〜たり、〜たり します。to describe a list of actions.

「きむらさんは、テレビを みたり、レポートを かいたり します。」means "Kimura san watches television, writes report."
Combined with the previous few sentence patterns, you can also get sentences like:
「かいものしたり、えいがをみたり、ひるごはんをたべたり できます。」meaning "Shopping, movie-watching, lunch-eating are all possible."
「イタリアへ いたり、ピザ を たべたり、ポンペ へ いってみたり こと が あります。」means "To Italy to go, on pizza to eat, to Pompeii to visit, these are things I have done."
「そうじしたり、ゴミ を すてたり するの が きらいです。」meaning "Housekeeping, rubbish disposal, doing these are unlikeable."