How to Make and Use the Japanese Plain Form Verbs

Want to chat with your friends from Japan? You’ll need to use the Japanese plain form of verbs to avoid sounding “みずくさい” (distant or reserved).

The Japanese plain form of a verb is also known as also the dictionary form (辞書形) as you will find in dictionaries.

It is the basic form and is used as the informal form of verbs.

So this is the form you will use while talking with friends.

Having said that, you can never use this form in formal settings. Also, there are other levels of politeness that we will learn later.

Today, let’s start with plain forms.

Japanese Plain Form | The Plain Form of です

Japanese Plain Form | Plain Form Verbs

Japanese Plain Form | Group 3 Verbs

Japanese Plain Form | Group 2 Verbs

Japanese Plain Form | Group 1 Verbs

Japanese Plain Form | FAQ’s

Getting Started | The Plain Form of です

The most basic, the plain form of です is だ (da).

Previously we learned about basic sentence structure that ends withです. While it is not properly a verb, we have learned how to use it. 

だ is used pretty much in the same way as です is.

FormalHiraganaRomajiEnglishPlain Form
私は学生です。(formal)わたしはがくせいです。Watashiwa gakusei desu.I am a student.私は学生だ。 (just replace です with だ )

Similarly, there are plain form equivalents for the present negative, past affirmative and past negative tenses: ではない, だった and ではなかった, respectively.

The table below conveys all the information in an easier to digest way.

Present Polite FormPast Polite FormPresent Plain FormPast Plain Form
Affirmativeですでしただった
Negativeではありませんではありませんでしたではないではなかった

Japanese Plain Form | Plain Form Verbs

Just like all Japanese verbs in the polite form, the ending will be -ます. All plain form verbs end in sound –u.

This includes verbs ending with う, く, つ, る, す etc.

MeaningPolite formPlain form
To drink飲みます飲む
To go行きます行く
To sayいいますいう
To eat食べます食べる
To see見ます見る
To comeきますくる
To doしますする

Japanese Plain Form | Plain Form Conjugation | Group 3 Verbs

Now that we know about the three Japanese verb groups, we can proceed to discover their respective verb conjugations.

Let’s learn the present affirmative, present negative, past affirmative and past negative conjugations below.

Remember Group 3 only has two verbs. As always, you are better off just memorising these two verbs.

Present affirmativePresent negativePast affirmativePast negative
するしないしたしなかった
くるこないきたこなかった

Japanese Plain Form | Plain Form Conjugation | Group 2 Verbs

Now, let’s move on to the Group 2 conjugation. Learning these will also make learning the other ones easier.

First, remove the る (or the ます, if you are conjugating them from the polite form) part of the verb, then add ない for the present negative, た for the past affirmative, and なかった for the past negative.

In easier terms:

Present affirmativePresent negativePast affirmativePast negative
食べる食べない食べた食べなかった
見る見ない見た見なかった
わすれるわすれないわすれたわすれなかった
でるでないでたでなかった
いるいないいたいなかった

These conjugations look somewhat similar, right?

They might remind you of the i-keiyoushi (adjective) conjugation, especially the negative ones.

Japanese Plain Form | Plain Form Conjugation | Group 1 Verbs

The Group 1 conjugation is the hardest one. The reason is that not only does it differ from the other two groups, but the conjugations also differ among themselves depending on the ending of the verb.

But there is a pattern that will make learning Group 1 conjugation easier for you. You just need to change their –u Hiragana into –a, then add ない for the negative present tense, or なかった for the negative past tense like we have done so far with all other verbs.

Also, the past affirmative form won’t be hard for you as we have already practiced verb ‘te’ forms. You just have to replace て with た.

Don’t worry, this is easier to understand when shown. So here’s a table we have prepared to make it all easier for you!

Also, we have examples of verbs with different endings, so check them all and don’t get confused.

Present affirmativePresent negativePast affirmativePast negative
かうかわないかったかわなかった
いういわないいったいわなかった
かつかたないかったかたなかった
もつもたないもったもたなかった
はいるはいらないはいったはいらなかった
しぬしなないしんだしななかった
あそぶあそばないあそんだあそばなかった
のむ飲まない飲んだ飲まなかった
きくきかないきいたきかなかった
いく行かない行った*行かなかった
およぐおよがないおよいだおよがなかった
いそぐいそがないいそいだいそがなかった
はなすはなさないはなしたはなさなかった
けすけさないけしたけさなかった
あるないあったなかった

Notice that for verbs that end in う, when we conjugate the verb in the negative, we substitute the for , never for あ.

Also, pay attention to 行く!  

 行く(to go) has an irregular past affirmative conjugation, as we write 行った, not 行いた.

Another exception, though, is the very basic verb ある (“to be” or “to exist” for inanimate objects), whose negative forms are simply ない and なかった.

In a certain way, when you conjugate a verb or adjective in the negative tense, what you are doing is appending this ない – this “is not” or “does not exist” – to the original verb.


And that’s it, an introduction to the Japanese plain form

Not so daunting, right?

Don’t forget to also check these lessons if you want to take your Japanese level a bit further, or if you need to brush up on your skills:

Have you ever considered joining an online class with a professional teacher?

With Flexi Classes you can study Japanese 24/7 with professional teachers, and even choose your study time and study topic!

Japanese Te form

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the Japanese plain form of verbs?

The Japanese plain form of verbs is a way to conjugate verbs that is different from the polite form (i.e. です).

It can be used in different contexts.

What is another name for the Japanese plain form?

The Japanese plain form is also called the ‘dictionary form.’

What is the plain affirmative form of いきます?

The plain affirmative form of いきます is いく.

Why should I learn the Japanese plain form?

The plain form is commonly used to talk with friends.

If you learn it, you can speak in a more nuanced, casual, and close way with your friends!

What is the plain affirmative form of です?

The plain affirmative form of です is だ.

What is the plain affirmative form of あります

The plain affirmative form of あります is ある.

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  • LTL Avatar Irene Magnosi
    Irene Magnosi , Student Advisor

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