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You'll understand if you just look at them romanized: Vowel-stem verbs (一段動詞)  食べない tabe-nai  食べます tabe-masu  食べる  tabe-ru  食べれば tabe-reba  食べよう tabe-yoo The stem is tabe-, which ends with /e/, a vowel. Consonant-stem verbs (五段動詞)  泳がない oyog-anai  泳ぎます oyog-imasu  泳ぐ   oyog-u  泳げば  oyog-eba  泳ごう  oyog-oo The stem is oyog-, which ends with /g/, a ...


When learning Japanese as a foreign language, "consonant-stem" (respectively "vowel-stem") verbs are called thus, because their stem ends in a consonant (resp. vowel), where "stem" refers to the part not changing during inflection (conjugation). mi-ru, mi-tai, mi-masu, mi-nai, mi-r-eba, mi-y-ou... kik-u, kik-i-tai, kik-i-masu, kik-a-nai, kik-eba, ...

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