Recently learnt about the 12 suffix forms in Japanese (technically 13 but Wikipedia considers Desiderative mood its own thing) and was curious if there was a specific order to the suffixes and if not does the order affect the meaning?

  • 2
    What do you mean by suffix? There are inflected forms for verb.  書きたい (I want to write) 書かれた (It was written). There are other situations in which certain verbs can be concatenated 書き終わる (I finish writing). There are other expressions like 書くところ (I'm about to write)... Without any further clarification, it's hard for us to give you an answer. Perhaps give examples of these so-called suffixes you found.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Jun 8 at 18:04
  • @A.Ellett My guess is that they're wondering about things like japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/86605/… Commented Jun 9 at 1:54
  • There is I think no consensus on how to count "suffix forms" that you (presumably) mention. As the previous comment says, you need to explicitly list what you are talking about in order for us to understand your question. Commented Jun 9 at 14:08

1 Answer 1


Order, without some rare/obsolete/dialectal suffixes, without onbin (for -ite, -ita…):

VERB_STEM ( [ase~as~sase~sas] [are~rare] | [e]* ) ( u~(u)ru | (i) [ ( te | ta[ru] | tari | tara [ba] | mas ( u[ru] | en | i [ ( te | ta ) ] | yō ) ) ] | e~yo~ro | ō~yō | (a) ( ba | ta i | ta gar u | nu | n | zu | z ar u | na i | naide ) | eba~(u)reba )

  • [ ] specifies optional elements.

  • ( ) specifies group.

  • | means logical OR.

  • ~ specifies variants of suffix. Choice of possible variant usually depends on preceding morpheme.

  • [e]* means Potential suffix -e-, which can be attached only to consonant-stem (godan) verbs. This suffix should not be mistaken with suffix -e- ([得]{う}る): e.g. Positive / Negative forms of kak- (書く) with these suffixes are kak-e-ru (書ける) / kak-e-na-i (書けない) and kak-i-uru (書き得る) / kak-i-e-na-i (書き得ない) respectively.

  • (u) means that: when attaching given suffix to strong-vowel-stem (ichidan) verbs, suffix-initial /u/ should be elided; when attaching given suffix to weak-vowel-stem (nidan) verbs and irregular verbs se-, ko-, preceding-morpheme-final vowel should be elided. (In Modern Standard Japanese, suffix -e- ([得]{う}る) is maybe the only remaining weak-vowel-stem (nidan) verb: -e- + -(u)ru-uru.)

  • (i) means that when attaching given suffix to vowel-stem (ichidan and nidan) verbs, suffix-initial /i/ should be elided.

  • (a) means that when attaching given suffix to vowel-stem (ichidan and nidan) verbs, suffix-initial /a/ should be elided.

  • e~yo~ro (Imperative) are etymologically 3 distinct suffixes, but for simplicity, above scheme treats them as variants of 1 suffix. -e used for consonant-stem verbs is speculatively from *-ia ← Continuative -i + *-a. -yo and -ro used for vowel-stem verbs come from exclamative particles. Historically yo became more popular in Western Japanese, while ro became more popular in Eastern Japanese. In Modern Standard Japanese (mostly based on eastern dialect of Tokyo), -yo is more literary.

  • In case of ase~as~sase~sas (Causative), variants with initial s are used for vowel-stem (ichidan and nidan) verbs.

  • In case of are~rare (Spontaneous/Passive/Potential/Honorific), variant with initial r is used for vowel-stem (ichidan and nidan) verbs.

  • -ta-i and -na-i have their own adjectival inflection (e.g. -ta-ku, -ta-kat-ta, -na-ku, -na-kat-ta) skipped here for simplicity.

  • -ta-gar-u and -z-ar-u have their own inflection (e.g. -ta-gat-ta, -z-ar-i-ki) skipped here for simplicity.

  • Based on hypothesized etymology, I would actually segment Negative suffixes anu and anai as -an-u and -a-na-i. -an- probably precedes development of 未然形, which emerged from re-interpretation of forms with few suffixes originally starting with a (Negative -an-, Conjectural -am-).

  • Pseudosuffixes -teru, -teku, -toku, -timau-tyau etc., which are contractions of -te iru, -te iku, -te oku, -te simau etc., skipped for simplicity.

  • -ubesi / -ubeki (〜べし・〜べき) ("must, should"), which has either regular Early Middle Japanese adjectival inflection or irregular inflection partially with da, skipped for simplicity.

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