Are there any other verbs than 死ぬ whose plain forms end with ぬ? Why are they so rare? Is it because the verb 死ぬ itself has special etymology why it ended up having the ぬ ending?

2 Answers 2


As Axioplase has indicated, the verb 死ぬ was originally a n-stem irregular verb (ナ行変格活用動詞). There was only one other such verb, namely 去ぬ. It survives in modern standard Japanese in derived forms such as 古 (いにしえ, from the stem of 去ぬ + the stem of the past tense auxiliary き + the particle へ). It is also thought that the noun 西 is derived from 去ぬ. (The main evidence for this, as I understand it, are Ryūkyū languages in which /nisi/ means north instead of west, indicating a migration from the mainland spreading southwards into the Ryūkyū islands and eastward into Honshū.)

There are also auxiliary verbs which end in -ぬ, the most well known of which is the negative verb. It survives in modern Japanese as the -ん in -ません. (-ず is another form of this auxiliary.) The other one, which does not survive into modern Japanese, is the perfect auxiliary -ぬ, also derived from 去ぬ.

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    The most well-known example of the past auxiliary -ぬ to the contemporary Japanese people may be 風と共に去りぬ (かぜとともにさりぬ), the Japanese translation of the title of the famous novel/movie “Gone with the Wind.” Commented Aug 3, 2011 at 11:36
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    Calling ぬ the past auxiliary -- are you guys trying to start a nerd fight? ;)
    – Matt
    Commented Aug 3, 2011 at 12:48
  • @Matt: I always have trouble stating the grammatical terms in English (even after I received answers to my question). I meant 完了の助動詞「ぬ」, and I do not know what it is usually called in English. Commented Aug 3, 2011 at 12:54
  • @Matt: Oops. I have trouble remembering which ones are perfect and which ones are past. (Modern Japanese is much easier, huh.)
    – Zhen Lin
    Commented Aug 3, 2011 at 12:55
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    @Tsuyoshi: Yeah, normally 完了 is translated as "perfect(ive)", but it is easy to slip up when discussing past/perfect -- last I heard there was still disagreement on exactly how to deal with these concepts even in the case of modern Japanese. (Like, does た express the perfect aspect, or just the relative past with an implication of perfect aspect if aspect is not addressed in some other way? That sort of thing.)
    – Matt
    Commented Aug 3, 2011 at 13:12

Tough one!

I think that 去ぬ/往ぬ (いぬ) is the only other such verb, and is not standard Japanese. It survived in dialects only, according to http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/ナ行変格活用

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