So I've got my tables of verb conjugations and I've settled down with "Read Real Japanese", the short story edition, and the very first verb in the first story is さそう - to invite - used in the passive. This is presented as さそわれて and translated as "having been invited by..."

I've spent a couple of days searching the Internet and piles of books but although I have been able to find other examples of this verb being conjugated this way, I can't find any explanation. Surely さそう is a ru-verb [edit: I see that this was a confusion caused by differing terminology] and conjugates in the passive to さそられる?

I can sort of see that ら might become わ under some circumstances (but I don't know what they might be) but how or why would る become て?

What's going on here?

  • a) さそう doesn't even end in る, so it cannot be a 'ru-verb' b) the passive form (such as さそわれる) conjugates as well, as an ichidan verb ('ru-verb')
    – oals
    Aug 29, 2015 at 9:30
  • The Japanese use the terms 一段 (ichidan) and 五段 (godan). Textbooks call them ru-verbs, vowel-stem verbs, or group 2 verbs; and u-verbs, consonant-stem verbs, or group 1 verbs. Note that group 2 = 1-grade (ichidan) and group 1 = 5-grade (godan). Note also that verbs ending in る are not automatically ru-verbs. This is all very confusing to the learner, and I don't know why the textbooks must befuddle the learner by using such non-standard terminology.
    – oals
    Aug 29, 2015 at 9:41

2 Answers 2


I'm going to try to do two things in this answer. First, I'm going to try to address the tangle of terms and theories that have got you confused. (So this answer will unfortunately be rather long!) Second, I'll try to address the specific question of 誘う.

Feel free to skip any section that doesn't look immediately helpful :-)

What do '-u verb' and '-ru verb' mean?

The terms '-u verb' and '-ru verb' only make sense in rōmaji:

  1. -u verbs

    Verbs such as 泳ぐ can be divided into oyog-u:

     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 in the consonant /g/.

    So in linguistics, these are often called 'consonant-stem verbs'.

  2. -ru verbs

    Verbs such as 食べる can be divided into tabe-ru:

     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 in the vowel /e/.

    So in linguistics, these are often called 'vowel-stem verbs'.

-ru is not る

Verbs that end in the kana る aren't always -ru verbs. We saw 食べる tabe-ru above, and that's definitely a -ru verb.

But let's take a look at 図る hakar-u:

 図らない hakar-anai
 図ります hakar-imasu
 図る   hakar-u
 図れば  hakar-eba
 図ろう  hakar-oo

As you can see, even though this ends in the kana る, it conjugates like an -u verb.

Unfortunately, this point can be very confusing for people who see the terms -u and -ru without an explanation about rōmaji!

When the verb stem ends in /w/

Your verb, 誘う sasow-, is somewhat special. In Modern Japanese, the consonant /w/ disappears before all vowels except /a/. The conjugation looks like this:

 誘わない sasow-anai
 誘います sasow-imasu  → saso-imasu   (/w/ disappears)
 誘う   sasow-u      → saso-u       (/w/ disappears)
 誘えば  sasow-eba    → saso-eba     (/w/ disappears)
 誘おう  sasow-oo     → saso-oo      (/w/ disappears)

And of course, 誘われる sasow-areru works the same way as 誘わない sasow-anai. The /w/ is followed by /a/, so it doesn't disappear.

一段 and 五段 verbs (the traditional analysis)

In traditional grammar, this was of course analyzed very differently! The smallest unit they divided Japanese into was not the phoneme, but the kana. With kana alone, it wasn't possible for them to indicate that the /w/ of sasow- or the /g/ of oyog- belonged to the stem.

Instead, they naturally concluded that each verb had multiple surface forms to which auxiliaries such as ~ます and ~ない attached.

  1. 五段 (Godan) verbs

    Let's take a look at your example of 誘う and see how it's traditionally broken down:

     誘+ない sasowa-nai
     誘+ます sasoi-masu
     誘    sasou
     誘+ば  sasoe-ba
     誘+う  sasoo-o

    Here we find five different kana, わ・い・う・え・お, one from each vowel row. The vowel rows in the kana chart are called 段, so this is traditionally called a 五段 (five-row) verb.

    In this analysis, the わ is simply an exception. With other 五段 verbs, you'll find the kana more or less as you expect:

     編+ない ama-nai
     編+ます ami-masu
     編    amu
     編+ば  ame-ba
     編+う  amo-o

    Here we have ま・み・む・め・も, all from the same consonant column. Again we find one kana from each vowel row, so again this is a 五段 (five-row) verb.

  2. 一段 (Ichidan) verbs

    Next, let's look at how a vowel-stem verb is traditionally broken down:

     食 +ない tabe  -nai
     食 +ます tabe  -masu
     食る    taberu
     食れ+ば  tabere-ba
     食 +よう tabe  -yoo

    Here we just find one kana, べ, which belongs to one vowel column. And so, this is traditionally called an 一段 (one-row) verb.

Of course, there's a lot more to talk about in traditional grammar. My goal here is just to show you where 一段 and 五段 come from. Hopefully this is enough :-)

A terminological mess

Ignoring the theory, regular verbs break down broadly into the following two groups. These groups have been given many names by grammarians, linguists, or just people trying to make things easier for learners:

Verbs like 泳ぐ oyog-u

  1. 五段 verb
  2. consonant-stem verb
  3. -u verb
  4. Group I verb

Verbs like 食べる tabe-ru

  1. 一段 verb
  2. vowel-stem verb
  3. -ru verb
  4. Group II verb

But whatever labels and theories you use, they're the same two groups of verbs. I know it's confusing that everyone uses different terms, but I hope I've managed to straighten out all the different terms people throw around!


さそえる would be a ru-verb, but さそう doesn't even end in る, and its stem is saso(w)-, which when joined to -areru gives sasowareru さそわれる.

Recall, if the word ends in anything but -iru or -eru it's a "consonant stem" verb and you get the stem by deleting the final vowel. This includes verbs ending in -(w)u, where you only see the consonant if the stem is followed by an a, e.g. 払わない "not pay".

Some -iru or -eru verb are consonant stem verb, such as 切る kir-u "to cut" or 帰る kaer-u "to return". All others are "vowel stem" verbs, e.g. 着る ki-ru "to wear" or 変える kae-ru "to change".

The passive ending is -areru for consonant stem verbs and -rareru for vowel stem verbs.

Well, this is one analysis and I hope this language is familiar at least from some books you read.

Once you get to さそわれる its "te-form" is さそわれて, because さそわれる now conjugates like a vowel stem verb.

  • Ok. I think the hidden w- is what's thrown me. And the mix of teminology where some books talk about v- and ru- verbs and others c-stem and v-stem.
    – Nagora
    Aug 29, 2015 at 9:39

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