I have been learning the verb list for the N4 exam but I do not know how to tell the group of a verb. Until now I have memorized them by heart. Nevertheless I still have trouble telling the group of a verb because I can't memorize them all. I wondered whether there is a systematic method of knowing the group of a verb. Could you help me with that?

According to my textbook:

  • いきます belongs to group I
  • ねます belongs to group II
  • きます belongs to group III
  • 2
    Only group I verbs conjugate to irrealis form (pre ない form) through -a phoneme. e.g. 行く ik-u → ik-a-nai, 寝る ne-ru → ne-nai, 来る ku-ru → ko-nai.
    – user4092
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 9:22
  • 8
    As an answerer commented, the -masu form is perhaps the worst verb form to figure out the conjugation group from. Drop it and learn the dictionary forms (iku, neru, kuru) immediately.
    – oals
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 14:11
  • @user4092 Though 学校文法 also gives さ as a 未然形 of する, as in される or させる.
    – user1478
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 19:27
  • Then, pre-ない forms only.
    – user4092
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 22:05

6 Answers 6


First, Group III is the easiest to devide because 来{く}る and する are the only verbs that belong to it. These verbs have each irregular conjugation as you probably know.

Then, if the verb ends with another than ''る'', it belongs to Group I.
For example, you can tell which group 行{い}く belongs to, because it ends with ''く'' which is another than ''る''. Yes, ''行く'' belongs to Group I.

Next, I'll tell about verbs that end with ''る''.
You have to care the previous vowel to ''る''.
For example, let's watch a verb ''乗{の}る''. This verb can be written ''noru'' in the alphabet, then the previous vowel to ''る'' is ''o''.
If the previous vowel is ''a'', ''u'', or ''o'', the verb belongs to Group I.

It's a difficult case for you when the verb ends with ''る'' and the previous vowel to ''る'' is ''-i'' or ''-e'', e.g. 走{はし}る hashiru, 食{た}べる taberu, and 寝{ね}る neru.
Most verbs that end with ''i-る'' or ''e-る'' belong to Group II, so it's easier to memorize verbs that belong to Group I in spite of its feature.

It has been said by rhyaeris, I will mention them again.
The verbs as follows are Group I, however you can't tell which group they belong to only by their dictionary forms.
I dare to give all verbs that I can remember, so there would be some unfamiliar verbs for you.

- 走{はし}る
- 入{はい}る
- 要{い}る いる{LH} (居{い}る belongs to Group II. いる{LH})
- 煎{い}る いる{HL}
- 帰{かえ}る かえる{HLL} (変{か}える belongs to Group II. かえる{LHH})
- しゃべる (It is similar to 食{た}べる, but they belong to another group each other.)
- 滑{すべ}る
- 減{へ}る へる{LH} (経{へ}る belongs to Group II. へる{HL})
- 知{し}る
- 切{き}る きる{HL} (着{き}る belongs to Group II. きる{LH})
- 散{ち}る
- 蹴{け}る
- 練{ね}る ねる{HL} (寝{ね}る belongs to Group II. ねる{LH})
- 限{かぎ}る
- 交{ま}じる/混{ま}じる (It's the intransitive verb of 交ぜる/混ぜる that belongs to Group II.)
- 過{よ}ぎる (It has a little similar meaning to 過ぎる and すぎる and よぎる is written in the same kanji, however the two belong to different group from each other.)
- 焦{あせ}る
- 競{せ}る
- 照{て}る
- 火照{ほて}る
- かじる
- 茂{しげ}る
- いじる
- いびる
- なじる
- うねる
- くねる (It is usually seen in ''曲がりくねる'')

Memorizing these verbs, you can tell that 走{はし}ります and 走{はし}った are correct, not *走{はし}ます and *走{はし}た, 食{た}べます and 食{た}べた are correct not *食{た}べります and *食{た}べった because 食べる isn't in the list above though it ends ''e-る''.

  • 4
    I think it's great that you gave a step-by-step process to identifying verb groups, as well as mentioned homonyms that are in different verb groups. Thanks!
    – rhyaeris
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 13:46
  • Doesn't ある also belong to the irregular verb grouping?
    – Pleiades
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 18:27
  • 1
    It's only a 五段. あらず・あります・あるし・あるとき・あれば・あれ
    – user4092
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 21:57
  • 2
    In classical language, ある belongs to irregular verb because the 終止形 of it is not ある but あり.
    – Toshihiko
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 23:29
  • I hope it will be the accepted answer since it is, by far, the most detailed. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 2:03

Japanese verbs can be divided into three groups (godan verbs, ichidan verbs and irregular verbs). Nevertheless, the -ます form is not the best to tell them apart.

Godan verbs (Group I) ends in く、ぐ、う、ぶ、る、ぬ、つ、む、す. Examples are: 行{い}く、泳{およ}ぐ、買{か}う、遊{あそ}ぶ、上{あ}がる、死{し}ぬ、待{ま}つ、読{よ}む、話{はな}す. There is some overlapping with verb ending in る.I mean that you have to learn the groups of verbs ending in る because 帰{かえ}る is a godan but 変{か}える is ichidan.

Ichidan verbs (group II) can be divided in two groups (上一段{かみいちだん} and 下一段{しもいちだん}) that is verbs ending in -いる (上{かみ}, the name is 上 because if you draw あいうえお vertically い is above え) and -える (下{しも}).
Examples are: 寝{ね}る, 食べる, 起きる. Very often the え/いる part is in hiragana (寝る is an exception to that).

Irregular verbs (Group III) are really easy, there are two irregulars verbs する and 来{く}る.

  • I thought 行く was irregular?
    – Blavius
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 3:27
  • 2
    @Blavius I think 行く is a godan verb.
    – chocolate
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 4:43
  • 3
    @Blavius 行く is only irregular in that it conjugates to 行って, 行った, etc. instead of the expected 行いて, or 行いた, etc.
    – Kurausukun
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 5:32
  • 3
    @Blavius There are a number of other irregular verbs, but they're traditionally lumped into one of the first two categories. I'm not sure why.
    – user1478
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 19:52
  • 2
    @Nothingatall It's not justification for a new class; it's justification to put it into the already existing irregular class.
    – Blavius
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 2:23

I wanted to add on to 変幻出没's post by clarifying the Group I (godan) verb exceptions - not only do they end in る, they all end in える and いる, but are actually Group I rather than Group II (ichidan).

(Not to say that Japanese should be studied purely for the JLPT, but this information is relevant to your N4 studies: there are a finite number of Group I exceptions you need to know for your test.) JLPT or not, most of the basic ones are in the following picture: http://www.kanji-link.com/docs/en_gram_n5_verb_groups.pdf

There are 10 exceptions listed at the bottom of the picture.

6 of them are definitely at N5 level: 帰る 要る 切る 知る 入る 走る.

Currently I am studying for N4, and so far out of the other 4 I only know that 喋る is at N4 level.

Of course, it is impossible to predict which words will appear and which definitely won't appear, so feel free to study them all.

  • Thank you for 1. fixing the fact that I mixed up the groups' numbers (even if I highly recommend just memorizing godan and ichidan) 2. giving details on the overlapping る ending of godan verbs with ichidan verbs. Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 10:51
  • @変幻出没 こちらこそ thank you. Thanks for a great answer below, and for suggesting that じしょ form be used to distinguish verbs.
    – rhyaeris
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 12:42
  • Step 1: single 漢字 + え/い + る: 一段
  • Step 2: one mora single 漢字 + る: 一段
    • Notes
      • There are only around 90 of verbs following this pattern, and most of them compound verbs of 見る and 出る, see the list below
      • This rule was pointed out by Weijun Zhou in comments
  • Step 3: all other are 五段


相似る あいにる to resemble each other, to resemble one another v1 vi

相見る・逢い見る あいみる to face v1 vi

仰ぎ見る・仰見る・あおぎ見る あおぎみる to look upwards, to look up v1 vt

甘く見る あまくみる to not take seriously, to take lightly v1

現われ出る あらわれでる to appear v1

射る いる to shoot (arrow, bolt, dart) v1 vt

居る いる to be (of animate objects), to exist
to stay(after the -te form of a verb) verb indicating continuing action or state (i.e. to be ..ing, to have been ..ing) aux-v uk v1 vi

鋳る いる to cast, to mint, to coin v1 vt

癒る いる to calm down uk v1 vi

色眼鏡で見る いろめがねでみる to look at things from a biased viewpoint (biassed) v1

浮び出る・浮かび出る・うかび出る うかびでる to surface v1 vi

浮かれ出る・浮れ出る うかれでる to go out in a merry mood v1 vi

浮き出る うきでる to rise to the surface, to surface
to stand out (e.g. against a background) v1 vi

打ち見る・打見る うちみる to glance at, to look at v1

訴え出る うったえでる to lodge a complaint v1

打って出る うってでる to launch oneself upon, to make one's debut v1

生まれ出る うまれでる to come into being, to be born v1 vi

得る える to get, to earn, to acquire, to procure, to gain, to secure, to attain, to obtain, to win
to understand, to comprehend
to receive something undesirable (e.g. a punishment), to get (ill)to be able to ..., can ... aux-v v1 vt

おっ魂消る・押っ魂消る おったまげる to be very surprised, to be flabbergasted uk v1 vi

躍り出る・おどり出る おどりでる to jump (e.g. to first place), to spring out v1 vi

垣間見る かいまみる to take a peep at, to catch a glimpse of v1 vt

顔から火が出る かおからひがでる to be extremely embarrassed, to burn with shame v1

偏り見る かたよりみる to show partiality v1

勝ち得る かちえる to achieve, to win, to gain, to attain v1 vt

着る きる to wear (in modern Japanese, from the shoulders down), to put on
to bear (guilt, etc.) v1 vt

下卑る げびる to become vulgar, to coarsen v1

心得る こころえる to know, to understand, to be aware of, to regard as, to take for
to consent, to agree v1 vt

小洒落る こじゃれる to be somewhat stylish, to be somewhat chic col v1 vi

込み居る こみいる to push in, to be crowded v1 vi

差し出る・差出る さしでる to be forward, to stick one's nose into, to meddle, to be intrusive
to jut out, to protude, to overhang v1 vi

時化る しける to be stormy or choppy (sea)
to go through hard times, to be broke
to be gloomy, to be glum uk v1 vi

湿気る しける・しっける to be damp, to be moist v1 v5r vi

下に見る したにみる to look down on, to despise, to condescend v1

しみ出る・染み出る・滲み出る しみでる to ooze, to exude, to percolate, to soak through v1 vi

〆る しめる to total, to sum v1 vt

しゃしゃり出る しゃしゃりでる to come uninvited, to crash (a party), to butt in v1

洒落る しゃれる to dress stylishly
to joke, to play on words v1 vi

悄気る しょげる to be dispirited, to be dejected, to be disheartened, to lose heart uk v1 vi

知り得る しりえる to acquire knowledge v1

じろりと見る じろりとみる to throw a glance v1

進み出る すすみでる to step forward, to volunteer v1 vi

滑り出る すべりでる to slip out v1 vi

退治る たいじる to exterminate, to eliminate, to eradicate, to suppress v1 vt

魂消る たまげる to be astonished, to be startled, to be appalled uk v1 vi

突き出る つきでる to project, to stick out, to stand out v1 vi

出来る できる to be able (in a position) to do, to be up to the taskto be ready, to be completed
to be made, to be built
to be good at, to be permitted (to do)
to become intimate, to take up (with somebody)
to grow, to be raised
to become pregnant uk v1 vi

出る でる to leave, to exit, to go out, to come out, to get out
to leave (on a journey), to depart, to start out, to set out
to move forward
to come to, to get to, to lead to, to reach
to appear, to come out, to emerge, to surface, to come forth, to turn up, to be found, to be detected, to be discovered, to be exposed, to show, to be exhibited, to be on display
to appear (in print), to be published, to be announced, to be issued, to be listed, to come out
to attend, to participate, to take part, to enter (an event), to play in, to perform
to be stated, to be expressed, to come up, to be brought up, to be raised
to sell
to exceed, to go over
to stick out, to protrude
to break out, to occur, to start, to originate
to be produced
to come from, to be derived from
to be given, to get, to receive, to be offered, to be provided, to be presented, to be submitted, to be handed in, to be turned in, to be paid
to answer (phone, door, etc.), to get
to assume (an attitude), to act, to behave
to pick up (speed, etc.), to gain
to flow (e.g. tears), to run, to bleed
to graduate v1 vi

届け出る とどけでる to report, to notify v1 vt

飛び出る とびでる to project, to protrude, to pop out (e.g. eyes)
to jump out, to rush out v1 vi

道化る どうける to jest, to clown (around) v1 vi

流れ出る ながれでる to flow out, to stream out, to pour out, to gush forth, to leak, to ooze out, to drift away v1

名乗り出る なのりでる to introduce oneself, to announce oneself (e.g. as the person sought), to come forward (e.g. as a witness, with a claim, etc.) v1 vi

並み居る なみいる to sit in a row, to be present (and lined up) v1 vi

滲み出る・にじみ出る にじみでる to exude (e.g. sweat), to ooze, to seep out
to reveal itself (of emotions, etc.) v1 vi

若気る にやける to be effeminate, to be a fopto break into a smile, to grin col uk v1 vi

似る にる to resemble, to look like, to take after
to be similar (in status, condition, etc.), to be close, to be alike, to be like v1 vi

煮る にる to boil, to simmer, to stew, to seethe v1 vt

抜き出る・抜出る ぬきでる to surpass, to outdo, to excel, to stand out, to be outstanding, to be preeminent
to tower above (the surrounding landscape) v1 vi

抜け出る ぬけでる to slip out, to steal out
to excel, to stand out v1 vi

盗み見る ぬすみみる to steal a glance, to intercept and read (e.g. other people's email) v1

願い出る ねがいでる to apply for v1 vt

寝る ねる to lie down
to go to bed, to lie in bed
to sleep (lying down)
to sleep (with someone, i.e. have intercourse)
to lie idle v1 vi

逃れ出る のがれでる to scuttle off, to take flight v1

望み見る のぞみみる to gaze into the distance v1 vt

惚気る のろける to play up, to speak fondly of, to praise one's spouse uk v1 vi

這い出る・はい出る はいでる to crawl out of, to creep out of v1 vi

走り出る はしりでる to run out (e.g. of the room) v1

跳ね出る はねでる to spring or rush out v1

食み出る はみでる to jut out (of bounds)
to be crowded out, to be forced out v1 vi

人妻と寝る ひとづまとねる to sleep with another person's wife v1

干る ひる to dry v1 vi

嚏る ひる to sneeze v1 vt

吹き出る・噴き出る・吹出る・噴出る ふきでる to blow out, to spout out v1 vi

巫山戯る ふざける to joke, to jest, to kid, to josh
to make fun of, to laugh at, to play a prank
to romp, to gambol, to frolic, to frisk, to mess around, to fool around, to screw around
to neck, to make out uk v1 vi

経る へる to pass, to elapse, to go by
to pass through, to go through
to experience, to go through, to undergo v1 vi

迸しり出る・ほとばしり出る ほとばしりでる to gush out, to gush forth, to effuse v1

罷り出る まかりでる to leave, to withdraw, to appear before v1 vi

老成る ませる・マセる to be precocious, to be mature for one's age, to seem grown-up, to seem mature uk v1 vi

真似る まねる to mimic, to imitate v1 vt

看る みる to look after (often medically), to take care of v1 vt

見る みる to see, to look, to watch, to view, to observe
to look over, to look on, to assess, to examine, to judgeto look after, to keep an eye on, to take care ofto view (e.g. flowers, movie)to try, to try out, to test
to see that..., to find that... aux-v uk v1 vt

診る みる to examine (medically) v1 vt

廻る・回る みる to go around v1

群れ居る・群居る むれいる to crowd in, to come together v1 vi

申し出る もうしでる to report to, to tell, to suggest, to submit, to request, to make an offer, to come forward with information v1 vt

萌え出る もえでる to sprout, to bud v1 vi

夢見る ゆめみる to dream (of) v1 vt

世に出る よにでる to become famous
to go out into the world, to make one's way in the world, to appear, to be published v1

分かれ出る わかれでる to branch out, to diverge, to radiate v1

湧き出る・わき出る・涌き出る・沸き出る わきでる to gush forth v1 vi

  • 1
    人妻と寝る ひとづまとねる to sleep with another person's wife v1 -- Jisho lists it as a single verb, not as a phrase..? もう「寝る」があるからねぇ。。世に出る よにでる to become famous これも、一つの「動詞」じゃないような・・・ あと、飛び出る、届け出る、流れ出る、申し出る... とか、複合動詞は「XX出る」でまとめたら・・・キリないし。。
    – chocolate
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 2:55
  • If the Kanji (no 's' here) that goes before -ru correspond to more than 1 moras, the verb is Godan. All the exceptions listed above follows the Kanji(single mora)+ru pattern, and most of them are just complex verbs constructed by Renyoukei and need not be memorized on their own. By the way, 得る is not Ichidan. Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 7:16
  • Thank you for pointing out the single mora rule. I think the algorithm can be improved then. According to goo dictionary.goo.ne.jp/jn/25679/meaning/m0u/%E5%BE%97%E3%82%8B 得る is 一段.
    – user1602
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 7:46

You don't need to know what 'group' a verb is in. That's a completely abstract way to think about verbs that is just a made up construct used to explain things in an academic setting.

It really slows you down if you have to stop mid sentence to think about what 'group' a verb is in.

Instead you want to be able to recognize it on the subconscious level and be able to spit out the correct conjugation without thinking about it at all.

Japanese is an extremely regular language so this is fairly easy to achieve. It takes some work but the general gist of it is:

There are several different sounds verbs can end In


And it among the ru verbs there is a separate pattern when there is an 'e' sound before the 'ru' like える.

You don't ever need to think about which groups these are in. Forget about it. It's just not helpful. The easiest way to acquire the natural ability to conjugate verbs without even thinking about which group they are in is to memorize all the conjugations for each of those verbs endings for at least 3 different verbs of each ending. Once you've done it for 3 different verbs with that ending the pattern crystallizes and you begin to internalize it and start using it naturally without thinking about it. Here's a list of all the major japanese verb conjugations

  • While it's true that it's not answering the question directly, I can't stress more the importance of the first three paragraphs of this answer. I've also experienced that after learning how to conjugate many verbs by pure practice and drilling, you will easily get a feeling and remember how to conjugate new verbs you learn.
    – jarmanso7
    Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 10:32

I've learned from different textbook approaches and from living in Japan on a language exchange I came up with the following for myself:

  1. Does it end with る
    • No? Then it's group 1
    • Yes? Could be group 1 or 2

If it ends with る then you'll simply have to look it up to see how its conjugated. Use your textbook or an online Japanese verb.

Also, I always thought of it roughly as:

group 1 conjugation

  • consonant + ~います
    • あるく to あるきます 
      • aruku to arukimasu

After a while you'll, through repetition and exposure, just know the correct sound of a verb. Good luck!

  • Though you have said the conjugation was "roughly" as such, I would like to point out the two cases in which the consonant does change - つ to ち (eg. tatsu, to stand -> tachimasu), and す to し (eg. osu, to push -> oshimasu). :)
    – rhyaeris
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 4:39

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