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I'm trying to fully understand the plain conjunctive form without a suffix. I've seen it mainly in the form of 話, where it means a talk or speech. So I think it means something along the lines of "the thing that is produced when someone speaks for a bit". So applying that logic to a verb like 書く. Would 書き be a thing that is produced when someone writes for a bit, i.e. a document? Is it a synonym for 書き物 then, or does it mean something subtly different? Or is it even a proper word?

Mainly I'm just trying to get a better understanding of the plain conjunctive form, and how to apply it to a wider range of verbs. The resources I'm studying from only cover it very briefly, and only give a few examples (話 usually being one of them).

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Verb stem (masu-stem) as a noun can have various meanings depending on the original verb, and you may not be able to determine its meaning without referring to a dictionary. I generally recommend you memorize these, and avoid "coining" a new word unless you're really comfortable with Japanese.

  • Person who does the action (≒ -er/-or)
    • 酔っ払い drunkard
    • のぞき peeper
    • ヴァイオリン弾き violin player
  • The action itself (≒ -ing)
    • 走り run
    • 支払い payment
  • Tool/device to do the action (≒ -er/-or)
    • つまみ knob, tab
    • はかり (weight) scale
    • 引き出し drawer
  • Something resulting from the action, something associated with the action.
    • のぼり uphill (slope)
    • のぼり (storefront) banner
    • おのぼり
    • たたき tataki
    • 握り nigiri (sushi)
    • 吹き出し balloon (in manga)

Some nouns in this form can have more than one meaning depending on the context. For example, "殺し" can mean "murderer", "killer (weapon)", "killing (move)" or "murder case".

masu-stem + もの generally means "thing to [verb]", but again, lots of nouns in this form have derivative meanings which are difficult to guess, so you need to memorize.

  • 出しもの event, attraction
  • 入れもの container, box
  • 着物 kimono
  • 吸いもの suimono
  • 見もの something worth seeing, spectacle
  • 引き出物 wedding favor
  • 吹き出物 pimple

Don't try to create a new one; for example 走りもの and 聞きもの would mean nothing.

A few words have both masu-stem and masu-stem + もの forms, and there is usually a drastic difference between the two:

  • 書き (writing skill) vs 書きもの (writing job/task/material)
  • 巻き (curl, hurry) vs 巻きもの (scroll (of paper))
  • 飲み (drinking party) vs 飲みもの (beverage)
  • 笑い (laughter) vs 笑いもの (laughingstock)
  • 生き (liveliness) vs 生きもの (living things, animal)
  • 考え (idea, thoughts) vs 考えもの (thing worth rethinking, problem)
4

This is a gross generalization, but very roughly speaking, the conjunctive form (technically the 連用形{れんようけい}) is vaguely analogous to the English -ing form. And much like the English -ing form, the 連用形 of a verb can often be used as a noun. A few examples:

  • 行{ゆ}き来{き} can be glossed simply as going and coming
  • 馬{うま}乗{の}り can be glossed as horse riding
  • 巻{ま}き can mean winding, as in the winding up of a watch, and it can also mean something that is wound or rolled, as in a scroll
  • 帰{かえ}り can mean returning (home), or even just a return

... and so on. So 話{はなし}, as the 連用形{れんようけい} of verb 話{はな}す, could be understood as speaking, and by extension, speech or story.

One key point in the 連用形 + 物{もの} construction is that the Japanese compound generally means thing that is [VERB]ed, instead of the thing that does [VERB]ing sense that you'd get in English compounds like writing thing (vs. 書{か}き物{もの} document) or eating thing (vs. 食{た}べ物{もの} food).

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書き is used as a component of some words, most of which mean act of writing. But it's not really a word itself, so it's not synonymous to 書き物.

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