One of my current biggest challenges in learning Japanese sentence patterns is knowing which verb forms to use when linking to set phrases.

The largest classes of verb forms I've seen that are used to link verbs to other structures are 連用形{れんようけい} (stem form), テ形{けい} (te form), and 普通形{ふつうけい} (plain form). Here are some examples of grammar patterns from each category.

連用形 (stem form)

  • 連用形+はじめる(例:今週{こんしゅう}、日本語{にほんご}を勉強{べんきょう}はじめました。)
  • 連用形+方{かた}(例:この漢字{かんじ}の書{か}き方はとても簡単{かんたん}ですね。)
  • 連用形+たい(例:今晩{こんばん}、天{てん}ぷらを食{た}べたいです。)

テ形 (te form)

  • テ形+いく(例:ちょうちょうは飛{と}んでいた)
  • テ形+ください(例:聞{き}いてください)
  • テ形+ほしい(例:レストランに一緒{いっしょ}に行{い}ってほしいです)

普通形 (plain form)

  • 普通形+かもしれません(例:東京{とうきょう}に行{い}くかもしれません)
  • 普通形+ようになる(例:練習{れんしゅう}したから、今{いま}漢字を書{か}けるようになりました。)
  • 普通形+ところ(例:彼{かれ}と犬{いぬ}は公園{こうえん}から来{く}るところです。)

(Feel free to correct my grammar in any of these examples too if there are any errors as I'm still learning!)

Anyhow, if you were given an arbitrary grammar structure, such as +はじめる, +ください, +かもしれません without knowledge of which verb form should preceede, would there be any logic in how to retroactively figure out (or at least have a good guess) as to which verb form should come before?

  • I don't want to write this as an answer, but as for whether a compound verb uses 連用形 or te-form , it's actually very easy to determine. That's because there are actually very few (common) grammar structures that use the te-form, like ている, てある, てあげる, てくれる, てみる etc. I believe it's only around 10. That's how I remember that ~つづける or ~はじめる for example take 連用形.
    – Kaskade
    Dec 13 '19 at 10:23
  • related: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/63351/…
    – Mindful
    Dec 13 '19 at 21:31

I will be interested to see if someone can produce a good, comprehensive answer to this question. I only have a partial answer; as an advanced learner but non-native speaker, the reasons for distinctions between constructions that use テ形 and those that use 連用形 seem pretty arbitrary, though I'm sure there are historical or etymological reasons.

That said, the examples from your 普通形 section are much easier to explain. I'm not going to touch on the semantics here because that doesn't appear to be what you're asking about, just how these phrases behave grammatically.

You can think of かもしれない as


(see here) and it's not only usable with verbs. Grammatically this behaves the same way any other verb taking embedded questions ending in does; you can say 彼はばかかもしれない or conjugate the 知れない to make it more formal like そうかもしれません.

ようになる is :


There are a large number of other possible constructions involving よう followed by various particles and verbs. However, the important thing is that grammatically both よう and ところ behave like nouns - when you use plain form verbs with them, it's only because relative clauses that qualify nouns are in plain form. It's the same reason that in犬を怖がる猫, 怖がる is in plain form (because it's qualifying the noun ).

  • You totally just blew my mind with that breakdown of かもしれません. That's excellent insight, and the tendency of particles to follow 普通形 is a marvelous observation! Thank you. Dec 13 '19 at 21:01

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