Can I get away with memorizing only these two forms of a verb?

  1. Dictionary form かえる ("to return")
  2. Positive polite non-past form, like かえります

If I compare these two forms, I can determine whether it's a Type 1 ([五]{ご}[段]{だん}) verb or a Type 2 ([一]{いち}[段]{だん}) verb. I can do this by checking if (for example) gets taken off when I add ます, or if it gets changed to . Does this make sense?

I'm asking because this packet I got tells me to remember the dictionary and past forms, but I don't see how this is helpful.

In short, is my method of learning these verbs' types consistent? Thank you in advance :)

  • 1
    I had to read your Q several times to understand it. It's a good question but you might want to consider taking a moment to reword it so that its a bit more clear as to what's being asked. And if you're asking 2 Q's then you should clearly delineate each one.
    – taylor
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 2:57
  • I think you have to be clearer about your assumptions/definitions. Depending on definition, only "suru" and "kuru" are considered irregular in Japanese, in which case "Irregular Ichidan verbs ending in iru and eru" is unclear. Also, for regular verbs, you could argue that you only need to remember one form, as long as you remember the conjugations.
    – dainichi
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 3:02
  • I tried my best to rewrite the question for clarity. Can you tell me if I changed it too much from the original?
    – user1478
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 3:07
  • 1
    Oh and yes you rewrote the question without changing the meaning. It came out better than mine too haha Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 3:20
  • 4
    just thought I'd add: 換{か}える/替{か}える/代{か}える/変{か}える are Ichidan verbs, so they would be かえます in positive polite non-past form. 帰{かえ}る/返{かえ}る/還{かえ}る/孵{かえ}る/反{かえ}る are Godan verbs, so they would be かえります. But かえる is only one of the few ones that I can think of where it depends on the Kanji used whether it's an Ichidan or Godan verb. [edited]
    – cypher
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 4:57

3 Answers 3

  1. All Type 2 (一段) verbs end in -iru and -eru.
    The converse is not true i.e. verbs that end in -iru and -eru may also be Type 1 (五段).

  2. The conjugation for polite form for Type 2 (一段) is quite straightforward.

    • Remove る, append ます
    • 食べる→食べます
    • 見る→見ます
    • 変{か}える→変えます
  3. The conjugation for polite form for Type 1 (五段):

    • Change final sound to the corresponding one that ends in -i, then append ます
    • 歩く→歩き→歩きます
    • 会う→会い→会います
    • 帰{かえ}る→帰り→帰ります

I think the confusion is when the polite form is taken to be the starting point, and it gets "reverse conjugated" to obtain the dictionary form. In my opinion, it is much more systematic to start from the dictionary form.

変える and 帰る are both かえる. I suppose your method of "remove ます + る" test for 一段 works sufficiently well.

I'm asking because this packet I got tells me to remember the dictionary and past forms, but I don't see how this is helpful.

It is "helpful" because the past form is not built from the polite form, but from the dictionary form. You need to know the dictionary form in order to conjugate to the past form. Your course probably taught you the polite form first, so now the thought process you are going to use is probably:

  • polite form→dictionary form→past form

When it is actually:

  • dictionary form→polite form
  • dictionary form→past form
  • 1
    I can't agree more with your comment on teaching polite form first. Our Japanese teacher was smart enough to go against the textbook and teach us the dictionary form first, and use the 連用形 form to explain the ます and て、た stems. Seems like nobody else got it though, even though I did. Class average was 62.
    – ithisa
    Commented Feb 2, 2013 at 13:53

Your method of memorizing plain and polite present forms in order distinguish between ichidan and godan verbs should suffice. Although keep in mind that it is only ambiguous when a verb ends in -eru or -iru, so it is unnecessary to memorize both forms for all verbs. Also worth noting is that godan verbs ending in -える or -いる are rare. Most of the time these verbs are ichidan.

  • Hmm I came across a list that mentions about 100 of these godan verbs ending in iru or eru Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 4:00
  • 2
    This list? sljfaq.org/afaq/which-ichidan.html
    – user1478
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 4:08
  • AHHH yes ! I was trying to Google it but could not find it ! That is the one. I printed it out but did not remember the website, thanks ! Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 4:19
  • Hmmm it looks like the website has a few blanks on the chart. But when I printed it out a few months ago it was complete. That's odd. Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 4:21

Yes, you can get away with only memorizing plain and polite non-past as you suggest.

However, memorizing just the plain non-past and past would work as well, since if the past form is just created by removing る from the non-past and adding た, then it is ichidan, otherwise it is godan. This approach might have the advantage that it relieves you of memorizing the different consonant patterns in godan, -mu->-nda, -ku->-ita, -gu->-ida etc, separately. But then again, you probably should memorize those anyway.

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