So, I know that た and ない are attributive such as: 知らない人 - a person that I don't know of (that they existed? still figuring out 分かる vs 知る)

but can you use any form of a verb to be attributive? 知れる人 - a person I could learn of? (potential form)

This would probably never be used, but grammatically is it correct?


3 Answers 3


Is every form of Japanese verbs attributive?

No. The imperative form and the hypothetical form never modify a noun. 知れ人 and 知れば人 are always wrong.

Most other "forms" (or strictly speaking, 助動詞) work attributively, but a few have a special attributive version. In particular, forms that end with -だ/-です (知りそうだ, 知るようだ) becomes -な when used attributively (知りそうな人, 知るような人).

In classical Japanese, many verbs, adjectives and 助動詞 looked different when used attributively (e.g., 日落つ = "The sun sets", 落つる日 = "the sun that sets").


It's more than attributive usage - it's actually a relative clause, because it can be a whole sentence (clause) before a verb.

今日買った本 book that (I) bought yesterday

本を買った人man that bought a book


So it can be past, present, negative, ている form, whatever. However, masu forms are not used in relative clauses.


Out of modern 6 inflexion bases by definition only attributive (連体形) is used attributively. Note that な is an attributive form of copula だ, and た is an attributive form of helper verb つ.

  • Your statement 「た is an attributive form of helper verb つ」 is simply incorrect. In the past there were some theories that these suffixes are distantly related, but even if they were related, 〜た is not attributive form of 〜つ. Attributive form of 〜つ was 〜つる (those are forms of -te- perfective) . 〜た is contraction of earlier 〜たる, which was attributive form of -tar- suffix (終止形 was -tari), which was contraction of Old Japanese -te ar-, where -te is gerund (also called subordinative converb), still used in modern Japanese, which should not be mistaken with 連用形 of -te- perfective.
    – Arfrever
    Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 22:38
  • Alexander Vovin (2020, "A Descriptive and Comparative Grammar of Western Old Japanese", page 858) wrote: "Finally, although it is frequently assumed that the perfective auxiliary -te- is derived from the subordinative converb -te, the textual evidence disproves this claim, since both can combine together in the form -te-te, see the example from MYS 20.4465 below."
    – Arfrever
    Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 22:43
  • I am glad I sparked a controversy on the subject. There are so many theories out there.
    – user1602
    Commented Aug 26, 2023 at 23:42

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