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Japanese consonant and vowel verbs

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Title: Japanese consonant and vowel verbs  
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Subject: Japanese verb conjugation, Japanese grammar, Japanese irregular verbs, Kagoshima verb conjugations, Japanese language
Collection: Japanese Grammar, Verbs by Language
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Japanese consonant and vowel verbs

The Japanese language has two types of regular verbs that involve the stem, and can be referred to as Japanese consonant and vowel verbs.


  • Verb groups 1
  • Conjugation 2
  • Terminology 3
  • Verbs ending in iru and eru 4
    • General 4.1
    • List of consonant stem verbs ending in iru 4.2
    • List of consonant stem verbs ending in eru 4.3
    • List of homophone verbs ending in iru that have both a vowel stem and a consonant stem 4.4
    • List of homophone verbs ending in eru that have both a vowel stem and a consonant stem 4.5
  • External links 5
  • References 6

Verb groups

The two groups of verbs are:

  1. consonant-stem, godan-katsuyō (五段活用, "5-class conjugation"), Group I, or -u verbs; and
  2. vowel-stem, ichidan-katsuyō (一段活用, "1-class conjugation"), Group II, or -ru verbs.

Most verbs are consonant-stem, but vowel-stem verbs are also common, hence the numbering "Group I" (consonant-stem, more common) and "Group II" (vowel-stem, less common). Sometimes categorization is expanded to include "Group III" (special cases) for the irregular verbs する suru and 来る kuru; note however that there are other Japanese irregular verbs, though they are generally only slightly irregular.

Consonant-stem verbs end in -u (-au, -iu, -uu, -ou), -ku, -gu, -su, -tsu, -nu, -bu, -mu or -ru, but not -eu, -zu, -dzu, -fu, -pu, or the defective columns -yu or -wu.

All vowel-stem verbs end in either -iru or -eru. However, not all verbs ending in -iru or -eru are vowel-stem verbs; for example, hashiru, "run", is a consonant-stem verb. Verbs ending in -aru, -uru and -oru also exist, and are all consonant-stem.

The Japanese names ("5-class" and "1-class") are based on the number of vowel suffixes used to form verb roots for conjugations. Classical Japanese had more verb groups (such as 2-class and 4-class) which are archaic in Modern Japanese.


Consonant-stem verbs conjugate differently from the vowel-stem verbs. Consonant-stem verbs conjugate after a consonant, and vowel-stem verbs conjugate after a vowel, as can be seen in the following examples:

consonant-stem vowel-stem
Plain form yom.u ("read")
hashir.u ("run")
走る ("see")
見る ("eat")
Negative yom.anai
Polite form yom.imasu
Potential form yom.eru
見られる¹ ²
Volitional form yom.ou
見よう¹ ²
  1. Note that colloquially the ら ra is dropped meaning these two become mireru and tabereru.
  2. Can also be written as mi.eru. The difference is like the difference between "can see" and "can be seen."[1] Two consonant-stems that are also irregular are ik.eru/ik.areru ("can go") and kik.eru/kik.oeru ("can hear"). Other irregular verbs are suru->dekiru ("can do") and kuru->korareru ("can come").

Consonant-stem verbs ending in -u (-au, -iu and -ou) may not appear to conjugate "after a consonant"; for example, the polite form of kau (買う, "buy") is kaimasu (ka.uka.imasu). However, the stem is in these cases technically considered to end in the consonant w. The w is normally suppressed, but surfaces in the negative form, as in kaw.anai ("does not buy"). Traditionally these verbs ended in -hu, which is still seen on occasion in historical kana usage, and thus unambiguously ended in h.


The terms "consonant-stem" and "vowel-stem" come from considering the invariant part of the verb (the verb stem) on the basis of phonemes – concretely, by writing in rōmaji. This is an abstract perspective, as the consonant stem itself never occurs independently, but only with a following vowel, as Japanese words are formed of morae – concretely, writing in kana. For example, while the stem of yomu is yom-, the bare *yom is not an independent word.

The standard Japanese terms, ichidan and godan, literally "one row" and "five rows", more formally monograde and pentagrade, correspond to the number of different morae (kana) that appear in the stem forms of the verb, which are then optionally combined with a suffix to form a conjugated word. Formally, verbs are classified by which column of the gojūon their stem ends in, with vowel stem verbs further distinguished into i and e type. For example, 読む yomu is of マ行五段活用 ma-gyō go-dan katsuyō "ma-column five-row conjugation" type, as its stem form end in each of the five rows of the ま column, namely まみむめも:

  • 読ま よま yoma- as in yomanai (negative, irrealis),
  • 読み よみ yomi- as in yomimasu (polite non-past),
  • 読む よむ yomu- as in yomu (plain non-past; dictionary form),
  • 読め よめ yome- as in yomeba (conditional),
  • 読も よも yomo- as in yomō (yomou) (hortative/volitional).

Note that the volitional o stem is historically the negative a stem with euphonic sound change – and the o stem is only used for the volitional form – so these verbs were traditionally called 四段 yodan "four-row, tetragrade", omitting the o form.

While the above uses are the most common uses of the respective stems, they are used in various other ways, particularly the i stem – for example 読み物 yomi-mono "reading material"; compare 食べ物 tabe-mono "food" for vowel stem.

By contrast, vowel stem verbs have a single stem form, ending either in i or e, accordingly as -iru or -eru. These are referred to respectively as 上一段 kami ichi-dan "upper one-row" and 下一段 shimo ichi-dan "lower one-row", due to i being above e in the aiueo vowel ordering. In full terminology, the column of the final kana is also listed. For 見る みる miru is of マ行上一段活用 ma-gyō kami ichidan katsuyō "ma-column upper one-row conjugation" type and has stem:

  • 見 み mi-

while 食べる たべる taberu is of バ行下一段活用 ba-gyō shimo ichidan katsuyō "ba-column lower one-row conjugation" and has stem:

  • 食べ たべ tabe-

In Japanese dictionaries, in the readings of conjugable words the stem and the inflectional suffix are separated by a dot (・), as in 赤い あか・い aka.i "red". This is used to distinguish verb type, with consonant stem verbs having only the last kana treated as suffix, while in vowel stem verbs the last two kana are treated as suffix. The column 行 of the conjugation form corresponds to the kana immediately after the dot. For example:

  • 帰る かえ・る "return" – consonant stem ラ行五段
  • 変える か・える ka.eru "change" – vowel stem ア行下一段

Note that for one-row verbs with only two kana, the entire verb is treated as a suffix, and no dot is displayed, as it would appear before the word. For example:

  • 要る い・る "need" – consonant stem ラ行五段
  • 居る いる iru "be (animate)" – vowel stem ア行上一段

The terms "Group I", "Group II", and "Group III" are primarily used in Japanese language education, and may be notated as (I), (II), (III) next to a verb. Similarly, the terms "u verb" (う verb) and "ru verb" (る verb) are educational terms, and may be notated as (う) or (る).

Verbs ending in iru and eru


Vowel stem verbs, such as ⾒る miru "to see" and 食べる taberu "to eat," end either in iru or eru (there are no other basic-form endings for this group), so most verbs ending in iru and eru are vowel stem verbs, but some consonant stem verbs have these endings, too, and there are also homophone verbs that have either a vowel stem or a consonant stem.

List of consonant stem verbs ending in iru

Verb Kanji English
aburagiru 脂ぎる to be greasy
bibiru びびる to be surprised
chigiru 契る to pledge
chiru 散る to scatter
dojiru どじる to mess up
guchiru 愚痴る to grumble
hairu 入る to enter
hashiru 走る to run
hiru 放る to fart, to expel (from the body)
hojiru 穿る to pick, dig out
hotobashiru 迸る to gush, spurt
ibiru いびる to torment, roast
ijiru 弄る to fiddle with
ikiru 熱る to become sultry (note that ikiru (生きる) meaning "to live, to stay alive" is a vowel-stem verb)
iru 炒る to boil down, to roast (note that iru (居る) meaning "to be" is a vowel-stem verb)
iru 入る to go in (see iru above)
iru 要る to need (see iru above)
kagiru 限る to limit
kajiru 齧る to gnaw
kashiru 呪る to curse
kiru 霧る to become misty (note that kiru (着る) meaning "to put on [clothing]" is a vowel-stem verb)
kiru 切る to cut (see kiru above)
kishiru きしる to become misty
kishiru 軋る to squeak, creak
kojiru 抉る to gouge, wrench
kubiru 括る to grip, strangle
kujiru 抉る to gouge, scoop
mairu 参る to come/go - humble
majiru 混じる mingle
meiru 滅入る to feel depressed
mikubiru 見縊る to belittle; to despise
minagiru 漲る to overflow
mogiru 捥る to wrench
mojiru 捩る to parody, to twist
mushiru 毟る to pluck, to pick, to tear
najiru 詰る to rebuke
nejiru 捩じる to twist
nigiru 握る to grasp
nijiru 躙る to edge forward
nonoshiru 罵る to abuse verbally
ochiiru 陥る to fall, sink
omoiiru 思い入る to ponder, to contemplate
omoikiru 思い切る to dare to (usually in the form omoikitte (思い切って) or omoikitta (思い切った).)
sebiru せびる to pester for
shiru 知る to know
soshiru 謗る to slander
sujiru 捩る to wriggle
tagiru 滾る to boil, to seethe
tamagiru 魂消る to be frightened
tobashiru 迸る to gush
tochiru とちる to muff lines
yajiru 弥次る・野次る to jeer at
yogiru 過る to pass by, to drop in
yojiru 捩る to twist, distort
yokogiru 横切る to traverse

List of consonant stem verbs ending in eru

Verb Kanji English
aseru 焦る to hurry
azakeru 嘲る to ridicule
daberu 駄弁る to chatter
eru 彫る to carve (note that eru (得る) meaning "to get, to obtain" is a vowel-stem verb)
eru 選る to choose (see eru above)
eru 啁る to ridicule (see eru above)
fukeru 耽る to be absorbed in
fuseru 臥せる to hide, lie in ambush
haberu 侍る to attend on
heru 減る to decrease
hineru 捻る to twist
hirugaeru 翻る to turn over, to wave
hoteru 火照る to flush, to feel hot
kaeru 反る・返る to turn over (note that kaeru (変える) meaning "to alter" and kaeru (替える) meaning "to exchange" are vowel-stem verbs)
kaeru 返る・帰る・還る to return (see kaeru above)
kaeru 孵る to be hatched (see kaeru above)
kageru 陰る to become dark, to be in shadow or shade
kakeru 駆ける to run, to canter or gallop
keru 蹴る to kick
kuneru くねる to be crooked
kutsugaeru 覆る to be overturned
neru 練る to temper, to refine, to knead (note that neru (寝る) meaning "to sleep" is a vowel-stem verb)
nomeru のめる to fall forward
numeru 滑る to be slippery
omoneru 阿る to flatter
seru 競る to compete
seseru 挵る to pick, play with
shaberu 喋る to talk, to chat
shigeru 茂る to grow thick
shikeru 湿気る to become damp
soberu そべる to lie sprawled
suberu 滑る to slip
takeru 猛る to act violently
teru 照る to shine
tsumeru 抓める to pinch
tsuneru 抓る to pinch
uneru うねる to undulate
yomigaeru 蘇る to be brought back to life, to be refreshed

List of homophone verbs ending in iru that have both a vowel stem and a consonant stem

Verb Vowel Stem Consonant Stem
ikiru 生きる to live, to stay alive 熱る to become sultry
iru 居る to be 炒る to boil down, to roast 入る to go in 要る to need
kiru 着る to put on clothing 霧る to become misty 切る to cut

List of homophone verbs ending in eru that have both a vowel stem and a consonant stem

Verb Vowel Stem Consonant Stem
eru 得る to get, to obtain 彫る to carve 選る to choose 啁る to ridicule
heru 経る to pass (time/through) 減る to decrease
kaeru 変える to alter 替える to exchange 返る ・ 帰る ・ 還る to return 孵る to be hatched
neru 寝る to sleep 練る to temper, to refine, to knead
shimeru 閉める to close (something) 湿る to be damp

External links

  • sci.lang.japan FAQ's list of iru and eru consonant-stem verbs.
  • Aeron Buchanan's Japanese Verb Chart, a concise summary of all Japanese verbs conjugations on one sheet of A4


  1. ^
  • Seiichi Makino and Michio Tsutsui, A dictionary of intermediate Japanese grammar, published by The Japan Times, ISBN 4-7890-0775-8.
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