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Conquering Godan Verbs: The Stepping Stones of Japanese Grammar

Conquering Godan Verbs:

From when I started Learning Japanese I always felt Confused about verbs such as Godan verbs or Ichidan verbs. In this Post I will discuss the Godan Verbs (五段動詞, Godan dōshi). Often referred to as “u-verbs” due to their characteristic ending in the dictionary form, Godan verbs form the foundation of Japanese verb conjugation.

One interesting Point is that Godan Conjugation (五段活用ごだんかつよう) is the way in which Japanese people learn about Conjugation and its at the basis of Japanese Grammar.

What are Godan Verbs?

Imagine a staircase with five steps. Godan verbs get their name from this very image (go – five, dan – step). These verbs conjugate by changing their stem vowel according to a predictable pattern, following all five Japanese vowel sounds (a, i, u, e, o). This systematic approach makes Godan verbs some of the easiest to learn for beginners.

Identifying Godan Verbs:

Here’s the golden rule: Look for verbs ending in the following characters (hiragana) in their dictionary form:

  • る (ru) – except for する (suru) and くる (kuru)**
  • う (u)
  • く (ku)
  • ぐ (gu)
  • つ (tsu)

する (suru) and くる kuru are also known as irregular verbs ***

Conjugating Godan Verbs:

While each form has its specific nuance, here’s a breakdown of some common conjugations to get you started:

  • Present (Positive): Verb stem + う (u) (e.g. 話す (hanasu) – to speak, —-> becomes 話します (hanashimasu))
  • Past (Plain): Verb stem + った (tta) (e.g. 食べる (taberu) – to eat,——> becomes 食べました (tabemashita))
  • Negative: Verb stem + ない (nai) (e.g. 書く (kaku) – to write, ——-> becomes 書きません (kakimasen))
  • Past Negative: Verb stem + なかった (nakatta) (e.g. 歩く (aruku) – to walk, ——>  歩きなかった (arukinakatta) – did not walk)

How To Find Godan Verbs in Japanese Sentences ?

dentifying Godan verbs in sentences involves recognizing their verb form and endings. Here’s how to do it with examples:

1. Look for the Verb:

The first step is to identify the verb itself within the sentence. It describes an action, state of being, or occurrence.


  • 今日、友達と映画館に 行きます (Kyō, tomodachi to eiga-kan ni ikimasu): Today, I’m going to the movie theater with friends. (行きます – ikimasu – is the verb)

2. Identify the Ending:

Once you have the verb, focus on the ending in the sentence. Godan verbs (except some special cases) will end in one of these characters in their dictionary form:

  • る (ru) (exceptions: する (suru) and くる (kuru))
  • う (u)
  • く (ku)
  • ぐ (gu)
  • つ (tsu)


  • 上の階に 登ります (Ue no kai ni noborimasu): I will go up to the upper floor. (登ります – noborimasu – ends in ます (masu), which comes from the Godan verb 登る (noboru) – to climb)

3. Check the Conjugation:

If the verb ends in any of the characters mentioned above (except る for する and くる), it’s most likely a Godan verb. You can confirm this by checking if the verb conjugates by changing its stem vowel according to the five Japanese vowels (a, i, u, e, o) in different tenses.


  • 昨日、山に 登りました (Kinō, yama ni noborimashita): Yesterday, I climbed the mountain. (登りました – noborimashita – is the past tense conjugation of 登る (noboru). The stem vowel changes from o to i, indicating a Godan verb.)

Why Are The verbs する (suru) and くる (kuru) Different?

The verbs する (suru) and くる (kuru) are exceptions to the general rule of Godan verbs because they have irregular conjugations. This means that they don’t follow the typical pattern of changing the stem vowel according to the five Japanese vowels (a, i, u, e, o) in different tenses.

する (suru) – to do:

  • Present (Positive): する = します (shimasu) – I do / I will do.
  • Past (Plain): する + た = しました (shimashita) – I did.
  • Negative: しません (shimasen) – I did not do.
  • Te-form: して (shite)

くる (kuru) – to come:

  • Present (Positive): 来ます (kimasu)- I come / I will come.
  • Past (Plain): 来ました (kimashita)- I came.
  • Negative: 来ません (kimasen)- I will not come.
  • Te-form: 来て (kite) – came.

Historical reasons: The Japanese language has evolved over time, and some verbs have changed their conjugations. する (suru) and くる (kuru) may have been regular verbs at some point in the past, but their conjugations have changed over time.

Frequency of use: する (suru) and くる (kuru) are two of the most common verbs in Japanese. They are used so frequently that they may have developed irregular conjugations as a way of simplifying their pronunciation.

Tips for Mastering Godan Verbs:

  • Practice with flashcards: Create flashcards with the verb in its dictionary form and its conjugations.
  • Use mnemonics: Develop memory aids to remember the conjugation patterns.
  • Immerse yourself in Japanese: Watch movies, listen to music, and read content that uses Godan verbs. This reinforces their usage in context.

Beyond the Basics:

Godan verbs have more conjugations for different tenses and moods. As you progress, explore these complexities to expand your expressive range.

Remember: Consistency is key! Dedicate some time daily to practice Godan verb conjugations. With dedication and these handy tips, you’ll conquer Godan verbs in no time and unlock a new level of fluency in Japanese!

頑張ってください!(Ganbatte kudasai!) – Keep up the good work!