Fact corner

  • Language: Japanese
  • Alternate names: Nihongo, Nipongo, 日本語, にほんご
  • SIL-code: Ethnologue:jpn
  • Language family: Japonic
  • Number of speakers: 122,433,899
  • Script: Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana


Japanese is a language spoken in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is an agglutinative language and is distinguished by a complex system of honorifics reflecting the hierarchical nature of Japanese society, with verb forms and particular vocabulary to indicate the relative status of the speaker, the listener, and a person mentioned in conversation.

Japanese vocabulary has been heavily influenced by loanwords from other languages. A vast number of words were borrowed from Chinese, or created from Chinese models, over a period of at least 1,500 years. Since the late 19th century, Japanese has borrowed a considerable number of words from Indo-European languages, primarily English. Because of the special trade relationship between Japan and first Portugal in the 16th century, and then mainly the Netherlands in the 17th century, Portuguese and Dutch have also been influential.

The Alphabet

The Japanese language is written with a combination of three different types of scripts: modified Chinese characters called kanji (漢字), and two syllabic scripts made up of modified Chinese characters, hiragana (平仮名) and katakana (片仮名). The Latin alphabet, rōmaji (ローマ字), is also often used in modern Japanese, especially for company names and logos, advertising, and when entering Japanese text into a computer. Western style Indian numerals are generally used for numbers, but traditional Sino-Japanese numerals are also commonplace.

The verb

Japanese verb conjugation is the same for all subjects, first person ("I", "we"), second person ("thou", "you") and third person ("he/she/it" and "they"), singular and plural. The plain form of all verbs ends in u. There are very few irregular verbs.

Japanese Verb Conjugation

Click verbs to conjugate them in the following verb conjugation tables:

書く - kaku

Indicative INFORMAL 書く kaku 書かない kakanai
FORMAL 書きます kakimasu 書きません kakimasen
Imperative INFORMAL I 書け kake 書く な kaku na
INFORMAL II 書きなさい kakinasai 書きなさる な kakinasaru na
INFORMAL III 書いて ください kaite kudasai 書かない で ください kakanai de kudasai
FORMAL お書き なさいませ okaki nasaimase お書き なさいます な okaki nasaimasu na
INFORMAL I 書こう kakō 書くまい kakumai
INFORMAL II 書く だろう kaku darō 書かない だろう kakanai darō
FORMAL I 書きましょう kakimasyō 書きますまい kakimasumai
FORMAL II 書く でしょう kaku desyō 書かない でしょう kakanai desyō
Provisional INFORMAL 書けば kakeba 書かなければ kakanakereba
FORMAL 書きませば
書きません なら kakimasen nara

Tense Inflected form
Informal Past (~ ta Form) 書いた
Formal Past 書きました
Informal Past Negative 書かなかった
Formal Past Negative 書きませんでした
~ te Form 書いて
Conditional 書けば
Passive 書かれる
Causative 書かせる
Potential 書ける

Grouping of Japanese Verbs

Group 1: ~ U ending verbs

The basic form of Group 1 verbs end with "~u". This group is also called Consonant-stem verbs or Godan-doushi (Godan verbs).

  • hanasu (話す) - to speak
  • kaku (書く) - to write
  • kiku (聞く) - to listen

Group 2: ~ Iru and ~ Eru ending verbs

The basic form of Group 2 verbs end with either "~iru" or "~eru". This group is also called Vowel-stem-verbs or Ichidan-doushi (Ichidan verbs).

Iru ending verbs
  • kiru (着る) - to wear
  • miru (見る) - to see
Eru ending verbs
  • akeru (開ける) - to open
  • ageru (あげる) - to give

Group 3: Irregular verbs

There are only two irregular verbs, kuru (来る) 'to come' and suru (する) 'to do'.

External links


  • Lange, Roland. Japanese Verbs. Barron's Educational Series. New York. 1991.
  • Tanimori, Masahiro. Handbook of Japanese Grammar. 1 edition. Tokyo. 1994.
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