100 Basic Japanese Verbs All Learners Should Know

Last Updated on 06.01.2022 by Coto Japanese Language School

There are 898 Pokémon species combined. If you think about it, 100 basic Japanese verbs (otherwise known as どうしor 動詞) is less than one-tenth of them. How many of them do you know, and how often will you use them in daily Japanese conversations (the verbs, not the Pokémon)?

Sure, the number of vocabularies you know says a lot about your Japanese language level. For example, if you know 500 to 1,000 basic Japanese words, you’re unofficially a beginner. Bump it up to 2,000 words, and you can pat yourself in the back because then you’re a full-fledged intermediate. Advanced learner? That’s roughly 8,000 words.

However, if there’s one thing more important than remembering them, it’s learning the right words. This is why learning basic Japanese verbs shouldn’t just be basic — it should be essential. After getting familiar with the important grammar patterns, what you need to do next is implement them and broaden your mental vocab library.

Before we get to the point, we want to make sure that you already have a strong foundation for Japanese verbs. This will be a simple and comprehensive cheat sheet, where we won’t be diving into verb modifications and grammar rules. For that, check out our Japanese verb guide.

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How Are Japanese Verbs Different From English Verbs?

Let’s break down the basic sentence structure in the English language: subject, followed by a verb and an object. For example, “I (subject) buy (verb) a book (object).” In all scenarios, a verb must precede the object to make the phrase grammatically accepted.

In Japanese, the main components are the same, but the order is different — the object goes before the verb.

watashi ha
gohan o

This grammar rule might cause a lot of beginner learners a spin on the head (as most language follows the same sentence structure as English), but it gets easier with practice — and, conveniently, with a simple Japanese language hack, too.

Japanese speakers like to keep things short and concise. Unlike English, the Japanese language only needs at least one verb to make a complete sentence. If both the subject and object are obvious, omitting them is valid.

A: 田中さん、ご飯もう食べている?
A: Tanaka-san, gohan mou tabete iru?
A: Tanaka-san, have you eaten your meal?

B: 僕もう食べた。
B: Tabeta.
B: I have.

In the example above, the context is clear: the object is “meal” (ごはん also means “rice”) and the subject is the person being questioned. This shortcut is partly why you’ll notice a slight glitch in Japanese-to-English translations, especially when you don’t provide all the necessary elements most languages require.

In other ways, too, the Japanese language is simple. Singular and plural verbs don’t exist, and regardless of whether it’s one, or two — or a hundred — the verb stays the same. To prove our point, take a look at two examples.

Resutoran de hitori no okyakusama ha tabete iru.
One person is eating at the restaurant.

Resutoran de juunin no okyakusama ha tabete iru.
10 people are eating at the restaurant.

In English, quantifiers affect the verb. Singular nouns use is, while plural nouns use are. When the verb matches the subject, that’s called subject-verb agreement. There are also languages that are gendered, like Spanish, French and Arabic. In Japanese, it doesn’t matter.

But (and it’s a big but), Japanese verbs are split into three groups: Ru-verbs, U-verbs and irregular verbs. Which of these categories an action word belongs to affect their conjugation.

Conjugation FormRu-verbU-verbIrregular verb
Dictionary formみるのむくる
Present (ます)みます飲みますきます
Present negative みません飲みませんきません
Past affirmativeみました飲みましたきました
Past negative みませんでした飲みませんでしたきませんでした

One more thing: the table above represents four of the most basic conjugation that doesn’t include verb-ing (such as eating, drinking, walking). For this, you will need to change the word into its て-form — how it’s modified, again, depends on the type of verb it is.

Types of Japanese Verbs

For this specific guide, instead of grouping them based on the three types listed above, we’ll be categorizing the words based on social contexts, such as when and where they are usually used. We like to think it’s the best way to remember them. Plus, it’s also simpler and more effective — just remember not to get confused between Ru-verbs and U-verbs; transitive and intransitive verbs.

If you want to get a more complete guide, visit our article on types of Japanese verbs and verb conjugations.

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Japanese Verbs Related to Mental Situations And Emotions

驚くおどろくodorokuto be surprised
怒るおこるokoruget angry
惚れるほれるhorerufall in love
慌てるあわてるawaterupanic, be flustered
慰めるなぐさめるnagusamerucomfort, console
覚えるおぼえるoboeruremember, learn
疲れるつかれるtsukareruget tired
信じるしんじるshinjiruto believe
要るいれるiruto need
間違えるまちがえるmachigaerumake a mistake
知るしるshiruto know
痛むいたむitamubecome hurt, damaged
可愛がるかわいがるkawaigarulove, be affectionate

Japanese Verbs Commonly Used For Daily Activities at Home

住むすむsumuto live
洗うあらうarauto wash
付けるつけるtsukeruto turn on (light)
帰るかえるkaeruto return (home)
切るきるkiruto cut
寝るねるnerufall asleep
飲むのむnomuto drink
食べるたべるtaberuto eat
磨くみがくmigakubrush (teeth)
食べるたべるtaberuto eat
寝るねるneruto sleep
着るきるkiruto wear
開けるあけるakeruto open
入るはいるhairuto enter
出るでるderuto leave
作るつくるtsukuruto make
置くおくokuto put
遊ぶあそぶasobuto play

Japanese Verbs For Physical Actions

飛ぶとぶtobuto fly
来るくるkuru*to come
行くいくikuto go
抱くだくdakuembrace, hug
働くはたらくhatarakuto work
書くかくkakuto write
消すけすkesuto erase
聞くきくkikuto listen
待つまつmatsuto wait
動くうごくugokuto move
次ぐつぐtsugube next
見るみるmiruto see
見せるみせるmiseruto show
起きるおきるokiruto get up
降りるおりるoriruto get off
逃げるにげるnigerurun away, escape
倒れるたおれるtaorerufall down, collapse
急ぐいそぐisoguto hurry
終わるおわるowaruto finish
買うかうkauto buy
返すかえすkaesuto return
押すおすosuto push
引くひくhikuto pull
Kuru is an irregular verb

Japanese Verbs for Verbal Expressions

話すはなすhanasuto speak
話すしゃべるshaberuto talk; to chat
教えるおしえるoshieruteach, show
聞くきくkikuto ask
頼むたのむtanomuto ask (favor)
呼ぶよぶyobuto call

Irregular Japanese Verbs

apanese verb conjugation is very regular, as is usual for an agglutinative language, but there are a number of exceptions. The best-known irregular verbs are the common verbs する suru “do” and 来る kuru “come”, sometimes categorized as the two Group 3 verbs

するsuruto do
電話するでんわするdenwa suruto call
勉強するべんきょうするbenkyou suruto study
宿題するしゅくだいするshukudai suruto do homework
復習するふくしゅうするfukushuu suruto review
料理するりょうりするryouri surucook
練習するれんしゅうするrenshuu surupractice
結婚するけっこんするkekkon suruget married
掃除するそうじするsouji suruto clean
散歩するさんぽするsanpo suruto take a stroll

What’s Next After Learning Japanese Verbs?

Solely memorizing these essential words isn’t enough. Applying them to simple situations is one thing, but speaking Japanese goes beyond present, past and negative tenses. For example, the Japanese language makes far more use of passive verbs than English (head to our guide on Japanese passive voice here). Besides that, there will also come a time where you want to use volitional forms (“Let’s do it” in English).

There’s a lot to take in, but we’re guiding you one step at a time. After this, learn to make a wider range of expressions and draw in details by learning about Japanese adjectives and adverbs. If you aren’t sure you’re ready for it, head to our 100 basic Japanese words guide.

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