Japanese Grammar Bank


The present tense is the bread and butter of any language. Even the most basic sentences require a present tense verb.

Today, let’s take a look at this fundamental tense in Japanese.


The dictionary forms of verbs do exactly what they say on the tin. They’re the form you’ll find if you look for words in a dictionary or translation app.

Unfortunately, there’s not much to be said about the dictionary forms, other than you have to just learn them.

Here are some super common ones:

食べるtaberuto eat
行くikuto go
来るkuruto come
見るmiruto see
聞くkikuto ask/listen
するsuruto do
あるaruto exist (for inanimate objects)
いるiruto exist (for animate objects)
行うokonauto perform/conduct
使うtsukauto use
書くkakuto write
読むyomuto read
話すhanasuto speak/talk
泳ぐoyoguto swim
知るshiruto know
走るhashiruto run
買うkauto buy
持つmotsuto hold/carry
見せるmiseruto show
作るtsukuruto make/create

You can use the dictionary forms in daily conversation as they are casual in tone. You wouldn’t use this form for many situations other than talking to close friends.


ます masu

You might be aware that the Japanese language has many levels of politeness.

Today, we’ll look at 丁寧語 teineigo, polite language. This form of verbs is what you should use when you’re speaking to anyone but a friend. If you’re in the office, or at a restaurant, or at the post office, you might choose to use this form.

丁寧語 teineigo polite language is easily identifiable by the ます masu ending.

When learning how to convert the dictionary forms to the ますmasu form, you need to know what type of verb you’re dealing with.

Japanese verbs are divided into:

  • 一段 ichidan
  • 五段 godan
  • irregular verbs.

一段 verbs

一段 ichidan verbs end in える eru or いるiru.

For example, 食べるtaberu to eat ends in an eru sound, and 見るmiru to see ends in an iru sound.

To make the ますmasu form of these verbs:

  • take off the るru at the end
  • put a ますmasu in its place

五段 verbs

五段 godan verbs all end in u sounds.

For example, 行くiku to go ends in ku, which is an うu sound. These verbs can end in くku、ぐgu、むmu、ぬnu、うu、つtsu、すsu、ぶbu、るru (not to be confused with 一段ichidan verbs).

To make the ますmasu form:

  • change the last syllable for an いi sound
  • and throw on ますmasu.

For example: 行くiku → 行きiki → 行きますikimasu.

NOTE || Be careful with the following:
tsu changes to ち chi
su changes to し shi
u changes to い i

Irregular verbs

There are also some irregular verbs.

  • する suru to do changes to しますshimasu.
  • 来る kuru to come changes to 来ます kimasu.

Let’s take a look at the verbs from before, this time with their ますmasu form too:

JapaneseRomajiEnglishます masu Form
食べるtaberuto eat 食べます tabemasu
行くikuto go 行きます ikimasu
来るkuruto come 来ます kimasu
見るmiruto see 見ます mimasu
聞くkikuto ask/listen 聞きます kikimasu
するsuruto do します shimasu
あるaruto exist (for inanimate objects) あります arimasu
いるiruto exist (for animate objects) います imasu
行うokonauto perform/conduct 行います okonaimasu
使うtsukauto use 使います tsukaimasu
書くkakuto write 書きます kakimasu
読むyomuto read 読みます yomimasu
話すhanasuto speak/talk 話します hanashimasu
泳ぐoyoguto swim 泳ぎます oyogimasu
知るshiruto know 知ります shirimasu
走るhashiruto run 走ります (hashirimasu)
買うkauto buy 買います (kaimasu)
持つmotsuto hold/carry 持ちます (mochimasu)
見せるmiseruto show 見せます (mimasemasu)
作るtsukuruto make/create 作ります (tsukurimasu)


If you’ve learned a language before, you might be aware that very often verb tenses don’t exactly line up in every language.

So, it’s important to learn what each tense is used for. The Japanese present tense is used to express:

  • Present actions
  • Habitual actions
  • Future actions
  • Generalisations
毎日昼ご飯を食べます。Mainichi hirugohan o tabemasuI eat lunch every dayhabitual action
日本へ行く。Nihon e ikuI am going to Japanfuture action
勉強します。Benkyou shimasuI studypresent action
毎週日曜日に散歩をします。Maishuu nichiyoubi ni sanpo o shimasuI go for a walk every Sundayhabitual action
これは役に立つ。Kore wa yaku ni tatsuThis is usefulgeneralization
何を見ていますか。Nani o mite imasukaWhat are you looking at?present action
毎晩テレビを見ます。Maiban terebi o mimasuI watch TV every nighthabitual action
明日友達に会います。Ashita tomodachi ni aimasuI will meet my friends tomorrowfuture action
日本語を話す。Nihongo o hanasuI speak Japanesepresent action
毎朝ジョギングをします。Maiasa joggingu o shimasuI go jogging every morninghabitual action
今何をしていますか。Ima nani o shite imasukaWhat are you doing right now?present action
休日に映画を見ます。Kyuujitsu ni eiga o mimasuI watch movies on weekendshabitual action
彼は来週パリへ行きます。Kare wa raishuu Pari e ikimasuHe will go to Paris next weekfuture action
子供たちは元気です。Kodomotachi wa genki desuThe children are energeticgeneralization
毎晩ディナーを作ります。Maiban dinā o tsukurimasuI make dinner every nighthabitual action
彼女は絵を描きます。Kanojo wa e o kakimasuShe draws picturespresent action
明日は天気がいいです。Ashita wa tenki ga ii desuThe weather will be good tomorrowgeneralization


If you want to form the negative sentences, you would follow the rules below:

  • Casual 一段 verbs – Take off the るand replace it with ない.
  • Polite 一段 verbs – Take off the ますand replace it with ません.
  • Casual 一 五段 verbs – Change the last syllable with its あ equivalent and add ない.
    • E.g., 書くto write → 書か書かない don’t write.
  • Polite 一 五段 verbs – Take off the ます and replace it with ません.
  • Irregular – 来るbecomes 来ない. する becomesしない.
毎日昼ご飯を食べない。Mainichi hirugohan o tabenaiI don’t eat lunch every day habitual action
日本へ行かない。Nihon e ikanaiI’m not going to Japan future action
勉強しません。Benkyou shimasenI don’t study present action
毎週日曜日に散歩をしません。Maishuu nichiyoubi ni sanpo o shimasenI don’t go for a walk every Sunday habitual action
これは役に立たない。Kore wa yaku ni tatanaiThis is not useful generalization
何も見ていませんか。Nanimo mite imasenkaAren’t you looking at anything? present action
毎晩テレビを見ない。Maiban terebi o minaiI don’t watch TV every night habitual action
明日友達に会いません。Ashita tomodachi ni aimasenI won’t meet my friends tomorrow future action


  • The casual form of verbs needs to be remembered and end in an うu sound.
  • The casual form should only be used between friends.
  • The polite form of verbs ends in ますmasu, and their construction depends on whether they’re a 一段ichidan, 五段godan, or irregular verb.
  • The polite form should be used in almost every situation when you are talking to someone who isn’t a close friend.
  • The present tense in Japanese can be used for a variety of purposes, including talking about the present, future, or generalizations.
  • The negative present tense of verbs ends in ないnai or ませんmasen.

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Learn more in the following Flexi lessons:

he always sleeps

B1+, Chapter 4

there is only one

B1+, Chapter 4


How to use the ます form?

With 一段 ichidan verbs:

– Take off the るru at the end
– Put a ますmasu in its place

With 五段 godan verbs:

– Change the last syllable for an いsound
– And throw on ます masu

With irregular verbs:

– する suru to do changes to しますshimasu.
– 来る kuru to come changes to 来ます kimasu.

When to use the Japanese polite form?

The Japanese polite form is called 丁寧語 teineigo, also known as polite language.

This form is what you should use when you’re speaking to anyone but a friend. If you’re in the office, or at a restaurant, or at the post office, you might choose to use this.

How to negate present tense in Japanese?

If you want to form the negative sentences, you would follow the rules below:

Casual 一段 verbs – Take off the るand replace it with ない.

Polite 一段 verbs – Take off the ますand replace it with ません.

Casual 一 五段 verbs – Change the last syllable with its あ equivalent and add ない.E.g., 書くto write → 書か→ 書かない don’t write.

Polite 一 五段 verbs – Take off the ます and replace it with ません.

Irregular – 来るbecomes 来ない. する becomesしない.

How to negate the past tense in Japanese?

The rules for forming the past-negative tense are consistent across all verbs.

You simply begin with the negative form of the verb, eliminate the いi from the ないnai ending, and substitute it with かったkatta.

Negated verb + かった

To make the formal negative tense, you would change the ます masu form of the verb to ませんでした masen deshita.

Where can I find more B1 lessons like this?

Check out our Japanese Grammar Bank, where you’ll find lessons for levels A1, A2 and B2.

Can I study Japanese in Japan with LTL?

Yes you can!

We offer group and individual classes in Tokyo, for the duration of your choice.

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