Japanese Verb Conjugations (EASY - YET DETAILED - METHOD)

Hi everyone!

This is something I wrote in another thread but, given my recent search for more いる/える exception verbs, I decided that it was probably best to place this information in its own dedicated thread.

Unfortunately, a lot of people learn Japanese verb conjugations based on the Genki I (Chapter 3) method, with う- verbs and る- verbs categories. However, I find this unnecessarily confusing and nonsensical, which is why I will share with you what I consider the easiest way to learn Japanese verb conjugations. BTW, this is not something I came up with, but mostly learned in my first couple of months of my journey. Here are the 3 main categories:

1 - Irregular verbs: Mainly 来る and する. The other exceptions are 行く in its past tense form, which becomes 行った (NOT 行いた). The other one is 有る which, in its negative form, becomes ない (NOT ならない).

2- Godan verbs: These are the vast majority of verbs in Japanese (unless you include verbs in the potential form, which would then make Ichidan verbs the most common by a land slide, but that’s another story). Any verb that doesn’t end in an いる/える sound is a Godan verb. There are exceptions though (see the chart below).

3- Ichidan verbs: Are verbs ending in an いる and える sound. But, as mentioned before, there are Godan verbs that do end in an いる/える sound. These are the exceptions verbs:


**This chart was taken from the Genki I (Chapter 3) YouTube video by Tokini Andy, which I’ve linked in the 2nd post of this thread.

If you just want to memorize the most basic いる/える exception verbs, then the above chart is probably enough. However, if you want to do a deep dive into memorize most, if not all of them, then here’s a list, sorted by frequency, I found on Reddit:

Exceptions in top 200 (extremely popular words):

知る(shiru) - to know

入る(iru) - to get in

入る(hairu) - to enter

Exceptions in top 1000-2000:

走る(hashiru) - to run

切る(kiru) - to cut

参る(mairu) - to go (humble).

要る(iru) - to need

限る(kagiru) - to limit

Exceptions in top 2000-4000:

焦る(aseru) - to be impatient

帰る(kaeru) - to return home

握る(nigiru) - to grasp, to mold/press into shape.

減る(heru) - to diminish

Exceptions in top 4000-8000:

蹴る(keru) - to kick

散る(chiru) - to fall/scatter (not vertically, as leafs), it’s different from 落ちる to fall straight.

練る(neru) - to knead

Exceptions in top 8000-10000:

喋る(shyaberu) - to chatter

滑る(suberu) - to glide/slide

混じる(majiru) - to be mixed

照る(teru) - to shine

罵る(nonoshiru) - to curse/abuse(verbally)

耽る(fukeru) - to indulge in

Exceptions in top 10000-20000 (relatively rare):

茂る(shigeru) - to grow thickly

湿る(shimeru) - to become moist/wet

弄る(ijiru) - to fiddle

捻る(hineru) - to twist

寝そべる(nesoberu) - to sprawl

嘲る(azakeru) - to scoff/ridicule

齧る(kajiru) - to gnaw

毟る(mushiru) - to pluck

詰る(najiru) - to rebuke

Very rare:

軋る(kishiru) - to creak/squeak

誹る(soshiru) - to slander

せびる(sebiru) - to pester/demand money.

**Link to the above list: https://www.reddit.com/r/LearnJapanese/comments/nj28jv/える_いる_verbs_exception/


Here are some videos that explain in detail these verb conjugations. The Tokini Andy Genki I video contains the most basic conjugations. The second video, by ゲーム言語 has almost all the Japanese conjugations:

Hope this helps people who are still confused about how to conjugate Japanese verbs.

Take care!


Nice list. I thought the frequency ranking looked wildly off but it is because it is based on Wikipedia 笑 Anyway, good to have this post so it can be easily linked backed to when a beginner asks about this topic. Thank you.

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Haha! I agree with you. For example, 帰る is not in the top list, which is weird. There are other strange ones, but I left it like that because it at least provides a buffer to separate them. Otherwise it’s just a REALLY long list of verbs.

I’m curious how learning the verbs as godan/ichidan and う/る is any different? are they not just different names for the same things? Maybe I learnt them as ichidan and godan and don’t know the way for learning them as う/る? Whats the method for learning them as u and ru?
The chart is very helpful, you posted it in another forum and I found it really useful!

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Genki didn’t have you “learn” them at all lmao. I went through genki series when starting out. Iirc, it just basically told you "there’s 2 kinds of verbs る and う, even though they all end in う, not all are うverbs. る verbs end in RU. Except not all of them, some are actually う verbs in disguise but we’re not gonna tell you how to tell the difference at all, you just have to figure that part out yourself on an online forum 4yrs later "

You were just expected to remember if the ru verb they gave you was listed under るorう in the vocab lists, which was fine until I moved on and learned more, where they were classified as ichidans and godans. And then I still never knew which it was unless I encountered it in a conjugation like past tense


This is how Genki I (2nd edition) teaches verb conjugations:

The main issue with the う-verb and る-verb classification is that there are a lot of Godan verbs that also end with a る sound (i.e. 送る、撮る、取る、座る、乗る、始まる、去る、売る、etc). How is that supposed to help differentiate Ichidan verbs from their Godan counterparts?

Another, yet minor, issue I have with the Genki’s classification is that all verbs end with an う sound, including Ichidan verbs (る is also an う sound). Again, this method doesn’t help distinguish verbs very well.

On the other hand, the Ichidan/Godan classification makes perfect sense since it groups verbs based on the number of steps needed to conjugate them:

  • 一段 (いちだん) = One Step (remove る to conjugate).

  • 五段 (ごだん) = Five Steps (modify the last mora based on the desired conjugation, which varies depending on the 5 vowel sounds of the Hiragana chart).

That’s why I think that the Genki I classification nonsensical. It’s not a very clear way to distinguish Japanese verbs.


I’m having the same issues, it’s sort of troubling. Thanks for the suggestions.

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All good info in this thread. :+1:

… And then you have another perspective on it, such as Cure Dolly’s, where the idea is that we aren’t really ‘conjugating’ (in the same sense as is meant by ‘conjugate’ in Western/European languages). Rather, there are various helper-verbs, helper-adjectives, and helper-nouns which are appended to the verb after modifying (or removing, in the case of ichidan verbs) its final kana. This is more like a ‘Lego-style’ model than typical ‘conjugation’, building up verbs by stacking helper words on the end of them like Lego blocks.

(I highly recommend turning on subtitles for watching Cure Dolly videos, due to her odd/quirky voice/accent.)


I think it depends on what you are trying to do.

If you have a verb and you know that it is a godan verb, for example, then you know how to conjugate it (even if it ends in る). In this situation knowing the godan/ichidan classification is all you need.

But now suppose that you are learning a new verb, Xる, or Yむ, for example, that you have never seen before . If all you have is the godan/ichidan classification, then you are lost. But if you have the る/う terminology, then you know one, and almost certainly can guess the other.

Each of the classifications are useful in their appropriate context. Textbooks, generally are teaching new verbs, along with grammar etc, and that’s probably why they use the る/う classification more often.

I completely disagree!

The way Ichidan and Godan verbs are explained here covers everything you need to know in order to, not just conjugate ANY verb, but also to reverse engineer it back to its dictionary form with a high level of accuracy. Obviously this requires knowledge of all the Japanese conjugations, but that’s the case no matter which method you learn.

With the う-verb/る-verb classification, figuring out if the verb is an Ichidan or a Godan verb is just guesswork because, as I mentioned before, there are a lot of Godan verbs that end with a る sound. In contrast, there are not that many Ichidan verbs exceptions that are common. The exhaustive list I provided has pretty much all of the いる/える exceptions in the entire Japanese language, but you only need to memorize about 12-15 of them and you’re pretty much set.

Many people are left confused by the Genki I conjugation method due to its unreliability to distinguish between Ichidan and Godan verbs. That’s the reason why I advocate for its removal from ALL textbooks.


Obligatory Pato from Kanji Link

This was vital when I was starting out.


I disagree slightly with Cure Dolly’s explanation here, in that there IS in fact conjugation in the Japanese language, but it’s what she calls forming “sticky stems” (e.g. 会う→会い、頼む→頼ま、食べる→食べ) - this is literally what conjugation means, the grammatical altering of form of a verb or other part of speech. Everything else is aggultination, or “linguistic lego” if you prefer - the stacking of helper/auxiliary verbs or adjectives onto the proper inflection of a verb (e.g. helper verb ます onto the い-stem form of a verb for 丁寧語/polite speech, the helper adjective ない for negation, etc.)


Angry upvote

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Ahh I see, perhaps the problem is then with Genki’s teaching rather than the names? I learnt on Tofugu which used both names so I learnt both of the names at once(and it actually got explained).