N5 Grammar – Non-Past Verbs

Welcome everyone, this is Mac with another N5 Grammar Lesson from JLPT Boot Camp. Last episode, we learned about the uses of the が particle. Today, we are going to learn how to talk about the non-past form, which can refer to the present or future. We are going to look at a few, very short exchanges. Let’s give it a try.

Conversation 1 (0:22)

Matt and Yu are talking about their hobbies.

Yu: 本を むの。
         Honwo yomuno.
         Do you read books?

Matt: ええ、む。
             Ee, yomu.
             I do.

Breaking that down, Yu says ほん, book, を, the object marking particle, then む, the casual non-past form of ‘to read’, and finally の, a particle used to mark a question in casual speech. All together, she is asking “Do you read books?”

Matt responds with ええ, yes, and then む, the casual non-past form of ‘to read’. So he is replying with “Yes, (I) read.”

And Matt and Yu are using the non-past casual form. This is the form you see in most Japanese dictionaries, so you might hear it called the dictionary form or it is sometimes called the plain form. It is considered casual, so you will hear it often among friends. Since it is casual, it’s best to not use it in any kind of business situation or with anyone older than you.

Let’s try it once. Can you say “I have a car.”?

Remember that I is わたし, to have, in this situation, is ある, and car is くるま.

わたしは くるまが ある。
Watashiwa kurumaga aru.
I have a car.

Pretty easy. You actually don’t need to make any changes to the verb from its dictionary form, just use it as is.

Conversation 2 (2:17)

Yu has one more question for Matt.

Yu: J-popを くの。
         Jepoppuwo kikuno.
         Do you listen to J-pop?

Matt: いえ、かない。
             Ie, kikanai.
            No, I don’t.

Breaking that down, Yu says J-pop, Japanese pop music, を, the object marking particle, く, to listen, and then の, the casual question marking particle. All together she is asking “Do you listen to J-pop?”

Matt responds with いえ, no, and かない, don’t listen. All together he is saying “No, (I) don’t listen (to J-pop)”.

Here, Matt made use of the non-past negative casual form. This is slightly more difficult to form than the affirmative. How we conjugate depends on what kind of verb it is. If it is one of the most common verbs, a group 1 verb or godan verb, we need to change the last kana to one that ends in あ. For example, for the verb 飲む, to drink, we change む to ま. Then, we add ない. All together, we have まない.

Let’s give it a try, can you say “(I) don’t go.” “To go” is く in Japanese.

To form this we first change the last kana く to か and then add ない. Altogether, we have:

don’t go

Yeah, exactly! For bonus points, how about “I don’t go to the company on Saturday.”?

I in Japanese is わたし, company is 会社かいしゃ, and Saturday is どようび.

わたしは よう 会社かいしゃに かない。
Watashiwa doyoubi kaishani ikanai.
I don’t go to (my) company on Saturday.

Breaking that down, わたし, I, は, the topic marking particle, どようび, Saturday, 会社かいしゃ, company, に, a particle used to mark a location we are traveling to, and かない, not go.

For group 2 verbs, also called ichidan verbs, we simply need to cut off the final kana and add ない. By the way, if you were wondering how to tell the difference between group 1 and group 2. The second to last kana of group 2 verbs usually ends with え or い like べる, to eat, or おりる, to get off (the train).

Obviously, there are some exceptions to this, but this will give you a general idea of what verbs are group 2.

Can you give it a try? Can you say “don’t eat”?

don’t eat

Exactly! Take the final kana る off and add ない. For bonus points, can you say “(I) don’t eat at McDonald’s”?

And McDonald’s in Japanese is マクドナルド.

わたしは マクドナルドで べない。
Watashiwa makudonarudode tabenai.
I don’t eat at McDonald’s.

Now, group 3 verbs are irregular. Don’t worry though, Japanese only has two irregular verbs -する, to do, and る, to come. する becomes しない in the negative form, and る becomes ない in the negative form. Let’s try it once. Can you say “don’t study”?

To study in Japanese is a する-verb, which means it is a noun that when used with する becomes a verb. So, “to study” is べんきょう する. Can you change the dictionary form into the negative non-past form?

べんきょう しない
benkyou shinai
don’t study

Okay, maybe you shouldn’t say that so often. I hope you study a lot, especially these conjugations. You should drill them often so that you are comfortable with them and use them automatically.

Conversation 3 (7:08)

Let’s go back to Matt and his co-worker. The next day, Matt’s co-worker asks about his hobbies as well.

Co-worker: 日本語にほんごを べんきょうしますか。
                         Nihongowo benkyoushimasuka.
                        Do you study Japanese?

Matt:             はい、毎日まいにち べんきょうします。
                         Hai,     mainichi     benkyoushimasu.
                        Yes, I study every day.

Breaking that down, Matt’s co-worker says 日本語にほんご, Japanese, を, the object marking particle, べんきょう します, study, and finally か, the question marking particle. All together she is asking “Do (you) study Japanese?”

Matt responds with はい, yes, 毎日まいにち, every day, and finally べんきょうします, study. All together, he is saying “(I) study every day.”

Matt and his co-worker are using the polite present tense here, sometimes called the ます form. Like the casual negative form, how you form this depends on what kind of verb it is.

For group 1 / godan verbs, you need to change the final kana to the い row of kana and add ます. For example, if you want to say I drink, we can take the dictionary form of ‘to drink’ in Japanese, む, change the final kana to み and add ます – みます.

Can you try it now with く, to go?

go (polite)

Right, we changed the final kana く to き and added ます.

How about saying “I sometimes go to a movie”? Sometimes in Japanese is ときどき, and movie is えいが.

わたしは ときどき えいがに きます。
Watashiwa tokidoki eigani ikimasu.
I sometimes go to the movies.

Good work! Now, with group 2 or ichidan verbs, we just need to take the る off the end and add ます. Remember that the second to last kana of group 2 verbs tend to end with a kana from the え row, like べる, to eat or the い row like おりる, to get off (the train).

Let’s give it a try with ねる, to sleep. Can you tell me the polite non-past form?


Right! For bonus points, can you say “(I) sleep at 10 every day?” 10 o’clock in Japanese is じゅうじand every day in Japanese is まいにち.

毎日まいにち 10に ねます。
Mainichi jyuujini nemasu.
I go to sleep at 10 every day.

Exactly! The final group of verbs of course are group 3 verbs – する, to do, and る, to come. する becomes します, while る becomes ます.

Let’s try it with these. Can you say “(My) friend comes.”? Friend in Japanese is ともだち.

ともだちが ます。
Tomodachiga kimasu.
(My) friend [comes / is coming].

Excellent! And we used the が particle there to mark exhaustively the person that will come, my friend.

Conversation 4 (10:49)

Let’s go back to our conversation with Matt and his co-worker.  She has one more question about his hobbies.

Co-worker: ビールを みますか。
                         Biiruwo nomimasuka.
                        Do you drink beer?

Matt:            いえ、みません。
                         Ie, nomimasen.
                       No, I don’t drink.

Co-worker: ほんとうですか。 なぜですか。
                         Hontoudesuka. Nazedesuka.
                        Really? Why?

Breaking that down, ビール, beer, を, the object marking particle, みます, the polite form of む, to drink, and finally か, the question marking particle. All together Matt’s co-worker is asking “Do drink beer?”

Matt responds with いえ, no, and みません, the polite present negative form of む, to drink. So, all together, he is saying “No, I don’t drink.”

And his co-worker responds with ほんとう, really, です, the copula, and finally か, the question marker. Then asks なぜ, why, です, the copula, and finally another か, the question marking particle. All together she is asking “Really? Why?”

Here, Matt used the negative form, which is pretty easy to form. All you have to do is add ません instead of ます. For example, with はなす, the polite affirmative form is はなします, the negative would be はなしません. Can you try it with the group 1 verb く, to go?

don’t go (polite)

Right! Can you say “(I) am not going to school tomorrow.”? School is 学校, and tomorrow in Japanese is あした.

あした 学校がっこうへ きません。
Ashita   gakkouhe ikimasen.
(I) am not going to school tomorrow.

You got it! Let’s review what we learned with a quick pop quiz. I’ll give you the English. Can you give me the Japanese?

Pop Quiz (13:02)

First one,

I don’t smoke. (casual)

A quick hint, “to smoke” in Japanese is “タバコを すう”. すう can mean “to suck” or “to breathe in” so literally you are sucking on tobacco or breathing in tobacco.


わたしは タバコを すわない。
Watashiwa tabakowo   suwanai.

“I don’t smoke.” in Japanese would be “わたしは タバコを すわない。”Breaking that down, we have わたし, I, , the topic marking particle, タバコ, tobacco or cigarettes, , the object marking particle and finally すわない, the negative non-past form of すう, to smoke.

I drink alcohol. (casual)

A quick hint, alcohol is おさけ in Japanese.


わたしは おさけを む。
Watashiwa osakewo    nomu.

“I drink alcohol.” in Japanese would be “わたしは おさけを 飲む。” Breaking that down, we have わたし, I, , the topic marking particle, おさけ, alcohol, , the object marking particle, and finally , to drink.

I run every morning. (polite)

‘To run’ in Japanese is はしる.


まいあさ わたしは はしります。
Maiasa       watashiwa  hashirimasu.

“I run every morning.” in polite Japanese, would be “まいあさ わたしは はしります。”Breaking that down, we have まいあさ, every morning, わたし, I, , the topic marking particle, はしります, the polite non-past form of はしる, to run.

One last one,

I don’t study on Saturdays. (polite)


土よう日に べんきょう しません。
doyoubini       benkyou        shimasen

“I don’t study on Sundays” in polite Japanese, would be “ように べんきょう しません。” Breaking that down, we have よう, Sunday, , particle marking times or locations, and finally べんきょう しません, the polite negative non-past form of べんきょうする, to study.


This lesson we went over how to form the present tense in both casual and polite forms. For the casual form, the affirmative is simply the plain or dictionary form of the word. For the negative form, how you conjugate the verb depends on what kind of verb it is. For group 1, you shift the final kana to the row of kana and add ない. For group 2, you remove the last kana and simply add ない. While for group 3, you have しない for する, to do and ない for , to come.

For the polite form, you have to conjugate the verb differently depending on what type it is as well. If it is group 1, change the final kana to the row of kana and then add ます. For group 2, cut the final kana off and add ます. Then for the last group, group 3, you have します for する, to do, and ます for , to come. Forming the negative is quite simple, just add ません instead of ます.

That’s it for this episode. For notes and more practice with the grammar point, stop by the JLPT Boot Camp courses site. There you can find quizzes, study guides for this grammar point and every grammar point covered in the videos. You can also get all of your questions answered you might have. Just leave me a comment, and I’ll get back to you.

Cover of the JLPT N5 Study Guide The JLPT Study Guide for the N5 is now available at Amazon. Packed with exercises to help you master all the grammar points needed for the test, this is a must have study guide for anyone preparing for the N5. It also has reading and listening strategies and practice exercises so you can hone those skills before the exam. Once you’ve finished the book, there are 3 practice tests to check your level and 100s of audio flashcards you can use anywhere to review what you learned.

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