N5 Grammar – Past Form of Verbs

Welcome everyone, this is Mac with another N5 Grammar Lesson from JLPT Boot Camp. Last episode, we learned about the present tense. Today, we are going learn how to use the past tense in casual and polite forms. We are going to look at a few, very short exchanges. Let’s give it a try.

Conversation 1 (0:19)

Let’s join Matt and Yu talking on a date. Since they are friends, they will be using the casual form.

Matt: きのう なにを したの。
             Kinou naniwo shitano.
            What did (you) do yesterday?

Yu:     すしを べた。
             Sushiwo tabeta.
             (I) ate sushi.

Breaking that down, Matt says きのう, yesterday, 何, what, を, the object marking particle, した, the past casual form of する, to do, and finally の, casual question marking particle. All together, he is asking “What did you do yesterday?”

Yu replies with すし, sushi, を, the object marking particle, 食べた, the past casual form of 食べる, to eat. All together, she is responding by saying “I ate sushi.”

Matt and Yu are using the casual past form. To form this you must change the last kana of the verb. For group 1 verbs, there are many forms to remember. If the verb ends inす, you change it to した, く change it to いた, ぐ change it to いだ, む, ぶ, or ぬ change it to んだ, る or う change it to った. This is a lot to get used to obviously, so I recommend practicing how to conjugate a verb when you first encounter it. The more comfortable you are with these the better.

Let’s practice a few of these. We’ll give you the verb; you give me the past casual form.  Move your mouse over the word to see the answer.





I’ve included a helpful chart in the PDF to help you practice with this.

Let’s make a slightly longer sentence with つくる, to make. Can you make the casual past tense?


That’s right. Now, how about something longer? Say “Yesterday, (I) made dinner.” And dinner in Japanese is ばんごはん.

きのう ばんごはんを つくった。
Kinou bangohanwo tsukutta.
Yesterday (I) made dinner.

Now for group 2, all you need to do is take the last kana off and add た.

Can you try it with おりる, to get off (the train)? Can you give me the casual past tense?

got off

Pretty easy right? Let’s make a simple sentence with that. Can you say “I got off at Osaka Station?” Osaka station is 大阪駅おおさかえき in Japanese, while “at” in this situation would be the で particle.

わたしは 大阪駅おおさかえきで おりた。
Watashiwa oosakaekide orita.
I got off at Osaka Station.

Okay, you got it.

Finally for group 3, irregulars, る becomes た, する becomes した. An oddball here is the verb く, to go. For the casual past tense, it is った. Note the ちいさい つ between い and た.

Let’s try a simple sentence. Can you say “I went to the store?” And store in Japanese is おみせ.

わたしは おみせに った。
Watashiwa omiseni itta.
I went to the store.

Conversation 2 (4:55)

Exactly! All right, now let’s go back to the conversation between Matt and Yu.

Matt: 一人ひとりで べたの。
             Hitoride tabetano.
            Did (you) eat by (your)self?

Yu:     ううん、一人で 食べなかったよ。ねこと 食べた。
             Uun, hitoride tabenakattayo. Nekoto tabeta.
            No, (I) didn’t eat by (my)self. (I) ate with my cat.

Breaking down what Matt said, 一人ひとりで, by oneself, べた, ate, and finally の, the casual question marking particle. All together, he is asking “Did you eat it alone?”

Yu responds with いえ, no, 一人ひとりで, by oneself, べなかった, didn’t eat, and then よ, a particle used for emphasis. Next sentence, ねこ, cat, と, which can mean and, or with, and finally べた, the affirmative past tense of べる, to eat. All together, she responded with “No, (I) didn’t eat by myself. (I) ate with (my) cat.”

Ok, so Yu is using the negative casual past form. In the previous episode, we went over how to form the negative for the non-past tense. In order to make it about the past we simply need to cut off the final い and add かった, which is exactly how we form the past tense of い-adjectives.

A quick reminder, for group 1 verbs, to form the negative, you change the final kana to the あ row of kana and add ない. For group 2, you cut off the final kana and add ない. For group 3, for する you have しない and for る, ない.

Let’s try it now with く, to go. Can you tell me the past negative form?

didn’t go

That’s right. You change the final kana to the あ row of kana, and add ない to get the non-past negative. Then, cut off the last い and add かった. Now let’s try a slightly longer sentence, how do you say “(I) didn’t go to the party.”

パーティーに かなかった。
Paateiini ikanakatta.
(I) didn’t go to the party.

Nice work! Let’s go back to Matt. Now, he is talking to his co-worker, so he needs to be polite.

Conversation 3 (7:35)

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: しゅうまつは なにを しましたか。
                         Shuumatsuwa naniwo shimashitaka.
                        What did (you) do on the weekend?

Matt:            東京とうきょうに きました。
                         Toukyouni ikimashita.
                        (I) went to Tokyo.

Let’s break down what his co-worker said, しゅうまつ, weekend, は, the topic marking particle, なに, what, を, object marking particle, しました, did, and finally か, the question marking particle. All together, she is asking “What did you do (this) weekend?”

Matt responds with 東京とうきょう, Tokyo, に, particle used to mark a time or location, and finally きました, went.

And now Matt and his co-worker are using the polite past form. This is formed in a very similar way to how the non-past polite form is. You need to first get the verb stem or the ます stem by changing the final kana to the い row of kana for group 1 verbs, and for group 2 verbs. For group 3, for する you have し and for る, き.

Once you have the stem, just add ました to form the polite past. Can you try it now with あらう, to wash?


Exactly! You change the う to い and add ました. Now, how about a little bit longer sentence? Can you say “(I) washed my hands.” And hand or hands in Japanese is 手.

手を あらいました。
tewo araimashita.
(I) washed hands.

Great! Keep in mind that you don’t have to mention the topic, I. It can be implied from context.

Conversation 4 (9:48)

Let’s finish that polite conversation between Matt and his co-worker.

Co-worker: おみやげを いましたか。
                         Omiyagewo kaimashitaka.
                        Did (you) buy omiyage?

Matt:            いいえ、いませんでした。わすれました。すみません。
                         Iie, kaimsendeshita. wasuremashita. sumimasen.
                       No, (I) didn’t buy (omiyage). (I) forgot. Sorry.

Co-worker: あぁあ。
                        Oh man.

Let’s break down what his co-worker said, first, おみやげ, souvenir brought back from a trip, を, the object marking particle, いました, polite past tense of う, to buy, and finally か, the question marking particle. All together, she is asking “Did you buy omiyage?”

Matt responds with いえ, no, いませんでした, the polite past negative form of う, to buy, next わすれました, polite past tense of わすれる, to forget, and finally すみません, sorry.

Now, if you are not familiar, in Japan it’s very common to buy some kind of souvenir or omiyage for your co-workers when you go on a trip. Typically, people buy some kind of food that can be easily shared.

Matt is using the polite negative past form, which is quite easy to form as well. Simply add でした to the non-past polite form and you’ve got it. Let’s give it a try with む. First, what is the non-past polite negative form?

don’t drink

That’s right, change the last kana to the い row of kana and add ません. Now, can you make it about the past?

didn’t drink

Right! Can you make it a little longer? Can you say “(I) didn’t drink beer.”? And, beer in Japanese is ビール.

ビールを みませんでした。
Biiruwo nomimasendeshita.
(I) didn’t drink beer.

Good work! Let’s check your understanding with a final pop quiz.

Pop Quiz (12:09)

I’ll give you an English phrase, please give me the Japanese. And understand that the particles aren’t important for now. We’ll go over them in later videos. Concentrate on getting the verbs formed correctly.

(I) walked to the station. (Casual)

Now this is the casual form not the polite form. And a little hint, station in Japanese is 駅 and “to walk” is あるく.


えきまで あるいた。
Ekimade aruita.

“I walked to the station”, would be “えきまで あるいた”, in Japanese. Breaking that down, えき, station, まで, a particle used to mark an endpoint, and finally あるいた, the casual past tense of あるく. Remember that group 1 verbs that end in く change to いた at the end except for く. It’s irregular. For く, to go, we say った.

(I) didn’t run to the station. (casual)

Again this is casual. And ‘to run’ is はしる in Japanese.


えきまで はしらなかった。
Ekimade hashiranakatta.

“I didn’t run to the station”, would be “えきまで はしらなかった”, in Japanese. Breaking that down, again えき, station, まで, a particle marking an endpoint, はしらなかった, the negative past form of はしる, to run.

(I) paid. (polite)

This time, can you give me the polite form? And ‘to pay’ is はらう in Japanese.



This one is simple, はらいました is the polite past form of はらう, to pay.

One last one,

I didn’t study. (polite)

Again, this is polite. And ‘to study’ is べんきょうする in Japanese.


べんきょう しませんでした。
Benkyou         shimasendeshita.

The polite past negative form of べんきょう する is べんきょうしませんでした. Remember, that する is irregular. The affirmative form is します, and the negative form is しません.


Let’s review everything we went over today. We learned about how to form the casual past tense, which is especially tricky for group 1 verbs – す becomes した, く becomes いた, ぐ becomes いだ, む, ぶ, ぬ become んだ, る and う become った. Practice this often and whenever you learn a new group 1 verb ask yourself about how to change it into the past tense.

For group 2, it is quite easy, just remove the last kana and add た. For group 3, する becomes した, るbecomes た. And one more irregular you will have to remember is く, to go, which becomes った for the past tense.

For the casual negative past form, first change the verb to the non-past negative form, then just take the final い and add かった.

For the polite form, take the ますstem and add ました, or for the negative form, add ませんでした.

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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