-U う Verbs

The –る verbs are by far the easiest to conjugate: you drop –る and add something else. Simple. –う verbs aren't that easy but almost. Typically you drop –う and add something else. The problem is that there might be a phonetic change (such as when は becomes ぱ, or た becomes だ) for some of the types. See the other chart for simple-English meanings of the conjunctions, this one just tries to keep the conjunction rules clear.

But first, there are some –う verbs that end in –る. We have to get them out of the way right now. Real –る verbs (where –る gets dropped) always end in –いる or –える. If you see one that ends:

ある "exist"
うる "sell"
おる "break"
then it's guaranteed not to be a – る verb. It's probably a –う verb. The exceptions are irregulars like ござる/ざいます, but effectively you can forget about those and assume anything ending with –ある, –うる, or –おるis an –う verb.

Verbs like いる ("exist" or "need") can be of either –う or –る type. In fact, いる is actually two different verbs. いる ("need") is an –う verb, its gerund is いって. The other one, いる ("exist") is a –る verb, its gerund is いて. If you hear one of these kinds of verbs, eg 入る (はいる, "to enter"), be sure to ask what the gerund (はいって) or past tense (はいった) is so you can remember its type.

So far I've only met three verbs ending in –える which were –う verbs rather than –る verbs. These are: ける/けって ("kick"), ヘル/へって ("decrease"), and へる/へって ("elapse"). Except for these いる/える verbs, every other type of verb is obvious by hearing only one form.

Including –う verbs which might happen to end in –る, these are all the types of –う verbs there are:

–す
–く, –ぐ
–ぶ, –む, –ぬ
–る, –つ, –{あ,い,う,え,お}+う

This should clarify what we mean by –う verbs, ie those verbs which end with some sort of C/V + う combination in their unconjugated form.

The –す verbs are the only ones which are well behaved, so –す will simply change to –さ, –し, –せ, and –そ in all cases with no odd behavior to remember. This isn't true for the rest of the –う verbs, which makes them harder to remember.

For the root or stem, replace –う with – い. This works straight across with no consonant changes in any of the conjgations.

話す (はなす)→ 話し (はなし)"talk"
聞く (きく) → 聞き (きき)"listen"
泳ぐ (およぐ)→ 泳ぎ (およぎ)"swim"
呼ぶ (よぶ) → 呼び (よび)"call"
飲む (のむ) → 飲み (のみ)"drink"
死ぬ (しぬ) → 死に (しに)"die"
作る (つくる)→ 作り (つくり)"make"
待つ (まつ) → 待ち (まち)"wait"
払う (はらう)→ 払い (はらい)"pay", "sweep"

Once –ます is attached this form becomes a new verb. All –ま す verbs conjugate like ordinary verbs ending in –す except that the negative is –ません rather than the expected –ましない and the past tense negative is –ませんでした (ie, –ません and the past tense of です, でした).

The –やすい construction mentioned above is a general way to attach adjectives to verbs, akin to the English construction "adjective to verb", as in "easy to understand", "hard to do", "quick to say", etc. Perhaps most commonly used in this manner are やすい and its opposite にくい, but there are others.

Replace –う with –いて, –んで, or –って for the gerund, "do X and" and for simple commands.

話す (はなす)→ 話して (はなして)
聞く (きく) → 聞いて (きいて)
泳ぐ (およぐ)→ 泳いで (およいで)
呼ぶ (よぶ) → 呼んで (よんで)
飲む (のむ) → 飲んで (のんで)
死ぬ (しぬ) → 死んで (しんで)
作る (つくる)→ 作って (つくって)
待つ (まつ) → 待って (まって)
払う (はらう)→ 払って (はらって)

The way the gerundive form works as a polite command or request is that it is typically paired with a request verb such as なさる or 下さる (くださる). In fact, the request verb is often simply left unsaid, the listener being expected to know that the speaker is requesting or commanding something to be done. An example is "聞いて", a somewhat informal version of "聞いて下さい".

Replace –う with –いた for the past tense.

話す (はなす)→ 話した (はなした)
聞く (きく) → 聞いた (きいた)
泳ぐ (およぐ)→ 泳いだ (およいだ)
呼ぶ (よぶ) → 呼んだ (よんだ)
飲む (のむ) → 飲んだ (のんだ)
死ぬ (しぬ) → 死んだ (しんだ)
作る (つくる)→ 作った (つくった)
待つ (まつ) → 待った (まった)
払う (はらう)→ 払った (はらった)

Okay, so it's not as simple as the description implies, but notice that this is almost exactly the same as the gerundive conjugation except that –て/で is now –た/だ.

Replace –う with –いたり for "do things like X". Or just add –り to the past tense.

話す (はなす)→ 話したり (はなしたり)
聞く (きく) → 聞いたり (きいたり)
泳ぐ (およぐ)→ 泳いだり (およいだり)
呼ぶ (よぶ) → 呼んだり (よんだり)
飲む (のむ) → 飲んだり (のんだり)
死ぬ (しぬ) → 死んだり (しんだり)
作る (つくる)→ 作ったり (つくったり)
待つ (まつ) → 待ったり (まったり)
払う (はらう)→ 払ったり (はらったり)

Replace –う with –いたら for the conditional, "if". Or more simply, just suffix –ら to the past tense form.

話す (はなす)→ 話したら (はなしたら)
聞く (きく) → 聞いたら (きいたら)
泳ぐ (およぐ)→ 泳いだら (およいだら)
呼ぶ (よぶ) → 呼んだら (よんだら)
飲む (のむ) → 飲んだら (のんだら)
死ぬ (しぬ) → 死んだら (しんだら)
作る (つくる)→ 作ったら (つくったら)
待つ (まつ) → 待ったら (まったら)
払う (はらう)→ 払ったら (はらったら)

Once again, this is the 'temporal' conditional. The 'atemporal' conditional is next.

Replace –う with –えば for the other conditional, "if".

話す (はなす)→ 話せば (はなせば)
聞く (きく) → 聞けば (きけば)
泳ぐ (およぐ)→ 泳げば (およげば)
呼ぶ (よぶ) → 呼べば (よべば)
飲む (のむ) → 飲めば (のめば)
死ぬ (しぬ) → 死ねば (しねば)
作る (つくる)→ 作れば (つくれば)
待つ (まつ) → 待てば (まてば)
払う (はらう)→ 払えば (はらえば)

Replace –う with –おう for the volitional, "let's X".

話す (はなす)→ 話そう (はなそう)
聞く (きく) → 聞こう (きこう)
泳ぐ (およぐ)→ 泳ごう (およごう)
呼ぶ (よぶ) → 呼ぼう (よぼう)
飲む (のむ) → 飲もう (のもう)
死ぬ (しぬ) → 死のう (しのう)
作る (つくる)→ 作ろう (つくろう)
待つ (まつ) → 待とう (まとう)
払う (はらう)→ 払おう (はらおう)

The volitional is also sometimes called the presumptive or the hortative. Look these big words up in a good English dictionary if you're curious. Personally I think the term 'presumptive' is a misnomer because this form doesn't really connote a presumption, but an intention. The term 'hortative' would be accurate if this conjugation was directed towards the listener, or to both the speaker and listener, but seems inappropriate when only the speaker is the intended subject. But I digress.

Replace –う with –え for the imperative, "do X dammit".

話す (はなす)→ 話せ (はなせ)
聞く (きく) → 聞け (きけ)
泳ぐ (およぐ)→ 泳げ (およげ)
呼ぶ (よぶ) → 呼べ (よべ)
飲む (のむ) → 飲め (のめ)
死ぬ (しぬ) → 死ね (しね)
作る (つくる)→ 作れ (つくれ)
待つ (まつ) → 待て (まて)
払う (はらう)→ 払え (はらえ)

It can't be stressed enough that this conjugation is rude. Don't use it in polite conversation. Don't use it with strangers unless you're ready to defend yourself. However, you can safely use it in a monologue, or when talking about someone behind their back amongst your friends. An example of a monologue:

「行け!」と思った。
いけ と おもった
"'Go!', I thought."

And here's a rude one:

ちくしょ!死ねぞ!
ちくしょ しねぞ
"Die you bastard!"

Note that this can be easy to confuse with the gerund. There's a world of difference between saying "待て!" and saying "待って!". The former is a command, the latter is a request, although somewhat abrupt.

Replace –う with –あない for the negative, "doesn't X". This then becomes an adjective.

話す (はなす)→ 話さない (はなさない)
聞く (きく) → 聞かない (きかない)
泳ぐ (およぐ)→ 泳がない (およがない)
呼ぶ (よぶ) → 呼ばない (よばない)
飲む (のむ) → 飲まない (のまない)
死ぬ (しぬ) → 死なない (しなない)
作る (つくる)→ 作らない (つくらない)
待つ (まつ) → 待たない (またない)
払う (はらう)→ 払わない (はらわない)

Notice that the negative form of はらう is はらわない. This is easily explained if you consider a missing 'w' in the –う form of the verb. Since Japanese has no 'wi', 'wu', 'we', or 'wo' the 'w' consonant does not appear, but it does exist in the negative with わ. In fact, at one point Japanese did actually have 'wi' and 'we' and these were used in the conjugation of verbs like はらう, although such sounds have since disappeared.

An aside: The 'wi' and 'we' sounds are still occasionally seen used in literature with the two ひらがな characters ゐ and ゑ, or ヰ and ヱ in カタカナ. Few Japanese people can actually pronounce them as such. The particle written を in ひらがな or ヲ in カタカナ is often denoted in ローマ字 as 'wo', and indeed it once was pronounced this way and filled this niche in conjugation. All of these have since fallen out of use in modern Japanese except for を which is still used as a particle. It probably kept its form instead of changing to お because it is easier to differentiate from the お– prefix.

Replace –う with –える for the potential, "can do X". This becomes a –る verb.

話す (はなす)→ 話せる (はなせる)
聞く (きく) → 聞ける (きける)
泳ぐ (およぐ)→ 泳げる (およげる)
呼ぶ (よぶ) → 呼べる (よべる)
飲む (のむ) → 飲める (のめる)
死ぬ (しぬ) → 死ねる (しねる)
作る (つくる)→ 作れる (つくれる)
待つ (まつ) → 待てる (まてる)
払う (はらう)→ 払える (はらえる)

Replace –う with –あせる for the causative, "make someone do X". This becomes a –る verb.

話す (はなす)→ 話させる (はなさせる)
聞く (きく) → 聞かせる (きかせる)
泳ぐ (およぐ)→ 泳がせる (およがせる)
呼ぶ (よぶ) → 呼ばせる (よばせる)
飲む (のむ) → 飲ませる (のませる)
死ぬ (しぬ) → 死なせる (しなせる)
作る (つくる)→ 作らせる (つくらせる)
待つ (まつ) → 待たせる (またせる)
払う (はらう)→ 払わせる (はらわせる)

As with はらわない, the はらわせる requires a わ instead of an あ.

Replace –う with –あれる for the passive, "X is done [by ...]". This becomes a –る verb.

話す (はなす)→ 話される (はなされる)
聞く (きく) → 聞かれる (きかれる)
泳ぐ (およぐ)→ 泳がれる (およがれる)
呼ぶ (よぶ) → 呼ばれる (よばれる)
飲む (のむ) → 飲まれる (のまれる)
死ぬ (しぬ) → 死なれる (しなれる)
作る (つくる)→ 作られる (つくられる)
待つ (まつ) → 待たれる (またれる)
払う (はらう)→ 払われる (はらわれる)

This is essentially the same as the previous causative conjugation. Simply replace せ in the causative with れ to produce the passive.

Replace –う with –あせられる for the passive causative, "to be made to do X by someone". This becomes a –る verb.

話す (はなす)→ 話させられる (はなさせられる)
聞く (きく) → 聞かせられる (きかせられる)
泳ぐ (およぐ)→ 泳がせられる (およがせられる)
呼ぶ (よぶ) → 呼ばせられる (よばせられる)
飲む (のむ) → 飲ませられる (のませられる)
死ぬ (しぬ) → 死なせられる (しなせられる)
作る (つくる)→ 作らせられる (つくらせられる)
待つ (まつ) → 待たせられる (またせられる)
払う (はらう)→ 払わせられる (はらわせられる)

This conjugation is actually just a combination of the causative and passive, ie the passive form of the –る verb formed by the causative of the root verb. But it's often listed as a distinct conjugation of the root verb in many grammar books and so is presented here separately.

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