皆様、こんにちにゃあぁ！Welcome to Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Online. Whether it’s a tiny pebble or a giant boulder lying in the path between you and your next step to understanding and utilising Japanese language, we use every tool in our belt to move it out of the way. Sometimes it’s not just a boulder, it’s a rock! The pioneers used to ride those babies for miles! But, even if we can’t saddle up on the rock and help you drive it to your next destination, or even if it’s a tiny pebble that’s just stuck in your shoes of learning, the weight of each of those may still be the same. There’s nothing too simple to explain when it comes to learning a new language. Languages are constructed so differently that even if their paths seem similar, the materials and surroundings are totally divergent. That isn’t to say they’re automatically more or less difficult, but it is to say that even if the path is meant to guide you down a similar destination of communication, the map has entirely different twists and turns. But it’s this scenic trip that we’re after. And, luckily, you can enjoy this trip from anywhere, whether on your sitting on couch, waiting for your microwave to beep-beep-beep in your kitchen, or even at a traditional desk, you can travel this road, and we’ll be right there every step of the way. We’re Kiki and Koko, your guides to Japanese language and culture, and this lesson, we’re going to continue giving you the initial tools you need to understand 動詞, doushi, verbs, in Japanese!
Last time, we introduced you to various concepts having to do with 動詞, doushi. And, this time, we’re going to continue that notion, but in a much more focused way. It’s alright if a lot of the concepts weren’t entirely plain to you in the previous one. Again, it was just meant to give you a general idea. It’s not all going to become incredibly natural in such a short time. It’s important to take these things one step at a time or things will begin to become overwhelming. But, again, anything worth doing can be a bit of a challenge, and when you put forth the effort, you’ll really be able to be proud of what you can accomplish! Just go at your own pace, though, because these tools are meant to prepare you for travel through a more dense part of the forest of Japanese language… And that is conjugation. In comparison to many other languages, at least you don’t have to worry about masculine, feminine and neuter. So, you’re already only focusing on a third of the materials. But, it’s just the first time you navigate it, it takes a bit of hacking and combing through the leaves and branches. Even then, it’s not so nice to do that either, it’s best to gently push back the branches to keep everything intact. And, after travelling through the trail time and time again, the area starts to become much easier to traverse. It may take a while, but even still, we’ll walk in circles as many times as you need. That’s not to say you can’t also continue on further and circle back, either. In fact any part of the lessons are easier once you continue to circle back on the trail. Think of it as a relaxing walk for your Japanese language health.
We’ll be focusing on an introduction to 辞書形, jishokei, dictionary form. Before we jump into it, though, we want to make sure your survival kit is stocked, because we’ll be trekking very close to conjugation territory which is along the edge of a cliff. This is just the bridge we’re building to make it into that dense forest of conjugation. But, we gave you a few ropes to use in many of the previous lessons. So, be sure to go back and gather those!
So, a lot was discussed about verbs previously, whether you even realised it or not. A lot of the concepts were presented throughout lessons about particles and sentences like です、は、が、and を, respectively. The grammar concerning adjectives and their conjugation will be useful for conjugating dictionary forms of verbs to an extent. But, let’s not dwell on the past for too long. Once you’re ready, we’ll get started.
Basics of Dictionary Form | 辞書形の基本
Whether you’re looking a word up in the dictionary or being introduced to a new vocabulary word, most likely, if it’s a verb, it’s 辞書形, jishokei, dictionary form. Think of dictionary form as the most basic form of a verb. It’s not fancy, it’s not even polite, and you wouldn’t use it alone with strangers, however it’s an essential part of even polite speech. Though, if you were to use it with anyone other than friends as the main part of your sentence without even a です to make it a tiny bit more polite in the case of negative forms, then it would be quite impolite. But, we’ll get into why it’s still an important part of even a polite sentence in a moment.
Now, when you look in a Japanese dictionary, or you see QUIZBO™’s Word of the Week, the default verb that’s shown isn’t quite the same as if it were in an English dictionary. Let’s start with a quick example from 🔊Japanese Word(s) of the Week w/ QUIZBO™ | 【食べる】+ Bonus:【食べ物】(+Helpful Hints with Kiki+Koko).
So, firstly: the tense. In its plainest form, it’s considered non-past tense. This means the words you’ll find in the dictionary are present and future tense. This simply means that while it can be translated as eat, or to eat, it can also be translated as [I/you/we/he/she/they/it] eats, or [I/you/we/he/she/they/it]will eat. And, as we mentioned before, pronouns and subjects can be omitted, so it can literally mean any of those as the implied subject. So, in its simplest form, it stands for an entire sentence just be being a verb.
Now, when it comes to dictionary form, this doesn’t only apply to the tense we mentioned. There dictionary form itself is not only important to conjugation, but it in itself can be conjugated. This doesn’t include everything, but just as an introduction, there is:
☆彡過去形 | kakokei | Past form
☆彡否定形 | hiteikei | Negative form
☆彡テ形 ｜ tekei | te-form
☆彡可能形 ｜ kanoukei | Potential form
☆彡受身形 ｜ ukemikei | Passive form
☆彡使役形 ｜shiekikei |Causative form
☆彡使役受け身形 | shiekiukemikei \ Causative Passive form
☆彡命令形 | meireikei | Imperative form
And all of THOSE forms have negative, past, and polite forms, other than the specific negative and past forms respectively. Of course, there are other forms like volitional, conditional, and so much more, but for right now, we just want to keep it a bit simpler as it’s just an introduction. There is one thing that exists that some people who are only just introduced to Japanese may not know, though, or may have been misinformed. Contrary to popular belief, there actually ARE ways of expressing future tense in Japanese, but again, it all gets to be a bit much for an introduction, so we’ll save that for another time.
And, don’t let those overwhelm you, either! Once you understand how they work, and if you are patient with yourself, it’ll progressively fall into place and become more natural. But, you just have to get over the initial steps before you get your momentum.
Not just for the dictionary | 辞書のためだけではない
Just as we mentioned before, just because this is the dictionary form doesn’t mean that this is relegated to only the dictionary. But, more importantly, it’s not just relegated to casual speech either. It’s important to remember early on that these forms are important for understanding the verb stem when conjugating as well as using the words in different parts of the sentence. If it’s not at the end of the sentence, you’re usually not going to see the マス形, masukei, masu form. Now, this is a bit further down the road, but this is just to give you an example or two about the use of dictionary form in a basic polite sentence using マス形, masukei, masu form AND 辞書形, jishokei, dictionary form.
宿題するに パソコンを 使います。
しゅくだい するに ぱそこんを つかいます。
shukudai suru ni pasokon wo tsukaimasu.
(I) use the computer to do homework.
So, this is a sentence that is polite. It’s just a basic amount of politeness and could be used with a stranger or in an everyday situation that requires basic speech decency. But, it has a dictionary form verb. However, it ends with a basic polite verb at the end of the sentence. The emboldened text shows the polite マス形, masukei, masu form, and the purple shows the dictionary form. Even if you’re being a decent amount of polite, you’re not going to see マス形, masukei, masu form, in a verb clause as the object of the sentence like you see in this. But, let’s say you did use a dictionary form at the end of the sentence.
宿題するに パソコンを 使う。
しゅくだい するに ぱそこんを つかう。
shukudai suru ni pasokon wo tsukau.
(I) use the computer to do homework.
Now, this suddenly becomes a very casual sentence. This could be something uttered to a family member or close friend. There’s a balance in Japanese language between being polite to strangers, which is endearing, and those same polite things feeling cold when speaking with close friends. Let’s say you are talking to someone who is of high status, or even just a customer if you’re in customer service. There are ways to change each piece of the sentence into something even more polite, but even still, unless you’re talking to a CEO or the emperor, you’re probably going to mostly focus on the last verb of the sentence. It’s really all a discussion for another lesson, but something to think about.
We would like to mention, as it relates to using dictionary forms in sentences, for each type of conjugation, there’s a マス形, masukei, masu form and a 辞書形, jishokei, dictionary form. Depending on the part of speech and part of the sentence, you’ll end up using the dictionary form if it’s not at the end of the sentence. As a quick preview of what’s to come, let’s say you’re connecting multiple verbs.
食べて 仕事して 寝ます。
たべて しごとして ねます。
tabete shigotoshite nemasu.
(I) eat, work, (and) sleep.
In this scenario, the verbs in purple are dictionary forms that are conjugated. They could all easily be conjugated into マス形, masukei, masu form, but then it would be more like saying three separate sentences.
But, this all isn’t to say there aren’t forms to make every single part of the sentence overly polite, which might be just the right amount of politeness when talking to your boss, a customer, or the emperor. But, for right this moment, just know that what can seem casual in one part of the sentence is standard for other parts of the sentence. The one tip for that which we have is to remember that politeness is about raising the status of others and those outside of your group and lowering yourself and the status of your group. It’s a system we’ll dive into after we’ve made it a bit further on. But, until then, hopefully the basic idea of dictionary form is a bit easier to grasp.
That’s all for this lesson! We hope we were able to introduce this concept thoroughly yet hopefully concisely to you. When it comes to these sorts of concepts, we want to be thorough with introductions, but not in a way that overwhelms beginners by being too much to take in at once. This definitely puts all of the Word of the Week segments in a different light which may make them make a bit more sense in the way they’re presented and why they’re presented as such. This would be a great time to go back through the previous segments and see if you recognise anything new about the verbs presented as well as the sentences as they are presented.
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