マス形とは?|What is Masu form? | 動詞の基本| Basics of Japanese Verbs| |( マス形intro)| masu form intro| applying conjunctive form & verb types| Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Japanese Language Learning Essentials

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皆様みんなさま、こんにちにゃあぁ!Welcome to Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Online. So, you have a dictionary full of Japanese words you want to be able to use in everyday, but you can’t just go around using plain ole dictionary form with strangers. It’s like serving them a can of beans cooked over an open fire versus sweet red beans prepared in daifuku mochi . Well, maybe just the beans prepared as a paste, because the extra mochi on top may be closer to a step above the form we’re properly introducing to you, this lesson. And, if the plant your preparing is a 動詞, doushi, verb, you can’t just take it straight out of the ground that is the dictionary. You’ll need to take off the unnecessary pieces, cutting it off at the stem, then adding the special extra ingredient of a mildly fancy ます, masu. It’s basically the only thing to make the whole 動詞, doushi, recipe presentable or palatable to anyone— strangers, acquaintances, teachers. Sure, when you’re with friends or family, they’ll find your simple 辞書形, jishokei, endearing, but if you gave that to a stranger, they wouldn’t enjoy it at all. Though, even within a sentence, you’ll use 辞書形, jishokei, in different parts of grammar as long as you end on a マス形, masukei, it’ll be perfect to serve. We’re Kiki and Koko, helping you take those fresh hot out-of-the-oven 動詞, doushi, and preparing them so everyone can enjoy whilst teaching you Japanese language and culture. And, today, we’re going to go even further beyond with an introduction to a 形, katachi, form,  you’ll need to survive in Japanese language, マス形, masukei, masu form.

Kiki Koko and Quizbo Essential basics of verbs intro gokanLast time, on Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Japanese Language Learning Essentials:  We introduced you to 動詞の語幹, doushi no gokan. We wanted to use a consistent name for this phenomenon, depending on the context, but also sometimes just depending on the preference, 動詞の語幹, doushi no gokan, have MANY names. We figured as we’re looking back at the intro momentarily, we should at least give you some other possible names you’ll hear. We mentioned a few of these, but we’ll still be using ‘stem’ in English to make things simpler. However! We want to mention that this time, we’ll be referring to the stem of a マス形, masukei, which means, when we say ‘stem’ this lesson, it’s going to almost  always refer not to the form in 辞書形, jishokei, where you see romaji used in order to conjugate. For this time, we’re focusing on the form that ends with an 「い」sound. This would technically still include knowing how to transform a 辞書形, jishokei, into this form, as in the introduction, but in マス形, masukei, this will inevitably all end in an 「い」sound.

連用形, ren’youkei, Conjunctive form

In this case, this is the perfect term when referring to 動詞の語幹, doushi no gokan, whilst talking of マス形, masukei, as it’s how we’ll be referring to these forms, the forms between 辞書形, jishokei, 

・ステム形, sutemukei, Stem form

This is the way we could technically refer to it, as well, but as there’s a word for it in Japanese, 語幹, gokanit made more sense to simply call it by its Japanese name and translate it as stem.

・ベース形, beesukei, Base form

This is simply another way to say stem form, depending on the teacher. 

・ルート形, ruutokei, Root form

Again, some teachers say ‘stem’, some say ‘base’, and others say ‘root’. Don’t let the differences confuse you, we’ll just continue to use the same terminology of ‘stem’ which is also an apt metaphor when we’re pruning off everything else or adding other things. 

・副詞形, fukushikei, adverb form

This form name would only make things a bit more confusing in this context as it’s meant to apply to when it’s used in a certain way grammatically rather than the form itself.

・名詞形, meishikei, noun form

This technically could be accurate even in this case, because as we delve further into this, you’ll notice that this does result in a form of a verb that’s treated like a noun, and one of the ways that you can create a verb that’s used in places like nouns and as nouns. But, when we’re talking about conjugation and converting 辞書形, jishokei, to マス形, masukeithen it may just become a bit more confusing.

Kiki Koko and Quizbo Essential basics of verbs introSo, again, we’ll be doing what still counts as an introduction to マス形, masukei, as that’s just the umbrella term for a lot of other conjugation we’ll be running across. And, we’ll be sure to give even more indepth looks at how to complete these tasks so that you’ll hopefully find the idea a lot more understandable. In order to enjoy and get use out of this lesson, though, we recommend you’ve read the previous lessons along with having the tools we introduced in previous essential lessons. Each lesson has built upon one another since our first lesson, and this one is nearly 200 lessons in. But, no worries! If you do just want to jump in and have a quick reference, that’s fine, too. Just be patient with yourself, as well, if you’re a beginner, as these are just introductions. We hope they’ll prepare you to start using these concepts, but before getting into actually conjugating properly yourself, it’s important to get an idea of what it all means and to understand the point of it all. But, simply stated, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable with a few other tools we’ve introduced previously.

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Throughout the entirety of the journey so far, we’ve actually hinted at a lot of these concepts and introduced the ideas around them, but they were more vague and definitely will make much more sense after these lessons. A lot of the concepts pertaining to sentences were presented throughout lessons about particles and sentences like です、は、がand , respectively. The grammar concerning adjectives and their conjugation will be useful for conjugating dictionary forms of verbs to an extent. But, let’s keep moving forward even if we continue appreciating what we’ve learned so far. Once you’re ready, we’ll get started.

After these messages, we’ll be right back!



And, we’re back! Let’s jump into it, we have a lot to cover!

What is ‘masu form’? |「マス形」って何?

Japanese language and culture is full of both spoken and unspoken rules as well as complex hierarchies. These linguistic hierarchies aren’t always so distinct to beginners. There are cases where being polite is impolite and being what could be impolite is endearing. Even looking past all of these ideas, there is one thing that stands out that everyone can probably agree on: only using 辞書形, jishokei, makes people sound like kids, not babies, though, oddly, as there’s an entire type of baby speech that we could cover in future, but for now, just know that: sure, 辞書形, jishokei, is fine to use with close friends and family or loved ones, but when you step out into the world as a teen or adult using only 辞書形, jishokei, you read in the dictionary, you’ll end up sounding more rude than childish, as if you didn’t take the extra time and care to use polite language with the person you’re speaking to, even if it’s a stranger. This is where マス形, masukei, comes in.

マス形, masukei, is the most basic way to be polite in Japanese. Being polite and humble as well as respecting others is paramount in speaking Japanese—Well, of course, there is slang and rude words and other human concepts, but your default should always be politeness. It’s about showing you care. And, there is a politeness beyond this known as 敬語, keigo, and 尊敬語, sonkeigo, as well as the sort of abbreviated form of バイト敬語, baitokeigo, which isn’t always ‘correct’, but it’s what is used often at Japanese jobs in the service industry. So, unless someone is absolutely posh beyond belief or constantly in the presence of those of higher status, they probably won’t be using those all day through and through. There’s the basic and simple way to make your verbs polite, just polite enough to pretty much use with anyone without offending them or feeling too standoff-ish. It will actually make you sound much more respectful and educated in the public eye. That isn’t to say anything negative about people speaking using exclusively 辞書形, jishokei, but using it is usually akin to their choice of speech. It may sound a bit extreme, but if you talk to strangers or a boss without using マス形, masukei, it may feel almost like saying a naughty word to them. And, yet, babies and kids use 辞書形, jishokei, and even omit particles all of the time, and they’re not seen as being rude. This is part of the complexities of everything, but with time, it’ll all start to fall into place.

During Word of the Week Wednesday, when a verb is presented, we’ve been making sure to present you with マス形, masukei, as well. It’s because we want you to be able to actually use the word in sentences beyond simple speech. It’s a bit of an extra help for you to be able to get the most out of QUIZBO™’s corner.

So, overall, マス形, masukei, is simply a form that makes your verbs polite enough to use in almost any situation. Just be mindful in future that マス形, masukei, doesn’t work in every single part of the sentence, as conjugation can help you fit it into the grammatical slots it needs to fill. But, how does マス形, masukei, even work?


Basics of masu and conjunctive form| マス形と連用形の基本

Hopefully you remember last lesson where we explained how stems work. In this case, you’re technically using those same stems. There is technically an extra step added onto this, though. So, in the beginning, it’s best to think of it in this more complex way, and later on, it’ll feel a bit more natural, so you may mentally sort of combine it into only two steps. That is, unless it’s 一段動詞、ichidan doushi, otherwise known as a る verbs.

When you’re converting any 辞書形, jishokei, into マス形, masukei, though, there are three basic steps.

辞書形 → 連用形 → 連用形 +ます = マス形
Dictionary form  →  Conjunctive form → Conjunctive form + masu = Masu form

Now, depending on what type of verb it is, the steps will look a bit different, so we’re going to continue on

Conjugating Godan Verbs to Masu form ( う verbs)

So, after being introduced to verb stems, we’re going to apply that to the 連用形、renyoukei, conjunctive form which is basically the stem of any マス形. But, in order to get that, stem, you have to follow this recipe:

  1. identifying the stem in dictionary form
  2. chopping off thesound
  3. making it conjunctive form by adding 「い」sound
  4. Then adding ます
  5. Then, you can begin enjoying your polite verb, using it everywhere with everyone

This may not seem simple at first, and it will take some getting used to, but this should help you get started in the world of conjugation! We’re here to make sure you understand the map to this winding forest so you can get the most of it. So, when it comes to う verbs and their stems, you may remember all of the different endings we listed in the previous lesson. Some people think of it as each as an entirely different way to conjugate, but if you just make sure to focus on the simple trick of chopping off the う sound, then at least for this type of conjugation, you can keep things simpler.

We’re going to show you a couple of examples just to introduce you to how to put this method into action. First, we’ll show you the simplified example, then we’ll get into the steps of everything. We’re going to include two different verb ending sounds, one with a consonant and one with just a plain う ending in order to get a better visualisation.

洗う → 洗い → 洗い +ます = 洗います

あらう →あらい → あらい +ます = あらいます

arau → arai → arai + masu = araimasu


書く → 書き → 書き +ます = 書きます

かく → かき → かき +ます = かきます
kaku → kaki → kaki + masu =   kakimasu


Now, because we’ve only just introduced the stem form, we’re going to make sure we give you how to get from dictionary form to identifying the stem into making it into conjunctive form. And, all of this may sound complicated at first, but it really does make things simpler in the long run as it leaves less questions and you can more easily apply the method to other verb endings. But, even still, don’t worry, as we’ll help you through even those steps~!  But, for now, let’s just keep focused on these endings:

う → → 洗+い → 洗い → 洗い +ます = 洗います

あらう→あら→あら+い→あらい → あらい +ます = あらいます

arau→ arau→ ara+i→arai→ arai + masu = araimasu


く→→ 書k+i→書き → 書き +ます = 書きます

く→→ かk+i →かき→ かき +ます = かきます

kaku→kaku→kak+i→kaki → kaki + masu =   kakimasu

Now, in both cases, you’ll hopefully see how each of them has the う taken away, however when it’s a character with a consonant, then you keep that consonant and addい. It’s better to think of it this way rather than thinking of it as replacing the う with い as it may help you when you’re conjugating other verbs with different beginning consonant sounds. As far as an introduction goes, we hope this is a good companion to the previous lesson on stems, as it really applies your knowledge from one to the other and back again. Definitely be sure to revise the previous lessons in order to get a better idea. But, no worries, we’ll be sure to explain this indepth in a future lesson, but hopefully this is enough to get you started with the concept.


Introduction to Ichidan Verb Stems (る verbs)

So, when it comes to ichidan or る verbs, it’s a lot simpler objectively and will be the same throughout any る verb you see. So, after う verbs, it should feel a bit more precise. It’s only really a lean two steps without a lot of converting, just chopping off る and adding ます.

  1. identifying the stem in dictionary form
  2. chopping off the
  3. Then adding ます
  4. Then, that’s all! Now, you’re just feeling polite and accomplished

Let’s have a look at a couple of common verbs that should hopefully make things easier to visualise.

食べ食べ→ 食べ +ます = 食べます

たべる→たべ→ たべ +ます = たべます

taberu→ taberu→ tabe + masu = tabemasu


→ 見 +ます = 見ます

る→→ み +ます = みます

miru→ miru→ mi + masu = tabemasu


So, when it comes to each of these, making the stem, which is basically the same as making the conjunctive form, really is as simple as chopping off the and adding ます. So, when it comes to a lot of the future conjugations, you’ll notice that this is usually the best baseline to practise with, then the one you’ll have to spend a bit more time memorising would be the verbs. But, at least, now you can have the benefit of knowing which follows the most consistant feeling rules. They’re all consistent, but it’s just that this will end up feeling the simplest even in future. But, what about the ones that actually don’t follow normal rules? Let’s have a look at the next section for a moment.

Introduction to Irregular Verb Stems

As we mentioned before in the previous lesson, this is something that is so irregular that each one is a case-by-case basis. So, all we can offer in this introduction is just a peek into a couple of them:

する → します

来る → 来ます

These two are the only two of their kind, as well, being categorised in their own special サ変, sahen, and カ変, kahen. Luckily, because they’re bouncy trouncy fun-fun-fun, and more importantly, they’re the only ones, it’s at least a bit less to memorise and easier to get used to. But, in the meantime, just always be on the lookout for the class of verbs in order to practise conjugating them.



Wow-wow, this was yet another quite intense lesson concerning verbs. We’re dedicated to making sure you understand these concepts through and through! And, we’ll digitally take you by the hand and lead you down the path in a way that you’ll hopefully be able to step out in front on your own one day, as well. But, even still, we’ll be there for you during your entire Japanese language learning journey. These first steps can seem daunting at first, but with patience and time, they’ll become more natural. There will come a time where you won’t even have to think about the verb class or the step-by-step, you’ll simply speak and the words will happen. But, in order to get to that point, you have to lay the groundwork with these step-by-steps so your mind has a road map with which to work. Then once you understand it all, you’ll practise them and practise and the reaction time for conjugation will become less and less even as it comes to new verbs you look up in the dictionary or see from QUIZBO™ during Word of the Week Wednesday. Meanwhile, we’re here cheering you on and giving you the tools you need.

We hope that we’ve continued to be a useful source for your Japanese studies. We want to be there for you in your Japanese language learning journey for years to come. Your support helps others just like you who also want to continue to keep these educational tools available to everyone. Perhaps during your busy week, you may forget which days we upload, or what day of the week it is.  By subscribing to the Electronic Mailing List of Tomorrow, today, found usually at the bottom of the site page or the sidebar on desktop, you won’t ever have to remember what day of the week it is, again! Also, you’ll be the first to be notified as otherwise, hours before everyone else. You’ll get the latest tools and resources to surviving in Japanese language in straight to your inbox. That’s articles, videos, podcasts, and more.

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