Do you think it is better to start with the dictionary form or the polite Form in Japanese?

Okay I want to ask the swarm intelligence about that and about your experiences.

Short introduction to the topic, I learned Japanese at university and there we started with the ます-Form in the beginning and used that for the first Semester or the first half of the semester exclusively. And I far later we were introduced to the じしょ-Form, which is now used nearly all over the board to explain Grammar Points, to read about new Vocab.
Now to my question, wouldn’t it be better to start Japanese Classes with the じしょ-Form which is basically the basis of Japanese language and if you are comfortable with it, you can basically build all the other grammar points on top or do you think it is a good approach to start with ます Form ?

I discussed that topic already with some Japanese people and the main argument to begin with the ます-Form is because it is more polite and Japanese is a polite language, so it should be that base form of your studies…

So to sum it up :smiley: do you think for Japanese learners, would it be better to begin with じしょ形 or with ます形 and why? and which one did you start with ?

  • ます Form
  • じしょ Form

0 voters

Maybe some of the Japanese people on here @mamimumason or the Sempai like @anon20839864 @jprspereira @rfindley could help as well :slight_smile:

thanks a lot in advance

P.S.: I’m not that skilled in writing Polls xD could somebody add one for “which did you start with” and one for “which would you rather have wanted to start with”?


Verbs in Japanese grow from the dictionary form (slightly ignoring stem form here, mind you). 食べる => 食べた. Drop the る and add the た. Do you want てform? て instead of た. Why would you ever want to start with 食べます?

食べます => 食べた - How would you get there?


I think most classes start with the ます form because Rule #1: don’t be the rude baka gaijin.

The thing is… You can learn 食べる and 食べます in the same class without having to freak anyone’s brain with JP verb conjugation :man_shrugging:


Exactly. ます-form is basically everything you need to function as a tourist in Japan. Plus, everything conjugates the same, so there’s that too.


I can understand that starting with polite forms makes you able to speak “safely” faster, but ます is also an quite irregular helper verbs (especially the negative), so you may end up getting confused how the “conjunction” in Japanese really works.

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That’s the “true” basis of conjugation, if you look at it from the perspective of native linguistics. From there, you can do anything!


If you are asking what you should practice producing first, then I think it is reasonable to practice speaking in the ます form first. I also think it is reasonable that the formation of the ます form is one of the first inflections that you learn.

But the idea that you are going to be able to produce any meaningful japanese without knowing all the verb inflecions is a little misguided I think. Even when you are speaking in a polite form, a huge percentage of the sentences you form will still have dictionary form or other derived verb forms as part of the sentence. (たい, ない, たら, any reletive clause, んです, nominalization, multiclause sentences, etc. are all very common)

And also, if you are asking from a teaching perspective. Japanese inflection (as compared to romance languages, germanic lanuages, slavic languages) is super easy. almost no irregularities etc. So its not like you are saving tons of time by not learning the inflections. It’s hard to imagine a learning strategy that makes sense where you wouldn’t learn all the forms within the first couple months of starting to learn the language.


Yeah, but if we’re just talking about “which one should be first” I don’t think there’s a great argument for sending people out into the world with Japanese that would be considered less polite than standard for normal adult interactions. I don’t think it makes sense to teach dictionary form and ます simultaneously, and so I really don’t see a good reason for saying that the dictionary form should be the first form learned.

If people want to quibble about how long it takes to then reach the dictionary form in the lessons, that’s a bigger discussion about curriculum structure.


Why would you get there, though?
食べます=>食べました is much more likely to happen.
The basics are much easier in the ますform, so it makes a lot of sense to teach it first.
Also, it’s easy to go back to the dictionary form from the ます form, so the initial exposure you got isn’t wasted either. I really can’t see any good reason to go with the dictionary form first :man_shrugging: (you obviously still need to learn it afterwards for grammar, but not basic grammar)


I figure you’ll know both forms before you have any sort of meaningful conversation that goes beyond memorizable travel phrases, so I’d go with what makes the best sense for the learning process. But, as always, your circumstances determine your need, so choose at your discretion.


Let me rephrase the question in another way then: I want 食べた. How do I get there.

(I’m totally ignoring the fact that everyone will talk about verbs in the dictionary form… comunicating the same way makes things easier… but yeah :eyes: )

(Sorry, I’m tired and I shouldn’t be having this convo xD)


… I don’t think you want 食べた (or should care about it) as a complete beginner. たform conjugation sucks 学ぶ => 学んだ
You don’t really want to slam that in the face of people with no experience with the language.
The fact that the past form of ます is regular is a huge plus, I think.


Additionally, the た conjugations are home to some of the irregularities that people most often forget about like 行った (いった).


Let me try my hand at rephrasing it :blush:

Let’s say I learn 食べます means “to eat.”
Then I learn that dictionary form + ほうがいいです means “it’s better to ___.”

How do I get to “食べるほうがいいです”?

Then there’s grammar like …だと思います


or -て form to mean “and”


or putting a verb in front of a noun to describe it.


There’s a lot of grammar you can’t use without the dictionary form conjugations even when you’re being polite.


it doesn’t matter.

neither can you even speak well enough yet using plain form to be taken as rude, nor would people be impressed by your politeness if you use formal. in formal, you’d just sound more as if you’d read tourist guides and memorized the phrases.

while this sounds as if starting with the dictionary form makes more sense, that’s not true either. both forms give you the same viability for early learning. you’ll use formal 80% of the time, might as well give you exposure and train you from day 1. once you’re intermediate, you’ll know how to go back and forth, for dictionary lookups and the like, which you won’t need during your early days.

in general, it’s always safer to err on the polite side, but it’s damn difficult to even come across either or, people will see you for what you are: a noob.

it is not a little, but much later that you speak well enough (fluent delivery, natural expression, collocations, idioms, solid pronunciation and somewhat-okay pitch) that intermediate english speakers would gain from switching to japanese with you.

i’ve heard lots of terribly broken japanese in my time. especially english natives are having it rough. by the time they fix that, they usually don’t have the slightest problem with conjugations anymore.

do it whichever way, none is better or worse.
for practical reasons, i’d stick to formal, because grammar books often use it at the beginning, but since both masu-stem and dictionary form are used for grammar points, any textbook will get there eventually anyway.


Why? Because it’s hard to conjugate? But it’s not o: てform and たform should be taught close to one another since it’s just literally changing た to て (or vice-versa).

Conjugation from dictionary form is only a problem because they freaking teach you them as る and う verbs, which is the biggest bs ever. I make them into “える/いる” verbs and “Other verbs”, the former having some exceptions, but way less than the る/う drama.

Here’s how I learned て form:


That’s also a very good point :ok_hand:


Yeah, but we’re still talking about day 1. If you want to then teach dictionary form on day 2, the ます forms will have appeared first, if anything usable was taught on day 1.

I realize that’s taking it to extremes, but hey, maybe it was a 24 hour lesson.


That’s how I learned the た conjugation for dictionary form (and then て form). And I repeat, you don’t want that (or need it) at first.

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So you can’t make sentences with the dictionary form? xD… Pretty usable imo.

I think the problem is how we learned them. I have a feeling this eru/iru method is pretty recent, so for older learners, it doesn’t make sense because that’s not how you learned it. Edit: Guess not for Nath xD

I’m going to go do my reviews and sleep. I’m dying. I’ll get back to this tomorrow xD

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:thinking: Requiring a ぬ negation with additional helper verb to form the past are not my definition of easier. At least I was confused with what the hell is going on with 食べませんでした for example.

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