Doing away with verb classes

This sums up exactly how I feel would be the best way to go about it. Honestly, I haven’t been studying Japanese nearly as long as I have Spanish, but being very proficient in Spanish, I can tell you that Japanese verb conjugation seems like a piece of cake compared to Spanish.

But going to back to your point, whenever I had a question or if I was unsure about how to conjugate (in Spanish), I would just ask a native speaker (which happened to be my wife so it was easy :smiley:). I know that not everyone has the luxury of living with a native speaker but I would highly suggest utilizing some of the resources out there that allows you to speak to native speakers and simply ask them when you are unsure. That’s what I plan on doing. You will learn the forms much better and they will stick in your memory but actually USING them. This is one of those areas where actually speaking the language will increase your proficiency in other areas (such as reading/writing) more than actually reading/writing.

This is why I fork out for a tutor. Another way is to do the exercises in Genki and check them with the answer book.

[quote=“Franken, post:44, topic:17349, full:true”]

走ります ends in -imasu, and so does 行きます. But the former is a Godan verb (replace -imasu with -anai) while the latter is Ichidan (replace -masu with -nai).

it’s not ikinai it’s ikanai[/quote]

That’s true — we’ve just found another example where starting with the ます form and trying to apply rules based on verb class fails for me. But to me, “go” in Japanese is now 行く/行って/行かない, so there’s no problem. :slight_smile:

Oh my, thank you for this little guide @jstrout ! I recently started to learn japanese again (this time properly and till the end, I promise:D) and all previous times I dropped it JUST because of the verbs. I could easily remember all the kanji, meanings, radicals, words but not the verb classes, that was just too much for my brain to handle at once. “Ah, what class is it, and then I need to do this, but considering this, etc.” I already remembered verbs in dictionary+te form so another one won’t be extra, plus it solves all those problems.
Thus, are these rules everything I need? What other forms I may need to know how to conjugate?

I think it might finally be time to reveal my monster conjugation drilling machine…

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[quote=“FlamySerpent, post:48, topic:17349, full:true”]I already remembered verbs in dictionary+te form so another one won’t be extra, plus it solves all those problems.
Thus, are these rules everything I need? What other forms I may need to know how to conjugate?[/quote]

There are indeed other forms — this wasn’t meant as a guide so much as a “hey, is this idea totally nuts?” question for the community.

I’ve since become convinced that it’s not totally nuts, and have started using it myself. To get started is easy:

  1. If you have any review cards (in Anki or whatever) that include verbs, edit them to always present the magic triple: dictionary form, -te form, and -nai (plain past) form. Always read all three, in that order, so they get embedded in your brain.
  2. As you learn grammar, learn how to form it from one of these three. Almost everything will either be based on the -te form or on the -nai form; and in the latter case, you’ll usually do one thing if it ends in -anai, and something else if it doesn’t.

I do plan to start writing up an actual guide for this, as soon as I figure out where to post it… maybe I’ll resurrect my 1500 Kanji blog. In the meantime, if you have any questions, post here or PM me and we’ll work it out together!

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There - I posted details of my conjugation drill at this thread.

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Okay, thanks for a reply! If you write a full guide, please let me know;)

This whole system feels like a lot of useless memorization to me. For me, the fact that there are almost no exceptions when it comes to conjugations and thus removing the need of memorizing tons of them, is a huge plus in Japanese. Instead of memorizing the dictionary form and 1 extra info for some of them (the ones ending on ru), you need to memorize 3 forms of each verb, which doubles to triples the amount of stuff you need to memorize.

And it’s not like the rules are difficult. Have you ever tried learning a language like French or German? THERE you see what complicated conjugations are, and then add tons of exceptions on top.

@Naryoril, it may seem that way, but I suspect it’s not.
In English, for example, we know go/going/gone/went without thinking about rules. Do we have them all memorized? Not in the ‘studying’ sense, but yes… they have become integrated through usage, the same result as if you had used ‘the rules’ to derive the conjugations the first dozen times. The difference is that, without using the rules, you are giving your brain a more direct path to integration, and thus fluency. Having to think your way to the solution each time actually slows down integration slightly (see studies regarding long-term use of mnemonics).

I suspect it’s the same as not using mnemonics, which works really well for some people, not so much for others. The main factor in success or failure is probably whether you actually get exposure to the material frequently enough.

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In russian schools (I don’t actually know about other languages and countries) we learn those forms by heart, pass little tests for them almost on every other lesson, and so on. So yeah, no rules applied, just learning and I think that’s the main deal with every language - it’s plain learning, every day and for a whole life:)

I personally think that learning a language by memorising all the rules (not normally, but with all the terms, additional grammar and in-depth studying, if you understand me) is not going to be the best solution, You’ll start to understand and feel the language and those rules as the time goes by, but before that there’s no need (for me) in scrupulous learning

@rfindley " English, for example, we know go/going/gone/went without thinking about rules. Do we have them all memorized? Not in the ‘studying’ sense, but yes… "

Unfortunately the base for your whole argument is incorrect. If you are not a native english speaker, rote memorization and studying in its truest sense is exactly what you need to do to learn that “go/going/gone/went”, well, not the going part since that is regular and follows the rules. I never “studied” German verb conjugation either, i never did any rote memorization for it, but ask someone who has to actually learn German what they think about it.

And yes, in the end after enough exposure you will not be thinking about rules and such, but the initial hurdle is larger if you just memorize everything, and you are much more prone to error. After enough exposure you can easily apply the rules without thinking about them, even with verbs which are new to you. If you just always learn the 3 forms, you won’t be able to do that.

In addition, if you don’t learn the rules you will have problems connecting verbs you haven’t learned yet, or to look them up. If you do know the rules and for example come across a new verb in ます form, you can turn it into dictionary form and then look the word up, in some cases there are 2 possibilities, so you just check the 2. But if you never learn the rules, you will have to apply much more guesswork. It is even worse if you are starting from the てform.

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That’s a good point! Although in the beginning, at least for me, it’s easier to just remember the verbs somehow, because those gigantic rules were exactly what threw me away from japanese. Learning rules and starting to know the language itself is important too, but not from the initial start imo

Initial rote memorization is exactly what I support (with limits and caveats), because your brain is more efficient at integrating simple patterns than using cognition to derive answers. Rule-based stuff helps when you need to derive the information you don’t have, so I still think it helps to know the rules. But ultimately, when you’re learning by rule, your brain is mostly memorizing the repeated results of applying the rule. So you’re still memorizing, just at a slower rate because the cognition step increases delay between stimulus and response, which makes the brain’s ability to recognize the relationship (at a low level) weaker.

Sorry for the overly technical explanation. I think maybe you misunderstood what I meant initially (or not?).

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Somehow quoting doesn’t work, so i’ll do without.

I understood what you mean, but i don’t agree with it. I haven’t read scientific studies in that regard, so i don’t know if what you are saying is simply your gut feeling or based on studies. But even if it is based on studies, is it based on studies concerning Japanese? What i’m writing is my gut feeling/opinion.

The conjugation rules in Japanese are simple patterns, they are ridiculously easy compared to other languages. I agree, it’s faster to just memorize and use the pattern 泳ぐ・泳ぎます・泳いだ than the corresponding rule, but you have to do this for hundreds of verbs. Once the rule is ingrained to you, it is easily applied to all of them. Yes, you need to apply it more often until it’s ingrained, but you actually are doing it more often, since you always practice the same. If you practice 100 verbs from group 2, you practice and memorize the same thing 100 times if you use the rule, and not 100 different things once each if you practice the triple. And the more verbs you practice, the bigger this difference becomes.

It’s a completely different story for other languages, where the rules are much more complicated with hundreds of exceptions. But the rules in Japanese are simple, and there are only 4 exceptions afaik: 来る、する、行く and ある, in addition です is also a strange beast, but i don’t know if you could really call it a verb (what’s the dictionary form of it? nothing?) So relying on rote memorization for hundreds of triples instead of a dozen or so rules seems like a huge waste of time to me.

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I disagree with your conclusion on two counts.

First, you have to depend on rote memorization to apply the traditional rules as well. In particular, you have to memorize whether each verb is a class 1 or class 2 verb. This is information that has NO USE outside of applying the rules, is not encountered in actual use, and is therefore both difficult and a waste of time. I’ve attempted to drill those classes into my head many times over the last 20 years, and they just don’t stick.

Second, you don’t have to memorize hundreds of triples. You have to remember the triples, which for the most part you will do because you actually encounter them when using Japanese. Anybody who’s been using Japanese for a while — particularly as far as reading, writing, and speaking — already knows 読む/読んで/読まない, even if they can’t remember what verb class it goes in (I’m not going to go look it up right now). And indeed, their brain will pretty quickly latch onto the pattern and extend it to new verbs, where it’s clear how to do so.

Where you need to spend a little more care is on the verbs that look like る verbs but aren’t, like しゃべる and 交じる. Here, when you first encounter them (or later when correcting this weak spot), you just put them in your review deck as shaberu/shabette/shaberanai, and majiru/majitte/majiranai. This means that you encounter these critical three forms more quickly and more often, and have instant recall of them.

The key insight here is that if you know these three forms, and if the conjugation rules are formulated accordingly, then you don’t need to care about verb classes! And moreover, the conjugation rules are often simpler (thus easier to remember and apply) than the traditional formulas. To me this is a huge relief, on both counts.

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I’ll share a real-world example I came across today.

Reading Hikaru no Go, I encountered a verb form (知らず) I didn’t recognize. Some googling led me to this explanation, which followed the standard pattern of giving separate rules for the two verb classes:

A-form of the verb + ZU

REPLACE the final RU with ZU[/quote]

But with our formulation, the rule is just: “Replace -ない with -ず.” I don’t need a separate rule because I already know the -ない form for all my verbs.

And this is quite common… almost all conjugations are simple derivations of either the -ない form or the -て form. Since both of these forms are common and you probably know them already anyway, why not use them?

…So today I gained a new grammar rule, so simple I’ll actually remember and use it! :smiley:

Considering that conjugating ichidan verbs mostly (always?) requires dropping the る at the end, I don’t see why it’s that big a deal. Since it doesn’t take much effort to remember the ichidan conjugations, at least for me it only requires remembering one rule most of the time. A notable exception is られる, but your approach would still require memorizing two rules in this case.

From Japanese For Busy People Volume 1, page 244-245 (Appendix).

Unfortunately, there is no escape from learning the verb classes. As shown above, the -nai form reflects the two bigger classes as follows:

Regular 1, Group 1, うverbs, godan: the -nai form always ends in -anai.
Regular 2, Group 2, るverbs, ichidan: the -nai form ends in either -enai or -inai.

Your method of changing the vowel is valid. You should remind everyone that the consonant in front of that vowel changes a little: さない becomes します and す, たない becomes ちます and つ. For beginners, referring to the hiragana chart would be helpful to catch these differences.

I already have a system for learning verb conjugations. I memorise the -masu form (because that’s where my teachers started) and the “verb class” (godan, ichidan).

I use the てform rules (as outlined in other posts) to work out てform. The て form rules are very random looking. If you make the effort to use them every time you see a new verb, and read a lot and do your grammar study, they become easier to absorb.

I read the vowel that comes before -masu to work out dictionary form, -nai form, volitional form, potential form. (This is the same as using the hiragana charts I posted earlier. If you look closely at my earlier copy/paste notes, you will see it’s doing the same thing as changing a vowel. You just have to be careful in the さ た lines where the consonant changes.)

I write into my Anki card: dictionary form, -masu form, -nai form and te form to remind me of what they look/sound like. If I struggle to remember any of them, I rely on the rules for backup. As a last resort, I look it up in the dictionary.

After about of a year of learning verbs by this method, I no longer need to explicitly write down dictionary form, -masu form, -nai form, te form. You can give me one of those forms, and I can quickly work out the other forms.

I agree that a simple bunch of rules like yours is the way to go. That’s what I’ve been doing. However, my rules are different.

I don’t expect anyone to use the rules (or look up tables) forever. It is just to deepen our understanding. With practice, we should get the conjugated form without much effort.

TLDR: memorise the -masu form. Memorise godan/ichidan. Memorise the て form rules. Use the vowel in front of -masu to work out dictionary, nai, potential and volitional forms. When learning a new verb, put dictionary form, -masu form, -nai form, te form into your anki cards. Look at the first three forms to see how they are related to one another.

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I totally get what you’re saying; in fact I pointed this out above: “The distinction is still there, implicit in what the plain past (ない) form looks like… but because that’s an actual word I see and use, it’s easier for me to remember than the ichidan/godan distinction. And the way the rules are formulated, it’s very hard to apply them incorrectly (we always try to replace -anai first, falling back to the second option only if there is no -anai to replace).”

I find this much easier to remember and apply than memorizing the ます form plus the verb class.

If you’re happy with the traditional approach, then by all means, use it! But I tried that approach for years, and it didn’t work for me. This is a different way of looking at it that, for me at least, seems to be working much better.

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Totally agree with this. I’ll definetely will remember and maybe use the rules after I’ll learn a lot of three-form verbs, but if people can already use those rules that’s just awesome! It didn’t work for me either and I tried several times already almost literally crying when the lessons in the textbooks were about the verbs - I could not pass them so I just dropped the entire language. If this rule is working I don’t see such big of a deal. If it’s working and conjugating correctly and can help some people that’s cool. If someone won’t be satisfied with it, that’s fine too, because learning process is a very subjective thing. I hope I didn’t offend anyone, everyone can learn however they want and like, because for me langauge was a fun thing in the first place.

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