Doing away with verb classes

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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Hey, FYI, I’ve started codifying various conjugation rules based on this tri-form approach. You can check it out here:

I welcome any additions or corrections.

I’m currently attending school at GenkiJACS in Tokyo, and tomorrow we have a test on the first half or so of Book 2. That includes the potential form. I’ve been always reviewing the three base forms of my verbs ever since all this began in April. So now I’m going to just be sure I know “replace -[w]anai with -eru, or -nai with -rareru” (for plain form) and “replace -[w]anai with -emasu, or -nai with -raremasu” (for polite form), and I should be all set!

I started out memorizing the masu and te forms. Then i added the nai form to the memorization list. Then i realized I was better off at least trying to remember the rules for conjugation because my memorization couldn’t cover every additional verb i learnt. Now I’ve decided to refer to the rules when I need to jog my memory about how to conjugate but otherwise to not stress about it too much. I now believe that after I’ve learnt enough japanese to start reading stories and fiction, everything will slowly fall into place. That’s how it worked with English at least. Reading is what made me good at it. I’d know what the correct answer was intuitively (from reading) and then work the grammar out. So I’m assuming that reading will fill holes in my Japanese learning too. Can’t wait to get to a point where i can properly read manga and children’s stories though! When i try right now, i can barely get through a page before i put it down, frustrated!

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I like the fact that you are not discouraged by the naysayers. There is no technique that works for every single person, this one included. But it does work for some people and for that fact alone it should not be dismissed off hand.

Many people don’t understand that you don’t have to actually memorize three forms of thousands of Japanese verbs this way because, after a while (and after learning most of the exceptions), your brain will see a pattern and will seize on it the next time it tries to conjugate verbs. Not that different from learning the English irregular verbs (sing/sang/sung; bring/brought/brought).

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It was basically said in the first post, but since the first step includes learning 3 forms of the verb, you have to know if it’s ichidan or godan to do that.

For instance, there are a ton of verbs that are いる in their dictionary form

居る (to be, the most commonly used いる) - ichidan
要る (to need) - godan
炒る (to parch, to fry) - godan
入る (to go in) - godan
射る (to shoot an arrow/dart) - ichidan
鋳る (to mint a coin) - ichidan

So… I think he acknowledged it a few times, but you really can’t get away from knowing that verb classes exist. I think his point is that you only have to know about them during this first step, but eh… it’s just semantics at that point to say you’re “doing away with them”.

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I suppose if this works for someone then there’s no harm in it. I think everyone remembers verbs differently. My friend conjugates everything based on the 〜ます form of the verb which is sort of how we’re taught to do it in school, but since I never learned that way (due to self study prior to formal classes) I usually just find patterns in verbs I know and conjugate new ones based on that. My friend’s way takes too long for me and my way is too difficult for her because I can’t really teach it to her.

Basically: everyone learns languages differently and when it comes to verb conjugations, Japanese isn’t nearly as monstrous as Spanish (which I studied for 4 years). So I tend not to complain when it comes to people trying to find new ways to learn and master Japanese verb conjugations. If it works, it works.

Hey a GenkiJACS bro!
I was a noob in Fukuoka, though.

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