In generalizing what I have learned from Japanese "conjugations" I learned quite a bit.

I have come to the realization that the same verb forms ARE present in English although English uses cue words as opposed to changing the verb ending.

The verb forms: Present/future [es, s] [will],
potential[can, may, might],
passive, causative, passive causative,
Neg. (imperfect)[don't/won't],
Positive Past Perfect [did, (ed)
negative past perfect (never did, did not,
volitional let's, I suggest you...
imperative [(you) do this], conditional [when this happens that will happen], situational [IF this happens THEN this will happen],
representative [a long list of verbs, and finally formal,
and First person volitional (I want this to happen),

Generally, are these the only tenses/ conjugations you need be concern with when learning ANY language?


2 Answers 2


Are those the only tenses/conjugations that exist?!? Definitely not! Look up any intro level textbook at verb morphology and you'll see these categories:

  • tense
  • aspect
  • aktionsart
  • modality
  • negation
  • epistemology
  • voice/valency
  • agreement
  • illocutionary force

Each of these categories will have dozens of options when you look at all the world's languages, though an individual language will usually only have a few, if it marks the category at all.

The things you list in your question are just some of the inflections you'll see, and some of them wouldn't even normally be considered to be inflections, as they are derivational!

  • Thank you? I will look those up. I appreciate the starting point.
    – Chris
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 3:31

I don't think it is a requirement that you have grad-student level knowledge of the relevant domain to ask an answerable linguistic question. However, your question presupposes a lot of stuff, and knowing and controlling for those presuppositions is what makes a great question.

First, your question is about a series of morphological forms in Japanese. English does not have potential, volitional, imperative forms. It does arguably have negative, past, and a bunch of others that I won't name. English can express the same concepts as are expressed in Japanese with that verb form, it's just that we have to use a syntactic construction. The same is true of the causative. The passive is not, itself, a verb form in English, but passive constructions do take one of those verb forms (which is also used after "have").

In English, a passive involve an auxiliary, either "be" or "get", and the "perfect participle" for (or whatever they call it), for instance "The bacon was/got cooked by Marie". A number of languages have no passive (typically, to achieve the result one uses passives for, you say "They cooked the bacon"; a number of languages have an overt morphological passive affix. There are no "common" morphological forms, but there are probably common auxiliaries. I suggest that that is a totally separate question. In English, causative constructions involve some verb which takes a string "NP V X", such as "I made Bill leave", "I had Bill leave", and there are constructions with infinitives like "I got Bill to leave". Languages can express causatives syntactically, as in English, or morphologically, as in Japanese. Again, there is no pattern to the shape of causative affixes, and there may be a statistical pattern in syntactic causatives (another separate question).

The number of semantic and syntactic properties that you might encounter being expressed via differences in verb form is enormous, including such things as "do something for a person", "do something on a round object", "act quickly", "I deny your claim", and on and on.

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