Teaching the Japanese Present Short Form

By Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch

Now that the class has a grasp on the Japanese present long form, try teaching the present short form! This lesson plan goes over ways to teach the Japanese present short form for verbs, adjectives and nouns. Also, discuss with your class why the present short form is used.

When is the Short Form Used?

The short form in Japanese is an important conjugation that is used for verbs, adjectives and nouns. It gets its name from the fewer number of characters compared to the long form. Point out that the short form is used in certain situations:

  1. Quoted speech
  2. Casual conversations (does not have か at the end when a question is asked; inflection is used instead)
  3. Making negative requests
  4. Expressing ideas

Cultural Considerations

When teaching the short form, cultural considerations need to be emphasized. Point out that the short form is used between good friends and family members — it is a sign of intimacy; the long form, on the other hand, creates a distance between the two speakers. Seniority is a factor in the short form: someone who has a higher position, like a boss, may use the short form when talking to a subordinate; however, it would be inappropriate for the subordinate to use the short form when talking to the boss.

Short Form for Verbs

When explaining the present short form for verbs, point out to students that the affirmative present is the same as the dictionary form. So, 食べる (taberu) is also 食べる in the affirmative present short form. The negative present forms are a little more difficult. Explain to students that the endings change depending on whether a verb is a ru-verb or a u-verb.

Start with ru-verbs: explain that the final (ru) is dropped, then ない(nai) is added. With u-verbs, the u is taken off, then -anai is added. Point out there are three verbs that have different negative present forms: する(しない) (suru [shinai]), くる(こない) (kuru [konai]), and ある(ない) (aru [nai]).

Once the different negative present forms have been explained, pass out a worksheet that tests the students' ability to match the affirmative to the negative forms. On the left side, list ru-verbs, u-verbs and irregular verbs, such as: 食べる, 書く(kaku), 話す(hanasu), 待つ(matsu), 死ぬ(shinu), 読む(yomu), 作る(tsukuru), 泳ぐ(oyogu), 呼ぶ(yobu), 買う(kau), する, くる and ある. On the right side, list the negative present forms: 食べない(tabenai), 書かない(kakanai), 話さない(hanasanai), 待たない(matanai), 死なない(shinanai), 読まない(yomanai), 作らない(tsukuranai), 泳がない(oyoganai), 呼ばない(yobanai), 買わない(kawanai), しない, こない and ない. Shuffle one column and ask the students to draw an arrow from the affirmative to the negative. Then, ask then to underline the endings.

For Adjectives

Once verbs have been covered, move onto adjectives. Point out that the dictionary form of an -adjective is the same as the affirmative present. Explain for the negative present, the final (i) is changed to くない (kunai). To test comprehension, write a list of -adjectives on the blackboard with an arrow (→) on the right. Ask students to come up and write the negative present version.

Point out that -adjectives are different from verbs and -adjectives in the affirmative present: the (na) is dropped, and a (da) is added at the end. In the negative present, the だ becomes です (desu). Review this concept by giving the students a -adjective, and have them write out the affirmative and negative forms.

For Nouns

The last part of the present short form is the noun conjugations. Point out to students that the noun does not actually change, but です does. Explain that unlike verbs and -adjectives, it stays です in the negative present. When a noun is written in the affirmative present, the です becomes だ. Quiz students by giving them a noun + です, and ask them to give the affirmative and negative. Note that if a sentence ends with an affirmative -adjective or noun, the is dropped.

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