Teaching the Japanese Past Short Form

By Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch

Now that the class has learned the present tense short form in Japanese, it's time to teach them the past tense of this form. This lesson plan goes over the past tense short form for verbs, adjectives and nouns and includes different activities for each.

The Use of the Past Short Form

As discussed in the Japanese present short form lesson plan, the short form is a quicker and more informal version of verbs, adjectives and nouns. Emphasize that the short version of the past tense also holds the same cultural considerations: since it is informal, it should only be used between people who are close. If a higher ranking person uses the short form, the lower ranking person should not respond in the short form.

Past Tense Short Form for Verbs

When teaching the past tense affirmative of the short form, point out that it is similar to the て-form. Start by writing two examples of verbs in the -form, then write the short form next to it. Underline the different endings:

食べ(tabete) 食べ(tabeta)


Explain that the /changes to /to make the short form present affirmative. Do the same with the negative past short form, but explain the changes to かった. For example:

食べな(tabenai) 食べなかった(tabenakatta)

読まな(yomanai) 読まなかった(yomanakatta)

Note the two irregular verbs: 行く (iku) 行った(itta) and いい (ii) よかった (yokatta) , よくなかった (yokunakatta)

Test comprehension by making a worksheet that has both negative and affirmative conjugations. Alternate between the short form and -form, and have students write out the other form. For example, if the question has 読んで, the student should write 読んだ.

Past Tense Short Form for Adjectives

Once the verbs have been covered, move on to adjectives. Point out that -adjectives follow the similar part as verbs: the from the present short form becomes かった. Write out examples like:

かわい(kawaii) かわいかった(kawaikatta)


Next, move onto the -adjectives. Explain that the added to the end of the adjective in the present short form becomes だった in the affirmative, and the becomes かった. For example:

静か(shizukada) 静かだった(shizukadatta)

静かじゃな(shizukajanai) 静かじゃなかった(shizukajanakatta)

This time, make flashcards that have either the past short form or present short form. Make them large enough for students to see from their seats. Hold them up and call on students to change the adjective into present or past.

Past Tense Short Form for Nouns

The last section of the lesson is going over the nouns. Like the present short form, it is the です that changes. Like the -adjectives, the from the present becomes だった in the affirmative, and the becomes かった, such as:

試験(shikenda) 試験だった(shikendatta)

試験じゃな(shikenjanai) 試験じゃなかった(shikenjanakatta)

Make large flashcards for the nouns as well, and shuffle them into the adjective pile. Check to see if the students can form both the present and past short forms.