The word hon (本) means book in Japanese. Both horizontal and vertical writing are used in Japan. Traditionally books are written vertically and read top-to-bottom, right-to-left. This way of writing words is called yokogaki (横書き).

   There are some books that are written just as western style books, this way of writing is called tategaki (縦書き)




To read and write


   Yomu (読む) means read. Kaku (書く) means write.

   Everyday (I) read newspaper = mainichi, shinbun o yomu
   (毎日、新聞を読む)

   Tomorrow (I will) write a letter = ashita, tegami o kaku
   (明日、手紙を書く)



   Till now you have been taught the casual form of verbs which is used among friends, family or those of lower status than yourself. To express these verbs in polite Japanese you use the masu form. Before you can convert a verb into its polite form you must convert it into what is often called the masu stem.

   Japanese verbs can be conjugated into different stems. This makes it easier for learners to add different endings to the stem and change its meaning. To create the masu stem, for ichidan verbs you remove ru (る).

   To convert godan verbs you change the last vowel sound from u to a i sound (if the kana is mu (む) change it to mi (み)).

   Taberu - RU = tabe
   Nomu ~change MU to MI = nomi
   Kaku ~change KU to KI = kaki
   Yomu ~change MU to MI = yomi

   Now we have created the masu stem using the verbs we already have learned. Now we can add many different possible endings to the end of these stems to create a different meaning. Not only is the masu stem used for polite words, you can also use it for many different endings.

   Don't worry if this feels confusing at first. Once you start seeing other forms of verbs you will understand stems better. Even if you don't remember how to convert each verb, you will remember Japanese verbs by hearing and seeing them and forms over and over again.






   After you have converted a verb into the masu stem you just add masu to the end of the verb to make it polite. The u on the end of masu is often silent. Below are the different forms we will show you of polite verbs.

EnglishJapanese
eat/will eat食べます tabemasu
not eat/wont eat食べません tabemasen
ate食べました tabemashita
didn't eat食べませんでした tabemasen deshita



   John didn't drink = jon-san wa nomimasen deshita
   (ジョンさんは飲みませんでした)

   He read book = kare wa hon o yomimashita (彼は本を読みました)

   People wont eat trees = hito wa ki o tabemasen (人は木を食べません)