Sunday, October 27, 2019

hojo-doushi 補助動詞

WIP : this article is incomplete and might change in the unforeseeable future.
In Japanese, hojo-doushi 補助動詞, literally "support verb," is a type of auxiliary verb that attaches to the te-form of verbs or the adverbial form of i-adjectives.

For example: tabete-iru 食べている, "to be eating," has the verb iru いる, "to exist," as a support verb for teberu 食べる, "to eat."


Here's a list of hojo-doushi for reference:
  • -te-iru
    To be doing [the verb].
    To be [in a state described by the verb].
    • koroshite-iru
      To be killing.
    • shinde-iru
      To be dead.
    • See also: ergative verb pairs.
    • Usage as main verb:
    • koko ni iru
      [He] is here. (person or animal.)
  • ~te-aru
    To have been done [the verb].
    • kaite-aru
      To be written.
    • kaite-nai
      To not be written.
    • Usage as main verb:
    • koko ni aru
      [It] is here. (thing.)
  • ~te-oku
    To do [the verb] for later.
    • kaite-oku
      To write [something] for later. To take a memo.
    • oboete-oku
      To remember [something] for later.
    • Usage as main verb:
    • koko ni oku
      To place [it] here.
    • koko ni oite-oku
      [I] will leave [it] here for later.
  • ~te-miru
    To try to do [the verb]. To do [the verb] and "see" the outcome.
    • yatte-miru
      [I] will try to do [it].
    • kare to hanashite-miru
      [I] will try talking with him.
    • mou ichido itte-miro
    • Usage as main verb:
    • sora wo miru
      To see the sky.
      To look at the sky.
  • ~te-ageru
    To do [the verb] as a favor for someone.
    • oshiete-ageru
      [I] will teach [you] as a favor for [you].
    • Usage as main verb:
    • te wo ageru
      To raise [one's] hand.
  • ~te-kureru
    Same meaning as ~te-ageru, but implies the receiver is inferior to the giver. Consequently, it's not used when giving things to other people, because that's rude, it's only used when receiving things from others, because then it sounds humble.
    • oshiete-kureru?
      Will [you] teach [me]?
    • Usage as main verb:
    • banana wo kureta
      [He] gave [me] a banana.
  • ~te-yaru
    Same meaning as the two words above, but not polite.
    • oshiete-yaru!
      [I] will teach [ya]!
    • Usage as main verb:
    • esa wo yaru
      To give animal-food [to an animal].
  • ~te-sashi-ageru
    A humble variant of ~ageru.
    • oshiete-sashi-agemasu
      [I] shall teach [you].
  • ~te-morau
    To have [someone] do [the verb] for you.
    • oshiete-morau
      [I] will have [you] teach [me].
    • Usage as main verb:
    • okane wo moratta
      [I] received money [from him].
  • ~te-itadaku
    Same meaning as ~te-morau, but polite.
    • oshiete-itadakemasu ka?
      May [I] have [you] teach [me]?
    • Usage as main verb:
    • zenbu itadaku
      [I] will take everything.
  • ~te-iku
    To do [the verb] going away from you.
    • mado kara tonde-itta
      [He] jumped from the window. (and I'm inside the room where he escaped from.)
    • Usage as main verb:
    • gakkou ni iku
      To go to school.
  • ~te-kuru
    To do [the verb] coming toward you.
    • mado kara tonde-kita
      [He] jumped from the window. (and landed right in front of me, outside the building.)
    • Usage as main verb:
    • gakkou ni kuru
      To come to school.
  • ~te-shimau
    To end up doing [the verb] regrettably, by accident.
    • shukudai wo wasurete-shimatta
      [I] forgot the homework.
    • {mite wa ikenai} mono wo mite-shimatta
      [I] saw something [that] {[one] shouldn't see}.
      I ended up seeing something that shouldn't be seen.


Generally speaking, support verbs are said to originate in normal verbs that lose their original meaning when used as auxiliaries.

For example, miru 見る means "to see," but when used as a support verb, ~te-miru ~てみる, it means "to try."

Some support verbs don't really "lose" their original meanings, since the normal verb version already means something very similar, if you think really hard about it.

The point is: there's a distinction to be made between the support verb, and the normal verb the auxiliary originates from.


Support verbs can be conjugated just like any other verb.
  • kangaete-miru
    [I] will try thinking [about it]. (non-past.)
  • kangaete-mita
    [I] have tried thinking [about it]. (past.)

The main verb and support verb aru ある is particularly problematic, since its negative form is irregular: the adjective nai ない is used instead.
  • okane ga aru
    To have money.
  • okane ga nai
    To not have money.
  • haratte-aru
    To have been paid.
  • haratte-nai
    To not have been paid.

Note: most of the time, te-nai isn't the negative form of te-aru, but the negative form of te-iru instead. This happens because te-inai can be contracted to te-nai, and te-iru is more common than te-aru.

If the sentence must be polite, the support verb is conjugated to its polite form, not the main verb.
  • kangaete-mimasu
    [I] will try thinking [about it].
  • *kangaemashite-miru

On the other hand, if the sentence must be causative, or in the passive voice, the main verb is normally conjugated to its causative form, or passive form, not the support verb.
  • tabete-iru
    To be eating.
    [He] is eating.
  • *tabete-irareru
  • taberarete-iru
    To be being eaten.
    [He] is being eaten. (by a monster)
  • *tabete-isaseru
  • tabesasete-iru
    To be causing to eat.
    To be forcing [someone] to eat [something].
    To be letting [someone] eat [something].

The above happens because the support verb is modifying the conjugated main verb: if tabesaseru means "to force [someone] to eat," then tabesasete-iru must mean "to be forcing [someone] to eat."

There are cases where the support verb is conjugated to causative or pasisve instead.

With iru いる, this happens because iru いる means something is in a given state, like the state of "eating" something, of "being eaten," or even of "forcing to eat." If iru いる is conjugated to causative, you get "to cause someone to be in a certain state." For example:
  • ikiru
    To live.
  • ikite-iru
    To be in the a state you can call "living."
    To be alive.
  • ikite-isaseru
    To cause [someone] to be in a state you can call "living."
    To let [someone] be alive.
    To let [someone] live. To not let [someone] die.

Another situation is when the support is conjugated to the passive form because the sentence is a suffering passive. For example:
  • hanashite-kuru
    To come and talk.
    • When someone approaches you to start a conversation.
  • hanashite-korareru
    [He] came talk [to me], [and I didn't like that].

A support verb can attach to another support verb.
  • yatte-mite-iru
    To be trying to do [it].
  • kaite-oite-ageru
    [I] will write [it] for later for [you].

In particular, the support verbs that mean "to give" or "to do a favor for" can actually be combined together:
  • oshiete-agete-kureru?
    Will [you] teach [them] for [them] for [me]?
    • Here, oshiete-agete is asking someone to oshiete someone else, and in doing that, they're doing a favor for this someone else.
    • Added to this, kureru implies it's also a favor for the speaker themselves.
    • In other words, if the listener does a favor for a third party, that will be doing a favor for the speaker.
    • For example: will you teach that kid how to play the piano for me? Teaching is a favor for that kid, and teaching that kid is a favor for me, it's my request.


A number of support verbs feature contractions.
  • wasurete-shimau
    To have forgot.
  • wasurete-chimatta
    (same meaning.)
  • wasurecchatta
    (same meaning.)

In particular, ~te-iru ~ている and ~te-iku ~ていく can be contracted to ~te-ru ~てる and ~te-ku ~てく respectively. This removal of ~i ~い is extremely common in ~te-iru ~ている and even has a name: i-nuki-kotoba い抜き言葉.
  • omae wa mou shinde-iru
    You're already dead.
  • omae wa mou shinderu
    (same meaning.)

The ~i ~い is also removed in its conjugations. Including, of course, the negative one:
  • shinde-inai
    [He] isn't dead.
  • shindenai
    (same meaning.)
  • tabete-inai
    [He] hasn't eaten.
  • tabetenai
    (same meaning.)

As you can see above, ~te-inai ~ていない can be contracted to ~te-nai ~てない. This is particularly confusing since the negative form of ~te-aru ~てある is, also, ~te-nai ~てない.

This means that ~te-nai ~てない can be either the contraction of the negative of ~te-iru ~ている or the negative of ~te-aru ~てある. Most of the time, it's the contraction, simply because ~te-iru, and its negative form are more common than ~te-aru.

は Insertion

All support expressions can have the wa は particle come between the main inflectable and the support inflectable. Observe below:
  • tabete wa iru
    Eating, [he] is.
  • kaite wa aru
    Written, [it] is.

These are specially used when you need a contrastive wa.
  • oboete-oku
    [I] will remember [it] for later.
  • oboete wa oku kedo
    [I] will remember [it] for later, but... (I won't do something else.)

With the te-form of the da だ copula, which is the de で copula, the only support verb allowed is aru ある. However, this combination, de aru である, works different from the usual ~te aru ~てある.

Basically, de aru である is an affirmative copula. Since the negative form of aru ある is nai ない, that means the de nai でない is would be the negative copula.
  • futsuu de-aru
    [It] is normal
  • futsuu de-nai
    [It] isn't normal.

In practice, de nai でない is mostly used attributively. In the predicative, de wa nai ではない is used instead, or its contraction: janai じゃない.
  • {futsuu de-nai} hito
    A person [that] {isn't normal}.
  • sono hito wa futsuu de wa nai
    That person, normal, isn't. (but they may be something else.)

Since de wa nai ではない exists, it makes sense that de wa aru ではある exists, too. Observe the contrastive examples below:
  • kirei de wa aru
    Pretty, [it] is. (but it's expensive.)
  • kirei de wa nai
    Pretty, [it] isn't. (but it's cheap.)

These are particularly important because the aru ある support verb can be attached to i-adjectives, too, and with similar meaning. Except that, in this case, the support verb is attached to the adverbial form. Observe:
  • kawaiku wa aru
    Cute, [it] is.
  • kawaiku wa nai
    Cute, [it] isn't.

Since what we're doing is adding a wa は particle between the main inflectable and the support expression, it makes sense to think that we can also remove the wa は particle. However, with i-adjectives, the situation is more awkward.

Basically, kawaiku-aru 可愛くある would mean literally "exists cutely," or, less literally, "is cute," but just kawaii 可愛い by itself already means "is cute." Therefore, kawaiku-aru sounds kind of redundant.

On other hand, kawaiku-nai 可愛くない, "is not cute," isn't redundant, because that's the normal way to negate an i-adjective. In fact, ~ku-nai ~くない is the negative form of i-adjectives.

On the third hand, kawaiku wa aru 可愛くはある, "cute, [it] is," isn't redundant either, simply because the wa は particle is being used to make the sentence contrastive.

Since nai ない can also be analyzed as an adjective, this usage is sometimes classified as a hojo-keiyoushi 補助形容詞, "support adjective," instead. However, this nai ない is without doubt the negative form of aru ある.

Proof of this is that the polite form arimasen ありません can be used instead with the same meaning.
  • futsuu de wa arimasen
    Normal, [it] isn't.
  • kawaiku wa arimasen
    Cute, [it] isn't.

Lastly: the negative form of verbs has a ~nai ~ない, too, however, that nai ない isn't a support verb, or support adjective. It's a different type of auxiliary called jodoushi 助動詞.

The difference is made obvious by the fact that you can't do with the jodoushi the things you can do with the hojo-doushi.
  • wakaranai
    [I] do not understand.
  • *wakara-aru
  • *wakara wa nai
    (also wrong.)
  • *wakara-arimasen
    (absolutely wrong.)

も Insertion

The mo も particle can also be inserted between the main inflectable and the support expression.

This mo も is an inclusive counterpart for wa は. Both of them are classified as kakari-joshi 係助詞, or "binding particles."
  • Tarou wa shinda. Jirou mo shinda.
    Tarou died. Jirou, too, died.

Since the above works, it makes sense to think it works with support verbs, too:
  • tabete wa ita kedo...
    Eating, [he] was, but...
  • tabete mo ita kedo...
    Eating, [he] was also doing, but...
  • kirei de mo aru
    Pretty, [it] also is.
  • yasuku mo aru
    Cheap, [it] also is.

An example with negative sentences:
  • hanashite wa konai
    Talk, [he] doesn't come.
    • He does other things, but coming talking with me, he does not.
  • hanashite mo konai
    Talk, [he] doesn't come, also.
    • Besides not doing other things, he doesn't come talk to me, either.
    • He doesn't even come talk to me, besides not doing other things.

Note that ~te-mo ~ても also has another meaning: even if you do something, something else doesn't happen.
  • hanashitemo wakaranai
    Even if [I] talk to [him], [he] won't understand.

This happens because the te-form has multiple functions. In particular, it can connect to a support verb, or it can act as a conjunction, connecting to a subsequent clause.

In ~temo wakaranai ~てもわからない, the phrase wakaranai isn't a support verb, so it must be an entire clause, and its ~te ~て must be the conjunction, instead. Unfortunatelly, it's more complicated than that since support verbs have the original, normal verb variants.
  • hanashitemo konai
    Even if [I] talk to [him], [he] won't come.
    • Here, konai 来ない isn't a support verb, but a normal one, heading its own clause.
    • This example could mean someone doesn't want to come to a party, for example, and even if you talked to him, you wouldn't be able to convince him to come to the party.

One peculiar thing to note is that the mo も particle can be used as a parallel marker, which sometimes creates a single syntactical subject out of multiple, parallel phrases, and the predicate of that subject is applies to all phrases, in parallel.

  • {okane mo shigoto mo} nai
    [I] have neither money, nor a job.
    • This is synonymous with "I don't have money and I don't have a job."
  • {banana mo ringo mo} oishii
    Bananas, and apples, too, are tasty.

Sure enough, this peculiarity applies even to support verbs.

Most commonly, the pattern ~demo~demo nai ~でも~でもない easily translates to "[it] is neither X, nor Y." For example:

Manga: Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. 古見さんは、コミュ症です。 (Chapter 5, 喋りたいんです。)
  • Context: Tadano 只野 thinks about the school's most popular girl.
  • Komi-san wa
    gakkou no madonna de mo
    hanashi-kake-dzurai bijin
    de mo nakatta.
    Komi-san was neither the school's madonna
    nor a beautiful person [who's] hard to [approach].
    • hanashi-kakeru
      To approach and talk with. To start talking to. To begin a conversation with.
    • Very literally: to pour a conversation onto someone.

The same thing can also be done with i-adjectives, using the pattern ~kumo~kumonai ~くも~くもない.
  • yasuku mo oishiku mo nai
    [It] is neither cheap nor tasty.

Logically, they can be mixed:
  • kirei de mo kawaiku mo nai
    [It] is neither pretty, nor cute.

Of course, it works with other support verbs, too, like iru いる.
  • ikite mo shinde mo inai
    [It] is neither alive, nor dead.

And, as one would expect, it doesn't necessarily needs to be a negative sentence.
  • mite mo kiite mo iru
    [I] am seeing, and listening, too.
    • mite-iru
      To be seeing.
    • kiite-iru
      To be hearing. To be listening.

Other Usages

Technically, hojo-doushi 補助動詞 come after the ren'youkei 連用形 form of verbs and adjectives.

It just happens that the te-form is composed by the tejodoushi 助動詞, which comes from the ren'youkei of the jodoushi tsu つ. Plus, the adverbial form of adjectives is said to be a ren'youkei. And the de で copula is said to be a ren'youkei, too.

They're all ren'youkei, but they aren't all of the ren'youkei. There are other ren'youkei, too.

When i-adjectives come before gozaimasu ございます, they suffer a change in pronunciation called u-onbin ウ音便.

Since gozaimasu is a verb, and adjectives only modify nouns, the adjective is inflected to its adverbial form, its ren'youkei, in order to modify the verb. Therefore, the u-onbin is a ren'youkei, too.
  • yoroshii
    Very well.
  • yoroshiku gozaimasu
    (same meaning.)
  • yoroshuu gozaimasu
    (same meaning, u-onbin.)

Given this, gozaimasu, just like aru, arimasu, is a hojo-doushi.

Furthermore, gozaimasu has a bunch of variations that also get the same treatment: gozaamasu ござあます, zaamasu ざあます, zamasu ざます, zansu ざんす, and so on.

キミコ よろしゅうござあます。
Game: Gyakuten Saiban 2 逆転裁判2
  • Kimiko
    (character name.)
  • yoroshuu gozaamasu.
    Very well.
    That's fine.
    It's alright.

These words aren't always used as hojo-doushi, sometimes they're used as jodoushi instead. The only difference is that they don't attach to the ren'youkei, then.

ちゃんと免許はあるざますっ なにも言われるスジ合いじゃないざます
Manga: Taiho Shichau zo 逮捕しちゃうぞ (Chapter 7, 完全無敵の原付おばさん)
  • Context: a woman gets stopped by the police.
  • chanto menkyo wa aru zamasu'
    [I] properly have a license.
    [I] do have a license.
  • nanimo iwareru zujiai janai zamasu
    There's no reason for [me] to be said anything.
    There's no reason for you to stop me and complain about anything.

Do note that not all verbs that go after a ren'youkei are classified as hojo-doushi, but the hojo-doushi always go after a ren'youkei. For example, the naru なる, "to become," in kawaiku naru 可愛くなる, "to become cute," isn't a hojo-doushi.


Like other auxiliaries, the hojo-doushi 補助動詞 are normally spelled with hiragana. That's not to say that they don't have kanji: they do have kanji, but they aren't spelled with kanji.

In fact, as a normal verb, they can be spelled with kanji, but as an auxiliary, they normally are not. Observe:
  • terebi wo miru
    To see TV.
    To watch TV.
  • terebi wo mite-miru
    To try watching TV.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave your komento コメント in this posuto ポスト of this burogu ブログ with your questions about Japanese, doubts or whatever!

All comments are moderated and won't show up until approved. Spam, links to illegal websites, and inappropriate content won't be published.