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Monday, April 11, 2022

-ru Verbs

In some Japanese textbooks, the term -ru verb (or ru-verb) means the same thing as an ichidan verb. Such verbs always end in ~ru ~る in their nonpast form (or dictionary form, shuushikei 終止形), however, they aren't the only ones to do so: godan verbs (or -u verbs) can also end in ~ru in nonpast form, which means not every verb that ends in ~ru is a "ru verb," making the term extremely confusing for lots of people trying to learn Japanese.(Steffanick, 2010:20)

Grammar

See the article about ichidan verbs for details on grammar and conjugation. This article is mainly about the term -ru verb itself.

Explanation of the Term

The reason why -ru verbs are called -ru verbs even though not all ~ru-ending verbs are -ru verbs is because the term refers to the morphology of the verb: when a -ru verb is conjugated, everything before the ~ru syllable stays the same (i.e. the stem is before ~ru), and only the ~ru gets replaced by a new suffix.

By contrast, with -u verbs, the ~u vowel is replaced by another vowel (the stem ends at the consonant before the vowel). For example:

-ru verb -u verb
Nonpast form ki-ru
着る
Will wear.
kir-u
切る
Will sever.
Past form ki-ta
着た
Wore.
*kir-ita
切りた
(merges by sokuonbin 促音便.)
kitta
切った
Severed.
Negative form ki-nai
着ない
Won't wear.
kir-anai
切らない
Won't sever.
Volitional form ki-you
着よう
Let's wear.
kir-ou
切ろう
Let's cut.

So -ru verb means "the -ru ending gets replaced"-verb, and -u verb means "the -u ending gets replaced"-verb.

To make matters more confusing, suru する and kuru 来る are irregular verbs that end in ~ru (sahen サ変 and kahen カ変 conjugation, respectively). These also aren't called -ru verbs, because they don't follow the ichidan conjugation, e.g. their past forms are shita した and kita きた, respectively, so it's not only the ~ru that changes..

References

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