Japanese Verb Groups

Verbs are arguably more important in the Japanese language than they are in English. Japanese sentences require verbs—which typically come at the very end of the sentence—but they do not always require subjects, like English sentences do. A complete Japanese sentence can be formed with only one word: a verb!

There are three types of verb groups in the Japanese language. Once you learn to identify these groups, you’ll have an easier time conjugating the verbs in the future.

Group 1 Verbs: Godan-doushi, Verbs Ending in “U”

With very few irregular exceptions, any verb that does not end in “ru” is a Group 1 verb. There are a few verbs that end in “ru” that are conjugated according to Group 1 rules, but there is no way to identify them other than memorization.

Some of the most common Group 1 Verbs that follow the typical pattern and don’t end in “ru” include:

  • aruku – “to walk”
  • au – “to meet”
  • hanasu – “to speak”
  • kaku – “to write”
  • matsu – “to wait”
  • nomu – “to drink”
  • iku – “to go”
  • yobu – “to call”

Since there is no way to recognize the “ru” verbs that are classified as Group 1 Verbs other than through rote memorization, start to memorize these exceptions by studying the following common Group 1 Verbs that end in “ru”:

  • hairu – “to enter”
  • tsukuru – “to make”
  • hashiru – “to run”
  • iru – “to need”
  • kaeru – “to return”
  • kiru – “to cut”
  • mairu – “to come” or “to go” (humble)
  • shaberu – “to chat” or “to talk”
  • shiru – “to know”

Group 2 Verbs: Ichidan-doushi, Verbs Ending in “Ru”

All Group 2 Verbs end in “ru,” in either “iru” or “eru” forms—without exception. (However, as noted above, not all “ru”-ending verbs are automatically Group 2 Verbs.)

Some of the most common Group 2 Verbs you’ll see include:

  • akeru – “to open”
  • ageru – “to give”
  • dekiru – “to be able”
  • miru – “to see”
  • neru – “to sleep”
  • okiru – “to wake up”
  • oshieru – “to teach”
  • shinjiru – “to believe”
  • taberu – “to eat”

Group 3 Verbs: Irregular Verbs

Group 3 Verbs are simple to identify, as only two common verbs fit into this category:

  • kuru – “to come”
  • suru – “to do”

(Note: The English verb “to be” does not always act as a verb in its closest Japanese forms: desu and da. Although it is conjugated irregularly, it does not follow the Group 3 Verb patterns. You can learn more about desu and da in a separate lesson.)


There are three groups to which verbs belong to in Japanese: Group I, II, or III. Group III is mostly irregular verbs, while Group II consists of verbs that end in “-eru” or “-iru.” You should be careful that some “-iru” and “-eru” words fall into Group I along with the rest of the verbs.

Group I and Group II are called godan-doushi and ichidan-doushi respectively for a reason.