Podcast 11: Japanese Verbs – Taberu

In this podcast, Ami sensei and I teach you about using the verb 食べる in the casual form which is used between people who know each other well in an informal situation. This is how you conjugate the verb taberu in plain form or “dictionary form”.


Podcast 11: Just the dialogues

In this podcast, Ami sensei and I teach you about using the verb 食べる in the casual form which is used between people who know each other well in an informal situation. This is how you conjugate the verb taberu in plain form or “dictionary form”.

Plain form verb – Taberu

Positive Negative
Present 食べる Taberu (To eat) 食べない Tabenai (Not eat)
Past 食べた Tabeta (Ate) 食べなかった Tabenakatta (Didn’t eat)

Japanese Verbs – Taberu Dialog
A: ね、食べる? Ne taberu? You wanna eat?
B: 食べない Tabenai. I don’t want to eat
A: 食べないの? Tabenai no? You don’t want to eat?
B: もう食べたから。食べなかったの? Mo tabeta kara. Tabenakatta no. Already ate. You didn’t eat?
A: うん、食べなかった。食べようよ Un Tabenakatta. Tabeyō yo. I didn’t eat. Let’s eat!
B: いらない、ひとりで食べて! Iranai, hitori de tabete. I don’t want any. You eat by yourself.

Grammatical Breakdown of Dialog
Rule 1 – You can drop the subject before a Japanese verb
The dialog starts with ね – Ne which means “Hey” and used to get attention to start a conversation. Then the next word is 食べる? Taberu with a rising intonation. This literally means “Eat?”. One important thing to remember is that you don’t need to use the subject of the sentence as the meaning is understood from the context of the situation. If someone is looking at you and simply says “Taberu” with a rising inflection. You can be pretty sure that they mean “Do you want to eat”? which is what it means in this situation. In fact, this entire dialog is completely devoid of sentences with the words you or I in them. And this because…

Rule 2 – You have to guess the meaning from the context
As we continue to the next line in the dialog we have 食べない tabenai which means “not eat”. Again, from the context, you can guess this means “I don’t want to eat”. And context is everything here. This aspect of Japanese can make it easier for you to say more with less because minimalism is the key. It can also make it devilishly hard to understand what is being said because if you don’t understand the situation you won’t understand the conversation.

Continuing we have 食べないの?Tabenai no which is literally “Not eat” + のno which signifies a question. This means “Not eat?” or “Don’t you want to eat?”

Next we haveもう食べた Mō tabeta kara – This literally means “Already ate because” or “No because I already ate”. Then 食べなかったの Tabenakatta no – which means “didn’t eat” with the の question marker so “Didn’t you eat?”.

Rule 3 – Yes means no and no means yes
The answer to the question “Didn’t you eat” is うん 食べなかった Un Tabenakatta – Yes, I didn’t eat. This might be confusing as in English you would usually say:

A: Didn’t you eat?

B: No, I didn’t

However in Japanese you have to say “Yes, I didn’t eat”. This is because in Japanese, when you say yes, you are agreeing directly with the statement that was just made so you could think of it as “Yes, it is true that I didn’t eat”.

Rule 4 – Verbs ending in ō mean “Let’s do something”
Next we hear 食べよう Tabeyō. This form of the verb is used to suggest or propose an idea. So it means “Let’s eat”. Theよ Yo at the end emphasizes the meaning more. Here are some more examples:

飲もうよ Nomō yo – Come on, let’s drink!

行こうよ Ikō yo – Come on, let’s go!

やろうよ Yarō yo – Come on, let’s do this!

Rule 5 – Verbs ending in “Te” can be an order to do something
The last line of this dialog is いらいない Iranai – Not needed or more naturally “I don’t want any”. Finally we have 一人で食べて Hitori de tabete. Hitori means one person or in this case by yourself. 食べて Tabete is what’s called the “Te” form of the verb and is an order or request to do something so Tabete means “Eat!”. In this case the speaker is saying, “I don’t want any, you go ahead and eat by yourself”.

What is Japanese plain verb form?
In Japanese, there are various forms of politeness from very direct to extremely polite. Plain form verbs are considered to be less formal and are often used in casual conversation between friends and people of similar social rank in society. When looking up verbs in the dictionary, you will always find the plain form of the verb which is why they are also know as “dictionary form” verbs.

The more formal and polite form is the -masu form which is conjugated for the verb Taberu like this:

-Masu form verb – Taberu

Positive Negative
Present 食べます Tabemasu (To eat) 食べません Tabemasen (Not eat)
Past 食べました Tabemashita (Ate) 食べませんでした Tabemasendeshita (Didn’t eat)

The -masu form of the verb is used in more formal situations when to talking to people of senior rank. You will often here service staff use the -masu form of verbs to customers.

Why study Japanese plain form verbs?
When studying Japanese for the first time it is quite common to study -masu form verbs first. This may be because of tradition and perhaps Japanese teachers would rather give you all the polite Japanese first before you go out and offend people with the wrong level of politeness.

This is not necessarily a bad idea and I would advise you to definitely learn polite -masu form verbs. However, in my experience, after studying almost exclusively polite Japanese in my first year of university, I found that around 90% of the conversations I was having was in plain form. That means, if you only learn the polite form, you will have difficulty understanding taking part in conversations and discussions with your Japanese friends, family and even coworkers.

Should you learn the safer polite form or the more plain form first? Great question and I will let that heated debate continue as it always has. Of course, you should learn learn both verb forms. However learning plain form verbs is your key to understanding daily conversation and being able to speak Japanese more fluently.

Show Notes

Podcast 11: Notes


These are the show notes tp podcast #11 “Japanese Verbs – Taberu”.

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Podcast 10: The Top 10 Questions you will be asked in Japan

In this podcast Ami and Alex go through the top 10 most common questions you will be asked by Japanese people on your first visit to Japan. Enjoy!

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Podcast 10: Just the dialogues

These are the dialogues from podcast #10 “The top 10 questions you will be asked in Japan”

After living in Japan for over 20 years as a foreigner, I have noticed a clear pattern of questions I am often asked. As well as being very hospitable, the Japanese are inquisitive people who are genuinely interested in why people visit or live in their country. Therefore students of Japanese who are planning a trip to Japan will find it extremely useful to study those questions and how to answer them in Japanese. In this podcast, Ami Sensei and I go through the top 10 most common questions Japanese people ask and the cultural reasons behind them. So if you are slightly surprised or shocked by what you are asked, it’s usually due to a cultural difference which we discuss in the podcast.

1: お名前はなんですか Oname wa nan desu ka – What is your name?

Although obvious, this is the first question you should learn. To reply, simply say your name + desu. アレックスです – Arekkusu desu – I am Alex. The other thing you should keep in mind is that Japanese say their surname first and first name last. So, if you want to say I am John Smith you would say スミスジョンです – Sumisu Jon Desu.

Finally, saying your name using a Japanese accent or Katakana sounds might will make it a little easier for Japanese to understand you name.

2: お国はどちらですか Okuni wa dochira desu ka – Where are you from?

Japanese people are always very interested in where you are from. To answer this question you could simply say アメリカです Amerika desu – America or イギリスです Igirisu desu – The UK. You can also say アメリカから来ました Amerika kara kimashita – I come from America.

3: お仕事は何をされていますか Oshigoto wa nani o sarete imasu ka – What do you do?

This is a very common question that might be asked anywhere in the world. However, there is an added cultural dimension to this. When meeting people for the first time, Japanese people tend to ask questions that give them an idea of the social status of the person they are speaking to so as to communicate with an appropriate level of politeness or respect. To answer this question simply say your job + desu. For example 学生です Gakusei desu – I am a student.
サラリマンです Sarariman desu –  I am an office work (only for men). Women might say OLです – Oh Eru desu – I am (a female) office worker.

4: なんで日本へ来たんですか Nande nihon e kitan desu ka – Why did you come to Japan?

This is the perhaps the most commonly asked question foreigners get when visiting or living in Japan. In fact there is a very popular show on TV entitled “Youは何しに日本へ” You wa nani shi ni nihon e – Why did you come to Japan?

Japanese people are fascinated in why people take the trouble to travel to Japan. Perhaps this is something to do with the fact that Japanese people are interested in how their country is perceived abroad and what might be interesting or attractive to foreigners. When replying say your reason + tame which means the reason why you did something. For example:

はじめて日本に来た時は日本語を勉強するためでした Hajimete nihon ni kita toki wa nihongo o benkyō suru tame deshita – I first came to Japan in order to study Japanese.

5: おいくつですか/ 何歳ですか Oikutsu desu ka – How old are you?

This is one of those questions that some visitors to Japan might find a little surprising or rude. However, when Japanese ask what your age is, what they are really saying is “I want to know your age so I don’t speak to you with an inappropriate level of politeness”. At the same time, you are under no obligation to give your age if you feel it is too personal. Deflecting with humour usually works and you can say something like 秘密です Himitsu desu – It’s a secret.

If you don’t mind giving your age, say your age + sai desu. For example 25歳です Nijuugo sai desu – I am 25.

6: 箸使えますか Hashi tsukaemasu ka – Can you use chopsticks?

For a cosmopolitan westerner who is used to eating Chinese or Vietnamese food at home, you might be surprised if Japanese people ask you if you can use chopsticks. Your answer might be a slightly irritated “Well of course I can dammit!”. However, Japanese are trying to be polite and are showing you their hospitality in making sure you don’t have any problems with their food.

You can simply say 箸使えますよ Hashi tsukaemasu yo – I can use chop sticks

If you can’t you could say ちょっと難しです Chotto muzukashii desu – It’s a little difficult (for me)

7: 納豆食べられますか Natto taberaremasu ka – Can you eat natto?

If you didn’t know, natto is a Japanese delicacy which is made from fermented beans. It has quite a strong smell which can put off people new to the food. But don’t worry if you don’t like it, don’t worry, it’s one of those foods that divides Japanese people into natto fans and natto haters.

If you like natto you can say 納豆食べられます Natto taberaremasu – I can eay natto. If you don’t like it you can say 納豆食べられません Natto taberaremasen – I can’t eat natto. Alternatively you can say ちょっと口に合わないです Chotto kuchi ni awanai desu – I don’t like eating it.

8: 結婚していますか Kekkon shite imasu ka – Are you married?

This is another one of those questions which is simply trying to ascertain your social standing. If you are married you can say 結婚しています Kekkon shite imasu – I am married. If you aren’t married you can say 結婚していません Kekkon shite imasu OR 独身です Dokushin desu – I am single.

9: 日本ははじめてですか Nihon wa hajimete desu ka –  Is this your first time to Japan?

This is another question you will be often asked. If it is your first time you can say はい、初めてです Hai, hajimete desu – Yes, this is my first time. If it is your 2nd time you could say いいえ、2回目です Ni kai me desu – No, this is my second time.

10: 苦てな食べ物はありますか Nigatena tabemono wa arimasu ka – Are there any foods you can’t eat?

Again, Japanese people are obsessed with food which is good news for you because you will eat in some amazing restaurants. The Japanese are also aware that some parts of their cuisine including natto or raw fish might be difficult for foreigners to eat. Japanese like to make sure their guests are comfortable and so it is common to be asked what foods you can and can’t eat.

If you have no problems with food you could answer 特にないです Toku ni nai desu – Nothing in particular. If there is a type of food you can’t eat then use the same pattern as we learned for not being able to eat natto: 納豆食べられません Natto taberaremasen or perhaps 肉食べられません Niku taberaremasen – I can’t eat meat.



Show Notes

Podcast 10: Notes


These are the downloadable PDF show notes for podcast #10 “The Top 10 Questions you will be asked in Japan”.

For more Japanese language learning podcasts visit