Plain Past Tense (Vた)

In this lesson, I'm going to continue our examination of verb conjugations.

Come on. It's not that bad.

Now, we already went to town on plain present negative conjugations.

What-what-what conjugations?

Go back and review!

So now we're ready for...

Plain Past Tense Verbs

Generally speaking, we can use the plain past tense when we want to talk about past actions in informal language.

You already know dictionary form:

to eat

In lessons, we'll sometimes list dictionary-form verbs as "V る."

This verb conjugation also appears in sentences, where we can think it as either "dictionary form" or "plain present tense (affirmative):"

ラーメン たべる!
I'm gonna eat ramen!
Literally: "ramen + eat!"

We also already learned the plain present negative form, which we'll sometimes abbreviate as "V ない" in our lessons:

ラーメン は たべない。
I'm not going to eat ramen (but I'll eat something else).
Literally: "ramen + は + don't eat / won't eat."
Note: We get the nuance of "but I'll eat something else" thanks to this は. Imagine that は is "As for" in the following sentence: "As for ramen, I won't eat it, (but as for something else, I'll eat it)."

And in this lesson we're looking at plain past tense, which we will occasionally abbreviate as "V た." For example, ask your dear friend, What did you have for lunch today? and he or she might say:

ラーメン たべた。
I ate ramen.
Literally: "ramen + ate."

Let's look at how verbs are conjugated in this form...


First, do you remember all of the verbs we used when exploring different verb types and plain present negative form?

Here's a refresher:

1) Godan Verbs // Group I Verbs // u-verbs

// kau // to buy
// iku // to go
// nugu // to take off [e.g. shoes]
// osu // to push; to press
// tatsu // to stand
// shinu // to die
あそ // asobu // to play
// nomu // to drink
すわ // suwaru // to sit down

2) Ichidan Verbs // Group II Verbs // ru-verbs

食べたべ // taberu // to eat
起きおき // okiru // to get up; to wake up

3) Irregular Verbs // Group III Verbs

する(suru // to do; to make
来る(くる // kuru // to come


We'll need to divide these up a bit more when deciding how to conjugate verbs into plain past tense.

Here are the different ways we'll split up and conjugate all of them:

(Note: I'm adding one new verb, also: 書く (かく // to write). You'll see that I added this because the other verb ending in -く that we've seen before, 行く (いく // to go) is irregular in plain past tense.)

 1) Godan Verbs // Group I Verbs // u-verbs 

-う・-つ・-る → -った

// kau // to buy
→ 買ったった // katta // bought

// tatsu // to stand
→ 立ったった // tatta // stood

すわ // suwaru // to sit down
→ 座ったすわった // suwatta // sat down

-む・-ぬ・-ぶ → -んだ

// shinu // to die
→ 死んだんだ // shinda // died

あそ // asobu // to play
→ 遊んだあそんだ // asonda // played

// nomu // to drink
→ 飲んだんだ // nonda // drank

-く → -いた

// kaku // to write
→ 書いたいた // kaita // wrote

-ぐ → -いだ

// nugu // to take off [e.g. shoes]
→ 脱いだいだ // nuida // took off [e.g. shoes]

-す → -した

// osu // to push; to press
→ 押したした // oshita // pushed; pressed

例外:いく → いった
(Note: 例外 (れいがい) means "exception" in Japanese. This makes sense because we're talking about something outside (外) the examples (例). Aren't kanji great?)

行くいく // iku // to go
行ったいった // itta // went

 2) Ichidan Verbs // Group II Verbs // ru-verbs 

-る → -た

食べたべ // taberu // to eat
→ 食べたべ // tabeta // ate

起きおき // okiru // to get up; to wake up
→ 起きおき // okita // got up; woke up

 3) Irregular Verbs // Group III Verbs 

する → した
するsuru // to do; to make
したshita // did; made

くる → きた
来るくる // kuru // to come
来たきた // kita // came


To recap, that's:

 1) Godan Verbs // Group I Verbs // u-verbs 
-う・-つ・-る → -った
-む・-ぬ・-ぶ → -んだ
-く → -いた
-ぐ → -いだ
-す → -した
例外:いく → いった

 2) Ichidan Verbs // Group II Verbs // ru-verbs 
-る → -た

 3) Irregular Verbs // Group III Verbs 
する → した
くる → きた

I'd like to teach you some top-secret trick for remembering all of these different conjugations. If I'm being honest, however, I just learned them through rote memorization. 

This is easier than you might expect — you'll come across verbs being conjugated into plain past tense so often that conjugating them will become effortless in time.

Let's just be patient and let our brains do all the work in the background.

Well, maybe not "in the background," since sometimes we might have a...


 💀 🔥 💀 🔥 💀 🔥 💀 
 💀 🔥 💀 🔥 💀 🔥 💀 
 Deadly Quiz of Doom & Despair  
 💀 🔥 💀 🔥 💀 🔥 💀 
 💀 🔥 💀 🔥 💀 🔥 💀 

Let's see if you can conjugate all of these verbs into simple past tense...

(No scrolling up to check; that's cheating.)

01 買う(かう // kau // to buy
02 行く(いく // iku // to go
03 脱ぐ(ぬぐ // nugu // to take off [e.g. shoes]
04 押す(おす // osu // to push; to press
05 立つ(たつ // tatsu // to stand
06 死ぬ(しぬ // shinu // to die
07 遊ぶ(あそぶ // asobu // to play
08 飲む(のむ // nomu // to drink
09 座る(すわる // suwaru // to sit down
10 食べる(たべる // taberu // to eat
11 起きる(おきる // okiru // to get up; to wake up
12 する(suru // to do; to make
13 来る(くる // kuru // to come

⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 
⏰ 👓 Thinking Space 👓 ⏰ 

Here are the answers:

01 買った(かった // katta // bought
02 行った(いった // itta // went
03 脱いだ(ぬいだ // nuida // took off [e.g. shoes]
04 押した(おした // oshita // pushed; pressed
05 立った(たった // tatta // stood
06 死んだ(しんだ // shinda // died
07 遊んだ(あそんだ // asonda // played
08 飲んだ(のんだ // nonda // drank
09 座った(すわった // suwatta // sat down
10 食べた(たべた // tabeta // ate
11 起きた(おきた // okita // got up; woke up
12 した(shita // did; made
13 来た(きた // kita // came

Bonus Question #1.

How do we put the following verb into plain past tense?

14 言う(いう // iu // to say

That would be...

14 言った(いった // itta // said

Bonus Question #2.

The previous verb (言った) is pronounced the same as what other verb in plain past tense?

The answer is...

行った(いった // itta // went
言った(いった // itta // said

These two words are homophones (they sound the same but are spelled differently — well, they have different kanji). We'll see lots of them in Japanese. ^^


If you're like me, you're about ready to cry from all of these lists and conjugation rules.

Consequently, you may have breezed over those lists and rules far too quickly to actually learn them.

What to do, then?

Option #1: Go back, release your inner nerd, and meticulously pore over those verb lists.

Option #2: Just tell yourself, Meh, I'll get a feel for conjugations over time naturally by exposing myself to Japanese.

In both cases, we should check out the following dialogue:

(Note: The following dialogue may be overwhelming. However, if you take your time and look at all of the breakdowns, I think you might be surprised at how much you understand — we've already seen most of the grammar being used in this conversation.)

Walking up to the fridge, and being the nice person that you are, you ask your (male) roommate:

ジュース のむ?
You want some juice?
Literally: “juice + drink?”

He says:

いらない。 もう のんだ。
No. I already had some.
Literally: “don’t need. + already + drank.”

You were really looking forward to your juice, so, hand on the fridge handle, you fearfully ask:

All of it?
Literally: “all / everything?”

Your roommate is not the sharpest tool in the shed, and he says:

I don’t know.
Literally: “don’t know / don’t understand.”
Note: 分かんない is a colloquial form of 分からない.

You open the fridge. The juice is empty! You say:

もう ない じゃん!
It’s all gone!
Literally: “anymore + there is not + じゃん!”
Note: ~じゃん is used to assert something that the listener should also know about.

He all-too-casually responds:

じゃあ、 ぜんぶ のんだ。 ごめん ね。
Well, then I drank it all. Sorry.
Literally: “well then, + all / everything + drank. + sorry + ね.”

Looking in the fridge, you realize your fried rice isn't there!

あれ? おれ の チャーハン が ない!
Huh? My fried rice is gone!
Literally: “huh? + I + の + fried rice + が + there is not!”

With hungry eyes, your roommate says:

えっ? チャーハン あんの?
Huh? There’s fried rice?
Literally: “huh? + fried rice + there is + の?”
Note: あんの? is a casual abbreviation of あるの?

Never mind. He was speaking with "stupid eyes." Not "hungry eyes." You'll have to clarify for him:

いや。 あった のに いま は ない。 おまえ たべた だろ!
No. There was fried rice, but now it’s gone. You ate it, didn’t you?!
Literally: “no. + there was + although (=のに) + now + は + there is not. + you + ate + だろ!”
Note: だろ can be used to seek agreement. We cover it in many other lessons.

Finally, your roommate understands:

ああ、 あの チャーハン ね。 おいしかった よ。
Oh, that fried rice. It was good.
Literally: “oh / ah, + that + fried rice + ね. + was tasty + よ.”

Your rage is palpable.

おまえ、 さいてい の ルームメート だ な。
You’re the worst roommate.
Literally: “you, + worst + の + roommate + だ + な.”
Note: な is sometimes used like ね, but here it sounds a bit more masculine.

But your roommate knows just how to win your heart back:

でも、 アイス かった よ。
I bought ice cream, though.
Literally: “but, + ice cream + bought + よ.”

You can't help but ask:

アイス? なん の アイス?
Ice cream? What kind of ice cream?
Literally: “ice cream? + what + の + ice cream?”

And, of course, he delivers:

スーパーカップ よんこ!
Four Supercups!
Literally: “Supercup + four (little things)!”
Note: We saw Supercup ice cream in a lesson a very long time ago.

You can't help but forgive him. You love Supercups:

Literally: “yes! / score!”
Note: Although this is an idiomatic expression, note that the simple past tense of やる, "to do," would be やった.

Now that is a long conversation to be looking at so early in our studies, don't you think? Props to you.

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