Verbs give sentences momentum and power. You learn the major ones right from the beginning. Once you get conjugation down they are fairly straightforward. But there are 3 legendary verbs, that are used everywhere, in every form, that have so many variations and shifting abilities that they can be hard to grasp. They are so important yet so elusive.
Who are they?
What do they mean?
They have dozens of meanings, and within those meanings, very nuanced uses, so giving you a specific definition isn’t that helpful. But since I’m sure you want one, how about we go with a general “bring out,” “hang,” and “attach to.” You can look at their long definition list by clicking on the above 3 links.
To make things worse, they all have intransitive pairs 出る, つく, and かかる. These intransitive pairs often are used with grammar in a way you are not used to.
Their transforming power
While they have enough variation on their own, where they also dig into the language is their combination with other verbs. For example you can transform the simple verb 言う (いう – say) into:
New and exciting meanings await!
Showing your level
You can often tell someone’s Japanese level based on how well they use these. Beginner/Intermediate levels tend to avoid them for simpler language. You don’t need nuance as long as your meaning gets across in a grammatically correct format, right? But that nuance is what makes language flow naturally.
How to deal with them
The answer isn’t special. You attack them like you do anything else. Learn each and every use (for example each word could probably give you 25+ Anki cards). But it takes time to master them. It’s hard to Anki nuance sometimes. Yes, you have the definition. But “use” is something you know isn’t instantly granted. It takes conscious effort, heavy observation, and dedication to transform your output with them.
Conquer the kings, and conquer all
Don’t expect an easy victory. It will be a drawn out battle, but they will make such a difference. Sure there are other important verbs like する, やる, いく, くる, etc., but none present the same challenge and feeling of reward as these 3 do.
Now go take them down.
Or add another king?
How have you battled with these 3 verbs? Any other verbs that you think are worthy of this title?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.