第014課: The Auxiliary Verbs ~ぬ & ~つ

This lesson will introduce you to two auxiliary verbs in Classical Japanese which denote perfection/completion (完了). These endings are ~ぬ and ~つ, which are identical aside from which sort of verbs they are used with. 

The Auxiliary Verb ~ぬ

The 終止形 of the auxiliary verb ~ぬ is identical in appearance to the 連体形 of the auxiliary verb ~ず; however, the functions of these two auxiliaries could not be any more different. ~ぬ attaches to the 連用形 of verbs, mostly being restricted to intransitive verbs or verbs not denoting volition. 

Conjugation Class +~ぬ
 上一段(to dry up)  干る → 干ぬ
 下一段 (to kick) 蹴る → 蹴ぬ △
 上二段(to fall)  落つ → 落ちぬ
 下二段(to end)  果つ → 果てぬ
 四段  (to stand) 立つ → 立ちぬ
   カ変  (to come) 来 → 来(き)ぬ
 ラ変(to be/happen)  あり → ありぬ
サ変(to do) す → しぬ 

※The verb 蹴る is both transitive and usually indicative of purposeful action, greatly restricting it from being used with ~ぬ, albeit not entirely impossible provided there were sufficient word play involved that presented the action as being incidental.

The auxiliary verb ~ぬ functions as a perfect tense ending used to denote the completion of natural events. When used in isolation, the event is understood as having occurred in the past, making it translate into Modern Japanese as ~た or ~てしまった. 

1. 晴れたる空は夜に入(い)りて雨となり

The bright sky then went into night and turned to rain.
By 田山花袋.

2.  嗚呼、ブリンヂイシイの港を出でてより、早や二十日あまりを経

Ah, around twenty days have already past so quickly since leaving Brindisi Harbor.
From 舞姫 by 森鴎外.

When combining ~ぬ with other auxiliaries as well as when using it in its other base forms, it retains its purpose as a perfect tense marker. As to whether the sentence should be interpreted as referring to a past, present, or future perfect construction depends on the overall verb phrase. So, without further adieu, let’s first look at what its bases of conjugation are. This ending conjugates as a ナ変 verb as follows:

未然形 連用形 終止形 連体形 已然形 命令形
 な- に- ぬ- ぬる- ぬれ- ね-

The 未然形 な-

~ぬ is not used with negative auxiliaries, but that still leaves several potential auxiliaries that may attach to its 未然形. Endings that are frequently used with it include ~む, ~まし, ~まほし, and ~ば.

~なむ relates to the “future perfect” in English, translating to “will have (surely)… ” You may recognize ~む as being the volitional ending, but it also indicates likely future states. Because of how it translates to きっと…だろう in Modern Japanese, most 古文 resources define this as an example of ~ぬ expressing 強意 rather than a perfect tense because ~む could be used to express conjecture by itself, implying that ~ぬ is used together with it to enhance the overall meaning. Although this is true, that is also what is meant by the concept of “future perfect.” The future has yet to occur, but the speaker is certain the state in question will have transpired by then.

3. 盛りにならば、容貌(ようばう)もかぎりなくよく髪もいみじく長くなりむ。

If I reach my prime, my features will have become exceedingly good and my hair will have become exceptionally long. (未然形)
From the 更級日記.

~なまし utilizes the auxiliary verb ~まし, which is used to mark counterfactual supposition (反実仮想). Together, the phrase translates to きっと…ただろうに. At times, the situation is about the future under a circumstance that seems as if it’s true at that point.

4. 白玉か 何ぞと人の 問ひしとき 露と答へて 消なましものを。
“Is (that) a pearl?” asked her, to which I responded, “it’s dew,” but if only I had disappeared (like the dew along with her). 
From the 伊勢物語.

5. けふ来ずは明日は雪とぞ降りなまし、消えずはありとも花と見ましや。
If you do not come today, (this cherry tree) will have scattered (its blossoms) come tomorrow. Even if they were to not disappear (like snow), would you still view (the blossoms) for the flowers (they are)? 

From the 伊勢物語.

~なまほし equates to ~てしまいたい in Modern Japanese. In Ex. below, あくがる is the Classical Japanese form of the Modern Japanese verb 憧れる, but in this time period, it also had the meaning of さまよう (to wander about) in a quite vexed state of mind.  

6. かう心憂ければこそ、今宵の風にもあくがれなまほしくはべりつれ。

Feeling so miserable like this is exactly why I wish I could just be taken away somewhere by tonight’s winds.
From the 源氏物語.

~なば equates to ~てしまったならば and exemplifies how ~ぬ functions as a perfect tense marker.

7. ただ今ゆくへなく飛び失(う)せなば、いかが思ふべき。
If I were to just leave somewhere without a clue, what would you think?
From the 更級日記.

The 連用形 に-

We’ve learned how ~ぬ in isolation translates to ~た or ~てしまった just as in the following.

8. 春来ぬと人は言へども鶯の鳴かぬ限りはあらじとぞ思ふ。
People say that spring has arrived, but I won’t believe it has so long as I don’t hear the nightingales chirp.
From the 古今和歌集.

The use of the present perfect tense in the English translation reflects how it isn’t just a past tense marker. In fact, ~ぬ frequently becomes paired with tense markers when used in the 連用形.

~にたり expresses a resultant state that is still ongoing. Thus, ~たり marks continuation (存続) in the same way ~ている would in Modern Japanese and ~ぬ remains a perfect tense marker, correlating to “past perfect” because of the following auxiliary indicates that the state did finalize in the past. 

9. 身を変へたるがごとなりにたり
It’s as if you’ve changed your status. 
From the 竹取物語.

When used in ~にけり or ~にき, ~ぬ is often viewed as an intensifier (強意); ~にき refers to a past situation that one was witness to confirm whereas ~にけり refers to either past hearsay or a truth involving the past that one is now realizing (recollective past). In either situation, one could still view ~ぬ as a perfective ending.

10. 果てには朱雀門・大極殿・大学寮・民部省などまで移りて一夜のうちに塵灰となりにき。Ultimately, (the fire) spread to Suzaku Gate, the Council Hall,  The Daigaku-ryō, the Ministry of Popular Affairs, and elsewhere, and within the night, (those places) had been turned to dust and ashes. 
From the 方丈記.

11. 明治廿一年の冬は来(き)にけり
Just like that, the winter of Year 21 of the Meiji Era had arrived.

12. 舟こぞりて泣きけり。(連用形)
Everyone had cried in unison.
From the 伊勢物語.

When ~む attaches to ~にけり, the resulting ~にけん is equivalent to the Modern Japanese expression ~てしまったんだろうか.

13. 故郷は見し世にも似ず、褪せにけり、いづち昔の人往きにけむ
The place (I had once lived) resembled nothing like I saw (before), having fallen into ruin. 

The 終止形 ぬ-

Aside from being used in isolation, the 終止形 of ~ぬ is frequently used with auxiliaries of supposition such as ~らし,~めり,~べし,and ~らむ.

14. けぶりあふにやあらむ、清見が関の波も高くなりべし。(終止形)

Perhaps it’s smoke rising (from boiling sea water), but the waves of Kiyomigaseki are surely tall.
From the 更級日記.

Sentence Note: The status of the waves is a recent result, and so one could still view this as a perfect tense construction regarding a present state.

15. ぬばたまの夜は更けぬらし玉くしげ二上山(ふたがみやま)に月傾(かたぶ)き
The night seems to have fallen, as dark as a blackberry lily seed; the moon has become titled above Mt. Futagamiyama. 
From Poem 3955 of the 万葉集.

16. 日も暮れ方になりぬめり。
It would appear that the day has turned to dusk.

From the 更級日記.

~ぬらむ is an even far better example of the “present perfect.” ~らむ specifically indicates present conjecture (現在推量), so when it’s paired with ~ぬ, the speaker is emphatically questioning why something has become so. The matter at hand is undoubtedly a matter of the present.

17. 宿りせし花橘も枯れなくに、などほととぎすこゑ絶えぬらむ
Why have the chirps of the cuckoos ceased though the flowering tachibana which they rest on have yet to wilt?
From the 古今和歌集.

18. 嶺(みね)の櫻は散りはてらむ。(終止形)
The cherry blossoms at the peak have probably completely scattered.
From the 新古今和歌集.

The 已然形 ぬれ-

The only endings that attach to the 已然形 of ~ぬ are ~ど and ~ば, and ~ぬ can be understood as referring to past perfect in any situation used with these endings. 

19. 同郷人にさへ知られぬれば
Since (our relationship) had become found out by the villagers of that same town…
From 舞姫 by 森鴎外.

20. 滝の音は絶えて久しくなりぬれど名こそ聞こえけれ。
Though it has been a long while since the sounds of the waterfall could be heard, its name can still be heard even now.


A meaning which developed in the late-Middle Japanese period mirrors the use of 〇〇~たり〇〇~たり in Modern Japanese, still being limited to verbs involving natural occurrence. 

21. みな紅(くれなゐ)の扇(あうぎ)の日いだしたるが、白波(しらなみ)の上(うへ)にただよひ、浮き沈(しづ)み揺られければ  (終止形)

Since the fan with the sun drawn with gold in the crimson land floated on top of the white wave and swayed while floating and sinking……
From the 平家物語.

Confusion Regarding ~ぬ’s Etymology

古文 textbooks typically state that ~ぬ derives from the verb 去(い)ぬ meaning “to leave (said place).” The meaning of “leaving away” into the distance over time would appear to coincide with something that has transpired, but is ~ぬ actually about calling something said and done? 

1.  去ぬ itself is in the non-past tense, meaning it too could have and was used with ~ぬ to produce 去にぬ. Furthermore, given how ~ぬ was always※ used as a perfect tense marker up until late Middle Japanese when its third meaning of “back-and-forth action” (which still relies on the the actions being completed between alternations) developed, 去ぬ would have never been used in place of 去にぬ or other forms involving past tense markers such as 去にけり. What’s more, if ~ぬ were truly derived from 去ぬ, it would make 去ぬ utterly redundant in the following sentence.

22. そこより逃げて去にけり。
He then ran away and left the scene.
From the 今昔物語集.

23.  女をば草むらのなかに置きて、逃げけり。
(The man) had fled after putting the woman among the grass.
From the 伊勢物語.

※The use of “always” is based on interpreting the 強意 function as iterations of perfect tenses.

2.  Typically, when a word takes on a grammatical function and then builds upon that interpretation beyond the complexity of its original physical meaning, that original meaning is lost to time or is at least on the verge of being forgotten. An example of this in English is the article “a(n)” clearly sharing the same origin as the number “one.” However, the original meaning still serves as the mold for how the current meaning functions. If this were applied to ~ぬ, then one would at least expect these “past” situations which have become completed would be far “past” the speaker, but that is exactly not the case. The situations described still affect the speaker at some level whether it be a “past perfect,” present perfect,” or “future perfect,” and the latter two definitions ought not have been possible had the ending been so obviously from 去ぬ to speakers of Japanese at the time. 

3. Confusion between the auxiliary ~ぬ and verbs ending in ぬ isn’t plausible as 去ぬ was not the only example (though instances are indeed limited). 

4. Another issue is the likelihood of a perfect tense deriving from a verb meaning “to go (away)” as opposed to a copular expression as they did in Indo-European languages. With the Classical Japanese copular なり beginning in /n/ as well, it is likely that a basal /n/-initial copula expression is responsible for the birth of ~ぬ as the perfect tense marker.

The Auxiliary Verb ~つ

~つ is the transitive equivalent of ~ぬ, generally indicating deliberate actions that have been completed. As to be expected, its three usages are also parallel with those of ~ぬ.

1. Marking the completion of deliberate actions.

2. Expresses certainty that an action will be completed (deliberately by someone).

3. Back-and-forth parallel action with the paired verbs requiring an agent performing said actions willfully.

Although ~つ is primarily used with transitive verbs, it is more accurate to state that it is paired with either intransitive or transitive verbs whose agent (doer) is performing said action under one’s own volition. 

~つ only survives in Modern Japanese in a handle of set phrases such as 矯めつ眇めつ meaning “to look at…with scrutiny.” 

Conjugation Note: ~つ conjugates as a 下二段 verb. Below are its bases:

未然形 連用形 終止形 連体形 已然形 命令形
て- て- つ- つる- つれ- てよ-

Grammar Notes:
1. ~つ attaches to the 連用形 of the verbs it is paired with.
2. ~つ is never paired with auxiliary verbs expressing negation as it is positive in nature.

24. そこに日を暮らし。(終止形)
They ended up passing the day there.
From the 更級日記.

25. 僧都(そうづ)、乗っては降り、降りては乗っ。(終止形)
The priest went aboard, fell off, and came aboard.
From the 平家物語.

Conjugation Note: 乗っつ is a contracted form of 乗りつ.

26. 年ごろ思ひつること (連体形)
What I had been thinking for years
From the 徒然草.

27. とまれかうまれ、とく破やぶりん。 (未然形)
Whatever the case may be, I will definitely tear it up.
From the 土佐日記.

Contraction Note: とまれかうまれ is a contraction of とまれかくまれ.

28. この事をばまづ言ひん。 (未然形)
This should end up being said above all.
From the 徒然草.

29. 命限りと思ひ惑はる。(終止形)

I couldn’t help but panic thinking, “my life has definitely come to an end”.
From the 更級日記. 

30. なよ竹のかぐや姫とつけ。(終止形)
He ended up naming her Shining Princess of Supple Bamboo.
From the 竹取物語.

31. これにて魯西亜より帰り来んまでの費(つひ)えをば支えべし。(終止形)
With this, he should end up sustaining the wasteful expenses up to coming home from Russia.
By 鷗外.