The Verbs Suru する & Kuru 来る

第19課: The Irregular Verbs Suru する & Kuru 来る

Of all the verbs in Modern Japanese, only two are considered irregular. These verbs are suru する meaning “to do” and kuru 来る meaning “to come.” Their irregularity lies in their unique set of bases. First, we’ll learn what those bases are, then study how they combine with the endings we know.

In our terminology rap, only terms related to the bases are listed. If a grammar term appears that you are still unsure about, refer to past lessons. 

  • Base: One of the six forms of a verb that is followed by endings like auxiliaries. 
  • Terminal/Predicative Form (Shūshikei 終止形): Marks the end of a complete sentence/the predicate. 
  • Attributive Form (Rentaikei 連体形): Makes a verb, adjective, etc. into a modifier that goes directly before a noun. 
  • Basic Form (Kihonkei 基本形): The basic or “plain speech” form of any given phrase. The basic form encompasses both the predicative and the attributive forms in the context of verbs and adjectives. 
  • Continuative Form (Ren’yōkei 連用形): Used with endings pertaining to actions being carried out.
  1. Irrealis Form (Mizenkei 未然形): Used with endings which indicate actions that have yet to occur.

The Bases of Suru する (To Do)

So far, we know about the terminal form (終止形), the predicative form (連体形), the continuative form (連用形), and the irrealis form (未然形). Although its verb class is only composed of itself, する combines with many words to create more verbs, especially word roots of Sino-Japanese and foreign origin. 

Terminology Note: する itself, along with all the verbs it creates, are collectively known as sa-gyō henkaku katsuyō dōshi サ行変格活用動詞 (“sa”-column irregular conjugating verbs) or Sahen verbs for short. 

 Class Example PredicativeAttributiveContinuative Irrealis
Ichidan Miru (to see)  Miru  Miru  Mi Mi
GodanKiku (to ask)  Kiku  Kiku  Kiki Kika
Sahen Suru (to do)  Su(ru)  Suru  Shi Shi

※The root of suru する is s-. What follows this root are the affixes which create the bases themselves. Applying this logic by comparing it to other verb classes reveals just how irregular it truly is.

※The traditional predicative/terminal form is su す. Its use in everyday speech is few and far between, but it is fairly common in set phrases, poetry, etc.

※One thing that Ichidan and Sahen verbs share is how the affix –ru る marks the attributive form. This does not transfer over to Godan verbs, including those which end in /ru/ because the /r/ is actually a part of the stem for these verbs. 

The Conjugations of Suru する

It’s now time to see these bases of suru する in action with the various forms that we’ve learned thus far. To simplify things, however, we are only going to break them down individually as the processes we’ve learned thus far still apply. 

Conjugation Plain Polite
Non-Past Suru する Shimasu します
Past Shita した Shimashita しました
NegativeShinai しない Shimasen しません (Method 1)
Shinai-desu しないです (Method 2)
Negative PastShinakatta しなかったShimasen-deshita しませんでした  (Method 1) Shinakatta-desu しなかったです(Method 2)

Speech Level Note: As we learned in the lessons on Ichidan and Godan verbs, regarding the negative and negative past in polite speech, Method 1 is politer and more appropriate than Method 2 in formal settings.

1. 僕は宿題をしなかった。
Boku wa shukudai wo shinakatta.
I didn’t do my homework.

2. 変なことをする。
Hen na koto wo suru.
To do something weird.

3. いい仕事をしますね。
Ii shigoto wo shimasu ne.
You do a good job, don’t you.

4. 弟は掃除をしました。
Otōto wa sōji wo shimashita.
My little brother did cleaning.

5. 嫌なことはしないです。
Iya na koto wa shinai-desu.
I won’t do anything unpleasant.

6. 皿洗いはしません。
Sara’arai wa shimasen.
I won’t do the dishes.

7. 料理をしませんでした。
Ryōri wo shimasen-deshita.
I didn’t cook. 

8. 小さい頃は勉強をしなかったです。
Chiisai koro wa benkyō wo shinakatta-desu.
I didn’t study when I was young/small.

The Meanings of Suru する

Having seen how する conjugates, it is time to learn more about how it is used.

“To Do” on a Grander Scale

Firstly, suru する is “to do” in a much larger sense both grammatically and semantically speaking than its English counterpart. In Japanese, words usually can’t be used another part of speech without a change in word form. For example, the noun for “yawn” is akubi あくび, but “to yawn” is akubi wo suru あくびをする. Even if  “to do” is not used in this way in English, suru する helps many nouns behave as verbs.

11. 息をする。
Iki wo suru.
To breathe.

12. 恋をする。
Koi wo suru.
To be in love.

13. 旅をする。
Tabi wo suru.
To go on a journey.

14. 火傷をする。
Yakedo wo suru.
To get burned/burn oneself.

15. 仕事をする。
Shigoto wo suru.

To work (a job). 

Noun + Suru する

Most importantly, suru する helps make many words, mostly Sino-Japanese and loanwords, function as verbs. For instance, unten 運転 means “driving,” but to say “to drive,” you say unten (wo) suru 運転(を)する. When to include wo を will be a discussion for another time, but for now, if its inclusion is not necessary, it will be left in parentheses. 

 To order   翻訳する
 To translate
 To sign-in  キャンセルする
 To cancel
 To call on the phone   勉強(を)する
 To study
 To sell/market   投票する 
 To vote

16. 今夜電話しますね。
Kon’ya denwa-shimasu ne.
I’ll call you tonight, ok?

17. 英文を翻訳しました。
Eibun wo hon’yaku-shimashita.
I translated the English sentences.

18. Tシャツを販売します。
Tii-shatsu wo hambai-shimasu.
(I/we) will sell T-shirts.

19. カレンダーを注文しませんか。
Karendā wo chūmon-shimasen ka?
How about ordering a calendar?

20. 今回は投票しませんでした。
Konkai wa tōhyō-shimasendeshita.
I did not vote this time.

21. フィンランド語の勉強をしました。
Finrandogo no benkyō wo shimashita.
I did my Finnish studies.

22a. 広東語を勉強しませんか。〇
Kantongo wo benkyō-shimasen ka?
22b.  広東語を勉強をしませんか。X
Kantongo wo benkyō wo shimasen ka?
Why don’t you study Cantonese?

23.  勉強(を)しませんか。Benkyō (wo) shimasen ka?
Why don’t you/we study?

Grammar Note: In Ex. 21, benkyō 勉強 is attached to the previous noun with no の to create the sense of “studies.” However, simply saying “I study…” involves using benkyō 勉強 as a verb with suru する like in Ex. 22a. Grammatically, however, wo を cannot be used twice in the same clause like in 22b. If the object were dropped like in Ex. 23, wo を is optional with its inclusion most likely used in settings akin to contexts like in Ex. 21. 

To Cost

There are several ways to say “to cost” in Japanese, but we will only focus on how suru する is used in this way. In this meaning, it functions as an intransitive verb with the value phrase functioning as an adverb. The “cost” is the sticker price which the speaker pays for it. 

24. レンタルもおおよそ五千円します。
Rentaru mo ōyoso gosen’en shimasu.
Rental also costs about 5000 yen.

25. LINEスタンプは百円します。
Rain sutampu wa hyakuen shimasu.
LINE stamps cost 100 yen.

26. このワインは二千円もしませんでした。
Kono wain wa nisen’en mo shimasen-deshita.
This wine didn’t even cost 2000 yen.

To Wear an Accessory

There are many verbs in Japanese meaning “to wear,” each referring to a particular part of the body. To prevent us from diverting away from the overall discussion of suru する, we will only focus on how it is used in this fashion and cover the other verbs for “to wear” in a future lesson.

27. マスクをする。
Masuku wo suru.
To wear a mask.

28. 手袋をする。
Tebukuro wo suru.

To wear gloves.

29. ネクタイをする。
Nekutai wo suru.
To wear a tie. 

To Sense

Oddly enough, suru する can also be used to mean “to sense” regarding any of the five senses or even general feelings and emotions. Because these are treated as natural phenomena beyond the control of the speaker, this usage is intransitive in nature even though the resulting translation in English is most likely transitive. Meaning, you will be seeing ga が used instead of wo を. 

30. 強い匂いがしました。
Tsuyoi nioi ga shimashita.
There was/it had a strong scent.

31. 甘い味がしますね。
Amai aji ga shimasu ne.
It has a sweet taste, doesn’t it?
It tastes sweet, doesn’t it? 

32. 量が少ない感じがしました。
Ryō ga sukunai kanji ga shimashita.
I felt that the amount was lacking.

33. 変な音がした。
Hen na oto ga shita.
There was a strange sound.

34. 悲しい気持ちがする。
Kanashii kimochi ga suru.
To have sad feelings.

To Be…. (Occupation/Role)

When you want to say your job/role/occupation is, you typically use suru する. However, to make this an active statement, you need to use the ending -te iru ~ている, which indicates an ongoing state.

35. 料理人をしています。
Ryōrinin wo shite imasu.
I am a cook.

36. 銀行員をしています。
Ginkōin wo shite imasu.
I am a bank clerk.

To Be/Have

Suru する may translate as “to be/have” as in “to take on” a certain quality. Key phrases of this include the following:

~形をする ~Katachi wo suru    To take the form/shape of…   ~顔をする~Kao wo suru To have a…face
   ~目付きをする~Metsuki wo suru   To have a…expression   ~目をする~Me wo suru To have… eyes

37. {丸い・四角い}形をした建物を構築する。
[Marui/shikakui] katachi wo shita tatemono wo kōchiku-suru.
To construct a [round/square] shaped building.

38. あの子はかわいい顔をしていますね。
Ano ko wa kawaii kao wo shite imasu ne.
That kid has a cute face, doesn’t he/she?

39. 鋭い目付きをする。
Surudoi metsuki wo suru.
To have a sharp expression.

40. 冷たい目をする。
Tsumetai me wo suru. 
To have cold eyes.

To Play

The act of playing some specific game or sport is expressed with suru する. In fact, suru する also encompasses doing general activities of any sort. 

Speech Level Note: In casual contexts, you may also use the verb yaru やる for this meaning.

41. パチンコをしませんか。
Pachinko wo shimasen ka?
Why not play pachinko (Japanese pinball)?

42. 生け花をします。
Ikebana wo shimasu.
I will practice flower arrangement.

43. アメフトを{します・やります}。
Amefuto wo [shimasu/yarimasu].
I’ll play American football.

44. スキーはしません。
Sukii wa shimasen.
I don’t ski.

45. 私は昨日、サッカーをしました。
Watashi wa kinō, sakkā wo shimashita.
I played soccer yesterday.

Future Study Note: For other verbs which mean “to play,” see this lesson

The Bases of Kuru 来る (To Come)

Kuru 来る “to come” has its own unique set of bases.  

Terminology Note: The verb class which kuru 来る belongs to is called ka-gyō henkaku katsuyō dōshi カ行変格活用動詞 (“ka”-column irregular conjugating verbs) or Kahen verb for short. 

Class Example Predicative Attributive Continuative Irrealis
Ichidan  Taberu (to eat)  Taberu  Taberu  Tabe Tabe
Godan  Shinu (to die)  Shinu  Shinu  Shini Shina
Sahen  Suru (to do)  Suru  Suru  Shi Shi
Kahen  Kuru (to come)  Kuru  Kuru  Ki  Ko

※Similarly to suru する, the stem of kuru 来る is k-. Also just like suru する, its terminal/predicative form was originally just ku 来, but this is no longer used.

The Conjugations of Kuru 来る

Just as we did with suru する, it’s now time to look at how the bases of kuru 来る are used with the various forms we’ve learned thus far minus the breakdowns like there with the previous lessons on verbs since nothing is different.  

It’s now time to see these bases of suru する in action with the various forms that we’ve learned thus far. To simplify things, however, we are only going to break them down individually as the processes we’ve learned thus far still apply. 

Conjugation Plain Polite
Non-Past Kuru 来る Kimasu 来ます
 Past Kita 来た Kimashita 来ました
 Negative Konai 来ない Kimasen 来ません (Method 1)Konai-desu 来ないです (Method 2)
 Negative Past Konakatta 来なかった Kimasen-deshita 来ませんでした (Method 1)Konakatta-desu 来なかったです(Method 2)

Since kuru 来る is spelled primarily with kanji, the bases are noted in bold. Because this is such a high-frequency use verb, it is not normally accompanied with Furigana in practical application. 

The Meaning of Kuru 来る

As you have surely gathered, kuru 来る means “to come.” It can mean in all the same ways as its English counterpart in both spatial and temporal contexts. The only difference that exists is that it means “to come” as in someone/something arriving at Point A (from Point B). In a directional sense, it is never moving away from the speaker. 

46. サンタさんが来なかった。
Santa-san ga konakatta.
Santa didn’t come.

47. ついに春が来た!
Tsui ni haru ga kita!
Spring has finally arrived/come!

48. 電車、来ないよ。
Densha, konai yo.
The train hasn’t come!

49. 来る日も来る日も雪だった。
Kuru hi mo kuru hi mo yuki datta.
It was snow day after day.

50. 連絡が来ませんでした。
Renraku ga kimasendeshita.
No contact has come in.

51. 手紙が{来なかった・届かなかった}です。
Tegami ga [konakatta/todokanakatta]-desu.
A letter didn’t come.

Synonym Note: In the sense of “to arrive” as in something that is delivered, the verb todoku 届く is preferred but not required. 

52. 明日のパーティに来る?
Ashita no pāti ni kuru?
Will you come to [my/the] party tomorrow?

Grammar Note: Even though the speaker of this sentence is not necessarily at Point A (where the party is being held), their state of mind is, and when this is the case, using kuru 来る is still valid.