The Volitional I

第135課: The Volitional I

Volition is the speaker’s will to do or not do something. In Japanese, there are both affirmative and negative volitional forms. For starters, we will learn about the endings used to create affirmative volitional statements.

Plain Speech Affirmative Volitional Endings: ~よう & ~う

As far as meaning is concerned, the affirmative volitional form either translates as “let’s” or “I will.” If the statement implies participation from others, then the former interpretation is intended. If the statement doesn’t imply the participation of others, then the latter interpretation is intended.

Although verbs aren’t the only things that have volitional forms, we will limit our discussion to verbal volitional phrases for now. In plain speech, there are two auxiliary verbs used to create the affirmative volitional form: ~よう & ~う. The only difference between ~よう and ~う is what class of verbs they’re used with. 

Conjugation Chart 

 /iru/-Ending Ichidan Verbs 見る + よう → 見よう Let’s/I’ll see
 /eru/-Ending Ichidan Verbs 食べる + よう → 食べよう Let’s/I’ll eat
 /u/-Ending Godan Verbs 買う + う → 買おう Let’s/I’ll buy
 /ku/-Ending Godan Verbs 書く + う → 書こう Let’s/I’ll write
 /gu/-Ending Godan Verbs 泳ぐ + う → 泳ごう Let’s/I’ll swim
 /su/-Ending Godan Verbs 話す + う → 話そう Let’s/I’ll talk
 /tsu/-Ending Godan Verbs 勝つ + う → 勝とう Let’s/I’ll win
 /nu/-Ending Godan Verbs 死ぬ + う → 死のう Let’s/I shall die
 /mu/-Ending Godan Verbs 読む + う → 読もう Let’s/I’ll read
 /ru/-Ending Godan Verbs 図る + う → 図ろう Let’s/I’ll devise
 Suru Verbs する + よう → しよう Let’s/I’ll do
 Kuru  来る + よう → 来(こ)よう Let’s/I’ll come

Translation Note: In English, it is not always the case that “I will” is the best phrasing to indicate personal volition to do something, especially since it also functions as the future tense auxiliary. Whenever this is the case, “shall” can be a better working translation of the affirmative volitional auxiliaries of Japanese. 

Pronunciation Note: In casual speech, the final う at the end of these forms may be heard omitted.  

 One’s Volition/Will 

  The main usage of these endings is to express one’s volition/will to do something. This is referred to as the 意志形 in Japanese. This is either used in a sense of including those around you or simply used to solely indicate one’s own intention.

1. 寿司べよう。
I’ll eat sushi/Let’s eat sushi.

2. これだけははっきりとさせておこう。 
Let’s get this (much) straight.

3. 少もうか。
How about taking a rest for a while?

4. もうわないから、ゆっくりしよう。
It’s not that we have to make it on time. So, let’s go slowly.

Word Note: 間に合う should only be used with time.

5. さらにべようっていうの?
You’re going to eat on top of this?

6. 出かけよう{では・じゃ}ないか?
Why don’t we go out?

Grammar Note: ~ようでは・じゃないか can also make a volitional question.

7. 中国語勉強しようか。
How about I/we study Chinese?

8. 食事ませてから、よう。
Let’s go outside after we finish dinner.

9. この電車んでるから、のにろう。(Colloquial)
Since this train is crowded, let’s get on the next one.

Determination/Volition of Others

~(よ)うと思います shows that oneself is now determined to do something. In contrast, ~(よ)うと思っています either shows that oneself has made the decision to do something some time ago or the volition of others. 

10. 姉中国日本語を教えようとっています。
My older sister is thinking about teaching Japanese in China.

11. ハワイにこうといます。
I think I’m going to Hawaii.

12. 奨学金しょうがくきんをもらおうとえています。
I’m considering receiving scholarship money.

13.  将来しょうらい映画監督えいがかんとくになろうとっている。
I’m thinking of becoming a movie director in the future.

Likelihood (Old-Fashioned Speech)

A meaning that has fallen out of use but is still seen in old-fashioned speech and literature is the ability to show likelihood. This has largely been replaced with のだろう, which combines だ and ~う, as we will see again later in this lesson. Though this meaning is largely defunct, it can be distinguished from the others by not just differences in tone but also by context. This meaning of the volitional endings involves statements about state, not an action in which the speaker has control over. 

14a. 長時間歩いたのでお腹もすいていよう。(Old-fashioned)
14b. 長時間歩いたのでお腹もすいているのだろう。
You’re also probably starving because you’ve been walking for so long.

15a. 彼らは指摘してきできよう。(Old-fashioned)
15b. 彼らは指摘できるのだろう。
They’ll probably be able to point it out.

There are some grammatical instances where this meaning of the volitional endings lives on in modern language use. These instances include the patterns ~(よ)うはずがない  and (よ)うものなら. 

16. そんなことがあろうはずがない。
Such a thing should not happen.

17. 黙っていようものなら、自滅するぞ。
If you are to remain quiet, you will end yourself.

Rhetorical Questions

Another usage of these endings is making rhetorical questions when followed by the rhetorical question-marker か. In this situation, か has a sharp drop in pitch. This usage has largely been replaced by ~のだろうか, which incidentally also uses the auxiliary ~う.

18a. 許されようか。(Old-fashioned)
18b. 許されるのだろうか。
Will [I/you/he/she/it] really be forgiven?

19a. 彼はそれができようか。(Old-fashioned)
19b. 彼はそれができるのだろうか。
Can he really do that?

No Matter What  “…(よ)うが”, “…(よ)うと”, “…(よ)うとも”, “(よ)うものなら”, and “…(よ)うにも”, show supposition and is equivalent to “しても”. They are like “no matter what” or “even if”.

20. 家出をしようにもおがないよ。
Even if run away, you don’t have any money.

21. 真実であろうがであろうが、まだ関係はない。
Whether it’s true or a lie, I still have no part in it.

22. 行こうとくまいとちだ。
Even if you go or don’t go, it’s my victory.

23. どんなに反対されようが、消費税の引き上げが施行される。 
No matter how much it’s protested against, the consumer tax hike will be enforced.

24. どんな苦しみを味わおうが、自分が決めたことは変えたくない。
No matter the suffering I suffer, I won’t want to change what I’ve decided.

25. どれだけお金を損しようが、賭博し続けるよ。 
No matter how much money I lose, I’ll continue to gamble. 

26. 何をしようとったことではありません。
Whatever you do, it’s nothing that I know.

27. たとえ雨がろうともフットボールをする。
I play football even if it rains.

28. どれだけ時間がかか{ろうとも・っても}、らを支持します。
I will support them no matter how long it takes.

29. 先生あつかましくも口答くちごたえをしようものなら、大目玉おおめだまらうでしょう。
Should you ever have the nerve to talk back to the teacher, you’ll surely get scolded severely.

30. 火事になろうものなら、大変だぞ。
It would be grave should there be a fire.  

Just About To…

~(よ)うとしたら is when “just as one is about to do X, Y happens”. Y is out of your control, and often includes speech modals like ~てしまった and ~きた. 

31. 電車に乗ろうとしたら、ドアが閉まってしまいました。
I was about to get on the train when the door (regrettably/accidentally) closed. 

32. アイスクリームを買って、歩きながら食べようとしたら、「みっともないですよ」っておこられちゃったし。
When I tried to eat the ice cream I bought while walked, I was scolded and told that it was “indecent”. 

33. 喫茶店へ行こうとしたら、雨が降って来た。
Just as I was about to go to the coffee shop, it started to rain. 

34. 出かけようとしたら、電話がかかって来た。
Just as I was going to leave, a phone call came. 

Polite Speech Affirmative Volitional Ending: ~ましょう

The polite speech equivalent of both ~よう and ~う is ~ましょう. Conjugating with this is the same as with ~ます. In fact, this is just a combination of ~ます + ~う! Meaning-wise, it is not used in all sorts of grammar patterns like its plain speech counterparts. Instead, it is limited to showing “let’s” or “I will/shall.” Very rarely is it used to show likelihood, in which case it behaves just like its plain speech counterparts. 

Conjugation Chart

 /iru/-Ending Ichidan Verbs 見る + ましょう → 見ましょう Let’s/I’ll see
 /eru/-Ending Ichidan Verbs 食べる + ましょう → 食べましょう Let’s/I’ll eat
 /u/-Ending Godan Verbs 買う + ましょう → 買いましょう Let’s/I’ll buy
 /ku/-Ending Godan Verbs 書く + ましょう → 書きましょう Let’s/I’ll write
 /gu/-Ending Godan Verbs 泳ぐ + ましょう → 泳ぎましょう Let’s/I’ll swim
 /su/-Ending Godan Verbs 話す + ましょう → 話しましょう Let’s/I’ll talk
 /tsu/-Ending Godan Verbs 勝つ + ましょう → 勝ちましょう Let’s/I’ll win
 /nu/-Ending Godan Verbs 死ぬ + ましょう → 死にましょう Let’s/I shall die
 /mu/-Ending Godan Verbs 読む + ましょう → 読みましょう Let’s/I’ll read
 /ru/-Ending Godan Verbs 図る + ましょう → 図りましょう Let’s/I’ll devise
 Suru Verbs する + ましょう → しましょう Let’s/I’ll do
 Kuru  来る + ましょう → 来(き)ましょう Let’s/I’ll come

Pronunciation Note: Though less polite, the final う in these forms can be heard omitted. It is also possible to hear the しょ pronounced as ひょ in certain dialects, especially traditional Kyoto Dialect speech. 


35. 価格を下げることで売り上げがびるように定価から2千円を割りきましょう。
In lowering prices in order to boost sales, let’s knock off 2000 yen from the price. 

36. 乾杯かんぱいしましょう。

37. 私から電話しましょうか。
Shall I call?

Particle Note: This usage of から may be replaced with が.

38. 一緒外食しましょう。
Let’s go out to eat together.

39. 早速出かけましょう!
Let’s head out at once!

40. にあるかぎ最善さいぜんつくしましょう。
Let’s do our best to live in this world as much as possible.

Phrase Noteにある means “to live in this world”. 

 /iru/-Ending Ichidan Verbs 見る + よう → 見よう Let’s/I’ll see
 /eru/-Ending Ichidan Verbs 食べる + よう → 食べよう Let’s/I’ll eat
 /u/-Ending Godan Verbs 買う + う → 買おう Let’s/I’ll buy
 /ku/-Ending Godan Verbs 書く + う → 書こう Let’s/I’ll write
 /gu/-Ending Godan Verbs 泳ぐ + う → 泳ごう Let’s/I’ll swim
 /su/-Ending Godan Verbs 話す + う → 話そう Let’s/I’ll talk
 /tsu/-Ending Godan Verbs 勝つ + う → 勝とう Let’s/I’ll win
 /nu/-Ending Godan Verbs 死ぬ + う → 死のう Let’s/I shall die
 /mu/-Ending Godan Verbs 読む + う → 読もう Let’s/I’ll read
 /ru/-Ending Godan Verbs 図る + う → 図ろう Let’s/I’ll devise
 Suru Verbs する + よう → しよう Let’s/I’ll do
 Kuru  来る + よう → 来(こ)よう Let’s/I’ll come
 /iru/-Ending Ichidan Verbs 見る + よう → 見よう Let’s/I’ll see
 /eru/-Ending Ichidan Verbs 食べる + よう → 食べよう Let’s/I’ll eat
 /u/-Ending Godan Verbs 買う + う → 買おう Let’s/I’ll buy
 /ku/-Ending Godan Verbs 書く + う → 書こう Let’s/I’ll write
 /gu/-Ending Godan Verbs 泳ぐ + う → 泳ごう Let’s/I’ll swim
 /su/-Ending Godan Verbs 話す + う → 話そう Let’s/I’ll talk
 /tsu/-Ending Godan Verbs 勝つ + う → 勝とう Let’s/I’ll win
 /nu/-Ending Godan Verbs 死ぬ + う → 死のう Let’s/I shall die
 /mu/-Ending Godan Verbs 読む + う → 読もう Let’s/I’ll read
 /ru/-Ending Godan Verbs 図る + う → 図ろう Let’s/I’ll devise
 Suru Verbs する + よう → しよう Let’s/I’ll do
 Kuru  来る + よう → 来(こ)よう Let’s/I’ll come


      ~だろう comes from the volitional form of だ. It is often shortened to ~だろ. ~だろう is often not used by females due to the brisk tone it often gives.

1. Used to show guess. It may follow nouns, adjectives, and verbs.

41. 明日るだろう。
It will probably rain tomorrow.

42. 結局けっきょく悪化あっかするだろう。
It will surely get worse.

43. 出席者高々たかだか10だろう。
There will be no more than ten attendees. 

44. あの様子ようすからして離婚間近まぢかだろう。
Based on that condition, divorce is surely close.

45. 迷惑めいわくだろう。
It’s probably a bother.

2. ~だろうか may be used to express personal doubt, especially in one’s inner monologue. This is the case for both men and women, and in this sense, it can be translated as “I wonder…” In the spoken language when paired with a rising intonation, it can be used to direct serious doubt at someone about something or that individual.  

46. 何時だろうか。
I wonder what time it is.

47. いつうだろうか。
I wonder when he’ll carry it out.

48. 誰議事堂ぎじどうくのだろうか。
Who would go to the Diet?

49. あんな馬鹿ばか行為されるだろうか。
How would such a stupid action be allowed?

50. 犯人なのではないだろうか。
Isn’t he supposed the criminal?

51. おるだろう?(Casual/Masculine)
Aren’t you coming too?

Grammar Note: When the particle か is dropped like in Ex. 51, the speaker is strongly seeking affirmation from the listener. 

3. “…だろうが” and “…だろうと” show supposition and mean “even (in/as)” or “no matter”. The former is used in the sense of “even as” whereas the latter is used in the sense of “even in/no matter.”  

52. 雨天うてんだろうと決行するつもりです。
I plan to carry it out even in rainy weather

53. 子供だろうが容赦ようしゃはしない。
Even as children, they don’t show mercy. 

54. どんなだろうと、この映画しめます。
No matter what kind of person you are, you can enjoy this movie.

4. ~だろうに means “even though it’s supposed to be”. When seen at the end of a sentence, it is often translated as “how I wish!” 

55. 苦しかっただろうに、よく頑張った。
Even though it was supposed to be painful, he persevered well.

56. 人生をもう一度やりなおせたらどんなにいいだろうに。
How I wish I could live my life again!

57. もう少し早く出ればに合っただろうに。
If we only left a little bit more early, we would have made it on time.


     For the most part, ~でしょう is the polite form of ~だろう. ~でしょう comes from the combination of です and ~う. It is often shortened to ~でしょ in casual speech. It has largely replaced だろう whenever it isn’t followed by some particle. However, it is possible to see ~でしょうに. 

58. 今晩でしょう。
It’s probably snow this evening.

59. 戻ってくるでしょう。
It’ll probably return.

60. くすり頭痛ずつうおさまるでしょう。
Headache should subside with medicine.

61. よろしいでしょうか。
Will this be alright?

62. 彼女本当よろこぶでしょう。
I think it’ll probably make her really happy.

63. 間わないのではないでしょうか。
Are we not going to be able to make it?


~でしょうか normally goes after the plain form, but it’s occasionally after ~ます in attempts to be more honorific. 

64. 日本に来られて何年になりますでしょうか。
How many years has it been since you’ve come to Japan?

65. お分かりになりますでしょうか。
Do you understand?