Present Tense

There are two different uses of present tense in English. The first use is for things that happen on a regular basis or to express a fact. That’s called the simple present.

Shimada-san writes letters.
Nakamura-san eats sushi every day.
Ice melts above 0° Celsius.

If you want to describe something that is happening right now, you use the present progressive form.

Shimada-san is writing a letter.
Nakamura-san is eating sushi.
The ice is melting.

This same distinction exists in Japanese, although the progressive form is used much more. What we would call simple present is actually called non-past in Japanese; it can also be used as future tense. The simple present is the simplest to learn, so let’s start with that.

Simple Present Tense

Group 1: u dropping verbs

Here is how you work with the verb in “Shimada-san writes letters.”

  1. The verb for “to write” is kaku.
  2. Changing the u sound of ku to i. The verb is now kaki.
  3. Adding the suffix masu, you get kakimasu.

The whole sentence becomes shimadasanhagotegamiwogokakimasuza. If you wanted to say “Shimada-san doesn’t write letters,” you would add the masen suffix and get the sentence shimadasanhagotegamiwogokakimasenza

Group 2: ru dropping verbs

So, for the verb in “Nakamura-san eats sushi every day,” (mainiti means every day)

  1. The verb for “to eat” is taberu.
  2. Drop the ru, leaving you with tabe.
  3. Add masu to get tabemasu.

The whole sentence becomes nakamurasanhagomainitigosushiwogotabemasuza If you wanted to say that “Nakamura-san doesn’t eat sushi every day,” you would use the masen suffix and get the sentence nakamurasanhagomainitigosushiwogotabemasenza

Group 3: suru and kuru

These verbs drop ru (like group 2) and change the u sound to an i sound (like group 1):