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Grammar detail: Compound verbs

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Compound verbs
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Japanese has the ability to combine multiple verbs into a single form, known as a compound verb. Compound verbs can be a very useful standardized shortcut, and modern Japanese contains over 2700 of them!
Certain verbs are very commonly used as the second verb, and give an extra sense to the first verb. For example:
  • The most common is
    む, which occurs in 255 compound verbs! On its own 込む means 'to go/put into', and when combined with other verbs introduces the suggestion of in/out motion, such as
    む meaning 'rush into'.
  • なお
    す ordinarily means 'to correct, to fix', but when added to another verb, introduces the idea of doing something again. For example, やり
    なお
    す means 'to redo, to try again';
    かんが
    なお
    す means 'to rethink'.
Other verbs are very commonly used as the first verb, and when combined with other verbs indicate different ways in which that verb is performed. For example:
 
  • る meaning 'to take' can be combined with 70+ verbs to show how something can be taken, such as
    げる 'to take up',
    す 'to cancel',
    つか
    う 'to handle'.
  • る meaning 'to see' can be combined with 50+ verbs to indicate different ways of seeing/looking, such as
    みあ
    げる 'to look up at'.
In Japanese compound verbs are known as
ふくごう
どうし
.
The Japanese National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics (NINJAL) has collected a comprehensive database of compound verbs called the Compound Verb Lexicon - see the links below.
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See also:
  • Grammar search: parts of speech

Kanji used in this grammar

crowded   -こ to be crowded   こめる to load; to include   
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ク   かける to gallop, run   
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チョク   ジキ    honest; direct   ただちに immediately   なお to correct   なお to be cured   
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コウ   かんがえる to think about, consider   
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シュ   と to take   
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ジョウ   ショウ   うえ above   うわ- above   あげる to raise   あがる to rise   かみ first half, upper part   のぼ to climb   のぼせる to bring up, to raise   のぼ to bring up   
ショウ   け to extinguish   きえる to go out   
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使
シ   つか to use   
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ケン   み to see   みえる to be seen; to appear   みせる to show   
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フク    double, multiple   
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ゴウ   ガッ   カッ   あ to fit, come together   あわす to match   あわせる to unite, join   
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ドウ   うご to move, to stir   うごかす to shift, to move   
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シ    part of speech, words, poetry   
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