Language | WELL SAID

Learning how to use the volitional form of a verb in Japanese

Bukatsu ni sanka-shiyō yo. (Let’s participate in the club activity.)

Situation 1: At high school, Mitsuo talks to his classmate Takashi.

光男: 今日は、部活、気が進まないから、先に帰るよ。

孝: え…。部活、参加しようよ。光男がいないとつまらないよ。

Mitsuo: Kyō wa, bukatsu, ki ga susumanai kara, saki ni kaeru yo.

Takashi: E…. Bukatsu, sanka-shiyō yo. Mitsuo ga inai to tsumaranai yo.

Mitsuo: Today, I’m going home because I don’t feel like attending the club activity.

Takashi: What? Let’s participate in it. It would be boring without you.

Today we will introduce some of the meanings and usages of the volitional form of a verb and its related expressions.

To make the volitional form of a Group 1 verb (u-verb/strong-inflection verb), replace the last u of the dictionary form with ō: あそぶ(to play) becomes あそぼう. To make that of a Group 2 verb (ru-verb/weak-inflection verb), replace the last ru of the dictionary form with yō: たべる(to eat) becomes たべよう. For the irregular verbs: する(to do) becomes しよう, くる(to come) becomes こよう.

The volitional form is used to express the speaker’s resolution to himself/herself, as in, 明日(あした)からがんばろう (I will do my best from tomorrow). It is also used to invite or make a suggestion to someone who is very close to the speaker in a casual conversation, as Takashi does in Situation 1.

Situation 2: At the office, Mr. Mita is working on a paper.

三田: 明日の会議のアジェンダをアップしようとしているんだけど、何かもうひとつ、忘れていることがあるような気がして…。

グレイ: ああ、LM商事の件ね?あれは、まだ取り上げないことになったよね。

Mita: Ashita no kaigi no ajenda o appu-shiyō to shite-iru-n dakedo, nanika mō hitotsu, wasurete-iru koto ga aru yōna ki ga shite….

Gray: Aa, LM Shōji no ken ne? Are wa, mada toriagenai koto ni natta yo-ne.

Mita: I’m trying to upload the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting, but I feel like I have forgotten one more thing.

Gray: Let me see…, is that about LM Trading? It was decided not to pick it up yet.

The pattern X(verb in volitional form)とする expresses the state that someone is about to do something (X), i.e., X has not started yet, as Mr. Mita uses it in Situation 2, or as in: おふろに入(はい)ろうとしたら、電話(でんわ)がかかってきてしまった。(When I was about to take a bath, there was a telephone call.) Thus, it is usually used for someone’s intentional action, but sometimes as personification, for example: アサガオの花(はな)が今(いま)咲(さ)こうとしている。(The morning glories are about to bloom.)

Bonus Dialogue: The working day is almost over. Mr. Sere in a different section comes to see Mr. Mita.

セレ: 今日(きょう)は仕事(しごと)がすっきり片付(かたづ)いて気分が(きぶん)がいいんだ。これから一緒(いっしょ)に飲(の)みに行(い)かない?

三田(みた): いいね、行こう、行こう!ぼくも、ちょうど終(お)わったところだ。あ、でも…。

セレ: どうしたの?何か不都合(ふつごう)なことでも?

三田: うん、このところ毎日(まいにち)なんだけど、ぼくが仕事を終わろうとしていると、必(かなら)ず大久保課長(おおくぼかちょう)が新(あたら)しい仕事を持(も)ってくるんだ。めげるよ。

セレ: あ、そういえば、ぼくは今8階(はちかい)から来(き)たんだけど、課長が7階(ななかい)でエレベーターに乗(の)り込(こ)もうとしたときにドアがしまったんだ。次(つぎ)のエレベーターで、ここに来(く)るのかも。

三田: 冗談(じょうだん)だろ。からかわないでよ。

セレ: いや、冗談じゃなくて…、来たよ!

課長: [はいってくる]三田くん、帰(かえ)ろうとしているときにすまないけど、急(いそ)いでこの書類(しょるい)作(つく)ってくれないか。そんなに時間(じかん)はかからないから。

三田: [セレに]…と言(い)うけど、いつも結構(けっこう)かかるんだよ。今夜(こんや)はあきらめるから、また誘(さそ)ってね!

Sere: Today I feel good because I finished all my work. Would you like to go drinking together?

Mita: Good, let’s go, let’s go! I’m just finished, too. Oops, but …

Sere: What happened? Any inconvenience?

Mita: Yeah, it’s happening every day recently. When I’m about to finish my work, the boss, Okubo, always brings in a new task. I feel down.

Sere: Ah, that reminds me that when I came down from the 8th floor now, he tried to get into my elevator on the 7th floor but the door closed. Maybe he’ll get here by the next elevator.

Mita: You’re kidding. Don’t make fun of me.

Sere: No, it’s not a joke … Here he comes!

Boss: [Coming in] Mr. Mita, I’m sorry when you’re trying to go home, but can you hurry to make this document? It won’t take much time.

Mita: [To Mr. Sere] He says that, but it always takes quite a while. I’ll give up on this evening, so invite me some other day!