June 28, 2024

Can You Read This? – Compound Verbs


Can you read this?

Beginners—don’t worry! We’ll explain it all!

Try to read it and understand the meaning of the above sentence.

When you are ready, scroll down to the bottom for our translation.

This example is from a recent Makoto+ Repetition and Shadowing sentence. Every week, we publish a new sentence for beginners and one for intermediates, with slow and normal speed recordings for shadowing.

Shadowing is repeating with or just after the speaker. It is a powerful way to not only learn vocabulary and sentence structure, but it’s also a great way to improve pronunciation. Really!

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And now, let’s break down today’s sentence. Here it is again:


First, let’s make sure you know the meaning of each word. Here is a literal word-by-word translation:

Yesterday | ‘s/of | morning | from | rain | (subject marker) | to fall | is continuing

Use that and the following vocabulary list to come up with your own translation:

  • 昨日(きのう)  yesterday
  • の possessive particle
  • (あさ)  morning
  • から from (indicating start time)
  • (あめ) rain
  • が subject marker particle
  • ()り falling (from the verb ()る, to fall [for rain, snow, etc.])
  • (つづ)いて continuing (from the verb (つづ)く, to continue)
  • います polite present continuous form of いる (to be [for animate objects], to exist)

Need a little more help for coming up with your own translation? No problem! Let’s go through some of the phrases.

昨日(きのう)(あさ)から (from yesterday morning)

  • The sentence starts with a time expression: 昨日(きのう)(あさ)から (from yesterday morning)
  • The の connects the two time elements: 昨日(きのう) and (あさ). It limits the morning to that of yesterday.
  • The から indicates from that moment the action began.

(あめ)が (the rain)

  • (あめ)が (the rain) is the subject of the verb (continue to fall)

()(つづ)いています (continues to rain)

  • ()(つづ)いています is the predicate, showing the continuous action of rain falling
  • ()り is the stem form of ()る (to precipitate; to fall—but is used with rain and snow)
  • (つづ)く (to continue) is in its て-form ((つづ)いて), connected to います
  • います makes the sentence polite and indicates the continuous present tense
  • This ~ています structure (Verb stem + (つづ)いています) is commonly used to express that an action has been ongoing from a past point until the present moment like the English -ing.

Let’s talk about Compound Verbs.

Japanese uses compound words all the time. Combining two verbs expands the meaning, makes it more precise, and adds new nuance.


One of my favorite words is ()(のぞ). This combines () (to wait) with (のぞ) (to hope for; to desire).

I think you can figure out the meaning. It isn’t just “to wait” but to “wait with expectation”:

  • to wait eagerly for
  • to look forward to

Neat, isn't it?

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To construct compound words, you need to know the -ます form of a verb, then remove the -ます and add the second verb.

That’s it!

Construction Examples:


This combines ()つ (to wait) with (のぞ)む (to hope for; to desire).

  1. take ()つ (wait) and turn it into its ます form: ()ちます.
  2. Now, remove the -ます and we get ()ち.
  3. Now, add the second verb: ()(のぞ)む (wait with expectation)


It combines ()る (to fall; to precipitate) with (つづ)く (to continue) to mean “to continue to rain.“

  1. take ()る and turn it into its ます form: ()ります.
  2. Now, remove the -ます and we get ()り.
  3. Now, add the second verb: ()(つづ)く.
  4. And, in this case, it is in the ~ている continuous form: ()(つづ)いています (to continue to rain)

The nuance here is important:

  • Using just ()っています would simply mean "it is raining."
  • Adding (つづ)く as the second verb emphasizes the continuous, uninterrupted nature of the rain.

This type of compound verb (V + (つづ)) is frequently used to express that an action or state persists over time, often with a nuance of persistence or relentlessness.

Other examples include:

  • (はたら)(つづ)ける to continue working
  • ()(つづ)ける to continue living, to survive
  • 見続(みつづ)ける to keep watching

These compound verbs add depth and precision to the Japanese language, allowing speakers to convey subtle nuances efficiently.

Okay, what about a translation for our main sentence?

Here are two possible translations:

It has been raining non-stop since yesterday morning.


Since yesterday morning, it has been raining continuously.

Of course, there are other options, but if your meaning matches up, it’s all good!

Yeah! You made it through the sentence, and you've learned a bit about compound verbs!

Now, go out into the wild (the internet) and try to find a few compound verbs. Analyze them and think how you can use them!

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