Some old Japanese grammar I never saw before

I’m reading a 1903 travel guide to Japan from They have a pretty good vocabulary and grammar guide for tourists. Some of the expressions are naturally archaic (e.g. at night it tells you how to ask for a candle) but what caught my eye was a form of grammar I’ve never seen before – the “improbable future” conjugation.

For example consider the plain form of the verb, “come.” Here are the various conjugations explained, most just the way I learned them:

  • present / certain future: kuru (I come, I will come)
  • past: kita (I came)
  • probable future: koyou (I shall probably come)
  • gerund: kite (coming, having come)
  • negative present: konai (I do not or shall not come)
  • negative past: konakatta (I did not come)
  • desirable adjective: kitai (I want to come)
  • negative adjective: kitakunai (I don’t want to come)
All those are fine. Then there is this form I never heard of before:
  • improbable future: kimai (I shall probably not come)
I asked a Japanese friend and he never heard of that form either. Has anybody heard of it before? There were other examples too: arumai (there probably will not be); ikumai (I probably shall not go); shimai (I probably shall not do).
I wonder why and when that form fell out of use. It seems useful.


Handbook for Travellers in Japan – Including the Whole Empire from Yezo to Formosa

Completely fascinating. This digitized traveler’s handbook for Japan from 1903. The entire book is online for free from

I just started reading it and am already engrossed.

Did you know you can get to Japan in a mere 16 days from San Francisco? And with trains, domestic transportation has become much easier. There are even daily steamships from Yokohama to Kobe. I didn’t know that Shunbun no Hi (the vernal equinox) used to be called Shunki Koureisai. And I’m only up to page two.

Please check it out. It’s really a fascinating read. “Handbook for Travellers in Japan – Including the Whole Empire from Yezo to Formosa”.