The volitional—or more simply the “let’s “and “shall” form—helps us create a number of different phrases.

Group 1

Take the dictionary form and skip two columns to the right to change to an “o” ending character and add う.

かく ⇒ か+こう ⇒ かこう

Verb Dictionary Volitional
to read もう
to wait とう
to go こう
to say おう

Group 2

For group 2 we simply take the verb stem and add よう.

たべる ⇒ たべ〜 ⇒ たべよう

Verb Dictionary Stem Volitional
to eat べる べ〜 べよう
to leave よう
to see よう
to exist いる い〜 いよう

Group 3

Verb Dictionary Volitional
to do する しよう
to come よう

The Auxiliary Verb

Verb Dictionary Volitional
to be だろう

The volitional form of the auxiliary verb, だろう, doesn’t translate directly in English. The nuance is one of supposition—consequently we’ll deal with it separately in a later section. I’m including it here just to show you how it conjugates.

The Polite Form

For all verbs, to create the polite form of the volition we stake the verb stem and add ましょう.

Verb Dictionary Stem Volitional
to go き〜 きましょう
to see ましょう
to do する し〜 しましょう

The only exception is the auxiliary verb.

Verb Dictionary Volitional
to be です でしょう

As mentioned we will look at this form of the auxiliary in another article.

電話でんわはなしましょう。
Let’s speak on the phone.
午後ごごあわせましょう。
Let’s meet at 8pm.
もう一回いっかいやりましょうよ!
Let’s do it once more!

The particle よ can be added for emphasis.

By adding the question particle to the volitional ending we can change “let’s” to “shall” and we have another way to make a suggestion.

映画えいがましょうか?
Shall we watch a movie?
今週末こんしゅうまつ鎌倉かまくらきましょうか?
Shall we go to Kamakura this weekend?
それが可能かのうかを確認かくにんしましょうか?
Shall we make sure whether that’s possible?

Note the embedded question to form this sentence

転職てんしょくしようとおもいます。
To think about changing jobs.

This structure…

【Volitional】とおも

… is very common. Unlike the same sentence with the standard form of the verb (e.g. “I think I will…”), the use of the volitional adds an element of “wondering”, as if you’re not even sure yourself if you’ll do it or not. Because of this, it is unnatural to use the volitional with と思う when the subject of the sentence is not yourself.

Finally, I’ll introduce the syllabic combination かな. It is very often appended to the standard form of the volitional to create a sort of rhetorical question that lets the listener know what you’re thinking or pondering. Because it is not a question it does not demand a response.

なに注文ちゅうもんしようかな。
I wonder what shall I order…
明日あした美容院びよういんこうかな。
Tomorrow shall I go to the beauty salon…

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