The Tsumori Form in Japanese

Tsumori is a “must-know” grammar point when we want to talk about our plans and intentions. Let’s see how to use it properly and sound natural in everyday conversation! 

つもり(Tsumori): Plan (To Do), Intention

Tsumori is used to express strong intentions and plans, and it is widely used in daily conversations. It can be used with verbs, adjectives, and nouns.

つもり (Tsumori) with Verbs: Intend Or Plan to Do Something

You can use tsumori with verbs, but the meaning will change depending on the form of the verb. Let’s take a look at how つもり will combine with each of the verb forms and the nuance of each.

Tsumori with Dictionary Form Verbs (+だ/です): I Intend To Do ~

Using verbs in the dictionary form (also called the plain affirmative or plain form) + tsumori and da or desu expresses our intention or decision to do something or to reach a specific goal. We translate this form in English with “going to” or “intend to.”

We use tsumori when talking about well-thought intentions and arranged plans, not for impromptu decisions or actions taken on the spot.

1. 明日彼女と一緒にバーに行くつもりだけど、場所はまだ決めてない。
(Ashita kanojo to isshoni bā ni iku tsumori dakedo, basho wa mada kimetenai).
I’m going to a bar with her tomorrow, but we haven’t decided on the place yet.

2. 来月に新しいパソコンを買うつもりです。
(Raigetsu ni atarashii pasokon o kau tsumori desu.)
I intend to buy a new computer next month.

3. 今年の7月に日本語能力試験を受けるつもりです。
(Kotoshi no shichi gatsu ni nihongo nōryoku shiken o ukeru tsumori desu.)
I’m planning to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test this July.

Tsumori Vs. Plain/Dictionary Form Verbs 

What is the difference between a sentence using tsumori and a verb in the plain form? 

For example, taberu vs. taberu tsumori.

As you probably already know by now, Japanese is a language of nuances. When we do not necessarily have a strong motive or objective, we can use the plain form to express things we will do in everyday life.

Examples: Using Only Plain Form Verbs

1. お腹がすいてきたから、コンビニに寄る
(Onaka ga suitekita kara, konbini ni yoru.)
I’m getting hungry, so I’ll stop by a convenience store.

2. 今日は疲れたから、出かける前にちょっと横になる
(Kyō wa tsukareta kara, dekakeru mae ni chotto yoko ni naru.)
Since I’m so tired today, I’ll lay down a bit before going out.

Examples: Using Tsumori with Plain Form Verbs

On the other hand, if we add tsumori, the listener will notice the speaker’s strong intention or firm resolution to do something.

1. 能力試験に合格するために毎日勉強するつもりです。
(Nōryoku shiken ni gōkaku suru tame ni, mainichi benkyō suru tsumori desu.)
To pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, I’m going to study every day.

2. とりあえず3年間ぐらい日本に住むつもりです。
(Toriaezu san nen kan gurai nihon ni sumu tsumori desu.)
For the time being, I plan to live in Japan for around three years.

Tsumori Vs. Yotei

Let’s make things a little more challenging: have you already heard people talking about plans and future intentions using the word yotei? 予定 (yotei) means “plan” and is often used with verbs.  

明日は東京に行く予定です。
(Ashita wa Tōkyō ni iku yotei desu.)
I have plans to go to Tokyo tomorrow. 

Example Using Yotei

Luckily, the difference between つもり (tsumori) and 予定 (yotei) is simple:  yotei is used to express plans that have already been set and whose details have already been decided. 

来週末はかねこさんとデートする予定です。イタリアンを予約しました。
(Raishū matsu wa kaneko san to dēto suru yotei desu. Itarian o yoyaku shimashita.)
I’m going on a date with Kaneko next weekend. I have booked at an Italian restaurant.

The date is set, and the restaurant is booked, so the speaker is not just expressing an intention; everything has already been planned.

Let’s look at how this differs from tsumori.  

Example Using Tsumori Instead of Yotei

梅雨になったら、北海道に行くつもりだ。
(Tsuyu ni nattara, Hokkaidō ni iku tsumori da.)
When the rainy season comes, I’m going to go to Hokkaido.

Here, the speaker talks about his clear intention of going to Hokkaidō when the rainy season starts but considering that he used tsumori, we understand that he hasn’t set a date or bought plane tickets yet.

Tsumori with Plain Form Verbs and でした (Deshita) / だった (Datta): Talk About Past Intentions

A Japanese grammar formula that reads, "Verb in plain form + tsumori + datta/deshita = I thought I ~ / I was going to ~)

We use a verb in the plain/dictionary form + tsumori with datta or deshita to express:

  • an intention that didn’t become a reality in the end;
  • something we intended to do but didn’t or couldn’t do in the end.

Examples:

1. 今年はコロナが収まると思ったので、4月に南米を旅行するつもりだったが、やっぱりいけなかった。
(Kotoshi wa korona ga osamaru to omotta node, shigatsu ni nanbei o ryokou suru tsumori datta ga, yappari ikenakatta.)
I had planned to travel to South America in April because I thought covid would have settled this year, but I couldn’t do it.

2. 今日中に部長に頼まれた仕事を終わらせるつもりでしたが、いろいろな用事でできませんでした。
(Kyō jū ni buchō ni tanomareta shigoto o owaraseru tsumori deshita ga, iroiro na yōji de dekimasen deshita.)
I was going to finish the job that my boss asked me to do by today, but I was so busy I couldn’t do it.

Tsumori with Verbs in Plain Negative Form (ない): I Don’t Intend To 

A Japanese formula that reads, "Verbs in plain negative form + tsumori + da/desu = I don't intend to ~"

We use a verb in its plain negative formtsumori to express that we have a strong intention of not doing something.

Examples:

1. 彼氏が反対しても 、私は仕事をやめないつもりです。
(Kareshi ga hantai shitemo, watashi wa shigoto o yamenai tsumori desu.)
Even if my boyfriend is against it, I’m not going to quit my job.

2. 不要な外出はしないつもりです。
(Fuyō na gaishutsu wa shinai tsumori desu.)
I intend to avoid going out if it’s not strictly necessary.

Verbs in Plain Negative Form + でした (Deshita) / だった (Datta): I Didn’t Intend To ~

A Japanese grammar formula that reads, "Verb in Negative Form + tsumori + datta/deshita = I didn't intend to."

We use this pattern to describe something that we intend on not doing but eventually happened anyway against our will and original proposition. It is commonly followed by a sentence with a verb in –teshimau form that is the Japanese equivalent of “to end up 〜.”

Examples:

1. 今回はお母さんが息子の部屋を片付けないつもりでしたが、結局に掃除をして綺麗にしました。
(konkai wa okaasan ga musko no heya o katazukenai tsumori deshita ga, kekkyoku ni souji o shite kirei ni shimashita.)
This time, the mother wasn’t going to clean up her son’s room, but she ended up cleaning it anyway.

2. ダイエット中なので、今週末はお酒を飲まないつもりだったけど、ビールを飲んじゃった。
(Daietto chū na node, konshū matsu wa osake o nomanai tsumori datta kedo, biiru o nonjatta.)
Since I’m on a diet, I wasn’t going to drink alcohol this weekend, but I ended up drinking beer.

Tsumori with Plain Affirmative Verbs + じゃない/ではない and じゃなかった/ではなかった: I Don’t Intend To ~/Didn’t Intend To ~

A Japanese grammar formula that reads, "Verb in plain form + tsumori + ja nai/de wa nai / ja nakatta / de wa nakatta = I didn't intend to ~"

This pattern has the same meaning of verb negative form + tsumori + da/desu/datta/deshita, but in this case, the copula da/desu becomes janai/(de)wanai  (present tense) or ja nakatta/dewa nakatta (past tense) and transforms the whole sentence into a negative clause.

So, let’s look at the previous example:

ない + つもり Example:

ダイエット中なので、今週末はお酒を飲まないつもりだったけど、ビールを飲んじゃった。
(Daietto chū nanode, konshū matsu wa osake o nomanai tsumori datta kedo, biiru o nonjatta.)
Since I’m on a diet, I wasn’t going to drink alcohol this weekend, but I ended up drinking beer.

Plain Form Verb + つもりじゃなかった Example:

ダイエット中なので、今週末はお酒を飲むつもりじゃなかったけど、ビールを飲んじゃった。
(Daietto chū nanode, konshū matsu wa osake o nomu tsumori janakatta kedo, biiru o nonjatta.)
Since I’m on a diet, I wasn’t going to drink alcohol this weekend, but I ended up drinking beer.

The latter expresses a slightly stronger disposition, but the meaning is essentially the same.

Tsumori with Progressive Tense Verbs (-ている)

A Japanese grammar formula that reads, "verb in te-iru form + tsumori = I thought I ~"

A verb in -te iru form + tsumori is used: 

  • when the reality is different from our intentions at the moment we’re speaking;
  • to express doing an action “as if” we were in a situation different from reality.

Examples:

1. Head Chef: 何しているの?このレシピ、卵はいらないよ!
(Nani shiteiru no? Kono reshipi,tamago wa iranai yo!)
What are you doing? This recipe doesn’t call for eggs!

Cook: え?ちゃんとレシピを読んでいるつもりなのに…
(E? Chanto reshipi o yondeiru tsumori nanoni…)
What? And I thought I was properly following the recipe…

2. とても綺麗な写真を撮っているつもりなのに、誰も褒めてくれない。
(Totemo kirei na shashin o totteiru tsumori na noni, dare mo homete kurenai.)
I thought I was taking pretty good pictures, but no one say anything good about them.

3. 人の前で発表しているつもりで大きな声で発表してください。
(Hito no mae de happyō shiteiru tsumori de ōkina koe de happyō shite kudasai.)
Talk in a loud voice as if you were making a speech in front of an audience.

Tsumori with Past Tense Verbs 

A Japanese grammar formula that reads, "Verb in past tense (ta/ teita /teimashita) + tsumori = I thought I ~"

This grammar pattern is very useful when we want to say we thought we did something, but we didn’t. 

Tsumori is commonly followed by :

  • the copula da in its various tenses and forms (desu/ datta/ deshita);
  • Na noni (although, despite);
  • nan dakedo / nan desu ga / nan desu kedo as an explanatory particle.

Examples:

1. 電気を消したつもりなのに、ずっとつけっぱなしだった。
(Denki o keshita tsumori na noni, zutto tsukeppanashi datta.)
I thought I turned the light off, but it has been on all the time.

2. アポイントをキャンセルしたつもりだったけど、忘れてしまい、キャンセル料を請求されちゃった。
(Apointo o kyanseru shita tsumori datta kedo, wasurete shimai, kyanseru ryō o seikyū sarechatta.)
I thought I canceled my appointment, but I forgot, and they charged me.

3. 部長にメールを送ったつもりなんだけど、下書きのままだった。
(Buchō ni mēru o okutta tsumori nan dakedo, shitagaki no mama datta.)
I thought I sent the email to my boss, but I left it saved in drafts.

Tsumori With Adjectives and Nouns

To express that the outcome is different from your original intentions, you can also use adjectives and nouns + tsumori.

Tsumori with I-Adjectives

A Japanese grammar formula that reads, "I-Adjective + Tsumori."

In this case, the i-adjective is simply followed by tsumori.

Examples:

1. 父はまだ若いつもりで毎週登山しに行くけど、70歳なので心配です。
(Chichi wa mada wakai tsumori de maishū tozan shi ni iku kedo, 70 sai na node shinpai desu.)
My dad thinks he’s still young, so he goes hiking every week, but he’s 70, and I get worried.

Tsumori with -Na Adjectives

A Japanese grammar formula that reads, "na-adjective + tsumori."

In the case of –na adjectives, the adjective is connected to tsumori through the “na” particle.

Examples:

1. 風邪はもう大丈夫なつもりだったが、まだくしゃみをせずにはいられない。
(Kaze wa mou daijōbu na tsumori datta ga, mada kushami o sezu ni wa irarenai.)
I thought my cold was fine, but I can’t help but keep sneezing.

Tsumori With Nouns

A Japanese grammar formula that reads, "nouns + no + tsumori."

A noun is connected to tsumori through the particle no.

We used noun + no + tsumori when something is meant to be in a certain way or do something with a certain intention, but things don’t end up as expected.

It can also be used when pretending to be in someone’s position or a particular circumstance.

Examples:

1.  冗談のつもりで言ったのに彼を傷つけた。
(Jōdan no tsumori de itta noni, kare o kizutsuketa.)
I meant it as a joke, but I hurt his feelings. 

Getting Mean With Tsumori

In addition, there are cases where it’s used in a sarcastic way to ask about someone’s behavior and actions or to comment in a critical and judgmental way. 

Examples:

1. 何様のつもりなの?
(Nani sama no tsumori na no?)
Who do you think you are? 

2. なんのつもりでやってるの?
(Nan no tsumori de yatteru no?)
What’s the point of doing this?

Other Words With Tsumori

その (sono) , そういう (sō iu), そんな (sonna) + tsumori

We use そのつもり (sono tsumori) to refer to something that has been said or mentioned just before.

Examples: そのつもり

John:明日は台風が来るけどジョギングする?
(Ashita wa taifuu ga kuru kedo, jogingu suru?)
John: There’s going to be a typhoon tomorrow, but are you going jogging?

Bob:つも通り、そのつもりだよ!
(Itsumo dōri, sono tsumori da yo!)
Bob: Just like usual, I’m going jogging!

Here sono tsumori is used instead of repeating “jogingu suru tsumori (desu).”

そういう (Sō iu tsumori) and そんな~ つもり(sonna ~ tsumori)are used when denying an intention, and it’s an informal expression that corresponds to the English “I didn’t mean 〜” or “That’s not 〜.”

Examples: そういう (Sō iu Tsumori)

Mike: バカにしているのか?!
(Baka ni shiteiru no ka?!)
Mike: Are you making fun of me?

Jim: いや、そういうつもりじゃなかったよ!
(Iya, sō iu tsumori janakatta yo!)
Jim: I didn’t mean it that way!

Examples: そんな~ つもり (Sonna ~ Tsumori)

そんなことをするつもりではなかった。
(Sonna koto o suru tsumori dewa nakatta.)
I didn’t mean to do that.

Now that you have learned how to use tsumori, you can start making plans with your Japanese friends! 

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