September 2000

Some Notes on Japanese Grammar

Keith Smillie

Deartment of Computing Science

University of Alberta

Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2H1

smillie@cs.ualberta.ca

 

No claim is made for either originality or completeness in these notes. Most of the examples have been taken from, or have been suggested by, the references given at the end. The topics chosen are those which may benefit a person who is beginning to study Japanese and who would like a quick reference to supplement more complete and authoritative sources.

Table of Contents

Word Order
Nouns
Pronouns
Demonstratives and Interrogatives
Particles
Verbs
   Introduction
   Present and past polite forms
   Expressing "to be"
   Uses of desh˘
   Present and past plain forms
   The gerund or -te form
   Progressive tense
   Desiderative form
   Passive form
   Causative form
   Conditional form
   Giving and receiving
   Starting an action
   Nominalization
Adjectives
Describing nouns
Adverbs
Comparisons
Numbers
Specific Time
Relative Time
Counters
Calendar
Family
Acknowledgements
References
Appendix. A few verbs
 

 

Word Order

Japanese is a Subject-Object-Verb language as compared with English which is a Subject-Verb-Object language.
Torako wa neko desu.
Torako is a cat. (Literally, "Torako as for cat is.")

Torako ga nezumi o mimashita.
Torako saw a mouse (Literally, "Torako [subject] mouse [object] saw.")

A sentence is made into a question by placing the particle ka at the end.
Torako ga nezumi o mimashita ka.
Did Torako see a mouse?

 

Nouns

Japanese nouns do not have gender, they may not be modified by definite or indefinite articles because none exist in Japanese, and the singular and plural forms are usually the same. In romaji the names of persons and places are capitalized as are the names of languages except English (eigo).
hon book, books, a book, the book, the books
For nouns referring to people, the suffix -tachi may be used to indicate the plural.
kodomo child, children   kodomotachi children

Tanaka san tachi Mr. Tanaka and his family or others

Japanese give the family name first followed by the given name.
Tanaka Hiromi Hiromi Tanaka
The suffix -ya means the store where the objects are sold or the person who sells them. The suffix -ka means a person who is is an expert or specialist in the designated subject.
hana flower  hanaya flower shop, florist

niku meat  nikuya butcher shop, butcher

shisetsu novel  shisetsuka  novelist

When referring to a clerk or shopkeeper, the honorific san is used.
honya san bookstore clerk, bookseller
Two nouns used together as a compound noun are joined by the particle no.
nihongo no kurasu Japanese language class

apato no biru apartment building

 

Pronouns

watashi I, me
anata you
kare he, him
kanojo she, her
ano hito that person
watashitachi we, us
anatatachi you
karera they, them
kanojotachi they, them
ano hitotachi those persons

Avoid using anata whenever possible, and use the person's name with san instead. Similarly, when referring to a third person, use the person's name.

Sumisu san wa eigo o mimashita ka.
Did you (Mr. Smith) see the movie?

Tanaka san wa nani o kaimashita ka.
What did she (Mrs. Tanaka) buy?

The indefinite pronouns are the following:

dareka someone   daremo no one
doreka something   doremo nothing
dokaka somewhere   dokomo nowhere
nanika something   nanimo nothing
ikuraka some, a little   ikuramo not much
nandemo anything   nannimoVnothing

The negative indefinite pronouns take a negative verb.

Dareka kimashita.
Someone came.

Daremo kimasen deshita. No one came.

The one reflexive pronoun is jibun (myself, yourself, etc.).

Jibun de hatarakimasu. I am working by myself.

There are no relative pronouns in Japanese, and the relative clause precedes the word it modifies.

Asoko ni suwatte iru wakai josei wa musume desu.
That young lady sitting over there is my daughter.

 

Demonstratives and Interrogatives

The demonstrative and iterrogative words, which are either pronouns, adjectives or adverbs, may be divided into four groups depending on the prefix:

ko- Something near the speaker.
so- Something nearer the listener than the speaker.
a-  Something at a distance from both speaker and listener.
do- Question

kore this one   sore that one   are that one   dore which one
kono this   sono that   ano that   dono which
konna this kind of   sonna that kind of   anna that kind of   donna what kind of
 in this manner    in that manner   Ô in that manner    in which way
koko here   soko there   asoko over there   doko where
kochira this way   sochira that way   achira that way   dochira which way

Other interrogative pronouns are the following:

dare who
nan, nani what
nannin how many people
ikura how much
ikutsu how many
itsu when
d˘shite why

 

Particles

wa Topic
Y˘ko san wa daigakuin no gakusei desu.
Y˘ko is a graduate student. (Literally, "As for Y˘ko, she is a graduate student.")
ga Subject
Watashi wa sushi ga suki desu.
I like sushi. (Literally, As for me, sushi is likeable.")
o Direct object
Torako wa kasasagi o mite imasu.
Torako is looking at the magpie.
no Possession, noun modification, apposition
Simon wa musume no neko desu.
Simon is my daughter's cat.

Nihon no tabemono wa oishii desu.
Japanese food is delicious.

Tomodachi no Tanaka san wa sensei desu.
My friend Mr. Tanaka is a teacher.
ni object, location, direction, specific time
Watashi wa Tanaka san ni hon o kasimashita.
I loaned Mr. Tanaka a book.

Hiromi san wa T˘ky˘ ni imasu.
Hiromi is in Tokyo.

Kin˘ watashi wa hayaku uchi ni kaerimashita.
Yesterday I went home early.

gogo jűji
at 10 p.m.

ninichiy˘bi ni
on Sunday

shichigatsu ni
in July

1998 nen ni
in 1998
de Place of action, means, total, material
Watashi wa honya de hon o sansatsu kaimashita.
I bought three books at the bookstore.

Tanaka san wa basu de kaisha ni ikimasu.
Mr. Tanaka goes to the office by bus.

Ashita eiga ni futari de ikimasu.
Tomorrow the two of us are going to a movie.

Tŕburu wa ki de dekite imasu.
The table is made of wood.
e Direction
Nihon e ikimasu ka.
Are you going to Japan?
kara Origin, starting time
Ano hito wa Nihon kara kimashita.
He is from Japan.

DepÔto wa jűji kara desu.
The department store opens at 10:00 o'clock.
made Target time
DepÔto wa rokuji made desu.?
The department store closes at 6:00 o'clock.

DepÔto wa jűji kara rokuji made desu.
The department store is open from 10:00 o'clock until 6:00 o'clock.
mo Also, both ... and, neither ... nor
Watashi wa ocha ga suki desu. Kohii mo suki desu.
I like tea. I also like coffee.

Ocha mo kohii mo nomimasu.
I drink both tea and coffee.

Ocha mo kohii mo nomimasen.
I drink neither tea nor coffee.
to Complete listing (and), involvement
Sono gakusei wa pen to enpitsu o motte imasu.
That student has a pen and a pencil.

Watashi wa yoku tomodachi to hirugohan o tabemasu.
I often have lunch with my friends.
ya Partial listing (and)
Watashitachi wa Ky˘to ya ďsaka (nado) e ikimashita.
We went to Kyoto, Osaka, etc.
ga but
Tanaka san wa kimasu ga, Watanabe san wa kimasen.
Mr. Tanaka is coming, but Mr. Watanabe isn't.
ka Enumeration (or)
Ocha ka k˘hţ ikaga desu ka.
How about tea or coffee?
kara Reason
Isogashii kara, eiga ni ikimasen deshita.
Because I was busy, I didn't go to the movie.
nagara Simultaneous action
Aruki nagara, mondai ni tsuite kangaemashita.
While walking, I thought about the problem.
ka Question marker
Gakusei desu ka.
Are you a student?
ne Confirmation
Gakusei desu ne.
You are a student, aren't you?
yo Emphasis
Gakusei desu yo.
So you're a student!

 

Verbs

Introduction

Japanese verbs do not have different forms for person, number or gender. Verbs are listed in what is known as the "dictionary" or "plain" form. All Japanese verbs, except for two irregular verbs, can be divided into two groups or conjugations which differ only in the way in which they form their stems and infinitives. The stem may change or have a suffix added to show tense, mood and politeness.

Type I or Group 1 verbs are all verbs whose dictionary form does not end in -eru or -iru, together with a few which have these endings. The stem is formed by dropping the final -u; the infinitive is formed by adding -i to the stem. Type I verbs are also called consonant or c-stem verbs or u-stem or u-dropping verbs.

Dictionary   Stem   Infinitive   Meaning
kaku   kak-   kaki-   to write
iku   ik-   iki-   to go
yomu   yom-   yomi-   to read
matsu   mat-   machi-   to wait
hanasu   hanas-   hanashi-   to speak
omou   omo-   omoi-   to believe
Verbs ending in -au, -iu and -ou are considered to be c-stem verbs as they formerly ended in -awa, -iwa and -owa, respectively.

Type II or Group 2 verbs, a much smaller group than the first, are most of the verbs which end in -eru or -iru in the dictionary form. The stem is formed by dropping the final -ru; the infinitive is the same as the stem. Type II verbs are also called vowel or v-stem verbs or ru-dropping verbs.

Dictionary   Stem   Infinitive   Meaning
hajimeru   hajime-   hajime-   to begin
miru   mi-   mi-      to see, to look at
taberu   tabe-   tabe-   to eat

The two irregular verbs, sometimes known as Type III or Group 3 verbs, are kuru and suru.

Dictionary   Stem   Infinitive   Meaning
kuru   ki-   ki-   to come
suru   shi-   shi-   to do

 

Present and past polite forms

To form the present polite form add -masu to the infinitive for the positive and -masen for the negative. For the past polite form add -mashita to the infinitive for the positive and -masen deshita for the negative.

Tokidoki eiga o mimasu.
I sometimes watch movies.

Takahashi san wa sakana o tabemasen.
Ms. Takahashi doesn't eat fish.

Mainichi kanji no benky˘ o shimashita ga, sugu wasuremashita.
I studied kanji every day, but I soon forgot them.

Ichi-jikan machimashita ga, tomodachi wa kimasen deshita.
I waited an hour, but my friend didn't come.
Expressing "to be"

The meaning "is" or "are" may be expressed by the copula desu, and by the verbs arimasu and imasu. The copula desu is used when one thing is, or equals, another; arimasu refers to the existence of inanimate objects (including plants, which don't move about); and imasu refers to the existence of animate objects. The negative of desu is dewa arimasen or ja arimasen or dewa nai desu or ja nai desu. When describing the location of something, ni arimasu can often be replaced by desu. The verb arimasu can often be translated as "there is", "are" or "have".

Koko wa Yokahama eki desu.
This is Yokahama station.

Kissaten wa gink˘ to űbinkyoku no aida ni arimasu.
The coffee shop is between the bank and the post office.

Watanabe san wa doko ni imasu ka.
Where's Mr. Watanabe?

Gink˘ wa doko ni arimasu ka.
Where's the bank?

Amerikajin dewa arimasen. Igirisujin desu.
I'm not American. I'm English.
In situations demanding a high degree of courtesy, e.g., a sales clerk in a department store talking to a customer, the speaker is likely to use the formal and humble gozaimasu instead of arimasu and irasshaimasu instead of iru.
Kono hoteru ni wa, fakkusu ga arimasu ka. Hai, gozaimasu.
Do you have a fax in this hotel? Yes, we do.

Sumimasen, kono sŕtÔ wa ikura desu ka. Sore wa kyű-sen en de gozaimasu.
Excuse me, how much is this sweater? It's ą9,000.

Moshi, moshi. Tanaka san wa irasshaimasu ka.
Hello. Is Mr. Tanaka there?
Uses of desh˘

The word desh˘, which comes from desu, when used in a question followed by ka, is the equivalent of "I wonder...". When used with a rising intonation, it is asking for agreement so it is similar to ne but softer and less direct. Used with a falling intonation, the sentence is often translated using "probably", "must be" or "almost certainly". Also desh˘ may be used in place of desu for extra politeness.

Kore wa nan desu ka. Kore wa nan desh˘ ka.
What's this? I wonder what this is?

Are wa Watanabe san no uchi desh˘. [Rising intonation]
That's Mr. Watanabe's house, right?

Hokkaid˘ wa ima samui desh˘. [Falling intonation]
It's probably cold in Hokkaido now.

Sumimasen ga, Tanaka san desh˘ ka.
Excuse me, but would you be Mr. Tanaka?
Present and past plain forms

The plain form of verbs are used with immediate family and close friends and associates. The polite forms are more appropriate for general use. However, the plain forms function in various ways in a sentence other than as the main verb and so must be learned.

The plain form of the present tense is the dictionary form. For the negative add -nai to the stem for v-stem verbs, and -anai for c-stem verbs except for those verbs ending in -au, -iu and -ou where -wanai is added. The plain negatives of kuru and suru are konai and shinai, respectively. Also the plain negative of aru is nai.

Tokidoki eiga o miru.
I sometimes watch movies.

Takahashi san wa sakana o tabenai.
Ms. Takahashi doesn't eat fish.

Kotae wa nai desh˘.
There isn't an answer, is there?

To form the plain past tense for v-stem verbs add -ta to the stem. For c-stem verbs use the appropriate change in the following list:

-su => -shita   hanasu   hanashita   talked
-ku => -ita   kiku   kiita   asked
-gu => -ida   oyogu   oyoida   swam
-ru=> -tta   nuru   nutta   painted
-tsu => -tta   motsu   motta   held
-u => -tta   omou   omotta   thought
-bu => -nda   tobu   tonda   flew
-mu => -nda   nomu   nonda   drank
-nu => -nda   shinu   shinda   died

The plain past tense of kuru and suru are kita and shita, respectively.

To form the negative of the plain past tense, add -nakatta to the stem of v-stem verbs and -anakatta to the stem of c-stem verbs.

taberu tabenakatta   didn't eat
yomu yomanakatta   didn't read

As long as the verb at the end of a sentence is in the polite form, any verbs in the middle can be in the plain form without affecting the overall tone. This means that the plain form can be used when sentences are joined with kedo, for example, or when they finish with desh˘.

Taiiku no sensei wa ii hito da kedo, chotto hen desu ne.
The physical education teacher is nice, but he's a bit strange, isn't he!

Takahashi san wa eigo ga wakaru desh˘ ka.
I wonder if Ms. Takahashi understands English?

Ani wa ikanai kedo, watashi wa ikimasu.
My older brother is not coming, but I am.

Ky˘ wa kiny˘bi da to omotta kedo, chigaimasu ne.
I thought it was Friday today, but it isn't, is it!

To give a reason for something, use either kara after the plain form of the verb or an -i adjective.

Shinkansen de itta kara, jikan ga amari kakarimasen deshita.
We went by Shinkansen, so it didn't take very long.

Shitsumon ga mada ˘i kara, m˘ ichido setsumei shimash˘.
There are still a lot of questions, so let me explain again.

To express an opinion, use the phrase to omoimasu at the end of a sentence and put all verbs in the plain form. To express what someone else is thinking, use omotte imasu. The verb kangaeru also means "to think" but implies "to consider" whereas omou implies opinion or feeling.

Takahashi san wa kimasen. Takahashi san wa konai to omoimasu.
Ms. Takahashi is not coming. I don't think Ms. Takahashi is coming.

Maiku san wa, Nihon wa ii kuni da to omotte imasu.
Mike thinks that Japan is a great country.

Chiimu no koto o kangaete imashita.
I was thinking about the team.

The noun tsumori means "intention", so the sentence ending tsumori desu after the plain form of the verb can usually be translated as "intend to" or "mean to do".

Sore wa mondai desu ne. D˘ suru tsumori desu ka.
That's a problem, isn't it? What do you intend to do?

Donna kuruma o kau tsumori desu ka.
What kind of car do you intend to buy?

To express being able to do something, add koto ga dekimasu to the plain form of the verb. The plain past tense followed by koto ga arimasu ka is equivalent to "Have you ever ...".

Maiku san wa kanji o kaku koto ga dekimasu ka. (Maiku san wa kanji o kakemasu ka.)
Mike, can you write kanji characters?

Nihongo o hanasu koto ga dekimasu ka. (Nihongo ga hanasemasu ka.)
Can you speak Japanese?

Sashimi o tabeta koto ga arimasu ka.
Have you ever eaten raw fish?

A sentence in the plain form ending in no desu or n' desu indicates that the speaker is explaining something, asking for an explanation, or giving empahasis.

Iroirona mondai ga arimasu ne. D˘ suru n' desu ka.
There are all sorts of problems, aren't there? What are you going to do?

Nani o shite iru n' desu ka.
What are you doing?

Totemo takai n' desu yo. Dakara kawanai n' desu.
It's really expensive! That's why I'm not buying it

To quote someone, follow the quotation by to iimasu (or whatever tense and form is appropriate). To say what someone has said without making a quotation, use to iimasu but put what was said into the plain form. It's common to omit da when reporting on questions. The verb iimasu may be used to ask how to say something in English or Japanese.

Maiku san wa, "Hayaku hashiru koto ga dekimasen," to iimashita.
Mike said, "I can't run fast".

Maiku san wa, "Ashita yakyű o shimasu," to iimashita.
Mike said, "I'm playing baseball tomorrow".

Maiku san wa, ashita yakyű o suru to iimashita.
Mike said he's playing baseball tomorrow.

Watashi wa Amerikajin ka to kikimashita.
He asked if I was American.

"Autumn" wa Nihongo de nan to iimasu ka. "Aki" to iimasu.
How do you say "autumn" in Japanese? It's "aki".

The gerund or -te form

The -te form of a verb which does not have a tense or mood combines with other verb forms. It may be formed from the plain past tense by changing the ending -ta to -te.

When the -te form is used to link two sentences where it may be translated as "and", the verb at the end of the sentence shows the overall tense of the sentence.

Doy˘bi no asa ni T˘ky˘ e ikimahita. Atarashii sűtsu o kaimashita.
On Saturday morning I went to Tokyo. I bought a new suit.

Doy˘bi no asa ni T˘ky˘ e itte, atarashii sűtsu o kaimashita.
On Saturday morning I went to Tokyo, and bought a new suit.

To ask permission to do something, add mo ii desu ka to the -te form. To ask if it's alright not to do something, change the negative -nai form to -nakute and then add mo ii desu ka.

Sumimasen ga, koko ni suwatte mo ii desu ka. Ii desu. D˘zo.
Excuse me, but is it alright if I sit here? Yes, please go ahead.

Kore o zenbu tabenakute mo ii desu ka. Hai, (tabenakute mo) ii desu yo.
Is it alright if I don't eat all of this? Yes, it's alright (if you don't eat it).

The same form may be used to give permission.

Namae to jűsho o kakanakute mo ii desu.
It's alright not to write your name and address.

To refuse permission, use the -te form of the verb followed by wa ikemasen.

Sono heya ni haitte wa ikemasen.
You musn't go into that room.

Progressive tense

To describe an event that is presently happening or not happening, use the appropriate form of the verb iru or imasu after the -te form.

Tomoko san wa ima nani o shite imasu ka.
What is Tomoko doing at the moment?

Sono kaisha de m˘ hataraite imasen. Ima gink˘ de hataraite imasu.
I don't work at that company any more. Now I am working at a bank.

Ima eigo o benky˘ shite imasen.
I am not studying English now.

The past progressive is formed by using the -te formed followed by the past or the past negative.

Torako ga isu no ue de nete imashita.
Torako was sleeping on the chair.

Kin˘ no ban watashi wa terebi o mite imasen deshita.
I wasn't watching television last night.

Desiderative form

To express one's own wish to do something, add -tai to the infinitive followed by desu. Verbs ending in -tai are like -i adjectives, and so have a negative form ending in -taku arimasen and a past form ending in -takatta desu. To express a desire for a thing, use the -i adjective hoshii.

Ocha ga nomitai.
I would like some tea.

Kin˘ yasumi o toritakatta kedo, taihen isogashikute, toru koto ga dekimasen deshita.
I wanted to take yesterday off, but I couldn't because I was extremely busy.

Kanojo wa, b˘ifurendo ga hoshii to iimashita.
She said she wants a boyfriend.
Passive form

To form the passive, add -rareru, raremasu to the stems of v-stem verbs, and -areru, -aremasu to the stems of c-stem verbs. For the negative, add -rarenai, -raremasen to the stems of v-stem verbs, and -arenai, -aremasen to the stems of c-stem verbs.

Torako wa nezumi o tabemashita.
Torako ate the mouse.

Nezumi wa Torako ni taberaremashita.
The mouse was eaten by Torako.

Nezumi wa Torako ni taberaremasen deshita.
The mouse was not eaten by Torako.

Torako wa nezumi to asobimashita.
Torako played with the mouse.

Nezumi wa Torako ni asobaremashita.
The mouse was played with by Torako.
Causative form

Add -saseru, -sasemasu to the stem of v-stem verbs (-sasenai, -sasemasen for the negative), and add -aseru, -asemasu to the stem of c-stem verbs (-asenai, -asemasen for the negative).

Torako o daidokoro no tŕberu kara orisasemashita.
I made Torako get off the kitchen table.
Conditional form

Drop the final -u from the plain form of the verb and add -eba. To form the negative, drop the -i from the negative plain form and add -kereba. With -i adjectives, drop the final -i and add -kereba; with negatives, drop the final -i from nai and add -kereba.

Moshi dekireba, kotoshi gaikoku e ikitai n' desu.
If I can, I want to go abroad this year.

Jisho o tsukawanakereba, kono Nihongo no shukudai ga dekimasen.
If I don't use a dictionary, I can't do this Japanese homework.

Ashita tenki ga yokereba, dokoka e ikimash˘ ka.
If the weather's nice tomorrow, shall we go somewhere?

Takaku nakereba, kaimasu.
If it's not too expensive, I'll buy it.

The expression -nakereba narimasen, where naru is the verb "to become", means literally "if you don't..., it's no good" or in other words "you must" or "you have to". The negative "don't have to ..." is expressed with -nakute mo ii desu.

Jiko sh˘kai wa Nihongo de nakereba narimasen.
Your self-introduction must be in Japanese.

Ky˘ owaranakute mo ii desu.
You don't have to finish it today.
Giving and receiving

There are several verbs to expressing giving and receiving depending on the relative status of the giver and receiver and the diection of the action:

ageru   Give
sashiageru   Give to superiors
yaru   Give (informal)
kureru   Give to speaker
kudasaru   Give to speaker from superior
morau   Receive
itadaku   Receive from superiors

Watashi wa Hű-san ni hon o agemashita.
I gave Hugh a book.

Watashi wa sensei ni hon o sashiagemashita.
I gave the teacher a book.

Watashi wa Torako ni omocha o yarimashita.
I gave Torako the toy.

Hű-san wa watashi ni hon o kuremashita.
Hugh gave me the book.

Sensei wa watashi ni hon o kudasaimashita.
The teacher gave me a book.

Watashi wa Hű-san ni hon o moraimashita.
I received the book from Hugh.

Watashi wa sensei ni hon o itadakimashita.
I received a book from the teacher.
Starting an action

To express starting an action, use the stem of the verb expressing the action followed by the appropriate form of the verb hajimeru:

Senshű hon o yomihajimemashita.
I started reading the book last week.
Nominalization

Verbs may be made into nouns, or gerunds to use the English expression, by following the plain form with no or koto, although no cannot be used in the predicate.

Watashi wa yomu no ga suki desu.
I like reading.

Miru koto wa shinjiru koto desu.
Seeing is believing.

 

Adjectives

Japanese adjectives are either verbal adjectives or adjectival nouns. Those in the first group, in their dictionary form, end only in -ai, -ii, -oi, or -ui, and are therefore sometimes called -i adjectives. Those in the second group have noun-like characteristics and when they modify nouns have the suffix -na and are sometimes called -na adjectives.

An -i adjective can modify a following noun.

Watashi wa chiisai neko o katte imasu.
I have a small cat.

The stem of an -i adjective is formed by dropping the final -i, so that, for example, the stem of chisaii is chisai-. An -i adjective may be conjugated to give different tenses:

Present:   [stem] + -i
Past:   [stem] + -katta
Negative:   [stem] + -kunai
Negative past:   [stem] + -kunakatta
Gerund:   [stem] + -kute

The associated verb is in the present tense.

Kono hon wa omoshiroi desu.
This book is interesting.

Ano hon mo omoshirokatta desu.
That book was interesting too.

Ky˘ wa samukunai desu.
Today it's not cold.

Kin˘ mo samukunakatta desu.
Yesterday it wasn't cold either.

Kono hon wa omoshirokute tanoshii desu.
This book is interesting and enjoyable.

The -na adjectives can be used as predicates or as noun modifiers.

Ano hito wa yűmei desu.
He is famous.

K˘en wa shizuka dewa arimasen deshita.
The park wasn't quiet.

Shizukana heya ga hoshii desu.
I want a quiet room.

The following colour words may be used alone as adjectives:

akai   red
aoi   blue, green
chairoi   brown
kiiroi   yellow
kuroi   black
shiroi   white

When these words are used as nouns, the final i is dropped:

Kuruma wa akai desu.
The car is red.

Aka was ii iro desu.
Red is a nice colour.

The following colour words are nouns and must be followed with no:

chairo no   brown
giniro no   silver
haiiro no   gray
kiiro no   yellow
kiniro no   gold
midoriiro no   green
murasaki no   purple
nezumiiro no   gray
orenji no   orange

 

Describing Nouns

Nouns may be modified in various ways. However as there are no relative pronouns for constructing relative clauses, the relative clause ending with the plain form of the verb comes before the word it modifies.

Haruko wa me ga kirei desu.
Haruko has beautiful eyes.

Haruko wa goshujin ga isha desu.
Haruko's husband is a medical doctor.

Haruko wa onaka ga sukimashita.
Haruko was hungry.

Haruko wa eigo ga dekimasu.
Haruko knows English. (Haruko is good at English.)

Watashi wa me ga kireina Haruko o mimasu.
I am looking at Haruko with the beautiful eyes.

Ano hito wa goshujin ga isha no Haruko desu.
That person over there is Haruko whose husband is a medical doctor.

Ano hito wa onaka ga suita Haruko desu.
That person over there is Haruko who is hungry.

Ano hito wa eigo ga dekiru no Haruko desu.
That person over there is Haruko who can speak English.

 

Adverbs

To form an adverb from an -i adjective, add -ku to the stem.

yasui cheap   yasuku cheaply
hayai quick   hayaku quickly
ii good   yoku well [Irregular]

Kin˘ no ban Torako wa yoku nemashita.
Torako slept well last night.

To form an adverb from a -na adjective, use ni after the adjective.

shizuka quiet   shizuka ni quietly
kantan simple   kantan nisimply

Torako wa shizuka ni arukimasu.
Torako walks quietly.

Of course, there are many adverbs which are not derived from verbs.

kin˘ yesterday   amari not much   sukoshi a little
ky˘ today   bakkari only   tabun perhaps
ashita tomorrow   chotto a little   taihen very
mainichi every day   ikaga how   takusan a lot
maiasa every morning   itsumo always   tokidoki sometimes
ima now   mata again   totemo very
yagate soon    more   yukkuri slowly
sugu immediately   motto more   zenzen at all (with neg. verbs)
mada yet, still   nakanaka completely

 

Comparisons

Kanada wa Nihon yori ˘kii desu.
Canada is larger than Japan.

Nihon yori Kanada wa ˘kii desu.
Canada is larger than Japan.

Nihon yori Kanada no h˘ ga ˘kii desu.
Canada is larger than Japan.

Nihon wa Kanada hodo ˘kikunai desu.
Japan is not as large as Canada.

Kanada to Nihon to dewa dochira ga ˘kii desu ka.
Which is larger, Canada or Japan?

Torako wa neko no naka de ichiban kawaii desu.
Torako is the most beautiful of all cats.

Torako wa Edomonton de ichiban kawaii desu.
Torako is the most beautiful (cat) in Edmonton.

Nezumi to inu to dewa dochira ga kawaii desu ka.
Which are the more attractive, mice or dogs?

Mae no rei wa baka deshita ne.
The last example was silly, wasn't it?

 

Numbers

0 rei (zero)
1 ichi
2 ni
3 san
4 shi/yon
5 go
6 roku
7 shichi/nana
8 hachi
9 ku/kyű
 
10
20 nijű
30 sanjű
40 yonjű
50 gojű
60 rokujű
70 nanajű
80 hachijű
90 kyűjű
 
100 hyaku
200 nihyaku
300 sanbyaku
400 yonhyaku
500 gohyaku
600 roppyaku
700 nanahyaku
800 happyaku
900 kyűhyaku
 
1000 sen
2000 nisen
3000 sanzen
4000 yonsen
5000 gosen
6000 rokusen
7000 nanasen
8000 hassen
9000 kyűsen

10,000 man/ichiman
100,000 jűman
1,000,000 hyakuman
10,000,000 senman/issenman
100,000,000 oku/ichioku
1,000,000,000 jűoku

The ordinal numbers are formed by adding banme to the cardinal numbers.

ichibanme first   nibanme second

 

Specific Time

1 o'clock  ichiji
2 o'clock  niji
3 o'clock  sanji
4 o'clock  yoji
5 o'clock  goji
6 o'clock  rokuji
7 o'clock  shichiji
8 o'clock  hachiji
9 o'clock  kuji
10 o'clock jűji
11 o'clock jűichiji
12 o'clock jűniji
1 minute  ippun
2 minutes nifun
3 minutes sanpun
4 minutes yonpun
5 minutes gofun
6 minutes roppun
7 minutes nanafun
8 minutes happun
9 minutes kyűfun
10 minutes juppun
 
 

han half   Goji han desu. It's 5:30.
sugi after   Jűji jűgofun sugi desu. It's 10:15.
mae before   Jűji jűgofun mae desu. It's a quarter to ten.

gozen a.m.   Gozen hachiji desu. It's 8 a.m.
gogo p.m.   Gogo jűji desu. It's 10 p.m.

 

Relative Time

ototo day before yesterday
kin˘ yesterday
ky˘ today
ashita tomorrow
asatte day after tomorrow
sensenshű week before last
senshű last week
konshű this week
raishű next week
saraishű week after next
asa morning
hiru noon
gogo afternoon
yűgata evening
sensengetsu month before last
sengetsu last month
kongetsu this month
raigetsu next month
sariagetsu month after next
ototoshi year before last
kyonen last year
kotoshi this year
rainen next year
sarainen year after next

 

Counters

 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
?
General
hitotsu
futatsu
mittsu
yottsu
itsutsu
muttsu
nanatsu
yattsu
kokonotsu

ikutsu
People
hitori
futari
sannin
yonnin
gonin
rokunin
nananin
hachinin
kyűnin
jűnin
nannin
Stamps
ichimai
nimai
sanmai
yomai
gomai
rokumai
nanamai
hachimai
kyűmai
jűmai
nanmai
Pencils
ippon
nihon
sanbon
yonhon
gohon
roppon
nanahon
happon
kyűhon
juppon
nanbon
Books
issatsu
nisatsu
sansatsu
yonsatsu
gosatsu
rokusatsu
nanasatsu
hassatsu
kyűsatsu
jusatsu
nansatsu
Cats
ippiki
nihiki
sanbiki
yonhiki
gohiki
roppiki
nanahiki
happiki
kyűhiki
jupiki
nanbiki
Floors
ikkai
nikai
sangai
yonkai
gokai
rokai
nanakai
hakkai
kyűkai
jukkai
nankai

 

Calendar

1st tsuitachi
2nd futsuka
3rd mikka
4th yokka
5th itsuka
6th muika
7th nanoka
8th y˘ka
9th kokonoka
10th t˘ka
11th jűichinichi
12th jűninichi
13th jűsannichi
14th jűyokka
15th jűgonichi
16th jűrokunichi
17th jűshichinichi
18th jűhachinichi
19th jűkunichi
20th hatsuka
21st nijűichinichi
22nd nijűninichi
23rd nijűsannichi
24th nijűyokka
25th nijűgonichi
26th nijűrokunichi
27th nijűshichinichi
28th nijűhachinichi
29th nijűkunichi
30th sanjűnichi
31st sanjűichinichi

Monday getsuy˘bi
Tuesday kay˘bi
Wednesday suiy˘bi
Thursday mokuy˘bi
Friday kiny˘bi
Saturday doy˘bi
Sunday nichiy˘bi

 

 

January ichigatsu
February nigatsu
March sangatsu
April shigatsu
May gogatsu
June rokugatsu
July shichigatsu
August hachigatsu
September kugatsu
October jűgatsu
November jűichigatsu
December jűnigatsu

haru spring
natsu summer
aki autumn
fuyu winter

 

Family

Japanese use different words for members of their own family and for members of someone else's family:
Relation
grandmother
grandfather
mother
father
wife
husband
daughter
son
older sister
younger sister
older brother
younger brother
aunt
uncle
niece
nephew
cousin
child
grandchild
family
sibling
My / Your family
sobo obÔsan
sofu ojţsan
haha okÔsan
chichi ot˘san
kanai okusan
shujin goshujin
musume musumesan
musuko musukosan
ane onŕsan
im˘to im˘tosan
ani oniisan
ot˘to ot˘tosan
oba obasan
oji ojisan
mei meigosan
oi oigosan
itoko itoko
kodomo kodomosan
mago omagosan
kazokugokazoku
ky˘dai goky˘dai

The adjective giri no means related by marriage:

giri no musuko   son-in-law

 

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Kenji Yoshimi, David Young and Hugh Woods for their helpful comments on a first draft of these notes.

 

References

Akiyama, Nobuo and Carol Akiyama, 1995. Master the Basics. Japanese. Barron's Educational Series, Inc., Hauppauge, N. Y.

Association for Japanese Language Teaching, 1984. Japanese for Busy People I. Kodansha International, Tokyo.

The Hir˘ Japanese Center, 1989. The Complete Japanese Verb Guide. Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont.

Nakao, Seigo, 1995. Random House Japanese-English English-Japanese Dictionary. Ballantine Books, New York.

Strugnell, Lynne, 1994. Essential Japanese. Berlitz Publishing Company, Inc., Princeton, N. J.

Yoshimi, Kenji, 1999. Class Notes.

 

Appendix. A few verbs

The first column gives the dictionairy, -masu and -te forms.
ageru agemasu agete
akeru akemasu akete
aru arimasu atte
asobu asobimasu asonde
au aimasu atte
chigau chigaimasu chigatte
da desu de
dekakeru dekakemasu dekakete
dekiru dekimasu dekite
deru demasu dete
furu furimasu futte
gozaru gozaimasu gozatte
hairu hairimasu haitte
hajimaru hajimarimasu hajimatte
hanasu hanashimasu hanashite
hashiru hashirimasu hashitte
hataraku hatarakimasu hataraite
iku ikimasu itte
ikiru ikimasu ikite
irassharu irasshaimasu irasshatte
ireru iremasu irete
iru imasu ite
itadaku itadakimasu itadaite
iu iimasu itte
kaeru kareimasu kaette
kakaru kakarimasu kakatte
kakeru kakemasu kakete
kakukakimasu kaite
kangaeru kangaemasu kangaete
kariru karimasu karite
kasu kashimasu kashite
kau kaimasu katte
kayou kayoimasu kayotte
kiku kikimasu kiite
kimeru kimemasu kimete
kudasaru kudasaimasu kudasatte
kudaru kudarimasu kudatte
kuraberu kurabemasu kurabete
kureru kuremasu kurete
kuru kimasu kite
magaru magarimasu magatte
matsu machimasu matte
miru mimasu mite
morau moraimasu moratte
motsu mochimasu motte
mukeru mukemasu mukete
naru narimasu natte
neru nemasu nete
noboru noborimasu nobotte
nomu nomimasu nonde
nuru nurimasu nutte
okiru okimasu okite
omou omoimasu omotte
oriru orimasu orite
oshieru oshiemasu oshiete
owaru owarimasu owatte
oyogu oyogimasu oyoide
sagasu sagashimasu sagashite
saku sakimasu saite
sashiageru sashiagemasu sashiagete
shimeru shimemasu shimete
shinjiru shinjimasu shinjite
shinu shinimasu shinde
sumu sumimasu sunde
suru shimasu shite
suwaru suwarimasu suwatte
taberu tabemasu tabete
tobu tobimasu tonde
tomaru tomarimasu tomatte
toru torimasu totte
tsukareru tsukaremasu tsukarete
tsukau tsukaimasu tsukatte
tsukuru tsukurimasu tsukutte
tsutomeru tsutomemasu tsutomete
ugoku ugokimasu ugoite
umu umimasu unde
uru urimasu utte
wakaru wakarimasu wakatte
wasureru wasuremasu wasurete
yaru yarimasu yatte
yasumu yasumimasu yasunde
yobu yobimasu yonde
yomu yomimasu yonde

give, raise
open
be, exist, have
play
meet
differ, be mistaken
be (copula)
go out
can, be able, made of
go out, appear
fall (rain, snow)
be, exist, have (formal)
go in, enter
begin
speak, talk
run
work
go
live, become alive
go, come, be (formal)
put in
be, exist
receive (polite)
say, relate
return
take (time)
telephone
write
think about, consider
borrow, rent
lend
buy, possess (animals)
commute
hear, ask
decide, fix, choose
give to speaker (polite)
descend, go down
compare
give to speaker
come
turn
wait
see, watch
receive
have, hold
turn
become, get
go to bed, sleep
rise, go up, climb
drink
paint
get up, wake up
think
get off
teach, tell
end, finish
swim
look for
bloom
give (polite)
close
believe
die
live
do
sit down
eat
fly, jump
stay overnight, stop, halt
get, win
become tired
use
make
be employed
move, change
give birth, produce
sell
understand
forget
give (informal)
rest
call
read