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Basic Japanese Grammar -

Japanese grammar is quite simple and straight forward but very different from English grammar so most English speakers find it rather confusing. For instance, in Japanese the verb always comes at the end. The best thing you can do when learning Japanese is to learn it from the bottom up and not compare it to English grammar. The Japanese language uses what we will refer to as particles to mark the various parts of the sentence. The main particles are: (These particles will be described in more detail below) wa (as mentioned in Lesson 1, the Hiragana "ha" is pronounced "wa" when it immediately follows the topic) ga wo (pronounced "o") ni e (as mentioned in Lesson 1, the Hiragana "he" is pronounced "e" when it immediately follows a place or direction)

topic marker subject marker direct object marker direction marker, time marker, indirect object marker direction marker

The particles "wa" () and "ga" (): The particle "wa" marks the topic of the sentence and the particle "ga" marks the subject of the sentence. In the example, "I know where you live" (watashi wa anata ga doko ni sunde iru ka shitte iru), "I" would be the topic while "you" would be the subject. Not all Japanese sentences have both a topic and subject and, in many cases, the topic is implied in Japanese (for example, the "I" (watashi wa) would be left out of this sentence because it is implied that since I am talking I am the one that knows where you live). Many Japanese books and teachers teach that "wa" and "ga" are the same thing and it doesn't matter which you use when. This is not the case but I wouldn't worry too much about keeping them straight at first - it will come with time. The particle "wo" (): The particle "wo" (or "o") marks the direct object of a Japanese sentence. In the example, "I'm going to take her home" (watashi wa kanojo wo ie ni okuru), "her" would be the direct object. The particle "ni" (): The particle "ni" can be used to mark the direction, time, or the indirect object of a Japanese sentence. An example of a direction marker can be seen in the previous example "I'm going to take her home" (watashi wa kanojo wo ie ni okuru). In this case, the "ni" acts like a "to" - "I'm going to take her 'to' home". The particle "e" () can be used in this way as well but usually implies more of a general direction as opposed to a specific place. The particle "ni" is also used to mark time in a Japanese sentence. For example, "I'm leaving at 3 o'clock" (watashi wa sanji ni hanareru). The final use for the particle "ni" in Japanese grammar is that of indirect object marker. In the example, "I was taken home by him" (watashi wa kare ni ie made okurareta), "him" is the indirect object.

Note: The "watashi wa" in all of the example sentences used above would normally be left out as it is implied.

Vocabulary -
Now that you've at least started learning the Japanese alphabets, let's learn some basic vocabulary words and simple Japanese phrases. I will list the Kanji, Hiragana, Romaji (the word sounded out using English letters), and the English meaning for each Japanese word or phrase. Most Japanese words have Kanji for them but I will only include the Kanji if that word is typically written that way. Keep in mind that the Japanese language has different levels of politeness that change based on who you are talking to. I will refer to these as "ultra-formal", "formal" (or "polite form"), "normal" (or "plain form"), "informal", and "rude" (we won't be covering too much of the rude form, however). - Kanji Hiragana Romaji (English Letters) watashi boku kare kanojo anata kore koko kono sore soko sono hito inu neko ie arigatou arigatou gozaimasu douitashimashite ohayou (sounds like "Ohio") ohayou gozaimasu konnichiwa konbanwa sayonara English Meaning I (formal for males, normal for females) I (normal for males) he she you (singular/normal) this (noun) here this (descriptive - ex. this pen) that (noun) there that (descriptive - ex. that pen) person dog cat house Thank you. (normal) Thank you. (formal) You're welcome. (normal) Good morning. (informal) Good morning. (normal and formal) Hello. (normal) Good evening. (normal) Goodbye. (normal) Hang in there

gambatte kudasai (can also be written "ganbatte kudasai") ki o tsukete kudasai (can also be written "ki wo tsukete kudasai")

Be careful, Take care

Numbers, Time, and Days of the Week


Before we get too much further into Japanese grammar and verb conjugation, I thought it would be a good idea to teach Japanese numbers, time, days of the week, etc. - Kanji - Hiragana Romaji (English Letters) ichi ni san shi (yon after 10) go roku shichi (nana after 10) hachi kyuu juu hyaku English Meaning one two three four five six seven eight nine ten hundred

Numbers after 10 are a piece of cake once you know 1 through 10. 11 is simply ten with a one after it, (, juuichi), 12 - juuni, 13 - juusan, 14 - juuyon, etc. 20 is simply (, nijuu), 21 nijuuichi, and so forth. Put these numbers in front of the character for time and you've got the time of the day. - Kanji - Hiragana ...etc. Now just put the character for moon after a number and you've got a month. - Kanji - Hiragana ...etc. Romaji (English Letters) ichigatsu nigatsu sangatsu shigatsu English Meaning January February March April Romaji (English Letters) ichiji niji nijihan nijiyonjuugofun English Meaning one o'clock two o'clock two thirty ( means half) 2:45 ( means minute)

Japanese days of the week don't follow such an easy pattern but here they are anyway along with some other time-related words. - Kanji - Hiragana Romaji (English Letters) nichiyoubi getsuyoubi kayoubi suiyoubi mokuyoubi kinyoubi doyoubi kyou ashita kinou ototoi asatte kesa konban ima English Meaning Sunday ( - sun/day) Monday ( - moon) Tuesday ( - fire) Wednesday ( - water) Thursday ( - tree/wood) Friday ( - gold) Saturday ( - dirt) Today Tomorrow Yesterday the day before yesterday the day after tomorrow (a small "tsu" () makes a double consonant) this morning this evening now

Godan Verbs -
Now, before you can start making up sentences of your own, you need to learn how to conjugate Japanese verbs. Verbs are the most important part of the Japanese sentence. Often times Japanese people will leave out everything but the verb. They are very big on leaving out the obvious and sometimes not so obvious which can get confusing at times. There are only 3 types of verbs in the Japanese language and they each follow a pattern that is very simple and very rarely has any exceptions. Most Japanese verbs fall into the first group, the Godan () verbs. These verbs always conjugate the same way with only one exception. These verbs have five changes that follow the order of the Japanese vowels, hence the name Godan (meaning 5 levels or steps), and then the "te" and "ta" forms that are common to all verbs. The chart below shows how to conjugate Japanese Godan verbs: - Kanji - Hiragana Romaji (English Letters) hanasu (to speak) hanasa hanashi hanasu hanase hanasou hanashite hanashita Base 1 Base 2 Base 3 Base 4 Base 5 Base "te" Base "ta" Verb Base

Base 1: Base 1 can not be used by itself but becomes the plain form negative simply by adding -nai. (ex. hanasanai - I won't say anything.) If the verb ends in (u) then the end for Base 1 becomes (wa). (ex. au (Base 1) -> awa) (Plain form is what people use when talking to a friend. It would not be proper to use in a business environment. We will go over the polite form in lesson 8.) Base 2: Base 2 is, in most cases, a noun when used by itself but is primarily used with the polite form of the verb. Base 3: Base 3 is the main form (the one that would be found in the dictionary) and is also the plain form present/future tense. Base 4: Base 4 is most often used as "if verb" by adding -ba. (ex. hanaseba - If he'd just say something.) It can also be used by itself as a command form but it is extremely rude and I recommend not using it at all. Base 5: Base 5 is used by itself as the "let's" form. (ex. hanasou - Let's talk.) We will get into other ways it's used in later lessons. Base "te": Base "te" can be used by itself as a plain form command. It is not rude but should only be used with close friends and children. By adding kudasai it becomes the polite form command. Base "te" can also be used in other ways that we will get into in later lessons. Base "ta": Base "ta" is merely Base "te" with an "a" sound on the end instead of an "e" sound. It is mainly used by itself as the plain form past tense. (ex. hanashita - I talked.) We will get into other ways it's used in later lessons. Notice: There is one thing that you'll need to learn in order to conjugate the "te" and "ta" forms correctly. Basically, for all Godan verbs ending in (u), (tsu), or (ru); the (u), (tsu), or (ru) becomes (tte) in the "te" form and (tta) in the "ta" form. (ex. katsu (to win) -> katte (Win!), katta (We won!)) For all Godan verbs ending in (bu), (mu), or (nu); the (bu), (mu), or (nu) becomes (nde) in the "te" form and (nda) in the "ta" form. (ex. yomu (to read -> yonde (Read it.), yonda (I read it.)) For all Godan verbs ending in (ku), the (ku) becomes (ite) in the "te" form and (ita) in the "ta" form. (ex. aruku (to walk) -> aruite (Walk!), aruita (I walked here.)) The only exception to this rule is for the verb iku (to go) which becomes , (itte/itta). For all Godan verbs ending in (gu), the (gu) becomes (ide) in the "te" form and (ida) in the "ta" form. (ex. oyogu (to swim) -> oyoide (Swim!), oyoida (I swam.)) For all Godan verbs ending in (su), the (su) becomes (shite) in the "te" form and (shita) in the "ta" form. (ex. hanasu (to talk) -> hanashite (Say something!), hanashita (I talked (to him).))

Here are some Godan verbs. Try conjugating them on a piece of paper using what you have just learned. Click here for the answers.

- Kanji

- Hiragana

Romaji (English Letters) au katsu uru asobu nomu shinu aruku oyogu kesu iku

English Meaning to meet to win to sell to play to drink to die to walk to swim to erase, turn off to go (Remember the exception for Bases "te"and "ta")

Ichidan Verbs -
The second group of Japanese verbs are called Ichidan ( ) verbs. It is usually an Ichidan verb if it ends with the sound "iru" or "eru". Some well used Japanese verbs which appear to be Ichidan but are really Godan are listed here. Ichidan verbs also follow a simple conjugation pattern that is somewhat similar to that of the Godan verbs. Below is a verb conjugation chart for Japanese Ichidan verbs: - Kanji - Hiragana Romaji (English Letters) taberu (to eat) tabe tabe taberu tabere tabeyou tabete tabeta Base 1 Base 2 Base 3 Base 4 Base 5 Base "te" Base "ta" Verb Base

Base 1 and Base 2: As you can see, Base 1 and 2 are the same. Just like with the Godan verbs, a negative can be made by adding -nai (ex. tabenai - I will not eat.) and this base, or root form, is also used for the formal form of the verb. Base 3: Base 3 is the same as with Godan verbs.

Base 4: Base 4, however, can not be used by itself like with Godan verbs. It is only used for "if verb" by adding -ba. (ex. tabereba - If I eat it...) It is not the low command form for Ichidan verbs. The low command form for Ichidan verbs is Base 1 + (ro). Base 5: Base 5 is the same as with Godan verbs.

Base "te" and Base "ta": The Base "te" and "ta" forms for Ichidan verbs are a lot easier than with Godan verbs. Simply take off the "ru" and add a "te" for Base "te" and a "ta" for Base "ta". These have the same functions as with Godan verbs.

Here are some Ichidan verbs. Try conjugating them on a piece of paper using what you have just learned. Click here for the answers. - Kanji - Hiragana Romaji (English Letters) iru miru neru kiru dekiru oboeru English Meaning to exist (animate), to be somewhere to see to sleep to wear, put on can do to remember

Irregular Verbs
The last type of verbs are the Irregular verbs but there are only 2 of them in the entire language so just memorize their charts below. The first one is suru (to do something). Many nouns can be used as a verb simply by putting "suru" right after them. It is probably the most used of all Japanese verbs. The second Irregular verb is kuru (to come). - Kanji - Hiragana Romaji (English Letters) suru (to do) shi shi suru sure shiyou shite shita Base 1 Base 2 Base 3 Base 4 Base 5 Base "te" Base "ta" Verb Base

The functions for these bases are the same as for the Godan verbs except that Base 4 can only be used as the "if verb". The rude command form is "Shiro". - Kanji - Hiragana Romaji (English Letters) kuru (to come) ko ki kuru kure koyou kite kita Base 1 Base 2 Base 3 Base 4 Base 5 Base "te" Base "ta" Verb Base

The functions for these bases are the same as for the Godan verbs except that Base 4 can only be used as the "if verb". The rude command form is "Koi" and really should only be used on animals.

Using Verb Bases


Now that you know about 30 Japanese verbs and can conjugate them, I'll show you what you can do with those verb bases. You may want to regularly refer to Lesson 6 and Lesson 7 while learning these. The following chart applies to all Japanese verbs unless otherwise noted. Hiragana Base 1 + Base 1 + Base 2 + Base 2 + Base 2 + Base 2 + Base 2 + Base 3 Base 4 + Romaji (English Letters) Base 1 + nai Base 1 + nakatta Base 2 + masu Base 2 + mashita Base 2 + masen Base 2 + masen deshita Base 2 + tai Base 3 Base 4 + ba

English Meaning plain form negative (will not verb) plain form past negative (did not verb) polite form present/future tense polite form past tense polite form negative (will not verb) polite form past negative (did not verb) want to verb (add (desu) to make it polite) plain form present/future tense if verb plain form can verb (Godan verbs only) (verb now becomes an Ichidan verb) polite form can verb (can be changed like above) try to verb (this suru is the same verb learned in lesson 7 (to do something)) want someone else to verb (hoshii is an adjective which will be covered in the next lesson) plain form command polite form command plain form presently verbing (this iru is the same verb learned in lesson 7 (to exist (animate)) polite form presently verbing (can be changed like above) plain form past tense if and when I verb (similar to Base 4 + ba) do such things as... (this suru is also the same verb learned in lesson 7 (to do something))

Base 4 + Base 4 + ru Base 4 + Base 4 + masu

Base 5 + Base 5 + to suru Base "te" + Base "te" + hoshii Base "te" Base "te" Base "te" + Base "te" + kudasai Base "te" + Base "te" + iru Base "te" + Base "te" + imasu Base "ta" Base "ta" Base "ta" + Base "ta" + ra Base "ta" + Base "ta" + ri suru

Adjectives and Adverbs


There are two different types of Japanese words that can be used to modify nouns (adjectives) and verbs (adverbs). One group is much like what we would call an adjective but they can also be conjugated to modify verbs as well. We will refer to these as "dv" (for "descriptive verb"). These are often referred to as "true adjectives" or "i-adjectives". The other group can, in most cases, stand alone like a noun but can also be used to modify nouns and verbs. We will refer to these as "dn" (for "descriptive noun"). These are often referred to as "quasi adjectives" or "na-adjectives". All adjectives in the "dv" group always end with (i). No exceptions. These are placed in front of a noun in order to modify it. For example: - Kanji - Hiragana Romaji (English Letters) akai kuruma English Meaning red car

These adjectives can be conjugated to form different tenses, turned into adverbs (modify verbs), etc. The conjugation rules for "true" Japanese adjectives are as follows: - Hiragana drop the and add drop the and add drop the and add drop the and add Romaji (English Letters) drop the "i" and add "ku" drop the "i" and add "kunai" drop the "i" and add "katta" drop the "i" and add "kunakatta" English Meaning modifies a verb (adverb form) (akaku natta -> became red) (naru is the verb "to become") present tense negative (akakunai -> is not red) past tense (akakatta -> was red) past tense negative (akakunakatta -> was not red) (This one might take a little practice saying.)

It's not as easy to recognize "dn" adjectives but I will point them out in the vocabulary lists. Sometimes you'll even find a "dn" that ends in (i) (ex. kirei - pretty). As mentioned before, these words can, in most cases, be used by themselves like a noun (ex. shizen - nature). By adding a (na) to the end of these words they can be used to modify a noun (ex. shizen na kankyou -> a natural environment). And by adding a (ni) to the end of these words they can be used to modify a verb as an adverb (ex. shizen ni aruku -> to walk naturally).

Here's a list of some commonly used "dv" and "dn" adjectives: - Kanji - Hiragana Romaji (English Letters) akai (dv) kiiroi (dv) aoi (dv) kuroi (dv) shiroi (dv) omoshiroi (dv) atsui (dv) samui (dv) ookii (dv) chiisai (dv) shizen (dn) kirei (dn) shitsurei (dn) shizuka (dn) tokubetsu (dn) genki (dn) hen (dn) jouzu (dn) shinsetsu (dn) suteki (dn) English Meaning red yellow blue black white interesting, funny hot cold big small nature pretty, clean rude quiet special in good spirits weird, strange skillful kind, nice "cool", good looking

Meeting Someone New


We are often asked by our students learning Japanese how to introduce yourself to a Japanese person. This interaction is normally very formal and filled with a few bows. Below is a typical Japanese conversation/introduction between two people meeting for the first time: Japanese (In Kanji, Hiragana, and Romaji) Person 1: Konnichi wa. Hajimemashite. Person 2: Hajimemashite. O-genki desu ka? Person 1: Hai, genki desu. ______ Person 1: ______ Watashi wa ______ to moushimasu. Anata no o-namae wa? ______ Person 2: ______ Watashi wa ______ to iimasu. Yoroshiku o-negai shimasu. Person 1: Yoroshiku o-negai shimasu. English Meaning Hello. Nice to meet you.

Nice to meet you. How are you?

I am fine.

My name is ______. What is your name? My name is ______. Pleased to make your acquaintance. Pleased to make your acquaintance.

Explanation: "Hajimemashite" literally means "it is a beginning" but would be the equivalent of "Nice to meet you" in English. It would only be used the first time meeting someone. As learned in Lesson 9, "genki" means "in good spirits". "O-genki desu ka" is literally asking "Are you in good spirits?". This is the most common way of asking "How are you?" in Japanese. The other person responds "Yes, I am in good spirits". "Mousu" is the ultra polite form of the verb "iu" (to say). Both people are literally saying "I am said/called _____". "Namae" is the word for "name". An "o" is added in front of it (and other words throughout this exchange) to show respect. This is not done when talking about yourself. "Yoroshii" means "good/fine" and "negai" is a wish or request. "Yoroshiku o-negai shimasu" literally means "I request/wish kindly of you". It is basically like saying "Please treat me well". It can be used in other situations as well - such as when asking for a favor.

Other Common Japanese Phrases


We are often asked how to say "I love you" in Japanese. This would be "Anata o ai shite imasu" BUT be advised that the Japanese typically don't use the word for love ( - - ai) when talking about their feelings for someone else (not even a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, child, parent, etc.). They would typically say "Anata no koto ga suki desu" or "Anata ga daisuki desu". "Suki" is Japanese for "like" and "daisuki" means "favorite". This may seem strange but this is just what they say for "I love you". - Kanji - Hiragana Romaji (English Letters) tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu akemashite omedetou gozaimasu omedetou gozaimasu oyasuminasai gomennasai sumimasen toire wa doko desu ka onaka ga suite imasu English Meaning Happy Birthday! Happy New Year! Congratulations! Good night. (used when someone is going to bed) I'm sorry. Excuse me. Where is the bathroom? I am hungry. ("My stomach is empty.")

See Lesson 3 for other common Japanese phrases.