Grammar

XはYです

You can say things like "I am a musician" or "My major is Japanese" by using the pattern XはYです. For example:

学生です。(I am) a student.

本語です。(My major) is Japanese.

You'll notice that there are no subjects in these sentences like in English. That's because Japanese speakers tend to omit them when it's clear who or what they are talking about.

An example of a sentence with a subject:

ジュリアンヌさんは学生です。Julianne is a student.

The は in these sentences is what's referred to as a particle and is pronounced "wa". Particles attach themselves to phrases and indicate how the phrases relate to the rest of the sentence.

Question Sentences

To turn a sentence into a question, simply add か to the end of it. Note that it is not customary to write a question mark.

ジュリアンヌさんは学生ですか。 Is Julianne a student?

There are sometimes "question words" that these types of sentences might contain. The question word for "what" has two pronunciations: なん and なに. なん is used right before です or a counter. なに is used before a particle.

nounのnoun

The particle の is used to connect two nouns. It can act as the possessive or be used to make a noun more specific.

Example of being the possessive:

ジュリアンヌさんの本 Julianne's book

Example of making a noun more specific:

大学の先生 A college professor

これ それ あれ どれ

これ, それ, あれ, and どれ are used to talk about things we don't know the name of. They are similar to "this" and "that" in English.

これ refers to a thing that is close to you:

これはかばんです。This is a bag.

それ refers to a thing that is close to the person you're speaking to:

それはたけしさんのさいふです。That is Takeshi's wallet.

あれ refers to something the is not close to the listener or the speaker:

あれはジュリアンヌのじてんしゃです。That is Julianne's bike over there.

どれ means "which". When using it, が must be the following particle in question sentences.

どれがジュリアンヌさんの自転車ですか。Which one is Julianne's bike?

この その あの どの + noun

この, その, あの, and どの are more specific than これ, それ, あれ, and どれ. Use these when you know what something is. Again, in question sentences you must use が as the following particle.

このかばんは高いですね。 This bag is expensive.

そのかばんが高いですか。 Is that bag expensive?

あのかばんは高いですね。 That bag over there is expensive.

どのかばんが高いですか。 Which bag is expensive?

ここ そこ あそこ どこ

These words represent places.

ここ basically means "here"; some place near the speaker:

ジュリアンヌさんの自転車はここです。 Julianne's bike is here.

そこ means "there"; some place close to the listener:

ジュリアンヌさんの自転車はそこです。 Julianne's bike is there.

あそこ essentially means "over there"; somewhere away from both the speaker and the listener:

ジュリアンヌさんの家はあそこです。 Julianne's house is over there.

どこ means "where":

ジュリアンヌさんの家はどこですか。 Where is Julianne's house?

だれのnoun

The pattern だれの<noun> is used to ask who something belongs to.

これはだれのかばんですか。 Whose bag is this?

noun も

The particle も essentially means "too". You use it to specify that something shares some property with a previously-mentioned thing.

このかばんは高いです。 This bag is expensive.

そのかばんも高いです。 That bag is also expensive.

Negating Statements

To negate a statement, simply replace the ending です with じゃないです.

これはジュリアンヌさんのくつじゃないです。 These are not Julianne's shoes.

Note that this does not work with adjectives.

Another way of doing this is by using じゃありません, which is more formal. じゃ is a contraction of では, which is even more formal and more appropriate for writing.

ジュリアンヌさんは学生じゃありません。 Julianne is not a student.

ジュリアンヌさんは学生ではありません。 Julianne is not a student.

~ね・~よ

You will often hear statements end with an extra ね or よ thrown in. Whether you hear these depends on how the speaker feels about the interaction with the listener.

Adding ね is equivalent to adding "right"? to the end of a sentence:

これは肉じゃないですね。 This is not meat, right?

Adding よ is similar to adding "I tell you" or "I assure you" to the end of a statement. It's used to assure the listener of what has been said.

それは肉じゃないですよ。 Let me assure you, that is not meat.

Verb Conjugation: ru-verbs and u-verbs

Verbs in Japanese conjugate, or change form. Here we learn three forms:

  1. Dictionary Form

  2. Present Tense Affirmative

  3. Present Tense Negative

There are two kinds of verbs that follow regular conjugation patterns:

  1. ru-verbs

  2. u-verbs

A ru-verb is a verb that ends with る. They are usually created by adding a る to the base of the word to form the dictionary form. Note that some verbs ending with る may actually be u-verbs that just happen to end with る. To conjugate a ru-verb, simply replace the る with ます or ません.

An u-verb is a verb whose dictionary form consists of the word's base and the suffix "-u" (く, む, ぬ, etc.). To conjugate an u-verb, you replace the "-u" character with an "-i" character and add the suffix ます or ません.

Examples of conjugating a ru-verb and an u-verb are listed below.

ru-verbu-verb

verb base

たべ

ik

dictionary form

たべる

いく

present affirmative

たべます

いきます

present negative

たべません

いきません

stem

たべ

いき

It is important to remember which class each verb belongs to, especially for verbs ending with る. They may be irregular verbs, or ru-verbs, or u-verbs that happen to end with the consonant "r". Usually, if you see the vowels "a", "u", or "o" right before the final る, then it is an u-verb. If you see an "i" or "e" before the final る, then it is usually a ru-verb. There are exceptions to this rule, like かえる.

Irregular Verbs

There are some verbs that do not follow standard conjugation rules. These are called irregular verbs. Two examples of this are する and くる:

dictionary formするくる

present affirmative

します

きます

present negative

しません

きません

stem

These verbs are also used to form compound verbs, like べんきょうする.

Verb Types and "Present Tense"

The "present tense" of an "action verb" either means:

  1. The person regularly engages in the activity.

  2. The person will, or is planning to, perform the action in the future.

For example, a habitual action would be described as follows:

私はよくテレビをみます。 I often watch television.

And a future action would be:

私はあしたきょうとに行きます。 I will go to Kyoto tomorrow.

Particles

Nouns used in sentences generally must be followed by particles, which indicate the relations that the nouns bear to the verbs.

For example, four particles are を, で, に, and へ.

The particle を indicates "direct objects", the kind of things that are directly involved in, or affected by, the event. It is pronounced "o".

おんがくをききます。 I listen to music.

で indicates where the event described by the verb takes place.

としょかんで本をよみます。 I will read books at the library.

に has many meanings, but we'll just cover two here:

  1. the goal toward which things move

  2. the time at which an event takes place

For example, as a goal of movement:

私は今日がっこうに行きません。 I will not go to school today.

And for specific times (the first に):

日曜日にきょうとに行きます。 I will go to Kyoto on Sunday.

Approximate time references can be made by substituting ごろ or ごろに for に.

十一時ごろねます。 I will go to bed at about eleven.

Note that you do not typically use に for relative times, such as "tomorrow" or "yesterday". You also do not use it with the word for "weekend" or for parts of the day ("in the morning", "at night", etc.). You do use it for days of the week and numerical time expressions.

へ also indicates goal of movement. It can replace に in those cases. Pronounced "e".

私はうちへかえります。 I will return home.

Extending Invitations

You can use ません to extend an invitation. Just use the present tense negative verb plus the question particle.

昼ご飯を食べませんか。 Would you like to have lunch (with me)?

Note that you cannot use the affirmative form of a verb for this.

Word Order

Japanese sentences are fairly flexible in the arrangement of elements that appear in them. They are mostly made of several noun-particle sequences followed by a verb or an adjective, which is followed by a sentence-final particle like か, ね, or よ. Among the noun-particle sequences, their order is mostly free.

Frequency Adverbs

You can add a frequency adverb like まいにち, よく, or ときどき to describe how often you do something.

私はときどききっさてんに行きます。 I sometimes go to the cafe.

When describing how infrequently you do sometime, you need to conclude with ません.

私はぜんぜんテレビを見ません。 I do not watch television at all.

Xがあります/います

Xがあります means "there is/are X". This is only used for nonliving things. For living things, use Xがいます.

The particle が introduces item X. You can use this pattern to say that something is in a certain location.

あそこにぎんこうがあります。 There's a bank over there.

Note that this pattern calls for the particle に instead of で for place descriptions.

You can use あります to say you have or own something:

テレビがありません。 I don't have a TV.

You can also use it to say that an event will take place:

金曜日にクラスがあります。 There will be class on Friday.

Describing Where Things Are

You can describe the location of an item relative to another item by using XはYの<place>です:

あのデパートの前です。 It's in front of that department store.

You can also use location words together with a verb to describe an event that occurs in a place:

私は学校の前でメアリーさんをまちました。 I waited for Mary in front of the school.

NOTE: both とんり and よこ mean "side-by-side" or "next to". となり is used when both things are of the same category (two people, two buildings, etc.). よこ is used when the items are distinct.

Past Tense of です

The past tense of です looks like the following:

affirmativenegative

present tense

~です

~じゃないです

past tense

~でした

~じゃなかったです

Past Tense of Verbs

The past tense of verbs looks like the following:

affirmativenegative

present tense

~ます

~ません

past tense

~ました

~ませんでした

Time Durations

The duration of an activity is expresses with a bare noun, like 一時間. The noun is not followed by any particle.

私はここで山田さんを一時間まちました。 I waited for Yamada here for an hour.

For approximate time measurements, add ぐらい after ~時間.

Quantity

If you want to add quantity words like たくさん to the direct object of a sentence, you can place it before the noun or after the particle を.

The particle と has two meanings/functions. One is to connect two nouns A and B:

日本語と英語を話します。 I speak Japanese and English.

The other meaning of と is "together with". It describes with whom you do something.

メアリーさんはスーさんと韓国に行きます。 Mary will go to Korea with Sue.

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