Practice Japanese Grammar

Yōkoso.

This course will guide you through the basic Japanese sentence patterns and grammar structures in an easy way. It is focused more on practicing talking and exercises. It is mostly in romaji so that also beginners can use it. But, some words are also written in kanji.

Happy practicing.

Japanese grammar

About Japanese language

Japanese is a syllable language, every word is a syllable. It is characterized by a few levels and forms of politeness. So, it is necessary to keep in mind the status of the person who is talking and who is listening. 

The communication and relations between people are clearly defined and divided. The most basic division is uchi and sotoUchi means "inside" and refers to the group(s) of people with whom we have something in common. For example, it might be family, friends, or business. The word uchi replaces words like us, ours. For example uchi no sensei  is translated as our teacher

Soto is everyone else. These relationships are not static, but rather dynamic. The uchi and soto layers overlap. The Japanese at all times consider their status, their age, the situation in which they are (in correlation with age, position, gender of the person they communicate with etc.).

Basic grammar rules

  • The verb is always at the end of the sentence. The basic structure of the Japanese sentence is as follows: SUBJECT - OBJECT - VERB.
  • Nouns are not inflecled. Particles are used instead. The simplified sentence looks like this: WORD+PARTICLE - WORD+PARTICLE - VERB.
  • Particles are always behind the word they are modifying.
  • No exclamation mark or question mark is used. Instead of full stop at the end of a sentence, write a small circle. 
  • Plural is not used very often, you should know it from a context. However, there are variants for the names and some nouns: watashi - watashitachi, anata - anatagata, kare - karera.
  • The question is formed by adding particle ka  at the end of the sentence.


Levels of politeness

Japanese has different levels of politeness. These four are the basic ones:

  1. --uru form - casual, informal language. Use it when talking to in-group people (uchi), for example family or friends.
  2. --masu form - neutral level of speaking. If you cannot identify the status of the other person, or when talking to strangers on the street, use this form.
  3. kenjōgo - modest level of speaking. Use it e.g. when speaking about yourself; if you need to lower your status e.g. when apologizing.
  4. sonkeigo - honorific level of speaking. Use it when speaking to a person with higher status

Revise: Choose all statements that are correct

  • Particles are placed after a word they modify
  • Particles are placed before a word they modify
  • Question mark is often used
  • MASU form express extreme polite speech
  • Use sonkeigo when speaking to a person with higher status
  • Particle KA is used to express question

Basic sentence patterns

Simple sentences

Basic sentence pattern with verb "desu" (meaning: to be)


X は Y です。 (X wa Y desu)  Meaning: X is Y.

X は {question word e.g. Nan/Nani} です か。 Meaning: {question word e.g. What} is X?


Conjugation of verb "desu"

present affirmative - desu

present negative - dewa arimasen / ja arimasen

past affirmative - deshita

past negative - ja arimasen deshita


Examples

Senmon wa Nihongo desu. - My major is Japanese language.

Nihongo desu ka. - Japanese language?

Senmon wa keizai ja arimasen. - My major is not Economics.

Jisho wa atarashii desu. - Dictionary is new.

Atarashii desu ka. - Is it new?


Vocabulary

desu - to be

senmon - major

Nihongo - Japanese language

keizai - Economics

jisho - dictionary

atarashii - new

Choose all sentences that are correct.

Vocabulary

sensei - 先生 - teacher

ima - 今 - now

inu - 犬 - dog

neko - 猫 - cat

chiisai - 小さい - small

desu - です - to be

watashi - 私 - I

shinguru - シングル - single

Afurika - アフリカ - Africa

ookii - 大きい -big

  • Tanaka-san wa sensei desu.
  • Ima, Takeda-san wa sensei deshita.
  • Inu wa chiisai desu.
  • Neko wa nani ja arimasu ka.
  • Neko wa chiisai ja arimasu.
  • Inu ja arimasen.
  • Watashi wa Naomi desu.
  • Shinguru desu.
  • Afurika wa ookii ja arimasu.

Pronouns

Personal pronouns

Instead of personal pronouns, often a name/surname is used. For example, Tanaka-san no hon (Tanaka's book) instead of Kare no hon (his book)


List of personal pronouns

I (women)

  • watashi, watakushi
  • atashi (informal)

I (men)

  • (watashi) boku
  • ore (informal)

you

  • anata
  • kimi (between friends)
  • anta (mostly used by men or by close family)
  • omae (impolite, used in quarels or between very good friends)
  • temae/temee (very rude)

he

  • kare

she

  • kanojo

we

  • watashitachi

You

  • anatatachi

they

  • karera (men or mix)
  • kanojotachi (women)

Demonstrative pronouns - Kosoado

Kosoado

Kore - This (near the speaker)

Sore - That (near the listener)

Are - That over there

Dore - Which? (from a set of items)


If you want to be more specific, use these set of pronouns:

Kono - This (near the speaker)

Sono - That (near the listener)

Ano - That over there

Dono - Which? (what kind?)

When using more specific pronouns, the noun is placed directly after it.

Examples

Kore wa pen desu. This is a pen.

Sore wa hon desu. That is a book.

Are wa tokei desu. That over there is a clock.

Dore ga ichiban suki desu ka? Which (from all of these items) do you like the most?



Kono T-shatsu wa aoi desu. This T-shirt is blue.

Sono pen wa furui desu. That pen is old.

Ano onna wa kirei desu. That woman there is pretty.

Dono tokei ga 300€ desu ka. Which (from these) clocks cost 300€?


Notes

As you can see, when asking questions using Dore or Dono, particle ga is used.

Interrogative pronouns

Question words

Who?

Whose?

How much? (Money)

How much? (undefined counter)

From where?

When? (generally speaking)


Dare? (neutral) Donata? (formal)

Dare no ...? (neutral) Donata no ...? (formal)

Ikura?

Ikutsu?

Doko no?

Itsu?

Examples

Kore wa dare no kaban desu ka. Whose handbag is this? 

Sore wa Sū-san no kaban desu.  That is Sue's handbag.

Ikura desu ka. How much does it cost?

Are wa dare desu ka. Who is that over there?

Match the parts to form a correct sentence.

Vocabulary

toshokan - library

pen - a pen

aoi - blue

tokei - a watch

sensei - a teacher

  • Toshokan wa
    asoko desu.
  • Kono pen
    wa aoi desu.
  • Ano tokei wa
    ikura desu ka.
  • Kochira wa
    Tanaka-san desu.
  • Toshokan
    wa doko desu ka.
  • Watashitachi wa
    koko desu.
  • Kanojo
    desu ka.

Numbers, counting, and expressing duration

Basic numbers

Basic numbers

When telling really long numbers, you need to divide the number into a group of four digits.

Example

This picture shows how you have to tell the long numbers.

So, number 22 222 222:

ni sen ni hyaku ni juu ni man ni sen ni hyaku ni juu ni

Ordinal numbers

Simply add 目(め) after any counter.

Hitotsu – one                  >>   Hitotsu me – the first

Yonnin – four people   >>    Yonnin me – the fourth person

Place the numbers in correct order (smallest on top)

  • hyakunijuuhachi
  • nisengohyaku sanjuuni
  • ichiman nanahyaku hachijuukyuu
  • sen yonhyaku gojuuichiman sanjuuroku
  • sen roppyaku hachijuuniman nanajuugo
  • gosen happyakukyujurokuman yonhyakujuuni

Express degree

Totemo / Chotto

To express some degree of a quality, use adverbs in combination with adjectives. You cannot substitute them with numbers. If you want to say that something is very hot, add  とても(very) or  ちょっと(little) before the adjective.

  • Okinawa no umi wa totemo kirei deshita. The Okinawa sea was very pretty. 
  • Kono heya wa chotto atsui desu. This room is little warm. (i.e. not very warm)


Suki / Kirai

You don't use adverbs with these adjectives, because they already carry the expression of a degree.

  • Takeshi-san wa kōhī ga daisuki desu. Takeshi likes coffee very much
  • Kimu-san wa nattō ga daikirai desu. Mr. Kim hates natto very much.

 

Takusan

Takusan (very) can be added either before the noun, or after the particle を(wo).

  • Watashi wa Kyōto de shashin wo takusan torimashita. I took a lot of photos in Kjoto. 
  • Watashi wa Kyōto de takusan shashin wo torimashita.

Basic counters

Introduction

There are many counters used in Japanese language. Based on what you want to count and the shape of the object, you select the correct counter. If you are not sure, it is good to use the general counter tsu.

As a beginner, it is fine to learn just the most basic ones.

Examples:

You can express the amount in two ways:

  • Yottsu no tamago wo kudasai. Four eggs please. 
  • Tamago wo yottsu kudasai. Four eggs please.


To express higher amount than 10, use the basic number instead of counter.

Example: nijūsan tamago - 23 eggs


Form a question using counter

When asking "How many", use nan+counter.

Example: Kurasu ni wa nannin no gakusei ga imasu ka? How many students are in the class?

The general counter is an exception. You ask by saying ikutsu

Calendar

Years

Years are expressed easily just by adding 年(nen) after the number. For example, the year 2003 is written like this 2003年 and read like nisensannen.


Days in week

Monday           月曜日   Getsuyōbi

Tuesday          火曜日   Kayōbi

Wednesday    水曜日   Suiyōbi

Thursday        木曜日   Mokuyōbi

Friday             金曜日   Kinyōbi

Saturday        土曜日   Doyōbi

Sunday           日曜日   Nichiyōbi

Months

January     一月        ichi gatsu

February   二月         ni gatsu

March       三月         san gatsu 

April          四月         yon gatsu

May           五月         go gatsu

Juny         六月          roku gatsu

July          七月           shichi gatsu

August     八月           hachi gatsu

September      九月   ku gatsu

Oktober           十月    jū gatsu

November  十一月    jū ichi gatsu

December  十二月    jū ni gatsu

Days in a month

The calendar below shows the number of day in a month. The irregular ones are shown in red color.

Saying the date

Dates are expressed from the most general information to the most certain one. That means, first you say the year, then month and day. 

Nisenjūichi nen shichi gatsu tsuitachi. 2011/July/1

Kyō wa nan nichi desu ka. What date is today? 

Roku gatsu jūgonichi desu. It is 15th of July

Match the date with correct expression

  • 1st of May
    Gogatsu tsuitachi
  • 18th of July
    Shichigatsu juuhachinichi
  • 7st of January
    Ichigatsu nanoka
  • 9th of September
    Kugatsu kokonoka
  • 24th of March
    Sangatsu nijuuyokka
  • 3rd of February
    Nigatsu mikka
  • 6th of December
    Juunigatsu muika
  • 5th of August
    Hachigatsu itsuka
  • 8th of April
    Shigatsu youka
  • 20th of November
    Juuichigatsu hatsuka
  • 10th of October
    Juugatsu tooka

Talk about your schedule

Your schedule

Look at the calendar and say what you are going to do or what you have done previous days.


Example:

Senshū no kayōbi ni nihongo wo benkyō shimashita. I studied Japanese last week.

Jugatsu no nijūsan nichi ni kaimono wo suru ni ikimasu. On the 23rd of October, I am going to do shopping.

Video: Telling age

Adjectives

About adjectives

In Japanese, we know two groups of adjectives.  い and  な adjectives. There is one exception, the adjective ii (good). Its historical writing was yoi, so in conjugation the old word stem is used. 

い-adjectives can substitute verbs i.e. you can conjugate them. In informal speech you can omit desu at the end of a sentence. 

な-adjectives are qualitative nouns, after which a form of desu is placed. To connect nouns and these adjectives, the particle な (na) is used.

Adjectives are on 90% bound with the particle ga.


Example:

Takai hon (expensive book)

Benri na jisho (useful dictionary)

Explanation of i-adjectives

Conjugation of i-adjectives

Let's explain it on the adjective takai (expensive).


Informal speech

  • Present affirmative: takai 高い
  • Present negative: takaku nai 高くない
  • Past affirmative: takakatta 高かった
  • Past negative: takaku nakatta 高くなかった


Formal speech

  • Present affirmative: takai desu 高いです
  • Present negative: takaku arimasen 高くありません
  • Past affirmative: takakatta desu 高かったです
  • Past negative: takaku arimasen deshita 高くありませんでした


Neutral speech

  • Present affirmative: takai desu 高いです
  • Present negative: takaku nai desu 高くないです
  • Past affirmative: takakatta desu 高かったです
  • Past negative: takaku nakatta desu 高くなかったです


Exception

i-adjective ii (good).


Informal speech

  • Present affirmative: ii いい
  • Present negative: yoku nai 良くない
  • Past affirmative: yokatta 良かった
  • Past negative: yoku nakatta 良くなかった


Formal speech

  • Present affirmative: ii desu いいです
  • Present negative: yoku arimasen 良くありません
  • Past affirmative: yokatta desu 良かったです
  • Past negative: yoku arimasen deshita 良くありませんでした


Neutral speech

  • Present affirmative: ii desu いいです
  • Present negative: yoku nai desu 良くないです
  • Past affirmative: yokatta desu 良かったです
  • Past negative: yoku nakatta desu 良くなかったです

Explanation of na-adjectives

Conjugation of na-adjectives

Let's explain the conjugation using the adjective yūmei na (meaning: famous).


Informal speech

  • Present affirmative: yūmei da 有名だ
  • Present negative: yūmei dewa nai 有名ではない
  • Past affirmative: yūmei datta 有名だった
  • Past negative: yūmei dewa nakatta 有名ではなかった


Neutral or Formal speech

  • Present affirmative: yūmei desu 有名です
  • Present negative: yūmei dewa arimasen 有名ではありません
  • Past affirmative: yūmei deshita 有名でした
  • Past negative: yūmei dewa arimasen deshita 有名ではありませんでした

Match the adjective and noun

  • Chiisai
    inu
  • Takai
    tokei
  • Suki
    na tabemono
  • Nigiyaka
    na basho
  • Shinsetsu
    na hito
  • Shizuka
    na kyōshitsu
  • Yasui
    enpitsu
  • Isogashii
    hito
  • Wakai
    onna
  • Benri
    na hon

Video: Comparisons

Verbs

About verbs

The Japanese grammar does not know infinitive of a verb. We know only dictionary forms of verbs that end with "~u". These verbs are in present affirmative and they represent the informal style of speech.

The rules for conjugation are based on the group to which the verb belongs. We know three basic groups:

  • RU – verbs
  • U – verbs
  • irregular verbs

If there is a vowel a/u/o before the RU at the end of a verb, the verb always belongs to U verb group. On the other hand, if there is e/i before the ending RU, the verb will (in most cases) belong to RU group.

However, there are verbs with e/i vowels before RU which belong to U group. They are so called iru/eru verbs, for example kaeru, kiru, hairu, shiru etc. If you are not sure, you have to confirm with looking in the dictionary.

Irregular verbs

In Japanese, we know only two irregular verbs: suru and kuru. In conjugation, they change the whole stem:

suru       >>    shimasu              to do something

kuru       >>   kimasu                 to come *


* it does not mean "to come home". To come home is expressed by a verb kaeru, which belongs to U group

Masu form of a verb

MASU form represents the neutral form of speech.


How to create MASU form

The basic rules are these:

  • for U verbs replace final -u with -imasu (iku >> ikimasu - to go)
  • for RU verbs replace final -ru with -masu (taberu >> tabemasu - to eat)


Conjugation

  • present affirmative: - masu
  • present negative: - masen
  • past affirmative: - mashita
  • past negative: - masen deshita

Choose the correct form of a verb

hanasu - to talk

iku - to go

kuru - to come

kaku - to write

okiru - to get up

nomu - to drink

tatsu - to stand up

kanjiru - to feel

miru - to see

kotaeru - to answer

suru - to do

kiku - to listen

Match the text with correct verb form

Vocabulary

kinou - yesterday

ashita - tomorrow

kaisha - office

suru - to do

iku - to go

yomu - to read

shuumatsu - weekend

nomu - to drink

nomimono - something to drink / drinks

kekkon suru - to marry

  • Kinou hon wo
    yomimashita
  • Ashita, kaisha ni
    ikimasu
  • Shuumatsu wa
    nani o shimashita ka.
  • Paatii de donna nomimono o
    nomimashita ka.
  • Nan ji
    desu ka.
  • Kekkon
    shimasu.

Te form of a verb

TE form

The table above shows the rules on how to create the TE form of a verb.

This form is used in many situations and sometimes also in combination with other verbs. For a beginner level, learn the following sentence patterns.

Requests and orders

This form is used both for requests and orders. Japanese are very polite, so when telling a person to do something, (in most cases) they add kudasai

Verb in te-form + kudasai


Suwatte kudasai. Sit down please. 

Hiragana de kaite kudasai. Write in hiragana please.

Permissions

To ask or give permissions:

Verb in te-form + mo  ii  desu (ka)


Mado wo akete mo ii desu ka. May I open the window?

Denwa wo kakette mo ii desu ka. May I use your phone?

Onigiri wo tabete mo ii desu. You may eat the riceballs.

Shashin wo totte wa ikemasen. It is forbidden to take pictures.

To try something

Used when you want to express that you try to do something.

Verb in TE form + miru


Sushi wo tabete mimasu. I will try eating sushi. 

Yatte mitai. I want to try.

Continuous action, state

This form is used to express continuous action, and state of things and people.

Verb in TE form + iru


Kekkon shite imasu. I am married.

Mado ga shimate imasu. The window is closed.

Megane o kakete iru hito. A person who is wearing glasses (Glasses-wearing person)

Choose the correct TE form

naru  - to become

hajimaru  - to begin

arau  - to wash

shinjiru  - to believe

aruku  - to walk

iwau - to celebrate

sumu  - to live

matsu  - to wait

hataraku  - to work

suu  - to smoke

kaku  - to write

suru - to do

kuru  - to come

oyogu  - to swim

Compound verbs

How to create compound verbs

It is possible to connect two verbs to form a new one. Compound verbs can consist also of a verb and i-adjective. As you already know, i-adjectives can act like verbs. When using i-adjectives to form a compound verb, omit the last "i". For example: muzukashii >> muzukashisugiru (meaning: too hard)

Here are some usage examples:

Verb in i-stem + Verb2

Used to combine two verbs to express an action.


Example:

Tabesugite ikemasen - eating too much is forbidden

Tabeowarimashita - (I) finished eating

Verb in i-stem + nagara + sentence2

Using nagara means, the two actions are performed at the same time. The verb after nagara can be in any form.

Example:

Takeshi-san wa uta wo utainagara sentaku wo shite imasu. - Takeshi is doing the laundry while he is singing a song.

Watashi wa itsumo ongaku wo kikinagara nihongo wo benkyou shimasu. - I always study Japanese while listening to music.

Verb in TE form + miru

Used when you want to try doing something.


Sushi wo tabete mimasu. I will try eating sushi. 

Yatte mitai. I want to try.

Verb in TE form + yokatta desu

This means "I am glad that..." 


Mearii-san ga genki ni natte yokatta desu. I am glad that Mary become well (healthy).

Kinou no paatii ni ikanakute yokatta desu. I am glad that I didn't go to the party yesterday.

Describe the situation on the picture

Instructions

Talk for about a minute. Think of a situation using the picture above. What did the man do to end up like that? Did he go to a party?


Useful vocabulary

otoko no hito - a man

nomisugiru - drink too much

nomu - drink

sake - liquor, alcohol

neru - to sleep

tsukue - a desk

teeburu - a table

yopparate iru - to be drunk

Instructions

Talk for about a minute. Think of a situation using the picture above. What is happening? How do the people look like? What are they wearing? Are they happy? 


Useful vocabulary

kekkon suru - to marry

hana - flower

shiro - white

doresu - dress

shiawase - happiness, happy

iwau - to celebrate

onna no hito - woman

akage - readhead

hanayome - bride

shinrō - groom

Practice speaking

Useful sentence patterns

Use these sentence patterns to talk about yourself.


Hobbies

  • Shumi wa {noun} desu. My hobby is X. 
  • X ni kyōmi wo motte imasu. I am interested in X.
  • {noun} ga suki desu. I like {noun}.
  • {verb} no ga suki desu. I like {verb}.


Appearance / qualities

  • {body part} ga {adjective} desu. {body part} is {adjective}. 


Example: 

  • Se ga takai desu. I am tall. (se=back, takai=high/tall/expensive)
  • Tanaka-san wa atama ga ii desu. Mr. Tanaka is smart. (atama=head, ii=good)
  • Kami ga nagai desu. Long hair.

Talk about yourself

Speak for about a minute

It sounds easy, but it might be harder than you think. It can be a long minute. So, here are some topics you can use. Ganbatte!

  • Name
  • Where do you live
  • How many siblings you have
  • Your hobbies
  • Your likes / dislikes
  • What did you do last weekend
  • What is your major
  • Your occupation
  • etc.

Example monolog

Watashi wa Jenna desu. Hatachi desu. Ima, gakusei desu. Demo, baito ga arimasu yo. Watashi no kazoku wa yonnin desu. Watashi to ryooshin to ane desu. Chiisai ie ni wa sunde imasu. Ie wa furui desu. Ie ni wa heya ga yotsu arimasu. Shumi wa supootsu to terebigeemu desu. Nihon no rekishi ni kyōmi wo motte imasu. 

Tsugi no shūmatsu, tomodachi ni asobi ni ikimasu. Fūdofesutibaru ga arimasu. Watashitachi wa, oishī tabemono o tabete mimasu. Raamen ga suki desu. Takoyaki mo suki desu. Demo, natto ga suki ja nai. Tanoshimi ni shite imasu. 

Anata wa dō desu ka?


Translation

I am Jenna. I am 20 years old. Right now, I am a student. But, I have a part time job. My family has four members. I, and my parents and my older sister. We live in a small house. The house is old. There are four rooms in the house. My hobby is sport and video games. I am interested in history of Japan.

I am going to visit a friend on next weekend. There is a food festival. We will try eating delicious food. I like ramen. I also like takoyaki. But, I don't like natto (fermented soy beans). I look forward to it.

What about you?

Describe the scene

Adverbs

Adverbs of time

Introduction

Adverbs are used to express how often you do or don't do something.


Sentence structure

topic - adverb of time - time - place - verb

Watashi wa yoku shichiji goro uchi e kaerimasu.

I often return home at around 7 o'clock.


Notes

Adverbs zenzen and amari are always used with verb in negative. see examples below

List of adverbs of time

zenzen - never

amari - rarely

taitei - usually

chotto - a little bit

tokidoki - sometimes

yoku - often

itsumo - always

Examples

Watashi wa zenzen terebi wo mimasen. I never watch TV.

Takeshi-san wa amari benkyō shimasen. Takeshi rarely studies.  

Uchi de taitei terebi wo mimasu. I usually watch TV at home.

Naomi-san wa chotto benkyō shimasu. Naomi studies a little bit.

Tokidoki nihon ryōri wo tsukurimasu. I sometimes prepare Japanese meal. 

Yoku bīru wo nomimasu. I often drink beer.

Yamada-san wa itsumo genki desu. Mr. Yamada is always energetic.

Video: Create adverbs from adjectives

Put the adverbs in logical order

  • itsumo
  • yoku
  • tokidoki
  • taitei
  • amari
  • zenzen

Prepositions

About prepositions

The place where objects are located is expressed by using iru/eru (to exist). These verbs are used with particle GA. These verbs can also describe possessions (to own something). 

  • IRU is used for people and animals
  • ERU is used for non-living objects


Sentence patterns


X  wa  Y no [preposition] ni arimasu


Isu wa heya no naka ni arimasu. The stool is in the room.

Biru wa toshokan to yūbinkyōku no aida ni arimasu. The building is between library and post office. 


Y no [preposition] ni X ga arimasu/imasu


Kissaten no mae ni inu ga imasu. There is a dog in front of the coffee shop.

Toire no tonari ni kōen ga arimasu. The park is near the toilets.

List of some prepositions

no mae ni - in front

no shita ni - under

no tonari ni - next to

no aida ni - between


no chikaku ni - close to

no naka ni - inside

no ue ni - on

no ushiro ni - behind

Practice telling position of objects

Vocabulary - Food

apple - ringo

plum - ume

bread - pan

bun - ban

peach - momo

apricot - anzu

Vocabulary - dishes

plate - purēto / sara

cup - kappu

dose - yōryō / senryō

kettle - ketoru / yakan

cutlery - katorarī / hamono


Vocabulary - other

table - teeburu

window - mado

spoon - supūn

fork - fōku

knife - naifu

candlestick - shokudai

candle - rōsoku

Give directions

Learn by speaking

Use the maze to learn and practice directions. Use the information icons to see hints and phrases.


Example conversation:

A: Sumimasen. Basu tāminaru ni wa dō ikeba ii desu ka. (Excuse me. How can I get to the bus terminal?)

B: Massugu itte. Hitotsu me no kado wo hidari ni magatte kudasai. Basu tāminaru wa michi no migigawa ni arimasu yo. (Go straight. On the first corner, turn left please. Bus terminal is on the right side of the street.)