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Basic Japanese: A Grammar and Workbook comprises an accessible reference grammar and related exercises in a single volume

This book presents 25 grammar units,

covering the core material which students would expect to encounter in their first year of learning Japanese

Divided into two parts,

the first outlines fundamental components of Japanese including the writing system,

particles and conjugation patterns,

while the second builds on this foundation by introducing basic grammatical patterns organized by the task they achieve

Grammar points are followed by contextualized examples and exercises which allow students to reinforce and consolidate their learning

Key features include: • • • • • •

accessible format many useful language examples transliteration of all examples jargon-free explanations of grammar abundant exercises with full answer key subject index

Basic Japanese is suitable both for class use and independent study,

making it an ideal grammar reference and practice resource for both beginners and students with some knowledge of the language

Shoko Hamano is Professor of Japanese and International Affairs and Director of the Language Center at The George Washington University,

Previous publications include Making Sense of Japanese Grammar (co-authored,

Takae Tsujioka is Teaching Assistant Professor in Japanese at The George Washington University,

Previous publications include The Syntax of Possession in Japanese (2002)

Other titles available in the Grammar Workbooks series are: Basic Cantonese Intermediate Cantonese Basic Chinese Intermediate Chinese Basic German Intermediate German Basic Italian Basic Irish Intermediate Irish Basic Korean Intermediate Korean Basic Polish Intermediate Polish Basic Russian Intermediate Russian Basic Spanish Intermediate Spanish Basic Welsh Intermediate Welsh



Routledge Taylor & Francis Group


First edition published 2011 by Routledge 2 Park Square,

Milton Park,


OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 711 Third Avenue,

New York,

NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group,

an informa business © 2011 Shoko Hamano and Takae Tsujioka The right of Shoko Hamano and Takae Tsujioka to be identified as authors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright,

Designs and Patents Act 1988

Typeset in Times Ten by Graphicraft Limited,

Hong Kong All rights reserved

No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic,

now known or hereafter invented,

including photocopying and recording,

or in any information storage or retrieval system,

without permission in writing from the publishers

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Hamano,

— (Routledge grammar and workbooks) Includes index

Japanese language—Grammar

Japanese language—Textbooks for foreign speakers—English


H26 2010 495



Basic building blocks

Pronunciation Vowels and consonants Syllables Mora

3 3 5 5


Writing system Kanji Hiragana and katakana Punctuation

7 7 8 12


Parts of speech Major categories Word formation Other categories


Word order and sentence structure Basic word order Flexibility Omission Uniform word order for statements and questions Placement of noun modifiers Placement of dependent clauses



Basic particles Structure particles: ga,

and no Meaning-oriented particles: ni,

and to Discourse particles: wa and mo Connective particles: to,

and kara Conversation particles: ne and yo


Conjugation patterns of predicates Basic conjugation of noun + da Basic conjugation of adjectives Basic conjugation of verbs Stem forms Te-forms Negative te-forms


Questions and question words Yes-no questions Wh-questions

66 66 68


Demonstrative pronouns Basic distinctions Extended use of kochira,

and dochira Abstract reference


Number and quantity Basic numbers Counters and quantifiers Positions of quantifiers Approximation of quantity Expressing the speaker’s attitude toward quantity Relative quantity


Social dimensions of grammar and vocabulary Family terms

Polite and plain sentence styles Honorific,

and humble verbs Combining politeness and respect Personal pronouns Grammatical factors in the use of polite and plain forms Grammatical factors in the use of honorific and humble forms


Concreteness and abstractness in grammar Pronominal uses of no and koto Nominalizers no and koto Apparent exception to the constraint on the pronoun no Special ending n(o) da


Part 2 Grammar by tasks 12


Describing time Point vs

duration Order of time words Particles used with time words Sentence patterns ordering events on a time scale


Asking the whereabouts Verbs of existence: aru and iru Events Spatial expressions Use of tokoro


Expressing likes and dislikes Talking about favorite things Talking about favorite activities Degrees of likes and dislikes


Expressing desires Expressing one’s own desire for material objects

149 149


21 viii

Expressing one’s own desire to take some action Expressing others’ desires

149 152


Talking about ability Potential forms of verbs:

koto ga dekiru Verbs that do not occur as potential expressions Describing the quality of performance:


Describing frequency Frequency adverbs Frequency over a period of time Inquiring about frequency


Comparison Comparing two options Comparative Q&A with two options Comparing three or more options Superlative Q&A Same or different


Invitations and proposals for joint actions Invitations:

-mashoo ka


Offering advice,

and giving instructions Personal advice:



and describing obligations Seeking permission with short forms

197 197

Using expressions for desire to seek permission Using te-forms to seek approval Giving permission Denying approval Describing obligations Explaining rules


Expressing ease and difficulty Ease and difficulty as inherent properties of items Objective judgment of the likelihood of successful accomplishment

209 209


Explaining causes and reasons Stating the cause with te-forms Giving the rationale with kara Appending the reason with kara da Giving and soliciting explanations with n(o) da Forms preceding kara da and n(o) da Giving personal reasons with no de


Describing giving and receiving Verbs of giving Verbs of receiving Auxiliary uses of verbs of giving and receiving Honorific and humble counterparts Compatibility with speaker-centered expressions Summary


Apologizing and thanking Short expressions of apology and appreciation Full apologies and thanks Apologizing with te-forms Giving excuses Thanking with te-forms Using past-tense forms for apologizing and thanking Use of apology for thanking




Appendix A

Sound patterns of counters

Appendix B

List of useful time words

Key to exercises

Glossary of grammatical terms


As teachers with a combined teaching experience of over 30 years,

we have always tried to take the students’ perspective into account and highlight the functional aspect of the language as much as possible

At the same time,

we have always recognized the importance of providing accurate and consistent explanations of grammar for adult learners

This book is the result of these two motives

It explains the essential grammar of Japanese in an accessible yet linguistically accurate manner

The organization of the book also mirrors these considerations

The book is divided into two parts,

focused on linguistic structure and function,

We have also tried to carefully balance structure and function in each part

Part 1 gives beginning students basic building blocks of grammar,

outlining fundamental components of Japanese,

we have also tried to take practicality into consideration

For example,

when explaining verbal conjugation patterns,

we have adopted the traditional orthography-based method rather than the phonology-based method,

because most students prefer to learn Japanese verbs without having to analyze them down to consonants and vowels

On the other hand,

we have incorporated ideas that are not widely found in traditional textbooks,

such as meaning-based classification of verbs and adjectives,

when such concepts can explain a wide range of grammatical patterns more consistently and efficiently

Part 2 similarly strikes a balance between structure and function

The introductory paragraph lays out the targeted tasks in a concise and friendly manner

The basic grammatical patterns are organized around these functional tasks

readers can learn a group of related patterns side by side and learn about their subtle differences in usage so that they can not only understand the grammatical forms but also use them in a socially and culturally appropriate manner

Readers will find the ample cross references between the units useful

Throughout the book,

we have selected contextually related examples for each unit

That is,

instead of introducing natural but disparate examples,

we have aimed at weaving functionally related sentences and vocabulary into coherent pictures

It is hoped that this organization will not only facilitate the understanding of the grammatical patterns but also make it easier for readers to remember the examples as a group and be able to put them into use in real life

We hope that this book will be used by independent learners as well as by students in formal classes

For this reason,

all the examples are transliterated

Exercises at the end of each unit will check readers’ comprehension and solidify their understanding

Although most of the vocabulary used in the exercises is recycled from the text section,

a small dictionary may become useful from time to time

The answer keys to the exercises are provided at the end of the book

The book also features two useful appendices: a summary of the sound patterns of numeral quantifiers and a list of time words,

along with a glossary of grammatical terms and a detailed index of patterns and forms in alphabetical order

We would like to thank our three Routledge editors,

Annamarie Kino,

Sonja van Leeuwen,

as well as anonymous reviewers,

We would like to thank our colleague,

Wakana Kikuchi,

for her charming illustrations

We also thank Peter Van Blargan for painstakingly reading the manuscript at its early stage,

and copyeditor Cheryl Hutty for her extremely careful handling of the complex manuscript

Any remaining errors are of course ours


we would like to thank our families for their continuous support


Note on notations When marking the grammatical acceptability of sentences written in the Japanese script,

we follow the Japanese tradition of using ٤ (maru) for grammatical sentences and ˜ (batsu) for ungrammatical sentences

For transliterated parts,

we resort to the standard linguistic convention of marking ungrammatical sentences with “*”

The items that appear in the glossary are marked in small capitals when they appear in the text for the first time

PART 1 Basic building blocks

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UNIT 1 Pronunciation

Compared to some other world languages,

Japanese has fewer sounds,

and simpler sound combinations


to attain native-like pronunciation,

you need to master not only individual sounds but also the rhythm

This unit summarizes some basic points concerning Japanese pronunciation

Vowels and consonants The Japanese language consists roughly of the following sounds

Vowels: /a/,

Japanese vowels are similar to their Spanish or Italian counterparts

The following should give you a basic idea

/a/ is pronounced similar to “a” in “father” in American English /i/ is pronounced similar to “ee” in “feet” but shorter /u/ is pronounced similar to “oo” in “soon” without lip-rounding /e/ is pronounced similar to “e” in “bed” /o/ is pronounced similar to “o” in “old” but shorter

Most consonants are pronounced similarly to their English counterparts,

but you will need to be careful with the following: • /r/ is typically produced as a tap against the area behind the teeth A consonant combines with one of the five vowels to produce short syllables,

The possible combinations are presented below in the traditional order that mirrors the writing system

) Pay special attention to those highlighted in bold because they do not sound like the other syllables in the same column

[Consonant + vowel combinations]

Each consonant can also be followed by a semi-vowel /y/ and a vowel,

[Consonant + /y/ + vowel combinations]



Japanese syllables are limited to the following basic types

(C and V stand for a consonant and a vowel,

and C after V stands for either /n/ or the first half of the double consonants

Parentheses indicate that the sound is optional

) Short syllables: (C)(y)V Long syllables: (C)(y)VV,

(C)(y)VC Some examples of short syllables are: e,

Some examples of long syllables are: ee,

You should not stretch short syllables such as ki,

and so as in the English words “key,” “you,” “me,” and “so

This goes for CyV syllables such as kya and nyu as well

Words of foreign origin are adjusted so that each syllable conforms to the permissible syllable structure in Japanese

For instance,

the English word “present” becomes purezento because syllables like pre and sent do not exist in Japanese

To break up impermissible syllables,


and after syllablefinal t and d,

Mora The MORA is the basic rhythmic unit in Japanese

A short syllable like u or ka consists of one mora

A long syllable like un or kaa consists of two moras

the mora break is indicated by a dot,

and the number of moras in each word is given in the parentheses

“mosquito” “rain” “ticket” “church”

Make sure to distinguish between forms like ha

with the first consisting of two moras,

Also make sure to distinguish between words like ta

o “instinct” (4 moras) and ho

(See Unit 2 for the orthographic conventions that address such contrasts

) You may not convert syllable-final n to syllable-initial n or shorten n

Exercise 1

Insert the appropriate vowels to produce Japanese readings

1 2 3 4 5

“desk” “San Francisco” “peach” “accent” “dot com”

des_k_ san f_ranshis_ko piich_ ak_sent_ dott_ kom_

Exercise 1

michi “road” koori “ice” kyaku “guest” koppu “cup” annai “guide” makudonarudo “McDonald”

UNIT 2 Writing system

Japanese sentences are written by combining three types of script: kanji (Chinese characters),

ࠗࠡ࡝ࠬ߆ࠄ᧪߹ߒߚ‫“ ޕ‬I came from the UK

” igirisu kara kimashita You can more or less tell the difference between the three scripts from their visual impressions

Most kanji look as if they could fill squares,

hiragana resemble cursive letters,

and katakana appear to consist of a small number of straight lines

In the above sentence,

In addition to these traditional script types,

you will also encounter numerous uses of roomaji (Roman alphabet) in daily life

the same word may be represented in four different ways

Here are four separate representations of the name “Tanaka

” Kanji: Hiragana: Katakana: Roomaji:

↰ਛ ߚߥ߆ ࠲࠽ࠞ Tanaka

In this unit,

we will study the characteristics and use of kanji,

Kanji In order to read Japanese proficiently,

one must be able to recognize a group of about 2,000 Chinese characters,

Kanji are logographic,

and each kanji has its own meaning

They are commonly used to write content words such as nouns and initial parts of verbs and adjectives

(See Unit 3 for categories of words

kome “rice” [noun] taberu “eat” [verb] takai “expensive” [adjective]

Most kanji have more than one way of reading,

and often more than one on-reading or kun-reading

In the on-reading,

kanji are read with pronunciations deriving from their original Chinese pronunciations

In the kun-reading,

kanji are read with the sound values of corresponding Japanese words

For example,

the character ቟ is read in two different ways,

as follows: ቟ “peace”: ቟ᔃ “relief” ቟޿ “cheap”

In order to assist you with kanji reading,

we will provide romanization for all the examples in this book

Hiragana and katakana Unlike kanji,

hiragana and katakana are syllabaries: they represent sound units rather than meanings


you can use them to write out almost anything,

whether you want to do so for aesthetic reasons or otherwise


hiragana are largely limited to endings of verbs and adjectives,

and grammatical elements such as PARTICLES (see Unit 5)

㘩ߴࠆ ߴࠆ taberu “eat” [verb ending] 㜞޿ ޿ takai “expensive” [adjective ending] ⑳߇ ߇ⴕߊ‫ ޕ‬watashi ga iku “I will go

” [subject particle] Katakana are mostly used to represent words of foreign origin (other than those coming from Chinese and hence written in kanji)

They are also used to give a lively impression to onomatopoeic words

ࡂࡦࡃ࡯ࠟ࡯ ࡈ࡜ࡦࠬ ࠧࡠࠧࡠ ࠻ࡦ࠻ࡦ

hanbaagaa furansu gorogoro tonton

“hamburger” “France” “(rumbling sound)” “(knocking sound)”

There are 46 basic hiragana letters and corresponding katakana letters

As you can see in the following chart,

a hiragana or katakana letter generally stands for a vowel or the combination of a vowel and a consonant (with the exception of n)

[Hiragana & katakana chart]

Hiragana and katakana

޽ ࠕ a

߹ ࡑ ma

޿ ࠗ i

޿ ࠗ i

޿ ࠗ i

ߊ ࠢ ku

ߟ ࠷ tsu

ߌ ࠤ ke

߳ ࡋ he

ߎ ࠦ ko

In this chart,

the letters are organized along the axes of columns and rows

For instance,

you find the letters for the five vowels in the order of a,

And in the ka-column,

you find the letters for the five k-initial syllables from ka to ko

The a-row,

contains the letters for the syllables ending with the vowel a,

the letters for the syllables ending with the vowel i,

To find the letter for the syllable nu,

go to the intersection of the na-column and the u-row

and ࠿ is the katakana for nu

When used as a grammatical particle,

ߪ and ߳ are exceptionally read as wa and e

The letter ࠍ,

is used only as a grammatical particle

(See Unit 5 for more on particles

) The columns and rows are important grammatically because CONJUGATIONS of verbs often involve the alternation between syllables from different rows in the same column,

as in the case of ⺒߻ ߻ yomu “(will) read” versus ⺒߹ ߹ߥ޿ yomanai “(will) not read

” (See Unit 6 for more on the basic conjugation patterns and Unit 16 for the POTENTIAL FORMS of verbs

) Adding a diacritic (two dots ࠐor a small circle 㰛 on the upper right corner) to some of the above letters yields the additional letters shown in the following chart

the distinction between the letters ߓ/ࠫ and ߝ/࠵ reflects a historical contrast no longer maintained in most areas of Japan

In modern Japanese,

they are pronounced identically as ji when read separately


they may be pronounced slightly differently depending on the context

The same is true of ߕ/࠭ and ߠ/࠸

[Hiragana & katakana with diacritics]

߲ ࡊ pu

Special orthographic conventions Hiragana and katakana were created when Japanese had simpler syllable structures than today

A number of orthographic conventions have since developed to cope with newer and more complex sound combinations

short but complex syllables like kya and nyo are transcribed with two letters,

as shown in the following chart

To distinguish these from sequences of syllables such as kiya and niyo,

write the second letter smaller

[Hiragana & katakana combinations with small ya,

Hiragana and katakana


the following rules apply to long syllables ending with consonants

[Rules for long syllables ending with consonants] • Use ࠎ or ࡦ for syllable-final n

• Use small ߞ or ࠶ for syllable-final p,

The following chart shows some examples

[Examples of syllable-final consonants] Example



޽ࠎ ࠎߚ

Syllable-final p

޿ߞ ߞ߬

Syllable-final t

޿ߞ ߞߡ

Syllable-final s

޿ߞ ߞߘ

Syllable-final k

޿ߞ ߞ߆

Syllable-final n

Because a unique letter exists for syllable-final n,

the crucial distinction between syllable-final n and syllable-initial n in words like ta

ni “valley” (see Unit 1) is clear in hiragana (or katakana)

The former is spelled ߚࠎ޿,

When romanizing such words,

we will distinguish between them by following the common practice of using an apostrophe for the former,


syllables containing long vowels are handled in the following manner

[Rules for syllables containing long vowels]

• Represent vowel length with a vowel if in hiragana,

and with a line if in katakana

use ߁ for the second half of oo

Use ޿ for the second half of ee

(There are a handful of exceptions to these stipulations,

as in ߣ߅ ߅޿ ߃ߐࠎ oneesan “elder sister”

) tooi “distant” and ߅ߨ߃

[Examples of long vowels] Example



Second half of long o

Second half of long e

Dealing with recent loan words The influx of a large number of loan words poses a further challenge to the native writing system

The following conventions reflect an attempt to approximate foreign sounds more accurately

[Innovative use of katakana] ࡈࠔ ࠙ࠖ ࠹ࠖ ࠺ࠖ ࠴ࠚ ࠪࠚ ࠫࠚ

fund) (wig) (party) (dinner) (check) (shell) (jet)

ࡈࠚ (festival) ࠙ࠜ (walk)

Here are some examples of their use

ࡈࠖ࠶࠻ࡀࠬ fittonesu “fitness” ࡈࠖ ࠬ࠙ࠚ ࠙ࠚ࡯࠺ࡦ suweeden “Sweden” ࡄ࡯࠹ࠖ ࠹ࠖ࡯ paatii “party”


Punctuation is not well developed in Japanese

This is partly because limiting hiragana to grammatical endings and particles and using kanji and katakana at the beginning of phrases can signal grammatical boundaries

and substitute for punctuation

The only obligatory punctuation marker is the small circle appearing at the end of a sentence

Exercise 2

In addition,

you can optionally mark major phrase boundaries for readability

ኅߦᏫߞߡ‫ޔ‬㘩ߴࠆ‫“ ޕ‬I will go home and eat

taberu The question mark is used in casual writing in order to indicate the question intonation and to distinguish a question from a statement

(See Unit 7 for more on questions

) 㘩ߴࠆ㧫 taberu “Will you eat

?” Pay attention not to insert a space between a word and a grammatical particle or inbetween words

In fact,

you can omit spaces all together

ኅߦᏫࠆ‫ ޕ‬uchi ni kaeru “I will go home

Exercise 2

޽޿߁߃___ ߆߈ߊ___ߎ ߐ___ߔ___ߘ ___ߜߟ_____ ߪ________ ___ࠅ_____ ޽߆ߐߚ___ ޿߈___ߜߦ ߁___ߔ___ߧ ߃___ߖߡ___ ___ߎߘߣ___ ߈߾_____߈ࠂ _____ߦࠀߦࠂ ߒ߾ߒࠀ_____ ߉߾߉ࠀ_____

Exercise 2

kodomo “child” hayashi “woods” sakana “fish” matsuri “festival” warau “laugh” onna “woman” itta “went” hyaku “hundred” toshokan “library” tookyoo “Tokyo”

Exercise 2

࠹࡯ࡉ࡞ ࠽ࠗࡈ ࠬࡊ࡯ࡦ ࡈࠜ࡯ࠢ ࠽ࡊࠠࡦ ࠴࡯࠭ ࡂࡦࡃ࡯ࠟ࡯ ࡃ࠲࡯ ࡄࠗ࠽࠶ࡊ࡞ ࠕࠗࠬࠢ࡝࡯ࡓ

Exercise 2

choose a city located in it from a–h

ࡉ࡜ࠫ࡞ ࡈ࡜ࡦࠬ ࠛࠫࡊ࠻ ࠗࠡ࡝ࠬ ࠗ࠲࡝ࠕ ࡈࠖࡦ࡜ࡦ࠼ ࠗࡦ࠼ࡀࠪࠕ ࠬࡍࠗࡦ

ࠫࡖࠞ࡞࠲ ࡠࡦ࠼ࡦ ࡄ࡝ ࡑ࠼࡝࠶࠼ ࡋ࡞ࠪࡦࠠ ࡠ࡯ࡑ ࠞࠗࡠ ࡝ࠝ࠺ࠫࡖࡀࠗࡠ

Exercise 2

Exercise 2

Rewrite the following in katakana

doa “door” tesuto “test” keeki “cake” deeto “date” seetaa “sweater” jamu “jam” hottodoggu “hot dog” koohii “coffee” konpyuutaa “computer” nyuuyooku “New York” yooroppa “Europe” paatii “party”

UNIT 3 Parts of speech

Japane se ,

has grammatical cate gorie s'of words such as nouns,

They are often called PARTS OF SPEECH

This unit will provide an overview of Japanese parts of speech

Along the way,

we will highlight some notable differences between Japanese and English grammatical categories

Major categories The following table is a summary of the major grammatical categories

Their short names,

Japanese names,

and some examples are also given

[Major grammatical categories]


Japanese name


ᧄ hon “book” ጊ yama “mountain” ᗲ ai “love”

⺒߻ yomu “read” ⹤ߔ hanasu “speak” 㘩ߴࠆ taberu “eat”

Verbal Noun

ീᒝ benkyoo “study” ⾈޿‛ kaimono “shopping” ࡈࠔ࠶ࠢࠬ fakkusu “fax”


ᄢ߈޿ ookii “big” ߆ࠊ޿޿ kawaii “cute” ∩޿ itai “painful”


߈ࠇ޿ߥ kiree na “beautiful” 㕒߆ߥ shizuka na “quiet” ᅢ߈ߥ suki na “be fond of”

ࠁߞߊࠅ yukkuri “slowly” ߚߊߐࠎ takusan “a lot” ࠃߊ yoku “often” ޽߹ࠅ(

There are also words that do not fall into the above categories

We will discuss them later

In the following section,

we will first look at each of the major categories

Major categories

Nouns Nouns describe things,

Here are some examples




Concepts: ᗲ ࠗࡦ࠲࡯ࡀ࠶࠻

ai “love” intaanetto “Internet”

A noun can function as the SUBJECT or the OBJECT of a PREDICATE

In the following example,

hanashimasu “speak” is the predicate,

Lee” and nihongo “Japanese” are the subject and the object respectively

࡝࡯ߐࠎ ᣣᧄ⺆ࠍ⹤ߒ߹ߔ‫“ ޕ‬Mr

Lee speaks Japanese

” ࡝࡯ߐࠎߪᣣᧄ⺆ rii-san wa nihongo o hanashimasu Here,

the subject is marked by the TOPIC marker wa,

and the object by the object marker o

Markers such as wa and o are called particles (see Unit 5)

Nouns can also become predicates when followed by the COPULA VERB da or its POLITE form desu (see Unit 6)

ኾ᡹ߪᣣᧄ⺆ߛ ᣣᧄ⺆ߛ‫“ ޕ‬My major is Japanese

” senkoo wa nihongo da ኾ᡹ߪᣣᧄ⺆ߢߔ ᣣᧄ⺆ߢߔ‫“ ޕ‬My major is Japanese

” senkoo wa nihongo desu In addition,

if a noun is followed by the possessive particle no,

In the following example,

nihongo “Japanese” modifies kurasu “class,” and no appears between them

࡝࡯ߐࠎߪᲤᣣᣣᧄ⺆ߩࠢ࡜ࠬ ᣣᧄ⺆ߩࠢ࡜ࠬ߳ⴕ߈߹ߔ‫ޕ‬ rii-san wa mainichi nihongo no kurasu e ikimasu “Mr

Lee goes to his Japanese class every day

” Note that no definite or indefinite articles (like English “a” and “the”) exist in Japanese,

and nouns are used in their bare forms

Verbs A verb’s primary function is to act as a predicate describing an action,

such as yomu “read” and taberu “eat

” Ფᣣ‫ޔ‬ᣂ⡞ࠍ⺒ߺ߹ߔ ⺒ߺ߹ߔ‫“ ޕ‬I read the newspaper every day

shinbun o yomimasu ᤓᣣ‫ޔ‬ኼมࠍ㘩ߴ߹ߒߚ 㘩ߴ߹ߒߚ‫“ ޕ‬Yesterday,

I ate sushi

there are also verbs that describe a state or a change of state

޽ߘߎߦን჻ጊ߇⷗߃߹ߔ ⷗߃߹ߔ‫“ ޕ‬Mt

Fuji is visible over there

” asoko ni fujisan ga miemasu ࠦࡦࡇࡘ࡯࠲࡯߇ߎࠊࠇ߹ߒߚ ߎࠊࠇ߹ߒߚ‫“ ޕ‬The computer broke down

” konpyuutaa ga kowaremashita You will later see that the classification of verbs into meaning-based groups such as ACTION VERBS,


and CHANGE-OF-STATE VERBS is relevant to various grammatical operations (see Units 5,

English verbs inflect for tense (e

Japanese verbs conjugate for tense,

In addition,

what would be expressed as a separate AUXILIARY VERB in English is often realized in Japanese as a suffix attached to a predicate


a single Japanese verb takes many more forms than a corresponding English verb

We will introduce the basic conjugation patterns in Unit 6,

Verbal nouns Japanese has a class of words that are called VERBAL NOUNS (VN) or VNs behave like nouns on their own,

but like verbs when accompanied by suru “do

” In the following sentence,

nihongo “Japanese” modifies benkyoo “study

benkyoo is a noun in this sentence


ᣣᧄ⺆ߩീᒝ ീᒝߪᭉߒ޿ߢߔ‫“ ޕ‬Japanese study is fun

” nihongo no benkyoo wa tanoshii desu

Major categories

In contrast,

benkyoo-shimashita “studied” in the following sentence functions as a verb and takes nihongo as a direct object

ᣣᧄ⺆ࠍീᒝߒ߹ߒߚ ീᒝߒ߹ߒߚ‫“ ޕ‬I studied Japanese

” nihongo o benkyoo-shimashita There are a large number of VNs of Chinese origin (SINO-JAPANESE) and Western origin

In addition,

Sino-Japanese VNs: ⎇ⓥ(ߔࠆ) kenkyuu(-suru) “research”,

ീᒝ(ߔࠆ) benkyoo(-suru) “study”,

ኾ᡹(ߔࠆ) senkoo(-suru) “major”,

㔚⹤(ߔࠆ) denwa(-suru) “telephone” Western-origin VNs: ࠹ࠬ࠻(ߔࠆ) tesuto(-suru) “test”,

ࠦࡇ࡯(ߔࠆ) kopii(-suru) “copy”,

ࡈࠔ࠶ࠢࠬ(ߔࠆ) fakkusu(-suru) “fax” Native VNs: ⾈޿‛(ߔࠆ) kaimono(-suru) “shopping”,

ᚻ౉ࠇ(ߔࠆ) teire(-suru) “maintenance”,

┙ߜ⺒ߺ(ߔࠆ) tachiyomi(-suru) “reading while standing”

such as conditions or properties of things and people

In Japanese,

there are two classes of adjectives known as I-ADJECTIVES and NA-ADJECTIVES

These names are given because the dictionary form of an i-adjective ends in i,

while that of a na-adjective ends in na

i-adjectives ᄢ߈޿ ookii “big” ኙ޿ samui “cold” ߆ࠊ޿޿ kawaii “cute”

na-adjectives ߈ࠇ޿ߥ kiree na “beautiful” ଢ೑ߥ benri na “convenient” 㕒߆ߥ shizuka na “quiet”

Pay special attention to kiree na

Although its base ends in i,

Adjectives can be used either as a predicate or as a modifier of a noun

߅߽ߒࠈ޿‫“ ޕ‬Japanese is interesting

” ᣣᧄ⺆ߪ߅߽ߒࠈ޿ nihongo wa omoshiroi ߅߽ߒࠈ޿⹤ࠍ⡞߈߹ߒߚ‫“ ޕ‬I heard an interesting story

” ߅߽ߒࠈ޿ omoshiroi hanashi o kikimashita

Just like verbs,

) This characteristic of Japanese adjectives is not shared with English adjectives

On the other hand,

Japanese does not have COMPARATIVE or SUPERLATIVE forms of adjectives,

such as taller and tallest (see Unit 18)

Adverbs Adverbs modify verbs,

or other adverbs (underlined below)

Adverbs do not conjugate

ࠁߞߊࠅ ࠁߞߊࠅ⸒ߞߡਅߐ޿‫ޕ‬ “Please say it slowly

” yukkuri itte kudasai ᣣᧄ⺆ߪߣߡ߽ ߣߡ߽߅߽ߒࠈ޿ߢߔ‫“ ޕ‬Japanese is very interesting

” nihongo wa totemo omoshiroi desu ߆ߥࠅࠃߊಽ߆ࠅ߹ߔ‫ޕ‬ ߆ߥࠅ “I understand quite well

” kanari yoku wakarimasu Adverbs carry out many different functions,



ࠁߞߊࠅ ߪߞ߈ࠅ ߤࠎߤࠎ

“slowly” “clearly” “rapidly”


ߚ޿߳ࠎ ߆ߥࠅ ࠃߊ ޽߹ࠅ(

“to a great extent” “quite,

well” “(not) so much” “(not) at all”

Quantity: ߚߊߐࠎ ߔߎߒ ߶ߣࠎߤ

“a lot” “a little” “almost all”

“soon” “from now on” “later”


“without fail” “please” “surely”

Attitude: ߗ߭ ߤ߁ߙ ߈ߞߣ

Certain adverbs such as amari (

nai) “(not) so much” and zenzen (

nai) “(not) at all” usually occur with negative predicates as in the following examples

Word formation

޽߹ࠅ ޽߹ࠅ㘩ߴ߹ߖࠎ‫“ ޕ‬I don’t eat very much

” amari tabemasen ߗࠎߗࠎ ߗࠎߗࠎಽ߆ࠅ߹ߖࠎ‫ޕ‬ “I don’t understand at all

Word formation In English,

a suffix can change words from one grammatical category to another: e

A similar process occurs in Japanese

Here are some examples

∩߇ࠆ ߇ࠆ [V] itagaru “complain of pain”

ଢ೑ߥ [NA] benri na “convenient”

ଢ೑ߐ ߐ [N] benrisa “convenience”

English has many COMPOUND WORDS such as “greenhouse” or “highway” that consist of two words or more

Japanese also has numerous compound words

Some have meanings that are easily predictable based on the component words,

ฎᧄ [N] furuhon “secondhand book” ⹤ߒว߁ [V] hanashiau “discuss”

Sino-Japanese words are especially productive in compounding

ਛ࿖ੱ [N] + chuugokujin “Chinese person”

ቇ↢ [N] gakusee “student”

៤Ꮺ [VN] keetai “carry”

㔚⹤ [N] → denwa “telephone”

ਛ࿖ੱቇ↢ [N] chuugokujin-gakusee “Chinese student” ៤Ꮺ㔚⹤ [N] keetai-denwa “cell phone”

Some undergo the process of SEQUENTIAL VOICING

That is,

when two words form a compound,

voiceless consonant of the second word often becomes voiced

In this process,

⊕޿ [A] → shiroi “white”

㕍⊕޿ [A] aojiroi “pale”

Other categories The following categories have a relatively small and closed membership

[Other grammatical categories]

Abbreviation Japanese name



޽ࠆ aru “a certain” ޿ࠈࠎߥ ironna “various” ᄢ߈ߥ ookina “big”

Particle (see Unit 5)

߹ߢ made,

ߌߤ kedo


ធ⛯⹖ ߒ߆ߒ shikashi “but” setsuzokushi ߘࠇߢ sorede “therefore” ߘࠇߦ soreni “furthermore”

Demonstrative [Dem] (see Unit 8)

ߎࠇ kore “this” ߘࠇ sore “that” ޽ࠇ are “that one over there”

Pronoun (see Units 10 and 11)

⑳ watashi “I” ޽ߥߚ anata “you” ߆ࠇ kare “he”


޽޽ aa,

߳߃ hee,

޽ߩ ano,

ߎࠄ kora,

޽ࠅ߇ߣ߁ arigatoo,



they can never serve as a predicate

The Japanese words ookii and ookina both correspond to the English adjective “big,” but only ookii is used both predicatively and prenominally

In contrast,

ookina is a prenominal and cannot appear as a predicate

To the relief of learners,

there are only a handful of cases like this: ookina/ookii “big,” chiisana/chiisai “small,” and okashina/okashii “funny

” The prenominal members of these pairs have more emotional nuances than their adjective counterparts

PARTICLES appear typically after a noun or another particle to mark the function of the preceding part (see Unit 5)

CONNECTIVES connect independent sentences

Their functions are sometimes similar to connective particles (see Unit 5)

Unlike connective particles,

which are attached to the preceding elements,

connectives form separate words

DEMONSTRATIVES locate things or people in terms of their distance from the speaker and the listener

The distance may be physical or psychological

Unlike the English system,

which makes a two-way distinction,

the Japanese demonstrative system makes a three-way distinction (see Unit 8)

PRONOUNS substitute for nouns

Japanese PERSONAL PRONOUNS such as watashi “I” and anata “you” are differentiated according to the person (first,

the NUMBER (singular or plural),

and social factors (see Unit 10)

They behave like regular nouns and may be dropped quite freely (see Unit 4)

The pronoun no “one” is more grammatically constrained

For instance,

always requiring a modifier as in takai no “expensive one

” (See Unit 11 for more detail on no

) EXCLAMATIVES express the speaker’s attitude or emotion in one word


and formulaic expressions such as apologies form exclamatives


Exercise 3

Roses are roses,

do not assume that English words will find their Japanese counterparts classified in exactly the same manner

For example,

the English word “healthy” and its antonym “sick” are both adjectives,

but their Japanese counterparts do not fall into a single category: genki na “healthy” is a na-adjective,

but byooki “sickness” is a noun and requires no to modify a noun,

as in byooki no hito “sick person

Exercise 3

Suzuki went to the UK

” 3 ࠹࡯ࡉ࡞ߩ਄ߦᄢ߈޿ ᄢ߈޿ࠅࠎߏ߇޽ࠅ߹ߔ‫ޕ‬ teeburu no ue ni ookii ringo ga arimasu “There is a big apple on the table

” 4 ᄛߪߣߡ߽ ߣߡ߽㕒߆ߢߔ‫ޕ‬ yoru wa totemo shizuka desu “Nighttime is very quiet

” 5 ን჻ጊ߇⷗߃߹ߔ ⷗߃߹ߔ‫ޕ‬ fujisan ga miemasu “Mt

Fuji is visible

Exercise 3

identify the word that does not belong to the same part of speech as the others

not yet” 4 ౎᦬ hachigatsu “August”/వ↢ sensee “teacher”/࠻ࠗ࡟ toire “toilet”/ ⊕޿ shiroi “white” 5 ࠦࡇ࡯ߔࠆ kopii-suru “copy”/ࠗ࠲࡝ࠕ itaria “Italy”/࡟ࠬ࠻࡜ࡦ resutoran “restaurant”/ᢥൻ bunka “culture”

Exercise 3

Exercise 3

Exercise 3

Consider the meaning of the following verbs,

and mark the action verbs with [AV] and the stative verbs with [SV]

᧪߹ߔ ⷗߃߹ߔ 㘶ߺ߹ߔ ⡞ߎ߃߹ߔ ീᒝߒ߹ߔ ⷐࠅ߹ߔ

kimasu miemasu nomimasu kikoemasu benkyoo-shimasu irimasu

“come” “is visible” “drink” “is audible” “study” “need”

Exercise 3

and the na-adjectives with [NA]

߆ࠊ޿޿ߢߔ kawaii desu 㕒߆ߢߔ shizuka desu ߅޿ߒ޿ߢߔ oishii desu ᔔߒ޿ߢߔ isogashii desu ߈ࠇ޿ߢߔ kiree desu ߅߽ߒࠈ޿ߢߔ omoshiroi desu

“cute” “quiet” “delicious” “busy” “beautiful,

Exercise 3

” 2 ޽ࠇߪ૗ߢߔ߆‫ޕ‬ ޽ࠇ are wa nan desu ka “What’s that

?” 3 ޽޽‫ޕߤ߶ࠆߥޔ‬ ޽޽ aa,

” 4 ੹ᣣߪኙ޿ߢߔ‫ߦࠇߘޕ‬ ߘࠇߦ‫ޔ‬㔎ߢߔ‫ޕ‬ kyoo wa samui desu


UNIT 4 Word order and sentence structure

In English,

word order often determines grammatical roles of phrases (e

subject or object) or sentence types (e

This is not the case in Japanese

Word order is usually more flexible in Japanese than in English,

although there are still restrictions

This unit will provide an overview of the basic rules concerning word order in Japanese

Basic word order In Japanese,

the predicate always appears at the end of a sentence

The predicate typically describes what the subject is or does

There are three kinds of predicate in Japanese: verb,



૒⮮ߐࠎ߇ ᧪߹ߒߚ ᧪߹ߒߚ‫(ޕ‬V) satoo-san ga kimashita

Sato came

૒⮮ߐࠎߪ ⷫಾߢߔ‫(ޕ‬NA) ⷫಾߢߔ satoo-san wa shinsetsu desu

Sato is kind

૒⮮ߐࠎߪ ᑯ⼔჻ߢߔ ᑯ⼔჻ߢߔ‫(ޕ‬N) “Ms

Sato is a lawyer

” satoo-san wa bengoshi desu

For the explanation of particles such as wa and ga,

For conjugation patterns of predicates,

While every sentence has a predicate and a subject (though the latter may not be explicit,

whether there is an object or an INDIRECT OBJECT depends on the predicate type

If the predicate takes both a subject and a direct object,


the most neutral order is subject-object-predicate

Which particles to use depends on the type of predicate (see Unit 5),

but the order remains the same



Predicate (V)

દ⮮ߐࠎ߇ ࡇࠩࠍ 㘩ߴ߹ߒߚ‫ޕ‬ itoo-san ga piza o tabemashita “Mr

Ito ate pizza

Predicate (NA)

દ⮮ߐࠎߪ ࡇࠩ߇ ᅢ߈ߢߔ‫ޕ‬ itoo-san wa piza ga suki desu “Mr

Ito likes pizza

” For sentences containing the subject as well as both direct and indirect objects,

the following is considered the neutral order


Indirect object

Direct object

Predicate (V)

દ⮮ߐࠎ߇ ጊ↰ߐࠎߦ Eࡔ࡯࡞ࠍ ಴ߒ߹ߒߚ‫ޕ‬ itoo-san ga yamada-san ni ii-meeru o dashimashita “Mr

Ito sent an email to Ms

” Other phrases that add extra information appear most naturally between the subject and the direct/indirect object

દ⮮ߐࠎ߇ᄢቇ߆ࠄ ᄢቇ߆ࠄጊ↰ߐࠎߦEࡔ࡯࡞ࠍ಴ߒ߹ߒߚ‫ޕ‬ itoo-san ga daigaku kara yamada-san ni ii-meeru o dashimashita “Mr

Ito sent an email to Ms

Yamada from the university

” The exception is time words,

which are often placed at the beginning of a sentence

ᤓᣣ ᤓᣣ‫ޔ‬દ⮮ߐࠎ߇ጊ↰ߐࠎߣᷦ⼱ߢ ጊ↰ߐࠎߣᷦ⼱ߢࡇࠩࠍ㘩ߴ߹ߒߚ‫ޕ‬ kinoo,

itoo-san ga yamada-san to shibuya de piza o tabemashita “Yesterday,

Ito ate pizza with Ms

Yamada in Shibuya

none of the above-mentioned “neutral” orders is absolute

Aside from the need for the predicate to appear at the end of a sentence,

word order in Japanese is quite flexible,

Flexibility Unlike English,

Japanese commonly allows reordering of phrases,

as long as the predicate remains at the end of the sentence

The following sentence also means “Mr

Ito ate pizza

ࡇࠩࠍદ⮮ߐࠎ߇㘩ߴ߹ߒߚ‫ޕ‬ piza o itoo-san ga tabemashita “Mr

Ito ate pizza

” This is because the particles,

indicate which phrase is the subject and which phrase is the object (see Unit 5)

This is true with longer sentences as well

The phrases before the predicate,

ᤓᣣ દ⮮ߐࠎ߇/ጊ↰ߐࠎߣ ᤓᣣ/દ⮮ߐࠎ߇ ጊ↰ߐࠎߣ/ᷦ⼱ߢ ᷦ⼱ߢ/ࡇࠩࠍ ࡇࠩࠍ㘩ߴ߹ߒߚ‫ޕ‬ kinoo/itoo-san ga/yamada-san to/shibuya de/piza o tabemashita “Yesterday,

Ito ate pizza with Ms

Yamada in Shibuya

reordering of phrases causes a subtle change in meaning

A phrase that appears later tends to be interpreted as a focus of contrast

For example,

a wa-marked topic phrase which is not the focus of contrast is usually placed at the beginning of a sentence

(See Unit 5 for more on the functions of wa

See Unit 13 for how word order changes meaning in the expressions of existence

) દ⮮ߐࠎߪࡇࠩࠍ㘩ߴ߹ߒߚ‫ޕ‬ દ⮮ߐࠎߪ [wa = topic] itoo-san wa piza o tabemashita “As for Mr

” If a wa-marked phrase appears elsewhere,

it receives a contrastive reading

ࡇࠩࠍદ⮮ߐࠎߪ દ⮮ߐࠎߪ㘩ߴ߹ߒߚ‫[ ޕ‬wa = contrastive] piza o itoo-san wa tabemashita “Mr

Omission Except for the predicate,

any phrase may be omitted if it can be understood from the context

(ᤓᣣ)(દ⮮ߐࠎ߇)(ጊ↰ߐࠎߣ)(ᷦ⼱ߢ)(ࡇࠩࠍ)㘩ߴ߹ߒߚ‫ޕ‬ (kinoo)(itoo-san ga)(yamada-san to)(shibuya de)(piza o) tabemashita “Yesterday,

Ito ate pizza with Ms

Yamada in Shibuya

If the topic/subject is omitted without contextual information linking it to something else,

it is understood to be the speaker

ࡇࠩࠍ㘩ߴ߹ߒߚ‫“ ޕ‬I ate pizza

Uniform word order for statements and questions


the omitted topic/subject of a question is usually understood to be the listener

ࡇࠩࠍ㘩ߴ߹ߔ߆‫“ ޕ‬Will you eat pizza

?” piza o tabemasu ka English requires pronouns in the preceding cases

In Japanese,

there is a strong preference to omit pronouns such as watashi “I” and anata “you” (see also Unit 3)

In order to sound natural,

(⑳ߪ)(⑳ߩ)෹ߛߜߣࡇࠩࠍ㘩ߴ߹ߒߚ‫ޕ‬ (watashi wa)(watashi no) tomodachi to piza o tabemashita “I ate pizza with my friend

Uniform word order for statements and questions Word order in English varies according to whether a sentence is a statement,

Ito will eat pizza

Ito eat pizza

? [yes-no question] What will Mr

Ito eat

Japanese word order does not vary according to sentence types

The subject,

and verb of the Japanese sentences corresponding to these English sentences can appear in the same order

(See Unit 7 for more on questions

) દ⮮ߐࠎߪࡇࠩࠍ㘩ߴ߹ߔ‫ޕ‬ itoo-san wa piza o tabemasu

દ⮮ߐࠎߪࡇࠩࠍ㘩ߴ߹ߔ߆‫[ ޕ‬yes-no question] itoo-san wa piza o tabemasu ka દ⮮ߐࠎߪ૗ࠍ㘩ߴ߹ߔ߆‫ޕ‬ itoo-san wa nani o tabemasu ka

Placement of noun modifiers When creating a NOUN PHRASE (a unit consisting of modifiers and a noun),

you must always place the modifier before the modified noun

(See Unit 12 for how this is reflected in expressions of time

) A modifier noun must appear with the possessive particle no,

and a modifier na-adjective with na

A modifying i-adjective or verb must appear in the PLAIN style (see Unit 6)

N: NA: A: V:

[㊁⩿ߩ]ࡇࠩ [ࡋ࡞ࠪ࡯ߥ]ࡇࠩ [ᄢ߈޿]ࡇࠩ [㆑߁]ࡇࠩ

[yasai no] piza [herushii na] piza [ookii] piza [chigau] piza

“vegetable pizza” “healthy pizza” “large pizza” “different pizza”

Placement of dependent clauses As we have seen,

a sentence contains at least one subject and one predicate


there are sentences that contain more than one subject and one predicate

In such a sentence,

the extra subject(s) and predicate(s) form sentence-like units dependent on some other units in the sentence

These sentence-like units are referred to as DEPENDENT CLAUSES as opposed to the main sentence,

also referred to as the MAIN CLAUSE

There are three types of dependent clauses: (i) noun-modifying clauses,

(ii) sentence-modifying clauses,

and (iii) nominalized or noun-like clauses

In the following sections,

we will see their placement patterns in Japanese in comparison to English patterns

Noun-modifying clauses In English,

noun-modifying clauses appear after the noun they modify

In contrast,

Japanese noun-modifying clauses appear before the noun they modify

Japanese noun-modifying clauses follow the general pattern of noun modifiers we saw in the previous section

[௢߇૞ߞߚ ௢߇૞ߞߚ]ࡇࠩ “the pizza [that I made]” [boku ga tsukutta] piza [દ⮮ߐࠎ߇ᅢ߈ߥ દ⮮ߐࠎ߇ᅢ߈ߥ]ࡇࠩ “the pizza [that Mr

Ito likes]” [itoo-san ga suki na] piza [ࡇࠩ߇ᅢ߈ߥ ࡇࠩ߇ᅢ߈ߥ]દ⮮ߐࠎ “Mr

Ito [who likes pizza]” [ piza ga suki na] itoo-san 30

You can combine noun-modifying clauses with the other types of modifiers

Remember to keep the modified noun at the end of the noun phrase

௢߇૞ߞߚࡋ࡞ࠪ࡯ߥ㊁⩿ߩࡇࠩ ࡇࠩ boku ga tsukutta herushii na yasai no piza “the healthy vegetable pizza that I made”

Placement of dependent clauses

Such long noun phrases may appear anywhere that short noun phrases may appear

௢߇૞ߞߚࡋ࡞ࠪ࡯ߥ㊁⩿ߩࡇࠩߪ߅޿ߒ߆ߞߚߢߔ‫ޕ‬ ௢߇૞ߞߚࡋ࡞ࠪ࡯ߥ㊁⩿ߩࡇࠩ boku ga tsukutta herushii na yasai no piza wa oishikatta desu “The healthy vegetable pizza that I made was delicious

” (See Unit 18 for the use of noun-modifying clauses in comparative expressions

Sentence-modifying clauses In English,

sentence-modifying clauses may precede or follow the main clause they modify


the Japanese counterparts always precede the main clause<

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