Japanese I-2

Vocabulary


English
sky
spirit, atmosphere
weather

early
‘morning
good morning

good, agreeable
thanks

above, superior
hand
skilled (sup. hand)

And then
Then… (formal)
Then… (casual)

again
Then… again
so, appearance of
…, right?
! (…, I’d say!)

to be (arcaic)
masu (formal)
dict (casual)


romaji
ten
ki
o-tenki

haya-i
o-hayou
ohayou gozai-masu

i-i
arigatou

ue
te
jouzu-na

de
dewa
ja, jaa

mata
ja mata
sou
…ne?
…ne!

 
gozai-masu
gozaru


kana
てん

おてんき

はやい
おはよう
おはようございます

いい
ありがとう

うえ

じょうずな


では
じゃ, じゃあ

また
じゃまた
そう
…ね?
…ね!

 
ございます
ござる


kanji


お天気

早い
お早う
お早うございます

 
 



上手な

 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 


  • Words ending in -i and -na, like ‘haya-i’ and ‘jouzu-na’, are i-adjectives and na-adjectives.
  • Kanjis in red are correct but usually the word is written in kana.

Sample sentences

Eng: Your Japanese is good!

lit: You? Your Japanese! You are skilled at it!


formal (show me)
anata wa ni-hon-go ga jouzu desu ne!

あなたは にほんごが じょうず ですね。

あなたは日本語が上手ですね。


casual (show me)
kimi wa ni-hon-go ga jouzu da na!

きみは にほんごが じょうず だな。

君は日本語が上手だな。



Comments

The following comments explain some of the grammar in more detail.

Verbs

to be – desu

In Lesson 1 we saw ‘desu’, the formal non-past positive of the verb ‘to be’. Lesson 2 introduces ‘ja arimasen’, the formal non-past negative. All of these terms have a casual form:

  • ‘da’ is the casual form of ‘desu’,
  • ‘ja’ is the casual form of ‘dewa’, and
  • ‘nai’ is the casual form of ‘ari-masen’

Hence, the positive and negative non-past conjugations of ‘desu’ are:


 
non-past


positive
[desu/da]


negative
[dewa/ja] [ari-masen/nai]


All combinations of [dewa/ja][arimasen/nai] are valid; in general, the longer the combination, the more formal the form, e.g.,


You? You are Japanese.
formal
casual

You? You are not Japanese.
very formal
more formal
formal
less formal
casual
very casual


anata wa nihon-jin desu.
anata wa nihon-jin da.

 
anata wa nihon-jin dewa ari-masen.
anata wa nihon-jin dewa nai desu.
anata wa nihon-jin dewa nai.
anata wa nihon-jin ja ari-masen.
anata wa nihon-jin ja nai desu.
anata wa nihon-jin ja nai.


‘dewa’ and the ‘masu’ form are always formal, while using ‘desu’ adds to the formality of a sentence.

Prefixes and suffixes

o – お

‘o’ (お) is an honorific; we add it to a word to show respect. As a general rule, ‘o-‘ is used only with words of Japanese origin, like ‘o-sake’ (rice wine) or ‘o-mizu’ (water) , while the honorific ‘go-‘ is only used with words of Chinese origin, like ‘go-han’ (rice or meal), or ‘go-kazoku’ (your family); words of foreign origin, usually written in katakana, normally don’t take neither ‘o-‘ nor ‘go-‘ [wikibooks].


English
weather
sake
request
health


w/o honorific
tenki
sake
negai
genki


English
respected weather
respected sake
favor
respected health


w/ honorific
o-tenki
o-sake
o-negai
o-genki


An exception to restricting the use of ‘o-‘ to Japanese words is ‘o-cha’, i.e., tea; the Japanese adopted tea so strongly and so long ago that the word is treated as a Japanese-origin one. Tea was imported from China, so there is no Japanese original word for it, and thus its kanji, 茶, doesn’t have Japanese readings (kun-yomis) but only the Chinese readings (on-yomis) ‘cha’ and ‘sa’.

We do not apply honorifics to ourselves or anyone or anything related to ourselves, like our own family or company. Hence, let’s go over the last example: ‘genki’ doesn’t mean ‘health’ exactly; it is something like ‘vigor’ or ‘life energy’, and asking for someone’s ‘vigor’ is similar to the English ‘Are you well?’. Now, we’d use the ‘o-‘ honorific when we ask about how someone is faring because someone else’s well-being is very important, but when we refer to our own well-being that, politely-speaking, is not as important, we do not use the honorific:


English
Are you well?
Yes, I am well.


romaji
o-genki desu ka?
hai, genki desu.


Adjectives

Lesson 2 introduces the i-adjectives and na-adjectives. i-adjectives behave like verbs – we can conjugate them, while na-adjectives behave more like English adjectives.

i-adjectives

Lesson 2 introduces two i-adjectives: ‘haya-i’ (is early), from which we get the greeting ‘o-hayou’, and ‘i-i’ (is good), which is a special case of i-adjectives. In Lesson 7 we will see the i-adjective ‘hoshi-i’ (is desirable), which we also use here for the examples.

All i-adjectives end with an ‘-i’ that plays the role of the verb ‘is’. The stem of an i-adjective is the adjective without this final ‘-i’, e.g., the stem of ‘hoshi-i’ is ‘hoshi’, and the stem of ‘i-i’ is ‘i’:


English
is early
is desirable
is good


romaji
haya-i
hoshi-i
i-i


i-adjectives don’t change when we use them as nouns, or when we use them to modify nouns; in the next example, ‘good’ works as an adjective in the first sentence (‘good weather’), and as a noun in the second one (‘is good’), but in both cases we simply write the adjective as ‘i-i’:


English
It is good weather.
the weather! It is good.


romaji
i-i o-tenki desu.
o-tenki ga i-i.


kana
いい おてんき です。
おてんきが いい


In ‘i-i o-tenki desu’, ‘i-i’ is an adjective that modifies the noun ‘o-tenki’; all Japanese sentences end in a verb, so we need to add ‘desu’ to get a complete sentence:

i-i o-tenki desu ➝ good the weather is

The second sentence is different, though, because apparently it does not end in a verb, but instead ends in an adjective. However, i-adjectives work as verbs , because the final ‘-i’ works as ‘is'[stackexchange]. Hence, this sentence is correct:

o-tenki ga i-i ➝ the weather! good is

We cannot add the verb ‘desu’ to the end of this sentence, because we end up with

o-tenki ga i-i desu ➝ the weather! good is is

which is incorrect; basically we would have two verbs. However, we can still use ‘desu’ as a decorator that adds politeness to the sentence without conjugating it, i.e., we can add it or remove it at will:


the weather! It is good.
English
formal
casual


romaji
o-tenki ga i-i desu.
o-tenki ga i-i.


kana
おてんきが いい です。
おてんきが いい


So, in this case, ‘desu’ is not acting as a verb, but merely as a decorator that increases the politeness of the sentence. Also, we can use ‘desu’ to raise the politeness of the casual form, but we cannot use ‘da’ to lower it. Hence, ‘-i desu’ is correct, but ‘-i da’ is not.

Since ‘desu’ works as a decoration to make the causal i-adjective formal, we can also use it to decorate the casual negative adjective and make it formal:


non-past


positive
-i (desu)


negative
-ku [ari-masen/nai (desu)]


Again, notice that ‘-i’ was conjugated to ‘-ku [ari-masen/nai (desu)]’ but ‘desu’ remained the same, without conjugating to its negative ‘ja ari-masen’ [thoughtco]. Also, we can raise the politeness of ‘-ku nai’ but not that of ‘-ku arimasen’. For example:


[is/are] desired
formal
causal

I [don’t/won’t] desire
formal
casual
more casual


 
hoshi-i desu.
hoshi-i.

 
hoshi-ku ari-masen.
hoshi-ku nai desu.
hoshi-ku nai.


This grammar is different from English. In English, we would say ‘I want x’, using the verb ‘to want’, while in Japanese we say ‘x is desired’ or ‘x is desirable’, using the adjective ‘hoshi-i’.

i-i – good

‘i-i’ (is good) is an exception to the conjugation of i-adjectives. The old way to write ‘is good’ is ‘yo-i’; it later changed to ‘i-i’ so now the stem of this i-adjective is ‘i-‘, which is used for the non-past positive, but for all other tenses the old form of ‘yo-‘ is still used:


non-past


positive
i-i (desu)


negative
yo-ku [ari-masen/nai(desu)]


Hence:


It [is/will be] good
formal
causal

It [isn’t/won’t be] good
formal
casual
more casual


 
i-i desu.
i-i.

 
yo-ku ari-masen.
yo-ku nai desu.
yo-ku nai.


na-adjectives

na-adjectives don’t change when we use them as nouns, but we have to add the suffix ‘-na’ when we apply them to nouns. For the next example, we use the na-adjective ‘iya’ (bad, disagreeable), that we will see in Lesson 3, so we can contrast it with the i-adjective ‘i-i’ (good) from this lesson:


English
it is bad weather
the weather! it is bad


romaji
iya-na o-tenki desu.
o-tenki ga iya desu.


kana
いやな おてんき です。
おてんきが いや です。


Conjugate the na-adjectives using the copula, as follows:


non-past


positive
[desu/da]


negative
[dewa/ja] [ari-masen/nai (desu)]


All combinations of [dewa/ja][arimasen/nai (desu)] are valid; the longer the combination, the more formal the form, e.g.,


I [am/will be] skilled
formal
casual

I [am not/will not be] skilled
very formal
more formal
formal
less formal
casual
very casual


 
jouzu desu.
jouzu da.

 
jouzu dewa ari-masen.
jouzu dewa nai desu.
jouzu dewa nai.
jouzu ja ari-masen.
jouzu ja nai desu.
jouzu ja nai.


i-adj. conjugated as na-adj

To the Japanese ear, conjugating a na-adjective sounds more ‘poetic’ than conjugating an i-adjective, so sometimes an i-adjective is conjugated as if it was a na-adjective; this happens often in songs. The three most common i-adjectives that we can conjugate as na-adjectives can mean many different things:


as i-adj.
ooki-i
chiisa-i
okashi-i


English
big, large, great; loud; extensive, spacious; old; important
small, little, tiny; slight, minor; soft; young; unimportant
funny, amusing; strange, odd, peculiar; improper; suspicious


However, when we use them as -na adjectives, their meanings become more specific:


as na-adj.
ooki-na
chiisa-na
okashi-na


English
big, large, great
small, little, tiny
ridiculous, odd, funny


Conjunctions

de – で

This conjunction does not appear in Lesson 2, but it is the origin of ‘dewa’, which is the formal version of ‘ja’, that does appear.

‘de’ (で), as a conjunction, means ‘so’ or ‘and then’.

dewa/jaa – では・じゃあ

‘jaa’ (じゃあ), also written as ‘ja’ (じゃ), is the contraction of the conjunction ‘de’ (で) and the particle ‘wa’ (は); this is why we can replace ‘dewa ari-masen’ with ‘jaa ari-masen’.

‘de’ (で) means ‘so’ or ‘and then’, and ‘wa'(は) is the question mark ‘?’, so ‘de-wa’ would mean a polite ‘Then?’. In the recordings, the contraction ‘jaa’ (じゃあ) is translated as ‘Well, then…’, but we will simply use ‘Then…’ often. Whether this ‘Then…’ is formal or casual depends on whether we use ‘dewa’ or ‘jaa’.

Particles

ne/na – ね・な

This particle seeks agreement (ne?), or provides confirmation (ne!). The formal version of the particle is ‘ne’ (ね), and the casual one is ‘na’ (な):

  • seeking agreement – ne?
    In this case, the sentence is a question, and ‘ne?’ means ‘wouldn’t you say?’, or ‘right?’:


    Nice weather, right?
    English
    formal
    casual
    more casual


    romaji
    i-i o-tenki desu ne?
    i-i o-tenki da ne?
    i-i o-tenki da na?


    kana
    いい おてんき です?
    いい おてんき だ?
    いい おてんき だ?


  • providing confirmation – ne!
    In this case the sentence is a statement, and ‘ne!’ means ‘right!’, ‘I agree!’, or “I’d say!”. We’ll translate this ‘ne!’ as a simple exclamation mark ‘!’:


    It is so!
    English
    formal
    casual
    more casual


    romaji
    sou desu ne!
    sou da ne!
    sou da na!


    kana
    そう です!
    そう だ!
    そう だ!



    It’s not so!
    English
    more formal
    formal
    casual
    more casual


    romaji
    sou dewa ari-masen ne!
    sou dewa nai ne!
    sou ja ari-masen ne!
    sou ja nai na!


    kana
    そう では ありません!
    そう では ない!
    そう じゃ ありません!
    そう じゃ ない!


Adverbs

mata – また

‘mata’ (また) means ‘again’; we combine it with ‘dewa’ or ‘ja’ to say ‘Then… (see you) again’, which means ‘see you later’; we can also drop the ‘mata’ to simply mean ‘Then… (see you)’:


formal
casual


Then… (see you) again
dewa, mata
ja, mata


Then… (see you)
dewa…
jaa…


Expressions

‘morning – おはよう, お早う

  • ‘o-‘ is the honorific
  • ‘hayou’ is a noun meaning ‘early’. Its kanji is 早う.
  • ‘gozaru’ is an old form of the verb ‘to be’, so the -masu form makes it a polite ‘is’.

Hence, ‘o-hayou’ means ‘early!’, which is used as the casual ‘morning!
When we add ‘gozai-masu’, we get ‘It’s early!’, which is used as the formal ‘Good morning!’.

Although ‘o-hayou gozai-masu’ means ‘good morning’, in certain contexts it can be used at any time. For example, in some places it is used to greet someone for the first time in a day, regardless of when the encounter takes place.

It has many shortened forms; the shorter the form, the more casual it is:


Good morning!
formal
casual
casual
more casual
very casual


romaji
o-hayou gozai-masu
o-hayossu
o-hayou
owasu
ossu


kana show me
おはようございます
おはよっす
おはよう
おはす
おっす


‘ossu’ would be something like ‘hey’ or ‘sup.

That is so – そうですか・そっか

A lot of the expression of the Japanese language comes from ending particles and intonation. The same expression can indicate a mild or a strong agreement, self-reflection, exasperation, a question, etc. We were introduced to the verb ‘desu’ (with its casual form ‘da’), which means ‘to be’, and the two particles ‘ka’ and ‘ne’ (with its casual from ‘na’). In future lessons we will also be introduced to the ending particle ‘yo’, which indicates a stronger feeling, and ‘nani’/’nan’ which means ‘what’. ‘sou’ glues all these words together to indicate mild and strong agreement, self-reflection, and exasperation. Here is a summary of their meanings.


English
really?
 

that is right
is that right?
is that really right?

You are so right; that is how it is!!!
You are right; that is how it is!
I agree; that is how it is
that’s is so

that’s right!!!
that’s right!
right


formal
sou nan desu ka?
 

sou desu ka
sou desu ka?
sou desu ka…?

sou desu yo
sou desu yo ne
sou desu ne
sou desu


casual
sou nano?
sou nan da?

sokka
sou? sokka?
sou…?

 
 
sou da [ne/na]
 

sou yo
sou ne
sou


Some comments:

  • Although ‘yo’ shows up soon enough in the lessons, in a pinch, if we can think of ‘ne’ and ‘na’ as an exclamation mark (!), we can think of ‘yo’ as three exclamations marks (!!!).
  • As shown above, all the forms in which ‘desu’ appears are formal, and all of those in which it is replaced by ‘da’ or it is absent are casual.
  • In the list, ‘sou desu ka?’ is an example of when we pose the expression as a question, and ‘sou desu ka…?’ is an example of when we pose it as a self-reflection.
  • ‘sou desu yo ne’ is interesting because it averages the strong agreement effect of ‘yo’ and the simple agreement effect of ‘ne’. This combination of ending particles to express degrees or combinations of feelings is common.
  • ‘sou ka na’, which combines the ending particles ‘ka’ and ‘na’, appears to be similar to the expressions above; however, it does not indicate agreement but instead it means ‘I wonder if that is right?’, casting a doubt on the statement.