Fast Track: 100 Grammar Points

Detail from Returning from a Flower Picnic by Hishikawa Moronobu (1618-1694)

Watered-down, understandable, bite-sized grammar lessons. Perhaps by knowing these basic Japanese grammar points, you will be able to communicate in Japanese limited only by vocabulary and guts! Of course this list is a simplified grammar, and is meant to be only an introduction to the grammar points presented.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

1. Basic Word Order

The sentence order is very different from English. In English we use Subject-Verb-Object (SVO), but in Japanese it is usually (but not always!) Subject-Object-Verb (SOV).

English S V O
I eat bread.
Japanese S O V
watashi wa pan o tabemasu.

Notice the "extra" words wa & o. These are called particles (or grammatical markers) and tell us a lot about the function of the word it follows. Don't worry! We will get to particles soon enough.

You can read more on Japanese Word Order here.

2. です, the Copula

です is a copula (a word used to link the subject of a sentence with a predicate). It shows that something is or isn't something else. It is one of the very few irregular forms in Japanese. です can act like the English "to be" (you know; is, am, are...) in the sense that です is used to explain who or what something or someone is. It is also used when equating one thing with another.

Let's take a look.

ゾウ は 大きい です

Romaji: zou wa ookii desu.
Literal: elephants (topic particle) big are
Natural: Elephants are large.

これ は ねこ です

Romaji: kore wa neko desu.
Literal: this (topic particle) cat is
Natural: This is a cat.

Most of the time you want to use the "to be" verb you will use です. Later we will learn other forms to show existence.

Main Points
  • is, are, am
  • always at the end
  • it doesn't change like its English cousin (is, are, am) in the present tense
  • usually pronounced like "dess"

3. "and" - と、そして

There are several ways to say "and" (connecting words and phrases). Let's look at two of them:

と (to) - connecting nouns

わたし は 日本語  英語  フランス語 が 話せます。

  • watashi wa nihongo to eigo to furansugo ga hanasemasu.
  • I can speak Japanese and English and French.
そして (soshite) - connecting phrases

新しい本を買いました。 そして今日から読みます。

  • atarashii hon o kaimashita. soshite kyou kara yomimasu.
  • I bought a new book. And I today I will start to read it. (lit. And from today, I'll read.)

4. 2 Basic verb forms - ~dictionary、~ます

There are many ways to conjugate verbs, but here we will focus on two present tense forms: "dictionary form" (also known as "plain form") and " ~masu form" (also known as "polite form")


Switching between these two verb forms does not change the meaning of the verb but the dictionary form is more casual.

  • The dictionary form gets its name because it is what is found in the dictionary.
  • The dictionary form verbs ends in -u and many end in -ru.
  • The masu form verbs are so called because they always end in -masu in the present tense.
Dictionary Form -Masu Form Meaning
  • たべる
  • tabe ru
  • たべます
  • tabe masu
Both mean "to eat"
  • のむ
  • nom u
  • のみます
  • nomi masu
to drink
  • はしる
  • hashi ru
  • はしります
  • hashiri masu
to run
  • する
  • su ru
  • します
  • shi masu
to do (this is one of the 2 irregular verbs)

You will notice some other changes between the two forms. I would recommend learning about the three verb groups here, but for our purposes right now, just memorize a few examples and try to find patterns with other verbs. And remember: Mistake making is memory making! (As long as you correct yourself, of course.)

5. Making Questions - か

Making questions in Japanese is easy! -- REALLY! Usually you can change a statement into a question by just adding a ka to the end!

アメリカ人 です。

  • amerikajin desu.
  • I am an American.

Now add a

アメリカ人 です か。

  • amerikajin desu ka.
  • Are you an American?
Main points
  • ka is added to the end of statements
  • Word order is not changed as in English.
  • In Japanese (see the example on the right side) the ? (question mark) is not required (optional).
  • Just like in English, the last syllable goes up in intonation.
  • In spoken Japanese sometimes the ka can be dropped if you raise your voice at the end as we do with "You want to eat?". But for now, let's stick to using the ka.

See "Questions and Question Words - 10 minute lesson" for more on this.

6. Question Words

By mastering these question words, your conversational skills will be much stronger!

いつ (itsu) - when

いつ きました か?

  • itsu kimashita ka?
  • When did you come? [literally "when came?" Notice the "you" is understood.]
どこ (doko) - where

どこ から きました か?

  • doko kara kimashita ka?
  • Where did you come from? [literally "where from came?"]
どうして (doushite) - why

どうして きました か?

  • doushite kimashita ka?
  • Why did you come? [literally "why came?"]
なぜ (naze) - why


  • naze?
  • Why? [used in the same way as doushite]
だれ (dare) - who

だれが きました か。

  • dare ga kimashita ka?
  • Who came?
何 (nani) - what

なに を 買いました か。

  • nani o kaimashita ka.
  • What did you buy?

You can do a lot more with 何, see here.

Main points
  • Even with the question word a か ka is used. (Except in casual spoken Japanese.)
  • The question word is at the beginning, but after the は wa if there is one.

あなた は だれ です か?

  • anata wa dare desu ka?
  • Who are you? (the question word dare is after the wa)

For more on this please see our "Questions and Question Words" guide.

7. Possessive "s" - の

This is another nice thing about Japanese.

To show relationship or possession between two things just put a の (no) between them. The trick is knowing (erm... のing) which goes to the left of the no and which goes to the right...

Think of の as a 's (apostrophe S)

わたし ねこ

  • watashi no neko
  • My cat [I's cat]


  • nihon no kuruma
  • Japanese car [Japan's car]

ねこ おもちゃ

  • neko no omocha
  • Cat's toy
Also think of...
  • わたしの watashino as "my"
  • あなたの anatano as "your"

8. "but" - でも

But, a small word, but... There are other "buts" but demo is the most common. Learn this first and you can pick the others up later.

でも (demo) - but

日本語 が 好き でも フランス語 は きらい です。

  • nihongo ga suki demo furansugo wa kirai desu.
  • I like Japanese, but I hate French.

9. Pronouns

Pronouns are not used nearly as much in Japanese as they are in English. Often the pronoun is used once and then after (until the topic shifts to someone else) the pronoun is dropped. Still they are very important!

  • Learn watashi and anata well
  • tachi and ra are endings that indicate plurality! Easy! :)
Singular Plural
  • I - わたし watashi
  • WE - わたしたち watashi tachi
  • YOU - あなた anata
  • YOU - あなたたち anata tachi
  • HE - かれ kare
  • THEY - かれら kare ra
  • SHE - かのじょ kanojo
IT - IT isn't used but in ITs place sore (that) is often used -- Don't worry! Remember to breath!
  • Another meaning of kare (he) is actually "boyfriend" and kanojo is "girlfriend"!

When the meaning is obvious, the pronoun is usually dropped. Both of the following is clear in meaning:


  • watashi wa amerika kara kimashita.
  • I came from America.


  • amerika kara kimashita.
  • (I) came from America.

See the "I, Me, You, Thou..." guide for more on pronouns.

10. Fillers - ええと

In English, we have our "ah" and "um." In Japanese, they have their "eeto." This is the sound you make when you can't think of what to say, but want to say something!

何 の 動物 が 好き です か?

  • nan no doubutsu ga suki desu ka?
  • What animal do you like?

ええと。。。 ねこ が すき。

  • eeto... neko ga suki.
  • Um... I like cats.

11. Introduction to Particles

Particles may seem a little foreign to you at first, but for the most part, they aren't too difficult to grasp.

These particles are placed after a word (or phrase) and show its relationship (grammatical function) to the rest of the sentence.

In other words, the particle itself isn't really translatable, but it tells you a lot about the function of the word it follows.

The best way to learn to use them is to memorize useful examples and try them out for size!

wa - overall topic particle

shows the main topic of the conversation. It may be helpful to think of it as "As for..."

It is a hiragana は ha but pronounced as "wa"

あなた は やさしい。

  • anata wa yasashii.
  • You are nice.

Makes "you" the main topic: "As for YOU, you are nice."

ga - the subject particle

sometimes the difference between wa and ga is hard to tell. Sometimes they can be used interchangeably with only a slight change in meaning. See next entry for more on this.

ねこ が へん。

  • neko ga hen.
  • The cat is strange.

Makes the "cat" the subject

Comparing は and が (by Paul_b)

The topic particle は can easily be confused with the subject particle が. That is because は overrides が, in other words, in a sentence something can very easily be both the topic and the subject of that sentence. In such cases the が "disappears" and it looks like the は is acting as a subject marker.

Take this simple sentence.


  • watashi wa kurei desu.
  • I am Clay.

"I" (that is the speaker, Clay) is the topic and now this is known, it won't be repeated unless the topic changes.

What is the subject of the sentence? That's right - "I" watashi is. But because "I" is also the topic only the topic marker は is used. Now we'll let Clay continue and say another sentence ...


  • neko ga suki desu.
  • (I) like cats.

"cats" is the subject here. "I" is still the topic. He could have said "watashi wa neko ga suki desu." but that is unnecessary because he has already said "watashi wa" establishing the topic in the previous sentence.

if both are in a sentence, the wa is first.
o - The Direct Object particle

本 を よみました。

  • hon o yomimashita.
  • (I) read a book.

it makes "book" the object. If we were to say "I" it would be watashi wa at the beginning.

ni - usually shows movement (to)

日本 に いきましょう!

  • nihon ni ikimashou!
  • Let's go to Japan!

There is movement going to Japan or shows time (at)

6時 に いきましょう!

  • roku ji ni ikimashou!
  • Let's go at 6.
de - Shows location (at, in)

日本 で 遊びましょう!

  • nihon de asobimashou!
  • Let's play (have fun) in Japan!

Notice there is no movement

See the "Particles and Conjunctions" guide for more on this.


Do you have an iPhone/iPod Touch?

You may be interested in this iPhone App for mastering Japanese Particles. It is produced by TJP's good friends over at It covers the basic particles plus those found on the JLPT N5 and N4 tests. Use the Study Mode and Quiz to test yourself. Click here to jump to the iTunes Japanese 101: Particles page

12. "if" - もし

We will look at a few examples that actually contain fairly advanced grammar. In other words, to say "if..." you must start with もし moshi-- and this is easy. However, you must also change the verb at the end with a ~ば ba, たら tara, or なら nara or some other conditional.

That being said, you should become familiar with もし moshi since it is extremely useful. Try to memorize one or two example sentences and then listen or look for other examples online or with friends.

English Japanese
If you come.
  • もし あなた が きたら。
  • moshi anata ga kitara.
If it's sunny.
  • もし はれ たら。
  • moshi hare tara.
Special useful phrases

もし よければ。。。

  • moshi yokereba...
  • If it is ok with you... [let's do this...]

もし ほしかったら、

  • moshi hoshikattara,
  • If you want (it),
  • (when offering something to someone)

Chapter 2

13. Using ~さん

The equivalent to Mr. or Mrs. or Miss. is ~さん


Right after the name. It is used even with friends. (Even when in English we wouldn't use "Mr.")

  • クレイさん (kurei san) - Mr. Clay
  • 山田さん (yamada san) - Mr. (or Mrs...) Yamada
Other name titles (used the same way)
  • ~さま (sama) - very polite - reserved for royalty, important people, and customers of stores
  • ~ちゃん (chan) - used for girls and very young boys (kiti-chan = Hello Kitty)
  • ~くん (kun) - used for young boys
  • ~先生 (sensei) - used for teachers [クレイ先生 kurei sensei], doctors, and professionals

For now just use san. As you know from watching all the Karate Kid movies, it is the most common.

For more on this see our article on keishou, "敬称 Name Titles".

14. Easy Adjectives

There are 2 types of adjectives:

-i adjectives - adjectives that end in -i
-na adjectives - adjectives that add -na when placed before nouns

The -i adjectives change:

あつい atsui - (It's) hot || +i
あつくない atsukunai - not hot || -i + kunai
あつかった atsukatta - was hot || -i + katta
あつくなかった atsukunakatta - wasn't hot || -i + kunakatta

Learn this and you can use all -i adjectives!

The -na adjectives don't change! But when placed before nouns they add a -na

げんき genki (healthy, active, fine) r げんき genki na ko (healthy child)

Past Tense

For now let's stick with the -masu form of verbs

PAST = MASU arrow image MASHITA

たべます tabemasu (to eat) arrow image たべました tabemashita (ate)
のみます nomimasu (to drink) arrow image のみました nomimashita (drank)


たべます tabemasu (to eat) arrow image たべません でした tabemasen deshita (didn't eat)
のみます nomimasu (to drink) arrow image のみません でした nomimasen deshita (didn't drink)


The "-masen" is the negative part

Very とても

Sometimes mom's cooking isn't just oishii (delicious) it is VERY OISHII!

Add とても totemo before adjectives to say "very"

とても おいしい です。
totemo oishii desu.
It's very delicious!

とても 大きな木。
totemo ookina ki.
A very big tree.

OTHER VERY WORDS: You can ignore this if you like...

非常に hijou ni
chou (kind of slang - chou means "super-")

To Want ~がほしい

Saying "I want (something)" is pretty easy.  Just say the thing you want and add ga hoshii to it.

のみもの が ほしい です 
nomimono ga hoshii desu. 
(I) want a drink.

NOTE: The desu is optional and is usually dropped.  nomimono ga hoshii. is perfectly fine in spoken Japanese.

Next, let's ask a question.  Can you figure out how to do it?  That's right add a ka REVIEW HERE

ケーキ が ほしい です  
ke-ki ga hoshii desu ka? 
Do you want cake?

Want to do~ ~たい

First get the ~ます masu form of the verb you want to do.  Then drop the ~ます masu and add ~たい tai

たべます tabemasu (to eat) Arrow image たべ tabe Arrow image たべたい tabetai (want to eat)
のみます nomimasu (to drink) Arrow image のみ nomi Arrow image のみたい nomitai (want to drink)
します shimasu (to do) Arrow image shi Arrow image たい shitai (want to do)

Of course if you want to say "do you want to..." Just add ka

ケーキ を たべたい です  
ke-ki o tabetai desu ka? 
Do you want to eat cake?


These 2 particles は wa & が ga both do what in English is the subject, but は wa is greater in scope than が ga

wa - the main topic particle of the conversation

ga - the subject particle of the sentence

わたし クレイ です。
watashi wa kurei desu.
I am Clay.
[Clay is the topic and now this is known, it won't be repeated unless the topic changes]

ねこ すき です。
neko ga suki desu.
(I) like cats.  
["cats" are actually the 'subject' here.  Maybe this is easier to see "Cats are liked (by me).  Note you could say "watashi wa neko ga suki desu." but it is unnecessary because we have already said "watashi wa" (The overall topic is already known)]

if both are in a sentence, the wa is first


the wa is written with a hiragana ha but pronounced as wa


There is / There are

For inanimate objects (objects, plants...), end the sentence with ~が あります  ga arimasu

木 です。
ki desu.
It's a tree.  [lit. tree is.]  

ki ga arimasu.
There is a tree(s).  

For living things (people and animals) use ~が います ga imasu.

ねこ  います
neko ga imasu.
There is a cat(s).  

To show the negative just add -sen to the end

あります arimasu Arrow Image ありません arimasen
Another more casual form of arimasu
that you don't have to learn now is...
ある aru 
Arrow Image ない nai


います imasu Arrow Image いません imasen
Another more casual form of imasu
that you don't have to learn now is...
いる iru 
Arrow Image いない inai

Maybe you know these useful phrases: 

お願い が ありますonegai ga arimasu. I have a favor to ask.
問題ないmondai nai. No problem!  [this is the casual form of arimasen]

To like... が すき

It is easy to like something and to say it!  Just add ga suki after the object that you like:

ねこ が すき です。
neko ga suki desu.
I like cats.
[note: Nouns don't change in number (no s) so it could mean "a cat".  Also note the desu if dropped makes the sentence more casual - "neko ga suki."]


Why/Because なぜ、どうして、なぜなら

2 ways to say "why" are:

1. なぜ naze - why
2. どうして doushite - why


They are basically interchangeable and start at the beginning of the sentence and are followed by the question

なぜどうして) 私 の ケーキ を たべました か?
naze (doushite) watashi no ke-ki o tabemashita ka?
Why did you eat my cake?
[There isn't a "you" but obviously you wouldn't be asking yourself this question.]

なぜなら + reason or excuse + kara

なぜなら はら が へった から。
nazenara hara ga hetta kara.
Because, (I'm) starving! 
[lit. because stomach is diminished]

I think と思います

This goes at the end to show that you believe what you say, but are not 100% sure. It is also used to show one's opinion.  If there is a desu change it to da which is the more casual form and add to omoimasu

1. The speaker is not totally sure of the accuracy of his info...

熊のプーさん は くま だ と 思います
kuma no pu-san wa kuma da to omoimasu.
Winnie the Pooh is a bear, I think...

Next is an example of showing one's opinion.  It is true for the speaker, but may not be so for the listener.

なっとう は おいしい と 思います
nattou wa oishii to omoimasu.
I think Natto is delicious.

Basically you can say any sentence and if you want to soften it or show you are not sure, or show your opinion add to omoimasu


24. "become" - に なります

To show the state of becoming... something, use ~に なります ni narimasu.

The ni is placed after what something is becoming (or became, or might become... depending on the conjugation used, as the examples illustrate below).

The narimasu means to become. Nouns and -na adjectives use ni narimasu. -i adjectives are different, but for now there are enough useful nouns to look at:

  • 夜 に なりました
  • yoru ni narimashita.*
  • It has become night.

* ~mashita shows past

  • 友達 に なりましょう
  • tomodachi ni narimashou.*
  • Let's become friends.

* the ~mashou means "let's"

  • げんき に なりました
  • genki ni narimashita.
  • (I) have become fine / healthy.

Also も

mo means "also" or "too" and like other particles, it is placed after the word it modifies. Let's see some examples:

PERSON A: 私 は ねこ が すき。
            watashi wa neko ga suki.
             I like cats.

PERSON B: 私 は ねこ が すき、そして いぬ  すき。
            watashi wa neko ga suki, soshite inu mo suki.
             I like cats, and I also like dogs.
                [to review soshite; the mo after inu replaces ga.  You can't say "ga mo"]

PERSON C: 私  ねこ と いぬ が すき。
            watashi mo neko to inu ga suki.
            I also like cats and dogs.


NOTE: 私も watashi mo by itself means "Me too."

Chapter 3

  1. Making the て form
  2. "to do, play" - する・します
  3. "more, ~er" - もっと
  4. "can" - できる
  5. "~ing" - ている
  6. "for example" - たとえば
  7. "this" - これ・この
  8. "that" - それ・その
  9. "that over there" - あれ・あの
  10. "must do" - なければなりません
  11. "better do..." - ほうがいい
  12. "better/worse than" - のほうが〜より

Making the て form

If you know how to make this form, you can do a lot!  Later we will look at other grammar points that are based on the te form.  By itself the te form makes a verb a request (or demand) 

1. のむ nomu (to drink) Arrow Image のん nonde (drink)
2. たべる taberu (to eat) Arrow Imageたべtabete (eat)
3. する suru (to do) Arrow Image shite (do)

These are the ways to make the te form for each of the 3 types of verbs.  If you are new to the "types of verbs" thing, don't worry. 

Now I know there are many grammarians out there that would argue against what I am about to say, but here's my advice.  Don't worry about learning all the confusing rules about how to make this verb do that (just yet).  Just say it as you feel it should be.  Of course you will make many mistakes, but if you keep your ears open and learn from your mistakes you will get a feel for how the verbs work. 

Take the te form for an example.  If you memorize the 3 examples at the top you should be able to guess what other verbs may change to.  Or even if you guess wrong, the correct form should be at least familiar to you.

To do, play する・します

Suru is a very useful verb thingy.  It is used where no other verb dares to go! (Foreign words, nouns, and other scary things...) Think of it as "to do..."
ジョギング する jogingu suru - to (do) jogging
ショッピング する shoppingu suru - to (do) shopping
サイン する sain suru - to sign (autograph) 



勉強 する benkyou suru - to study
毎日、 日本語 を 勉強 します
mainichi, nihongo o benkyou shimasu.
Everyday, (I) am studying Japanese.

The を o is the direct object marker.  You will notice it moves around sometimes.  Don't worry about this now, just concentrate on suru.


Another usage of する -or- します is "to play" as in sports or games

野球 を する yakyuu o suru. To play baseball.
相撲 を する sumou o suru. To play (do) Sumo. 
バスケットバール を する basuketto ba-ru o suru. To play basketball. 
将棋 を するshougi o suru. To play shogi (Japanese chess)

more, ~er もっと

One easy way to say "MORE" or "-er" is to add a もっと motto before the thing you want to emphasis. This is one of the rare times that the word order is the same with English - or at least with the more part! Relish the moment (while you can

{ motto ~ = more ~ }

bullet もっと ピーマン を 食べなさい。 motto pi-man o tabenasai. Eat more green peppers. 
[~nasai is like the te form in that it gives commands, but it is stronger. ]



{ motto ~ =  ~er }

bullet もっと 早く 言って 下さい。 motto hayaku itte kudasai. (Next time) please say (it) a little earlier
[Useful when someone tells you NOT to cut the yellow wire of the bomb after you have done that...]

Can できます

There are a couple of ways to say "I can..." in Japanese.  The easiest is できます dekimasu.  Let's look at how to form some sentences. 

CAN + NOUN [できます]


日本語 が できます。 nihongo ga dekimasu.
I can (speak) Japanese. [I can do Japanese.]


漢字 が できます。 kanji ga dekimasu.
I can (read/write) kanji. [I can do kanji.]


スカイダイビング が できます。 sukaidaibingu ga dekimasu.
I can skydive.

CAN + VERB [こと が できます]

Actually, the above are all shortened versions without the verb.  Let's add the verb.  koto means thing, but here it is used to make a verb a noun so it will work with dekimasu.


日本語 を 話す こと が できます。 nihongo o hanasu koto ga dekimasu.
I can speak Japanese.


漢字 を 読む こと が できます。 kanji o yomu koto ga dekimasu.
I can read kanji. 

Be creative and come up with things you can do!


30. "~ing" - ている

This is a very important grammar point. It corresponds to the English "~ing" form

  • form + います or いる
  • たべます → 食べて います
  • eat → eating (now)

Use this to describe things happening now.

  • 今 あなた に 話して います。
  • ima anata ni hanashite imasu.
  • I am talking to you now.
  • 今 ごはん を 食べて います。
  • ima gohan o tabete imasu.
  • I am eating rice (food) now.
  • 今 スカイダイビング を して います。
  • ima sukaidaibingu o shite imasu.
  • I am skydiving now.

To make a question just add か to the end. (See here for more on using か for asking questions.)

  • あなた は 勉強 して います か?
  • anata wa benkyou shite imasu ka?
  • Are you studying?

For example たとえば

Anytime you want to make an illustration or give an example this is the phrase to use.

私 は 和食 が 好き です。
watashi wa washoku ga suki desu.
I like Japanese style food.

たとえば、ごはん と  みそ汁。
tatoeba, gohan to misoshiru .
For example, rice and miso soup .


You can also ask someone this to get more concrete information.

たとえば、 何?
tatoeba, nani?
For example, what?


This これ・この

This and that. Actually Japanese also has one more.  They also have "that over there" - but we will get at that later.

There are 2 words in Japanese that are translated as "this" in English:

これ kore - When "this" is not connected to a noun - hang on you will get it in a minute

これ は 何 です か?
kore wa nan desu ka?
What is this?

これ は ねこ です。
kore wa neko desu.
This is a cat.

To say "This is" or "is this" the kore will probably be followed by a

この kono - When you put "this" before a noun, it changes to kono

この ねこ は ポチ です か?
kono neko wa pochi desu ka?
Is this cat, Pochi?.

いいえ。 この 犬 は ポチ です。
iie kono inu wa pochi desu.
No. This dog is Pochi.

It may seem strange at first, but after a while This and That become second nature!

That それ・その

This and that. Now we are on the THAT part.  So this THAT refers to objects near the listener (not the speaker)

それ sore - when "that" is not connected to a noun

それ は 何 です か?
sore wa nan desu ka?
What is that?

それ は ねこ です。
sore wa neko desu.
That is a cat.

Begin to think of the words starting with K's as "this" and the S's as "that" words  

その sono - When you put "that" before a noun, it changes to sono

その ねこ は ポチ です か?
sono neko wa pochi desu ka?
Is that cat, Pochi?.

いいえ。 その たこ は ポチ です。
iie sono tako wa pochi desu.
No. That octopus is Pochi.

This is used in the same way as kono

That over there あれ・あの

This and that. Now we are on the THAT OVER THERE part.  So this THAT refers to objects not near the listener or the speaker.

あれ are - when "that" is not connected to a noun

あれ は 何 です か?
are wa nan desu ka?
What is that over there?

あれ は ねこ です。
are wa neko desu.
That over there is a cat.

And now recognize A's mean That over there    


あの ano - When you put "that" before a noun, it changes to ano

あの ねこ は ポチ です か?
ano neko wa pochi desu ka?
Is that cat over there, Pochi?.

いいえ。 あの くじら は ポチ です。
iie ano kujira wa pochi desu.
No. That whale over there is Pochi.

Again they ALL are used in the same way.

Must do なければなりません

This is a mouthful!  But it is so useful. Learn it well

TO MAKE IT:  plain negative form - i +  ければ なりません kereba narimasen

ピーマン を 食べなければ なりません。 
[Would be 食べなfor the plain negative form ]
pi-man o tabenakereba narimasen.
(I) must eat green peppers.  (Many Japanese children don't like green peppers)

Say that 5 times fast with your mouth full!

Perhaps the most useful usage is:

~しなければ なりません
The shi is from suru (to do)

勉強 しなければ なりません
benkyou shinakereba narimasen.
(I) must (have to) study.

しなければ なりません
shinakereba narimasen.
(I) must (have to) do (it).

た ほうがいい

When giving advice this is useful.  

CONSTRUCTION: ta form (#3) + ほう が いい hou ga ii

休んだ ほう が いい
yasunda hou ga ii.
It would be better to rest.

聞いた ほう が いい
kiita hou ga ii.
It would be better to ask (someone).

NOTE: The ta form is the same as the past tense. (But obviously it is not past here)

better / worse than より、のほうが

This has the same hou ga ii  as the previous entry.  But here we using it to compare things.  Also we will introduce yori (less than).

~の ほう が いい ~no hou ga ii (more than)
~より ~yori (less than)

This is a little confusing if you think too much on this! But I suggest memorizing one or two examples and then you should be able to keep it straight.

わたし は いぬ より、 ねこ の ほう が 好き。
watashi wa inu yori, neko no hou ga suki.
I like dogs less than cats. (I like cats more than dogs.)

You should spend some time studying the above example to understand how the ordering works.

Notice in English we use either "less than" or "more than" and the meaning is understood by the order of "dogs" and "cats" BUT in Japanese this is also ok:

わたし は ねこ の ほう が 、いぬ より 好き。
watashi wa neko no hou ga inu, yori suki.

Chapter 4

  1. "how..." - どう
  2. "isn't it?" - でしょう
  3. "said" - といいました
  4. Negative verbs
  5. Negative adjectives
  6. "plan to" - 予定、つもり
  7. Punctuation 。、「」
  8. "should/must" - はず
  9. "because" part 2 - ので
  10. "although" - のに
  11. Using 何
  12. "easy to..." - やすい
  13. "hard to..." - にくい

How... どう

Here is a very useful question word -- どう dou -- Let's look at ways of using dou.

どう です か? dou desu ka?  How is (it)? [Use this for asking about food, or anything that is being done now]

どう でした か? dou deshita ka? How was (it)? [Use this to find out about past experiences - movie, last night's date, molded pizza you just ate...]


どうやって? dou yatte? How do you do it? [Ask this when you are not sure how to do something] 

どう しました か? dou shimashita ka? What happened? [Ask this if someone looks sad or something has happened]

どうしよう dou shiyou What shall (I or we) do? [This is often used when you can't make a decision and want help... doushiyou, ne!]

どう する の?dou suru no? What will you do? [When you want to encourage someone to make a decision -- Well, what will you do?]

Isn't it? でしょう

If you want to state your opinion and then encourage someone to agree, use deshou

firipin wa atsui deshou? 
The Philippines is hot, isn't it?
[You are expecting a 'yes' answer]

itai deshou?
It hurts, doesn't it?
[You see someone who has just slammed their head in the low doorway]  

But usually でしょう is used to mean 'probably':

Ame ga furu deshou ne. 
It will probably rain, don't you think?

And another common usage is どうでしょう meaning 'how about...' or 'what do you think about'

udon wa dou deshou? 
How about some Udon?

said といいました

Meet the wonderful ' to.' Mr. can act as a quotation marker ("). Don't confuse this with the that means 'and.' Very often if you are quoting someone or some source. This is best shown with examples:

ore wa su-paman to iimashita.
He said, "I am Superman."

ano e wa juu seiki ni tsukutta to kaite arimasu.
The book says (it is written) that this painting was made in the 10th century.

It can also be used to mark sound effects of things or animals:

ano inu wa 'wan' to iimashita.
That dog barked, "bark"

There are many other usages for 'to.' Paying attention to each usage will help you get a good grasp.

Negative adjectives

we say `not red` to show an absence of that color in English. In Japanese as with the verbs, the adjective`s ending is modified with a negative ending. You will notice a great similarity with the verbal endings.

With `i` adjectives the `i` changes to a `ku` before adding the `nai`...
sono ringo wa akakunai. That apple isn`t red.

`na` adjectives simply drop the `na` (which is really only used before nouns) and add `ja nai` or `ja arimasen` (or dewa nai & dewa arimasen)...
watashi wa kirei ja nai. I am not pretty.

To learn more about adjectives click here.

Negative verbs

It isn't a sin to be negative. Interesting I should say that... 'sin' sounds like 'sen' which marks the negative in Japanese in the -masu form. (Ok, so I set that one up...)

話せます hanasemasu - can speak becomes...

watashi wa nihongo ga hanasemasen.
(I) can`t speak Japanese.

分かります wakarimasu - understand becomes...

watashi wa eigoga wakarimasen.
(I) don`t understand English.

If you can make the -masu form, just drop the す and add the せん。

You may have noticed there are no `no` words needed to make a negative like in English. You simply modify the verb`s ending.

To make the negative in the plain, or simple, form by taking the basic stem and adding ない to it.

With the `ru` verbs you simply drop the る and add ない as in 忘れ wasureru (to forget)...

nihongo o wasurenai.
(I) don`t forget Japanese.

And for the `u` verbs we change the ending `u` sound to a `a` sound as in 書く kaku -> 書か...

tegami o kakanai.
(I) don`t write letters.

Finally we come to する and the other irregular verbs.

する is しない in the simple form and しません in the polite form

sukaidaibingu o shimasen.
(I) don`t do sky diving.

And 来る kuru is 来ない konai and 来ません kimasen in the formal...

gojira ga konai.
Godzilla doesn`t come.

To review the 3 types of verbs click here.

Plan to 予定、つもり

If you plan on speaking Japanese these two words are very useful.予定 yotei and つもり tsumori

予定 yotei and つもり are very similar in meaning and usage. 予定 conveys more of a `schedule` feel whereas つもり is more of a `conviction of doing something. All you have to do is to stick either on the end of a verb (simple form)...

To add つもり or 予定 to any verb just find the simple form...

nihon ni iku tsumori (or yotei) desu.
I intend to go to Japan.
[if you use tsumori, you `intend` to go one way or another; if you use yotei you already have a hard schedule set to leave at a certain time.]

Here is how you add it to a する verb

anata to kekkon suru tsumori (or yotei) desu.
I intend to marry you.

You can also use it with nouns by sticking a の before the tsumori and after adjectives. But for now concentrate on the verb usage.

Punctuation 。、「」

Punctuation is in many ways similar to English. You have a comma, called a てん and a period at the end of a sentence called a まる.

Let`s quickly go over some common Punctuation thingies:

the まる acts just like our period by ending the sentence. It looks like a ball - maru

the てん acts like a comma. This is often found after は as in わたしは、あなたが好きです。 (I, like you)
「 and 」
These brackets hold quotations and work like our "" marks

Should/Must はず

You should know はず. It is easy and useful, therefore you have no excuse :)

Hazu shows an expectation that something should happen. In other words, you are pretty sure something is true. Let`s see how it works...

To add はず to any adjective just add it...

sono kaban wa, takai hazu desu.
That bag must be expensive.
[It is expected to be expensive]

Just add it to the simple form of any verb

anata wa, gojira o shitteiru hazu desu.
You should/must know Godzilla.

Because II ので

We have looked at some 'becauses' that mainly act as a preposition. ので comes at the end of the phrase.

In English we start the phrase with `because`; in Japanese you often say the reason first and then the because...

Just add it after an adjective...

sono kaban wa takai node, zutto tsukau tsumori desu.
Since that bag was expensive, I plan on using it for a long time.

Just add it to the simple form of any verb

gojira ga kuru node, toukyou wa kowai tokoro desu.
Since Godzilla comes, Tokyo is a scary place.

After a noun or a -na adjective add a NA before NODE...
watashi wa mada gakusei na node, okane ga nai .
Because I am still a student, I don`t have any money.

Although のに

A close cousin to ので (above), is のに. It is often used to show disappointment in the current situation.

Just add it after an adjective...
isshou kenmei benkyou shita noni, tesuto o ochita.
Even though I studied really hard, I flunked the test.

Using 何

This is a very useful add-on.

Use it as a counter:


nan nin
how many people
来るのは何人ですか?kuru no wa nan nin desu ka? - How many people are coming?
何年 nan nen
how many years
何年アメリカに住んでいましたか? nan nen amerika ni sunde imashita ka? - How many years did you live in America?
何番 nan ban
what number
次は何番ですか? tsugi wa nan ban desu ka? - What is the next number?
何度 nan do
what`s the temperature
温度は何度ですか? ondo wa nando desu ka? - What is the temperature at?
何曜日 nan you bi
what day of the week
今日は何曜日ですか? kyou wa nan youbi desu ka? - What is the day of the week?
何日 nan nichi
which day
パーティーは何日? pa-ti wa nan nichi? - What day is the party?
何個 nan ko
how many pieces
ジェリービーンを何個ほしいですか? jeri-bi-n o nanko hoshii desu ka? - How many jelly beans do you want?

And the following are a few of the adverbial usages of 何

何か nani ka
何か飲みたい。 nanika nomitai - I want something to drink
何でも nan demo
anything, whatever
何でもいいです。 nandemo ii desu. - Anything is fine.
何と nan to
何とすばらしい日。 nan to subarashii hi. - What a wonderful day!
何のため nan no tame
what for
ここに来たのは、何のためですか? koko ni kita no wa nan no tame desu ka? - Why did you come here?
何となく nantonaku
somehow, in some way
何となく分かる。 nantonaku wakaru. - I somehow understand.

Easy to... ~やすい

It's easy to add "easy to" to verbs!  Consider the following verbs in the masu form:

たべ ます tabe masu [to eat] Arrow たべ やすい tabe yasui [easy to eat]

Did you see that?  If you know the -masu form of the verb, you can easily drop the -masu and add a yasui.  

わかり ます wakari masu [to understand] Arrow わかり やすい wakari yasui [easy to understand]

Hard to... ~にくい

If "easy to" is easy to use (see above) then you would think that "hard to" would be hard to use.  Well, they had to go and make it easy as well.  Usage is the same as -yasui (easy to)

たべ ます tabe masu [to eat] Arrow たべ にくい tabe nikui [hard to eat]

 If you know the -masu form of the verb, you can easily drop the -masu and add a nikui.  

わかり ます wakari masu [to understand] Arrow わかり にくい wakari nikui [hard to understand]

Chapter 5

  1. "looks like" - 〜みたい
  2. "I've heard" - 〜そう
  3. "like, as..." - 〜ように
  4. "like, as if" - らしい
  5. "let's..." - しましょう
  6. "won't you...?" - 〜ませんか
  7. Power ender "ね"
  8. "when, that time" - とき
  9. Using こと・もの
  10. "situation, case" - 場合
  11. "etc... and..." - など、とか
  12. "about" - くらい・ぐらい

Looks like ~みたい

Looks like
we made it - as Barry Manilow would say - at least we made it half way!

台風が 来る みたい。taifuu
ga kuru mitai. It looks
like a hurricane. [This could mean
you are looking at storm clouds, OR someone told you a hurricane is coming
and you are reporting that possibility]

And just stick it after a noun

この 景色は 夢 みたい。
kono keshiki wa yume mitai.
This scenery looks like
a dream. [Useful if visiting Mt. Fuji - or, alternatively, if you have
bad dreams, a garbage heap...]
あの 人は 日本人 みたい。
ano hito WA nihonjin mitai.
That person looks like
he's [or she's] Japanese.

There is another usage of -mitai where it can mean 'try and see' when added
to the て form of a verb:
やってみたい yatte mitai - I'll give
it a shot.
食べてみたい tabete mitai - I'll taste
and see.
That is a bit different from the above, but it is also very useful!

I've heard ~そう

While みたい can convey info you have heard as well as what you see, ~そう is mainly used for info that originated elsewhere. - I heard...

1) simple verb + ~sou + desu/da

ゆきちゃんは 肉を 食べない そう だ。
yuki chan WA niku o tabenai sou DA
I heard Yuki doesn't eat meat.

2) -i adjective + ~sou + desu/DA

田中さんの新しいパソコンは とても 高い そう です。
tanaka san no atarashii pasokon wa totemo takai sou desu.
I heard Tanaka's new computer is very expensive. [This info could have come from Tanaka himself, or someone else]

Like, as... ~ように

Here is a useful tag which means 'just as...' or 'like this...'

1) simple verb + ~you ni

私が言う ように して。
watashi ga iu you ni shite.

Do as I say.

2) noun + ~ no you ni

あなた は 熊のプーさん のように かわいい です。
anata wa kuma no pu-san no you ni kawaii desu.

You are as cute as Winnie the Pooh

like, as if, apparently らしい

This is similar to ~sou where the speaker is repeating info heard from another source. The only difference may be ~rashii may be based on more reliable information.

1) simple verb + ~rashii

山田さん は 帰った らしい です。
yamada san wa kaetta rashii desu.
It sounds like Mr. Yamada has come home.

2) noun + ~rashii

There are a few nouns with rashii that you can remember as a word in itself. This meaning is slighly different from the above verb construction. Instead of meaning info heard elsewhere, when added to a noun it means the speaker thinks something looks like something. Here are a few:

男らしい otokorashii - manly (like a man)
女らしい onnarashii - girly (but perhaps 女っぽい onnappoi is used more)
犬らしい inurashii - like a dog (substitute any animal here. This is useful when you see an animal at night and are not sure what it is, but it looks like...)
アメリカらしい amerikarashii - American-ish (substitute any country)

Another similar construction with nouns is ~ppoi - as seen above with onnappoi. When added to nouns to mean 'looks like...' ~ppoi is the same as ~rashii

Let's... ~しましょう

Maybe this should be bumped up since it is so useful. Let`s start...

1) ~masu verb - masu + mashou

Here are a few quick and useful examples:


Let's go.



sensei to hanashimashou.

Let's talk to the teacher.

nihongo o benkyou shimashou.
Let's study Japanese.

This example uses suru. Another example would be:

スカイダイビングしましょう sukai daibingu shimashou. Let's go sky diving.

This construction is very easy if you know the masu (formal) form of the verb. If you are a beginner, you probably want to stick with the ~masu form anyway.

Won't you...? ~ませんか?

Why don't we study Japanese grammar?

ok. Since we have the above construction (using a negative to suggest doing something) in English, this grammar point isn't too difficult to grasp.

1) ~masu verb - masu + masen ka

dokoka ikimasen ka.
Why don't we go already?
[notice I have the English as 'we.' It could be 'you' if you are angry at the person and wish him to leave...]

eiga o mimasen ka .
Why don't we see a movie.

nanika nomimasen ka.
Wouldn't you like to drink something?
[In this case you are asking someone individually if they would like something to drink. ]

Power ender "ね"

This is used at the end of a sentence and contains a variety of meanings. We will look at it as a question tag.

As a question tag: don't you... isn't it...

あなたはにんじんが嫌いです anata wa ninjin ga kirai desu ne. You don't like carrots, don't you?

その映画はとてもいい映画だった sono eiga wa totemo ii eiga datta ne. Don't you think that was a good movie?

今日は暑いです kyou wa atsui desu ne. Today is very hot, isn't it?

If you want to use ne as a question tag, it helps to nod your head, or change the inflection to let the listener know you would like a response. It is usually used when the speaker feels fairly certain his listeners agree with what was said.

A very useful phrase for whenever something good happens is:

いい ii ne. Isn't that great!

When, that time とき

If you don't know when to say something, you will never say it!

Using とき toki - at the time when...

With a noun add a の

[Looking at a photo]
私は 学生 の ときには とても 若かったね。

watashi wa gakusei no toki ni wa totemo wakakatta ne. [looking at a photo] When I was a student, I was very young, wasn't I?

And with verbs...

simple past
フロリダに 行った ときに これを 買いました。
furorida ni itta toki ni kore wo kaimashita. When I went to Florida, I bought this.

フロリダに 行く ときは おみやげを 買います。
furorida ni iku toki wa omiyage wo kaimasu. When I go to Florida, I will buy souvenirs.

寝る とき いつも 布団で 寝ます。
neru toki itsumo futon de nemasu. When I sleep, I always sleep on a futon.

For more information on time related words, click here

Using こと、もの

This is how you say 'thing'

Koto - intangible things

ii koto wa arimasen.

There isn't anything good.

daiji na koto o oshiemasu.

I will tell you an important thing.

kinou no koto wa sumimasen deshita.

I am sorry about what happened yesterday. (yesterday's thing)

Mono - tangible things

sono kuroi mono wa neko kanaa.

I wonder if that black thing is a cat?

oishii mono ga tabetai.
I want to eat
something good.

One useful phrase using koto is:

dou iu koto?
What is the meaning of this?

This phrase is used whenever the listener isn't sure of the motive of the speaker.

situation, case 場合

This is one that should be learned by useful examples

hijou no ba ai wa botan o oshite kudasai.

In case of emergency push the button.

sono ba ai wa dou sureba ii?
In that situation, what should I do?

tesuto ga atta ba ai, watashi wa byouki ni narimasu.
Should a test be given , I will get sick.

Etc... and... など、とか

Sometimes you have to say more than one thing. Whoever invented 'etc.' was a genius. Let's see how to do this in Japanese...

First a few ways to list multiple items:

や ya - and, and so forth

pi-man ya hourensou ga kirai desu.
I don't like green peppers, spinach and the like.


とか toka - or, and, and so forth

kuma no pu-san toka doraemon toka kiti chan ga suki desu.
I like things like Winnie the Pooh and Doraemon and Hello Kitty.


And now for nado to wrap things up.

tabemono no naka dewa piza toka furaido poteto nado ga suki desu.

As for foods, I like things like pizza or french fries.

About くらい or ぐらい

About how much? About how many?

Sometimes the く turns into a ぐ probably after harder consonants.

okyakusama wa dono kurai kimashita ka?
About how many customers came?

eeto, hyaku nin kurai kimashita.
Let me see, About 100 people.

You can use this with time:

hachi ji gurai
about 8 O'clock

Or counting anything:
2匹くらい ni hiki kurai - about 2 (animals)
10冊ぐらい juu satsu gurai - about 10 books

Chapter 6

  1. "how about ...?" - どう
  2. しまった・ちゃった
  3. "please do..." - 〜てください
  4. "please give me..." - をください
  5. on, in, above, behind...
  6. "why don't we...?" - 〜ませんか
  7. Closer look at を
  8. Closer look at に
  9. Closer look at で
  10. Closer look at が
  11. "if" II - たら
  12. "soft ender" II - ちょっと
  13. The power ender "よ"

How about ...? どう

To ask the state of something (how something is doing) use the useful dou (desu ka).

You can used it with or without the final 'desu ka' in conversation.

saikin wa dou desu ka?

How's it going recently?

ko-hi- wa dou?

the coffee?
or it could mean How about some coffee?

tenki yohou wa dou?

the weather forecast looking?

Of course when the context is understood you can simply say, 'dou' (Like returning from a doctor's appointment, or after your friend gets off an important phone call)


This literally means 'to complete, finish' but can (and usually does) involve a regret over having done something. Also it can be used sarcastically to mean the speaker really wanted to do something, but gives a halfhearted apology. For example, 最後のクーキーを食べてしまった。 I unfortunately ate the last cookie. Of course there really wasn't anything unfortunate about it.

The construction is usually after the ~te form of any verb

zenbu no okane o tsukatte shimaimashita.

I spent all my money.

watashi wa kanzen ni nihongo o wasurete shimatta.

Unfortunately, I have completely forgotten Japanese.

Another very useful variation is ~chatta. This is informal and is used by both male and female speakers. chau is made by combining te shimau -> chau

shiken ni ochichatta.

I flunked the test unfortunately.

or in the present tense

ke-ki o zenbu tabechau.

I will eat all the cake.

An important point by Mukade in the forums:
In the Kansai area, the use of ちゃった is limited to female speakers.

I learned both in the classroom, of course, since they are standard dialect. But when I moved here to Osaka, people started asking me if I was gay, since I kept using ちゃった all the time.

If I could help prevent someone else from having to go through the same "hard knocks" learning process that I did, it would make me very happy.

So be careful if you are in the Kansai area! But in most areas it should be fine.

Please do... ~てください

Here's how you boss people around. Well, in a nice way...

add kudasai (please) after the ~te form of any verb

yukkuri hanashite kudasai.

speak slowly.

motto otona rashiku shite kudasai.

act more grown-up.

koko de migi ni magatte kudasai.

turn right here.

Please give me... ~をください

Another use for kudasai is "please give me..."

sono hon o kudasai.

give me that book.

go hyaku en o kudasai.

give me 500 yen.

In spoken Japanese, the 'o' is usually dropped.

On, In, Above, Behind

A good knowledge of position particles will help glue everything together. にni - on
本があります。 tsukue ni hon ga arimasu. There is a book on the desk.

のうえに no ue ni - on top of
のうえに本があります。 tsukue no ue ni hon ga arimasu. There is a book on (top of) the desk.

のしたに no shita ni - under...
のしたに本があります。 tsukue no shita ni hon ga arimasu. There is a book under the desk.

の後ろに no ushiro ni - behind...
の後ろに本があります。 tsukue no ushiro ni hon ga arimasu. There is a book behind the desk.

Why don't we...? ~ませんか?

Why don't we study a little more?

dokoka de tabemasen ka?

Why don't we
eat somewhere.

nanika nomimasen ka?

Would you like
something to drink. or Why don't we have a drink.

The context decides if the meaning should be 'why don't WE' or 'Would YOU.'

A Closer look at を

Pronounced o but written in Japanese as wo. Simply put, を is the 'direct object marker or particle' which indicates the previous word is the direct object. There are cases when the English would not consider it a direct object, though. Learn some examples and give it a try. This particle is one of the easier ones...

watashi wa ringo o tabemashita.
I ate an apple. (apple is the を)

o kikitai desu.
I want to listen to music. (music is the を)

o kau tsumori desu .
I intend to buy a TV. (tsumori means'intend to'; TV is the を)

A Closer look at に

In most cases the particle へ can be used interchangeably with に. But に has a wider application so for now just stick with に

Showing movement toward... Like 'to'

ni ikitai.
I want to go to Japan. (direction TO Japan)

ni ikitai desu ka.
Where do you want to go?

Meaning 'on' or 'in'

ni e o kakimashita.
I drew a picture on a piece of paper.

In time - 'at'

roku ji
ni aimashou.
Let's meet at 6.

A Closer look at で

This is used mainly for location.

Used for location of where something happens

de boushi o kaimashita.
I bought a hat at the Department store.

de nani o shimashita ka.
In Japan, what did you do?

Observe the difference between に and で:

ni ikitai.
I want to go to McDonalds.

de tabetai.
I want to eat at McDonalds.

A Closer look at が

This is the 'subject marker / particle'.

ga futteimasu.
It's raining.

There is a subtile difference between WA and GA and I don't pretend to try to completely explain it. Years from now, you will still make WA/GA mistakes. Still, in general you can say WA is the main TOPIC and GA is the more specific SUBJECT at hand. In the above example we say it is raining. The topic isn't about rain. We are simply stating the circumstances at the moment and the subject of that particular sentence is rain. If we were to talk all about rain, we would probably start with WA as in:

wa sora kara futte kuru mizu desu.
As for rain, it is water that falls from the sky. (You may go on to say more about the overall topic of rain.)

Used with SUKI

watashi wa neko
ga suki.
I like cats.

Question words always use GA

ga oishii?
What tastes good?

ga kimashita?
Who came?

ga ichi ban ii tokoro desu ka?
Where is the best place?

If II たら

A while back we found もし as the word that means 'if'. たら is added to the end of verbs to give the meaning of 'if this is done, then this will happen'

It is formed by finding the simple past form and adding a ら

anata ga kitara
kare wa kaeru
If you are coming, he will go home.

The simple past form of 来る is 来た.The 2nd phrase is conditional on the たら phrase.

gojira ni at
tara doushiyou.
What should I do if I meet Godzilla?

You can also use it with nouns by using the simple past form of desu: だった

okanemochi da
tara ookina ie ga kaeru noni.
If only I were rich, I could buy a large house.

Softener ちょっと

Many years ago I found an example in a book of how Japanese can be direct or politely indirect. For example you can say:

1) こい! koi


2) あのう、すみません、たいへん恐れいれますが、ちょっとこちらへいらっしゃってくださいませんでしょうか?

both mean 'come here' but #2 is much more polite being cushioned by many soft, indirect words. One of these words is ちょっと.

ちょっと means 'little' or 'small amount' but it is often used to soften an otherwise painful 'no' or 'your request is impossible; live with it'

muzukashi desu ga.
That's a little difficult. (this may be said when the request is impossible)

dekinai desu.
It can't be done.

wakaranai desu.
I'm not really sure.

I have been told the sound 'chotto' is a bad word in Korean. If that is the case, chotto may not be that soft of a word...


The power ender "よ"

When you want to impress upon your listener the importance or truth of what you are saying stick a よ at the end of the sentence.

本当です hontou desu yo. It's the truth, I tell ya! (Perhaps the speaker suspects the listener doesn't believe what he just said)


フロリダの12月は暑いですか? fururida no 12 gatsu wa atsui desu ka? Is December in Florida is pretty hot?

結構 寒いです kekkou samui desu yo. Actually, it is pretty cold.


It is very useful for rumors or explaining a truth you know someone may not swallow at first:

鈴木さんは宇宙人です suzuki san wa uchuujin desu yo. Suzuki is an alien, you know.

Chapter 7

  1. The non-but "even if" - でも・ても
  2. "the best, ~est" - いちばん
  3. "about..." - について
  4. "can't, not allowed" - いけません
  5. Easy kanji prefixes
  6. Easy counters
  7. The Explanatory んです
  8. の as a pronoun
  9. "how to..." - 〜かた
  10. "please don't" - 〜ないでください
  11. "have done..." - ことがあります
  12. "to decide to have..." - にします

The non-but でも/ても Even if、although

We have studied も which means 'also'. When added after the て form of a verb or adjective it brings on the meaning of 'even if'. Let's investigate:

joudan wo ittemo, kare wa waraimasen.
Even if
you tell a joke, he won't laugh.

And an adjective:

tsumetakutemo taberaremasu.

Even if
it is cold, I can eat it.

And just stick it after a noun

su-paman demo sonna koto wa dekinai yo.

Even Superman can't do that!

The best, -est いちばん

While it means #1, it is also used as a superlative- most or -est

tabemono no naka wa nani ga ichiban
suki desu ka?
Out of all foods, what do you like the best?

fujisan wa sekai de ichiban takai yama ja nai.
Mt. Fuji isn't the tallest mountain in the world.

About... ~について

This is added to mean 'this sentence is ABOUT the previous word'. Simply stick it after the noun you want to talk about.

bangumi ni tsuite
no oshirase desu.
This is an annoucement about the program (TV for example).

ano eiga ni tsuite dou omou?

What do you think about that movie?

Can't, not allowed いけません/いけない

This is how to say something is forbidden to do. Perhaps easiest way to us this is to stick it after the て form of a verb and は (wa - topic particle).

shiranai hito to hanashite wa ikemasen.

Don't speak to strangers.

Often in casual speech, the ては becomes ちゃ (or じゃ) as in:

sono eiga o micha ikemasen yo.
You are not allowed to watch this movie - or You shouldn't watch this movie.

You can also use だめ for a similar effect: 私の本を読んじゃだめ。watashi no hon o yonja dame. You can't read my book!

Easy kanji prefixes

There are a number of fairly easy kanji that will help dramatically increase your vocabulary. These kanji have specific meanings that when added to other kanji or words, it changes the whole meaning in a logical way.

大 - dai, oo - big

to like
dai suki
to really like, love
to dislike
to really dislike, hate
ji shin
dai jishin
a huge earthquake
oo ame
heavy rain

Another similar word is: 小 (small)

毎- mai - every (attached to time words)

mai asa
every morning
mai toshi
every year

mai ban
every evening

会- kai - to meet (a suffix)

ongaku kai
un dou
exercise, sports
undou kai
athletic meet

Easy Counters

In English, we just take a number (1,2,3...) add a noun and an "s" to count items. But in Japanese different types of objects have different counters. Plus some numbers change pronunciation slightly when added with their counter. Don't worry too much about the pronunciation changes since you will be understood. And even if you mess up and count with the wrong counter, you should be understood, but just a tip... don't count people with "pikki" (used with animals!)

First, there are 2 ways to count numbers - the 'native' and the 'Chinese' way. Actually the 'native' counting system only goes up to 10 and is pretty much only used for counting up to two people and for counting general things. If you are feeling lazy, just learn the "Chinese" numbers for now.

If you haven't studied numbers yet, go to this page to learn all about them before proceeding: How to Count

Here is a quick review::


一つ ひとつ
二つ ふたつ
三つ みっつ
四つ よっつ
五つ いつつ
六つ むっつ
七つ ななつ
八つ やっつ
九つ ここのつ
十 と


一 いち
二 に
三 さん
四 し、よん
五 ご
六 ろく
七 しち、なな
八 はち
九 きゅう、く
十 じゅう

Note the two red alternate readings on the "Chinese" side. These are pronunciations based on the "native" readings but are often used in conjunction when counting other "Chinese" numbers.

Ok, now for counters.

Let's go through some common counters one by one and then I will give a list of many other counters:

Counter: nin | Usage: people [pay attention to the red lines.]
一人 (ひとり) 1 person [irregular]
二人 (ふたり) 2 people [irregular]

三人 (さん にん) 3 people [now we simply add the Chinese numbers to にん]
四人 (よ にん) [し にん is NOT used. Probably because し means death... Also notice the dropped ん from よん; hihlordjp from the discussion forums on this site brought up an interesting but obscure (I think) pronunciation - よったり or よたり. It is in the dictionaries although I had never heard it. ]
五人 (ご にん)
六人 (ろく にん)
七人 (しち にん OR なな にん) [It seems しちにん is used more often, but ななにん is also used]
八人 (はち にん)
九人 (きゅう にん or く にん)
十人 (じゅう にん)
十一人  (じゅう いち にん) etc...

Counter: hiki | Usage: most animals
一匹 (いっぴき) [notice the H changes to a P]
二匹 (にひき)
三匹 (さん びき) [notice the H changes to a B this time.]
四匹 (よんひき)
五匹 (ごひき)
六匹 (ろっぴき) [notice the H changes to a P AND the く becomes a small っ]
七匹 (なな ひき or しち ひき) [probably ななひき is most used]
八匹 (はっぴき or はち ひき)
九匹 (きゅう ひき)
十匹 (じゅっぴき) [notice the small っ - this occurs when there is a soft sound after like H]

Counter: hon | Usage: long, slender objects like pencils, bottles, arms...
一本 (いっぽん)
二本 (に ほん)
三本 (さん ぼん)
四本 (よん ほん)
五本 (ご ほん)
六本 (ろっぽん)
七本 (なな ほん)
八本 (はっぽん or はち ほん)
九本 (きゅう ほん)
十本 (じゅっぽん)

Other Counters:

books and magazines
cups of liquids, drinks
sheets of paper; flat objects

一冊 (いっさつ) one book
二冊 (に さつ)
三冊 (さん さつ)
四冊 (よん さつ)
五冊 (ご さつ)
六冊 (ろく さつ)
七冊 (なな さつ or しち さつ)
八冊 (はち さつ or はっさつ)
九冊 (きゅう さつ)
十冊 (じゅっさつ or じっさつ*

一分 (いっぷん) one minute
二分 (に ふん)
三分 (さん ぷん)
四分 (よん ぷん)
五分 (ご ふん)
六分 (ろっぷん)
七分 (なな ふん)
八分 (はち ふん)
九分 (きゅう ふん)
十分 (じゅっぷん or じっぷん*
一杯 (いっぱい) one cup
二杯 (に はい)
三杯 (さん ばい)
四杯 (よん はい)
五杯 (ご はい)
六杯 (ろっぱい)
七杯 (なな はい)
八杯 (はっぱい)
九杯 (きゅう はい)
十杯 (じゅっぱい or じっぱい*
一枚 (いち まい) one piece
二枚 (に まい)
三枚 (さん まい)
四枚 (よん まい)
五枚 (ご まい)
六枚 (ろく まい)
七枚 (なな まい)
八枚 (はち まい)
九枚 (きゅう まい)
十枚 (じゅう まい)

* notice this can be pronounced as じっ instead of じゅっ. This is to make it clearer and is often used in broadcasting. You may also encounter this with hon and hiki. For now, you can just say, じゅっ...

The Explanatory "んです"

You may have heard this quite a lot and wondered what it's all about! It is most often used, informally, when:

1) To explain something
2) To show emphasis

んです is short for のです; Informal usage;

plain form verb + んです

nani o shite iru n desu ka .
Whatcha doing?

terebi o mite iru n desu.
Watching TV.

-i Adjective + んです

kono eiga wa omoshiroi n desu.
This movie was great!

And it can be used as a way to stress a point

pa-ti ni ikanai deshou
You won't be able to make it to the party, right?

iie, boku wa iku n desu.
No, I'm going!

ittai, doushita n desu ka.
Just what exactly happened (to you)!!!?

の as a Pronoun

の can be used in place of a noun (indefinite pronoun) to mean "one" or "some."

arrow Use in place of noun

aoi no.
The blue one.

yasui no ga hoshii.
I want the cheap one.
(computer, car, book, anything)

How to... ~かた

Attach かた to the stem of verbs to change it into a noun to mean: Way or Manner of doing or how to do...

Take the ~ます form of a verb minus the ます and then add かた.

kanji no yomi kata
How/Way to read (a) kanji

kanji no kaki kata
How/Way to write (a) kanji

NOTE: Since it becomes a noun phrase, you should use の as above.

Let's ask, "Please teach me how to use chopsticks correctly."

hashi no tadashii tsukai kata o oshiete kudasai.
Please teach me how to
use chopsticks correctly

Please don't しないでください

Sometimes you have to tell/ask people to not do something.

arrow Take the ます form of a verb and drop the ます
arrow Add ないで ください

ke-ki o tabe naide kudasai.
Please don't
eat the cake.

sukaidaibingu o shinaide kudasai.
Please don't
go skydiving.

Have Done ことがあります

This is a very useful construction. Simply add it after a simple past form of a verb:

arrow Take the simple past form of a verb
arrow Add ことがあります

amerika ni itta koto ga arimasu ka?
Have you been
to America?

nattou o tabeta koto ga arimasu.

(I) have eaten natto before.

I'll Have... にします

To decide to have... にします

Very often this phrase is used to say, "I'll have (some food or drink)." Next time you go to a Japanese restaurant, give this a try.

nani ni shimasu ka?
What will you have?

watashi wa tenpura ni shimasu
I'll have

Chapter 8

  1. "about" - ~ほど
  2. "even if" - たとえ、~ても
  3. "and, and, etc" - ~たり
  4. "while" - ながら
  5. "may I...?" - ~でもいいですか?
  6. "not much" - あまり
  7. The power そう
  8. Polite Japanese - 敬語
  9. Polite II - お~ください、お~になります
  10. Giving/receiving - あげる、くれる、もらう
  11. Level/degree of something - ~さ
  12. "just did..." - ばかり
  13. "can" II - たべられます、よめます

About ~ほど

To say 'about' as in "about a week" or to show an approximate degree of something, use ~ほど

isshuu kan hodo
a week

eki wa jukkiro hodo saki desu.
The train station is about 10 kilometers ahead.

kore wa go sen en hodo de kaemasu.
This can be bought for about 5000 yen.

Even if たとえ ~ても

Sometimes you need to sound poetic. This construction fits perfectly into that mood.

Construction: VERBS
arrow たとえ +
arrow Take the て form of a verb
arrow Add ても

tatoe sekai ga owattemo
Even if
the world ends

tatoe shippai shitemo mata ganbarimashou..
Even if
we fail, let's keep at it.

Make the negative form of the verb with ても:

tatoe nido to aenaku temo wasuremasen.
Even if
we shall never meet again, I won't forget.

And and ~たり

Doing this; Doing that

arrow Take the た form of a verb (simple past)
arrow Add たり

tattari suwatari
Standing and

doru ga agattari sagattari
The dollar is rising and

kyou wa kaimono o shitari resutoran de tabetari shite takusan no okane o tsukatta.
Today I went shopping and
at at a restaurant, etc; I used a lot of money.

While ながら

While doing this I also did this...

arrow Take the ます form of a verb and drop the ます (the stem)
arrow Add ながら

ongaku o kiki nagara benkyou o shimashita.
studying, I listened to music.

hon o yomi nagara gohan o tabemasu.
eating a meal, I read a book.

One useful set phrase is 残念ながら zan nen nagara and means, "That's too bad" or "I regreat (to say)" or "Unfortunately"

May I? ~てもいいですか?

Asking permission and Being polite go hand in hand. Here is how you do both in Japanese.

arrow Take the て form of a verb
arrow Add もいいですか?

denwa o tsukattemo ii desu ka?
May I
use the phone?

yasundemo ii desu ka?
May I
take a break? (from work, from studying, etc)

chotto hanashitemo ii desu ka?
May I
say something? (I'd like to speak a little)

Not much あまり

Not much; not really--Followed by a negative verb

arrow Used in a negative sentence

nihongo ga amari jouzu ja nai
I'm not really good at Japanese.

amari yokunai
(That's) not really good.

odori wa amari umaku nai
I'm not really good dancing.

okane wa amari nai
I don't have much money.

The power "そう"

そう, for our purposes today, means, "That's right" or "That's so" (the latter being an easy way to remember)

arrow This useful word is used in various idiomatic ways. It is best to learn each as an example by heart.

sou desu
Yes, that is right.

sou desu ka?
Is that so?; Really?; You don't say?

sou ieba
Now that you mention it; Speaking of that...

sou kangaeru to
Seen from that light; Thinking like that; From that point of view

sou shitara
If you do it that way...; if done that way...

sou shinai to
If you don't do it that way...

And there are many more you will come across! Listen to how そう is used in conversation.

Polite Japanese 敬語

There are three basic types of honorifics for verbs. It depends on your social rank as to which form to use.

A) Humble (謙譲語 kenjougo) - This is when referring to oneself or one's family members and (usually) speaking to someone higher up in social rank, position or some other criteria for determining status. However even some people with high positions may choose to use the humble form with those under him/her.
B) ~masu - As mentioned above ~masu / desu is actually 丁寧語 teineigo or polite language, but I'm using the familiar ~masu form for an easy comparison to the the kenjougo and sonkeigo forms.
C) Respectful (尊敬語 sonkeigo) - This is what you say to your boss or those higher up when speaking to them. If you are speaking about yourself, you will use the humble form.

(speaking to your boss about yourself)
(speaking to your friends)
(speaking to your boss about your boss)
haiken shimasu
to see
goran ni narimasu 
You know this from "name to moushimasu"
to say
to eat
meshi agarimasu


This is the humble form for both to come and go!

to come

to go


This is the respectful form for both to come and go!

to do

  For a more detailed explanation and many more examples see here.

Polite Part II

お + stem + になる This makes a 'normal' verb honorific (exalted) [You are speaking to or about someone with a higher status than you (your boss)]

shachou to hanashimashita ka?
Company president - with - talk - ?
Did you speak with the boss? (normal)
Arrow Image

shachou to o hanashi ni narimashita ka?
Did you speak with the boss? (polite)

nanika nomimasen ka?
something - won't drink - question
Won't you drink something? (normal)
Arrow Image
nanika o nomi ni narimasen ka?
Won't you drink something? (polite)

お + stem + ください This also makes a 'normal' verb exalted; it is used when asking things - 'please give me'

utte kudasai.
Please sell (me this). (normal)
Arrow Image

o uri kudasai.
Please sell (me this) (honorific)

tabete kudasai,
Please eat. (normal)
Arrow Image
o tabe kudasai.
Please eat. (polite)
For a more detailed explanation and many more examples see here.

Giving and Receiving あげる、くれる、もらう


These three verbs are easy to mix up, but they aren't too difficult if you spend some time learning each word's function. It is of course more complex than this page allows, but this should give you a fairly good understanding.

The Word: あげる
arrow When you, the speaker, give something to someone, use あげる

kore o anata ni agemasu.
I will give you this.

NOTE: The receiver is the one with the に particle (あなたに to you).


The Word: くれる
arrow This is also usually translated as 'give' but it is from the receiver's point of view.

tanaka san ga kore o watashi ni kuremashita.
Tanaka gave this to me.

NOTE: Again, the receiver is the one with the に particle. (私に to me)


The Word: もらう
arrow もらう is used from the perspective of the receiver.

watashi ga tomodachi kara ke-ki o moraimashita.
I received a cake from a friend. (My, the receiver, point of view)

NOTE: If から is used, the meaning should be pretty clear (友達から from a freind), but you can also use に to show who is doing the action as in:

watashi ga tomodachi ni ke-ki o moraimashita.
I received a cake from a friend.

NOTE: The use of に with もらう can seem confusing considering に is used to mean the receiver in the other two cases

Level / degree of something ~さ

Add さ to adjectives to express a degree or amount

Construction: -i adjectives:
arrow Remove the trailing い and add さ

zou san no takasa wa nan desu ka?
What is the height of an elephant

NOTE: The さ shows a degree; this can be a higher, lower, wider, thinner, etc amount. (we could be asking the height of an ant)

Construction: -na adjectives:
arrow Just add the さ without the な

kono kuruma no shizukasa wa odoroku beki desu.
This car's quietness is amazing.

NOTE: The finished product (adjective + さ) becomes a noun phrase and is treated as a noun grammatically.

Just Did... ばかり

Showing a completed action: just...

arrow Add ばかり after the simple past of a verb

tabeta bakari desu.
I just ate.

tateta bakari no ie.
A newly built house.

ima kita bakari desu.
I just arrived.

Can II たべられます、よめます

Can II たべられます、よめます

Potential form of Verbs.

Before starting this lesson, you may want to review the groups of the verbs.

Construction: The ~u Group (group 1 verbs)
arrow Verb Root + eru

書く kaku to write arrow kak (verb root) arrowkakeru able to write

kanji ga kakemasu ka?
Can you write kanji?

[NOTE: use が with the potential form]

Construction: The ~ru Group (group 2 verbs)
arrow Verb Root + rareru

食べる taberu to eat arrow tabe (verb root) arrow taberareru able to eat

pi-man ga taberaremasu ka?
Can you eat green peppers?

Construction: The irregular Group (group 3 verbs)
arrow The two irregular verbs should be memorized:

くる arrow こられる
する arrow できる