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Japanese Grammar FAQ

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Although this is technically a FAQ, most of the contents are not actually frequently asked questions. They are in fact, grammatical problems which have occured to Japanese students in the past- and the aim of this FAQ is to make sure that these problems can be reviewed in a clear simple format by all students of Japanese. Effectively, the Japanese Grammar FAQ is simillar to a reference library, or an archive. It doesn't teach grammar, it shows examples of problems which have occured in the past concerning with grammar. Hopefully in time this page will expand and provide our community with another excellent resource for studying Japanese.


1. Ookii Vs ookina (大きいVs大きな)

The adjectives "Ookii"(大きい)-Large, and "Chiisai" (小さい)-Small, are classified as "i" adjectives. However, unlike standard Japanese adjectives, they can be interchanged with a "na" form- which is seen as an exception since most Japanese adjectives are either one or the other.

So what is the difference between the two? The obvious difference would be the fact that "Okina" cannot precede "desu," in this case it must be used in the "i" adjective form.

  • Example: そのいすは大きいです (sono isu wa ookii desu)

Meaning "That chair is large." To use the "na" form, the adjective must precede a noun.

  • Example: それは大きないすです (sore wa ooki na isu desu)

Meaning "That is a large chair." Notice how, in English, "That is a large chair" differs from "That chair is large."

But what is the difference between these two sentences?

  • それは大きい木です

Sore wa ookii ki desu

  • それは大きな木です

Sore wa ooki na ki desu

In English, both have the same meaning, yet in Japanese these two sentences have slighty different nuances- after all, two different words never have the same meaning. One important fact to note is: "Ookii" can only be used for physical size, whereas "Ooki na" can imply an abstract meaning of the word "big."

  • Example: 大きな問題 (Ookina mondai) -A big problem. "Ookii" cannot be used in this situation.

Thanks to Oracle for this information.

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