Japanese Grammar FAQ

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Revision as of 10:24, 13 February 2013 by Ongakuka (Talk | contribs)
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I began writing this FAQ when I was still at a relatively early stage of learning Japanese. A fair few years must have past... so now I intend to write this thing up from start to finish.

For the most part, I'll be referencing grammar questions that arose in the thejapanesepage.com 's forums. Any recommendations or personal queries? Feel free to send me a PM. I want to arrange these grammar questions starting with general/common questions, and gradually getting more specific and uncommon. I will try and answer them as concisely as possible. Anyone is welcome to make improvements (or corrections!) but I appreciate your asking first.

That said, Yoroshiku!


Conditionals: what's the difference?

In English, we use the word "if" a lot; some of our conditionals ("were I to.." "should you..") are falling out of use. Japanese has a number of conditionals that are all used frequently, and understanding the way to distinguish the use of these is a challenge all Japanese learners will face. Despite having distinct nuances, there are times when more than one conditional will fit a given sentence, which is probably one of the causes of confusion.

たら/tara


ば/ba


と/to

と is placed after a verb in dictionary/plain form. For example, 見ると (if/when I look.) Whatever follows next, と tells us that it follows (or followed) succinctly, smoothly, directly. This can be thought of as 'cause and effect.' 写真を見ると、彼を思い出します。When I look at the photo, I remember him. しゃしんをみると、かれをおもいだします。

It is often used in the context of giving advice. In such a context, it is clearly more assertive than ば or たら。

それを持っていくと便利ですよ If you take that with you, it's useful! (underlying nuance: you really ought to take it!)

それをもっていくとべんりですよ


暖かいうちに食べるといい It's better if you eat it whilst it's hot (underlying nuance: I really recommend you eat it whilst it's hot)

あたたかいうちにたべるといい


  • Advanced: と following the volitional form of a verb will create the meaning 'even if' (usually expressed with verb stem + ても) I feel that using と in this way has a sense of poetry or emotion.

何を言われても、気にしない >>> 何を言われようと、気にしない

もし/moshi

なら/nara

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