November 11, 2020

-i Adjectives

All About い i Adjectives

Adjectives are split into 2 groups.

  1. -i adjectives
  2. -na adjectives (for -na adjectives click here)

Today, we'll look at -i adjectives, but 

Before the lesson, you need to know...
  • Adjectives in Japanese are different from English adjectives in that they conjugate like verbs. That is, they have a different form for the past and negative tenses. In this lesson, you will learn the basic forms.
  • These are called -i adjectives because they end with an -i sound. However, a few -na adjectives also end in -i like きれい kirei (pretty). You'll just have to learn these exceptions.

はじめましょう! Let’s begin…


Examples of -i adjectives are さむい samui (cold) and あつい atsui (hot) [notice they both end with an -i; see here for a much longer list]

The past tense of -i adjectives is formed by dropping the -i  and adding "katta"  samu katta (was cold) and atsu katta (was hot).

The negative (non past) is formed by dropping the -i and adding "kunai"  samu kunai (not cold) and atsu kunai (not hot)


SENTENCE #1: non-past lone adjective

北海道(ほっかいどう)は  さむい  です。

hokkaidou wa samui desu.
Hokkaido is cold.

Here the adjective さむい (cold) is used by itself (not modifying a noun or anything) so it doesn’t change at all!

SENTENCE #2: non-past modifying adjective

北海道(ほっかいどう)は  さむい  ところ です。

hokkaidou wa samui tokoro desu.
Hokkaido is a cold place.

This sentence is just like above but now the adjective さむい (cold) is modifying a noun ところ (place), BUT it doesn’t change forms either (just like the English)! 

For -i adjectives there is no change of the adjective behind a noun or when it's on its own.

Easy, right?

Well, don't get too happy. Let’s go negative…

SENTENCE #3: non-past negative

フロリダは  さむくない  です。

furorida wa samukunai desu.
Florida is NOT cold.

Now we have the first change. Unlike English, adjectives change when the sentence is negative. It may seem strange at first, but you will get used to it. Simply drop the -i and add the -kunai. Before a noun it would be the same: samukunai tokoro (not a cold place)

SENTENCE #4: past

この (ふゆ)は さむかった  です。

kono fuyu wa samu katta desu.
This winter was cold.

For the past tense, drop the -i and add –katta.

Note: very often the desu at the end is dropped

The above examples represent the most common usage of -i adjectives. But there is also…

SENTENCE #5: past negative

きのう の ()は さむくなかった です。

kinou no yoru wa samu ku na katta desu.
It wasn't cold last night.

This is a melding of the negative and the past endings.

Actually, there are more ways to add endings to adjectives, but the above is the most useful.

All of this can be confusing for the beginner. I suggest memorizing a few good ONE-WORD examples. For example, if you spend a few minutes memorizing the following words, you should be able to figure out how to say other adjectives' forms.

(That's) interesting (or fun).

(That’s) delicious!


omoshiro kunai
(That’s) not interesting.

oishi kunai
(That’s) not delicious.


omoshiro katta
(That) was interesting!

oishi katta
(That) was delicious.


omoshiro kuna katta
(That) was not interesting.

oishi kuna katta
(That) was not delicious.

Listen to all four conjugations:

As I mentioned at the top, the endings for -i adjectives are the same as verb endings.

Click here to view a list of i-adjectives with sound.

Or, if you are ready to move to -na adjectives, click here.

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