Japanese Grammar 100 – Part IV

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61. About—くらい・ぐらい kurai / gurai

About how much? About how many?

Both くらい kurai and ぐらい gurai mean the same thing. In some cases, saying “gurai” may flow easier, but there otherwise doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast rule for which to choose.

お客様は どのくらい 来ましたか?

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

ええと、100人 くらい 来ました。

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

You can use this with time:

8時 ぐらい

hachi ji gurai
about eight O’clock

Or counting anything:

2匹くらい ni hiki kurai - about two (animals)

10冊ぐらい juu satsu gurai - about ten books


62. How About...? —どう? dou?

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

You can use it as a question with or without the final “desu ka” in casual conversation.

最近は どう ですか?

saikin wa dou desu ka?
How’s it going recently?

コーヒーは どう?

ko-hi- wa dou?
How’s the coffee?
(Or it could mean, “How about some coffee?”)

天気 予報は どう?

tenki yohou wa dou?
How’s the weather forecast looking?

Of course, when the context is understood and in casual situations, you can simply say, “dou?” (Like returning from a doctor’s appointment or after your friend gets off an important phone call.)


63. しまった・ちゃった Shimatta / Chatta

This literally means “to complete; to finish” but can (and usually does) involve a feeling of regret over having done something. Also, it can be used sarcastically to mean the speaker really wanted to do something bad, but now gives a halfhearted apology. For example:

最後の クッキーを 食べて しまった。

saigo no kukki- wo tabete shimatta.
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

全部の お金を 使ってしまいました。

zenbu no okane wo tsukatte shimaimashita.
Unfortunately, I spent all my money.

私は 完全に 日本語を 忘れてしまった。

watashi wa kanzen ni nihongo wo wasurete shimatta.
Unfortunately, I have completely forgotten Japanese.

Another very useful variation is ~chatta. This is more informal and is used by both male and female speakers (Except in the Kansai area where mostly only women use it). chau is made by shortening te shimau.

試験に 落ちちゃった。

shiken ni ochichatta.
I flunked the test unfortunately.

Or in the present tense

ーキを 全部 食べちゃう。 

ke-ki wo zenbu tabechau.
I will eat all the cake.


64. Please do... —~てください ~te kudasai

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

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

ゆっくり 話して ください。

yukkuri hanashite kudasai.
Please speak slowly.

もっと 大人らしくして ください。

motto otona rashiku shite kudasai.
Please act more grown-up.

ここで 右に 曲がって ください。

koko de migi ni magatte kudasai.
Please turn right here.


65. Please give me... —をください wo kudasai

Another use for kudasai is “please give me...”

その本を ください。

sono hon o kudasai.
Please give me that book.

500円を ください。

go hyaku en o kudasai.
Please give me 500 yen.

In spoken Japanese, the “を o” is often dropped or swallowed in speech.


A good knowledge of position words will help glue everything together.

ni – on

机に 本が あります。

tsukue ni hon ga arimasu.
There is a book on/in the desk.

のうえに no ue ni - on top of

机の 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...

机の 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...

机の 後ろに 本が あります。

tsukue no ushiro ni hon ga arimasu.
There is a book behind the desk.


67. Why don’t we...?—ませんか masen ka?

Why don’t we study a little more?

どこかで 食べませんか? 

dokoka de tabemasen ka?
Why don’t we eat somewhere?

何か 飲みませんか? 

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.”


68. Closer Look at the Direct Object Marker

を is pronounced o (usually) but following the pattern, it should be wo (which is how it is sometimes romanized as). Simply put, を o is the “direct object marker.” It 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.

私は りんごを 食べました。

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

音楽を 聞きたい です。

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

テレビを 買う つもり です。

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


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

Showing movement... Like “to” or “toward.”

日本に 行きたい。

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

どこに 行きたい です か。

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

Meaning “on” or “in”:

紙に 絵を 描きました。

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

In time - “at”:

六時に 会いましょう

roku ji ni aimashou.
Let’s meet at six.


This is used mainly for the location where something happens.

デパートで 帽子を 買いました。 

depa-to de boushi o kaimashita.
I bought a hat at the department store.

日本で 何を しましたか? 

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

Observe the difference between ni and de:

マクドナルドに 行きたい。

makudonarudo ni ikitai.
I want to go to McDonalds.
[Shows movement and direction.]

マクドナルドで 食べたい。

makudonarudo de tabetai.
I want to eat at McDonalds.
[Shows location.]


This is the subject or sometimes object marker. This may take you longer than five minutes to go through, but it will be worth it.

雨が 降っています。

ame ga futteimasu.
It’s raining.

We are simply stating the circumstances at the moment and the subject of that particular sentence is “rain.”

Now our attention moves from the general circumstances (that it is raining) to describing the rain itself.  We set “rain” as the topic of the conversation with は wa.

雨は 冷たい です。

ame wa tsumetai desu.
The rain is cold.

You would use “wa” because it is now the topic of the conversation and you are describing this particular rain.

The Contrasting ga

ぞう は はな が ながい。

zou wa hana ga nagai.
Elephants have long noses.

In English we wouldn’t call “noses” the subject, but the topic is elephants and their noses are being described.

Now let’s contrast with が ga.

Which has a longer nose? Giraffes (kirin) or elephants (zou)? (The topic is actually both of these animals so you will want to use “ga” to specify which one.)

ぞう が はな が ながい。

zou ga hana ga nagai.
The elephant has a long(er) nose.

[We could throw in “no hou ga,” but I wanted to keep it simple.]

となり に おばあさん が います。

tonari ni obaasan ga imasu.
Next door, there is an old woman.

[Note: you are introducing the old woman as the subject, but not yet the overall topic. Note the "an" in English.]

その おばあさん は やさしい です。

sono obaasan wa yasashii desu.
That old woman is nice.

Now that we have brought up the old woman in passing, let’s talk about her specifically. She is now the topic and we are describing her.

The Question Words ga

Always use “ga” with question words:

何が おいしい?

nani ga oishii?
What tastes good?

誰が 来ましたか?

dare ga kimashita ka?
Who came?

こが 一番 いい ところ ですか?

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

が Used with Certain Words: [suki; hoshii; wakaru]

わたしは ねこが 好き

watashi wa neko ga suki.
I like cats.

ねこが ほしい。

neko ga hoshii.
(I) want a cat.

英語が わかる。

eigo ga wakaru.
I understand English.


72. If II—たら tara

A while back we learned もし moshi is a word that means “if.” たら tara 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 ra.

あなたが きたら、かれは かえる。

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

The simple past form of くる kuru (to come) is きた kita (came). (One of the few irregular verbs.) The second phrase is conditional on the たら tara phrase.

ゴジラに 会ったら、どうしよう? 

gojira ni attara 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 datta

金持ち だったら、大きな 家が 買える のに。

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


73. Soft Ender II—ちょっと chotto

Many years ago I found a great example in a book illustrating how Japanese can be rudely 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?

anou, sumimasen, taihen osoreiremasu ga, chotto kochira e irasshatte kudasaimasen deshou ka?

Both mean “come here” but the second is made much politer—and longer—by being cushioned by many soft, indirect words. One of these softening words is ちょっと chotto.

ちょっと chotto means “little” or “small amount,” but it is often used to soften an otherwise painful “no” or “your request is impossible; live with it” kind of sentence.

ちょっと 難しい ですが。

chotto muzukashi desu ga.
That’s a little difficult...

(This may be said when the request is impossible but the speaker doesn’t want to be direct. The ga here also softens.)

ちょっと 出来ない です。

chotto dekinai desu.
It can’t be done.

ちょっと 分からない です。

chotto 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, ちょっと chotto may not be that soft of a word...


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

本当 ですよ。

hontou desu yo.
It’s the truth, I tell ya!

(Perhaps the speaker suspects the listener doesn’t believe what was just said.)

フロリダの 12月は 暑い ですか? 

fururida no juuni gatsu wa atsui desu ka?
Is December in Florida pretty hot?

結構  寒い ですよ。 

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 ですよ。

suzuki san wa uchuujin desu yo.
Suzuki is an alien, you know.


75. Even If—でも・ても demo / temo

We have previously studied も mo which means “also.” When added after the て te form of a verb or adjective, it brings the meaning of “even if.”

Let’s investigate:

冗談を 言っても、彼は 笑いません。

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:

スーパマン でも、そんな ことは できない よ。

su-paman demo, sonna koto wa dekinai yo.
Even Superman can’t do that!


76. The Best; -est—一番 ichiban

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

食べ物の 中は 何が 一番 好き ですか?

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

富士山は、世界で 一番 高い 山 じゃない。

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


77. About... —について ni tsuite

This is added to mean “let’s talk ABOUT the previous word.” Simply stick it after the subject you want to talk about.

番組 について の お知らせ です。

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

あの 映画 について どう 思う?

ano eiga ni tsuite dou omou?
What do you think about that movie?


78. Can’t; Not Allowed—いけません ikemasen

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

知らない 人と 話しては いけません。

shiranai hito to hanashite wa ikemasen.
Don’t speak to strangers.

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

その 映画を 見ちゃ いけませんよ。

sono eiga wo micha ikemasen yo.
You are not allowed to watch this movie.  Or, “You shouldn’t watch this movie.”

You can also use だめ dame for a similar effect in casual speech:

私の本を 読んじゃ だめ。

watashi no hon wo yonja dame.
You can’t read my book!


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


In Japanese, different types of objects have different counters. While English does have a few such examples (a cup of coffee, for example), English usually simply takes a number (1,2,3...), adds a noun, and an “s” to count items.

Counters make Japanese both difficult and fun to learn. Let’s emphasize the “fun” part.  Here are a few very useful counters:

Counter: nin | Usage: people

一人 hitori - one person [irregular]

二人 futari - two people [irregular]

三人 san nin - three people [now we simply add the “Chinese” numbers to にん]

四人 yonin - [“shi nin”  is NOT used. Probably because “死 shi” can mean death... Also notice the dropped “ん n” from “よん yon”] four people

五人 gonin - five people

六人 rokunin - six people

七人 shichinin or nananin [しちにん shichinin is used more often, but ななにんnananin is also used] - seven people

八人 hachi nin - eight people

九人 kyuunin or kunin - nine people

十人 juunin - ten people

十一人 juuichinin - eleven people

Counter: hiki | Usage: most animals

一匹 ippiki [notice the H changes to a P] - one animal

二匹 nihiki - two animals

三匹 sanbiki [notice the H changes to a B this time.]

四匹 yonhiki

五匹 gohiki

六匹 roppiki [notice the H changes to a P AND the ku becomes a small tsu]

七匹 nanahiki or shichihiki [probably nanahiki is most used]

八匹 happiki or hachihiki

九匹 kyuuhiki

十匹 juppiki

Counter: ko | Usage: a generic counter for just about anything

一個 ikko [This is “いち ichi” plus “個 ko.” The “chi” is replaced by a slight pause. Listen to the audio.] - one thing

二個 niko - two things

三個 sanko

四個 yonko

五個 goko

六個 rokko

七個 nanako

八個 hakko

九個 kyuuko

十個 juko or jiko (TV announcers regulary say “jiko.”)

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