An Introduction to Fundamental Japanese Grammar Guidelines

Studying Japanese grammar is about greater than conjugation and punctuation. It contains studying tips to interrupt down the language into extra comprehensible items. By placing these constructing blocks collectively, you’ll be capable of assemble Japanese sentences with ease! 

Transcend the essential grammar guidelines we’ve outlined right here, and be taught Japanese with Rosetta Stone. Our bite-sized classes seamlessly introduce new vocabulary and grammar, placing new ideas into context from the start. 

How are Japanese grammar guidelines totally different from English?

Japanese is a language isolate, which means it doesn’t have a confirmed genetic hyperlink to different languages. Comparatively, English is part of the identical language household as German with sturdy ties to Romance languages. Because of this any similarities between Japanese and English grammar guidelines will not be attributed to being associated on the language household tree. 

That being stated, widespread parts do exist! When researching how onerous it’s to be taught Japanese, these similarities provide some peace of thoughts:

  • Japanese makes use of a variety of international loanwords, so phrases similar to kamera (カメラ, digicam) and piza (ピザ, pizza) will already be acquainted.
  • Whereas not at all times in the identical order as English, Japanese components of speech (similar to adjectives and verbs) are simply recognizable by operate.
  • The Japanese language didn’t embrace punctuation previous to the nineteenth century however has now adopted Western punctuation marks.

There are too many variations between English and Japanese to checklist, however there are just a few main factors to contemplate:

  • Japanese combines three writing techniques: the two Japanese alphabets hiragana (平仮名) and katakana (片仮名) in addition to the kanji (漢字) writing system utilizing Chinese language characters.
  • Even with three writing techniques, Japanese pronunciation is constant.
  • Phrase order is extra fluid in Japanese than in English.
  • Verb conjugations will not be dependent with reference to the sentence in Japanese.
  • Japanese verb conjugation modifications based mostly on how formal the dialog is.

Japanese makes use of a number of components of speech

With the notable exception of particles, Japanese contains most of the identical components of speech as English. Even when there are variations in how they’re carried out between languages, a verb remains to be an motion phrase, and an adverb nonetheless describes how that motion is finished.

noun名詞 meishian individual, place, or factor
verb動詞 dōshimotion of a sentence
adjective形容詞・形容動詞 keiyōshi / keiyōdōshidescribes a noun
adverb副詞 fukushidescribes a verb
particle助詞 joshibrief phrase that identifies components of speech
conjunction接続詞 setsuzokushiconnects clauses or concepts
interjection感動詞 kandōshiexpresses emotion

Japanese phrase order is versatile

The order of Japanese components of speech is much less strict than English, and sure parts may even be omitted if they’re mutually understood. An entire sentence can simply be a conjugated verb! 

Usually talking, the Japanese grammar format follows this order: topic, object, verb. 

  • The topic of the sentence (what the sentence is about) might be omitted, nevertheless it goes originally of the sentence whether or not it’s implied or specified. 
  • The article and the verb are often paired along with the article (what the verb is appearing on) previous the verb. 
  • The simplest rule to recollect is that the verb goes on the finish of the sentence.

All the pieces else from location to time might be inserted in a number of locations relying on what the speaker desires to emphasise.

Japanese punctuation is versatile

As a result of the Japanese didn’t use punctuation earlier than the Meiji Interval (1868-1912), its implementation of borrowed Western punctuation isn’t inflexible in any respect. A number of the most typical Japanese punctuation marks have the identical operate as the unique Western variants.

  • Comma (、): It’s non-obligatory between clauses if the speaker or author desires to emphasise a pause, nevertheless it’s not required. 
  • Interval (。): This capabilities the identical manner in English and is the one punctuation mark present in practically each sentence.
  • Query mark (?): Because of a Japanese grammar element that signifies a sentence is a query with out punctuation, this mark is solely non-obligatory.
  • Citation marks (「 」): As a result of Japanese makes use of diacritical marks that seem like citation marks (〃), it makes use of a novel model of citation marks.
  • Interpunct (・): This punctuation mark separates two phrases in the identical manner a ahead slash (/) does in English.

Japanese verbs have constant conjugation

There are three kinds of verbs in Japanese: godan verbs, ichidan verbs, and irregular verbs. Nearly all of Japanese verbs belong to the primary two teams and are categorized based mostly on the final Japanese character of the phrase. Godan verbs at all times finish in –ru (る), whereas ichidan verbs can finish in any character that ends in “u.”

There are some things that make Japanese verb conjugation totally different:

  • Regardless of the topic of the sentence, the conjugation is similar. For instance, whereas the English “to be” can turn into “am,” “is,” or “are” relying on the topic, the Japanese phrase is solely desu (です) for all.
  • The current and future tenses are equivalent. Context and phrases indicating time give the mandatory clues about what time limit the sentence is speaking about.
  • There are two primary kinds of conjugation for any given verb based mostly on formality: well mannered kind (also referred to as masu-form) and plain kind (also referred to as brief or informal).

There are 2 kinds of Japanese adjectives

Japanese conjugation isn’t restricted to verbs: Japanese adjectives get conjugated, too! There are two kinds of adjectives in Japanese: i-adjectives and na-adjectives. Nearly all of adjectives that finish within the Japanese character i (い) are i-adjectives and are additionally known as keiyōshi. In the meantime, na-adjectives are literally “adjectival nouns” or “keiyōdōshi,” which means they’re functionally nouns that act like adjectives.

JapaneseAdjective kindEnglish
速い hayaii-adjectivefast
美味しい oishiii-adjectivescrumptious
親切 shinsetsuna-adjectiveform
静か shizukana-adjectivequiet

Each sorts act the identical in a sentence, and the primary distinction between the 2 lies in how they’re conjugated. Phrase order for adjectives is similar as in English. They’ll both go instantly earlier than the noun they’re describing or earlier than the verb to say “[noun] is [adjective].” 

Japanese adjectives might be transformed into adverbs

Japanese adverbs additionally resemble their English counterparts. A number of the most typical ones revolve round time, frequency, and amount. This contains phrases similar to “often,” “a little bit,” and “typically.”

Japanese adjectives may also be transformed simply into adverbs. That is achieved by altering the ultimate i of an i-adjective to a ku (く) or including a ni (に) to the top of a na-adjective.

Japanese AdjectiveJapanese AdverbEnglish
速い hayai hayakurapidly; quick
静か shizuka静か shizuka niquietly
  • Kare wa hayaku hashirimasu. (彼は速く走ります。)= He runs quick.
  • Onna no ko wa shizuka ni yonde imasu.(女の子は静かに読んでいます。)= The lady is studying quietly.

Japanese particles are distinctive

Whereas English has articles like “an” and “the,” Japanese has a much wider class of brief phrases separating components of a sentence known as “particles.” Though the phrases often consist of 1 or two Japanese characters, they’re among the many most vital Japanese grammar guidelines and are a essential a part of Japanese sentence construction. 

There are dozens of Japanese particles, every with its personal particular makes use of. They successfully act as guides, explaining the operate of every phrase in a sentence based mostly on which particles come earlier than or after it.

The extra widespread particles embrace:

  • Wa (は): follows the subject of a sentence
  • No (の): assigns possession of the noun that follows it to the noun that goes earlier than it
  • Ka (か): goes on the finish of a sentence to determine it as a query

Japanese particle instance

Whereas English doesn’t have an equal to particles, using particles in Japanese sentences is usually a boon to learners. Understanding the operate of every particle helps you construct sentences whereas figuring out the function each phrase performs.

Take a look at the breakdown of this instance sentence to see how particles are utilized in Japanese:

  • Enpitsu wa tsukue no ue ni arimasu. (鉛筆は机の上にあります。)= The pencil is on the desk.

There are 3 kinds of speech: formal, honorific, and humble Japanese

Along with on a regular basis Japanese, there are separate kinds of conjugations and terminology devoted to extra formal conditions. Understanding when to make use of formal versus casual speech in Japanese is vital for navigating Japanese society. T

listed here are three primary sorts to bear in mind:

  • teineigo(丁寧語)= formal language
  • sonkeigo(尊敬語)= honorific language
  • kenjōgo(謙譲語)= humble language


Teineigo (丁寧語), or “formal language,” is the overall time period for well mannered Japanese. This contains the masu-form verb conjugation in addition to some extra formal phrases for sure nouns. These nouns obtain the honorific prefix , which is often pronounced—and written in hiragana—as “o” or “go.” Different teineigo phrases have totally different pronunciations altogether.

EnglishCustomary JapaneseWell mannered Japanese
household家族 kazoku家族 gokazoku
older brotheraniお兄さん oniisan

Sonkeigo and kenjōgo

Sonkeigo (honorific) and kenjōgo (humble) are extra difficult. Each have their very own conjugation guidelines for verbs, and the verbs themselves could also be utterly totally different from normal Japanese. Many Japanese greetings are additionally based mostly on honorific language. The standard itadaku under turns into the expression itadakimasu (いただきます) to thank somebody for a meal.

EnglishCustomary JapaneseHonorific JapaneseHumble Japanese
to return来る kuruいらっしゃるirassharu参るmairu
to eat食べる taberu召し上がるmeshiagaruいただくitadaku
to doする suruなさるnasaruいたすitasu

Maybe extra vital is how they’re used. Sonkeigo is particularly used to explain what another person is doing. The individual in query is somebody you might be honoring or to whom you might be being additional deferential. That is often somebody who’s a superior similar to your boss at work.

  • Sensei wa nani wo meshiagarimasu ka.(先生は何を召し上がりますか。)= What are you consuming, Professor?

Conversely, kenjōgo is for describing your self or somebody within the group you might be part of in that context (similar to household or your friends at work). The target is to talk humbly to be significantly well mannered to somebody you might be honoring with sonkeigo. That is typically utilized by staff at a retailer to company.

  • Otearai wa nikai de gozaimasu.(お手洗いは二階でございます。)= The lavatory is on the second ground.

A very powerful distinction is to make use of the suitable model of well mannered Japanese appropriately for every individual within the dialog. By accident utilizing the standard variant of speech to explain your boss’s actions whereas utilizing honorific speech to explain your individual actions might be fairly the fake pas! 

You want Japanese counters to rely gadgets

When counting something in Japanese past the numbers themselves, a qualifying suffix is required. English has just a few counters that we use steadily: “sheets” of paper, “glasses” of water, “cups” of flour, and so on. Japanese counters, however, whole within the a whole lot. Fortunately, the 5 counters under will cowl probably the most primary wants.

UseJapanese suffixRomanization
normal gadgets~つ~tsu
small, spherical gadgets (and normal gadgets)~個~ko
flat objects~枚~mai
lengthy, cylindrical objects~本~hon

These might be particularly helpful at eating places. If that you must order meals in Japanese, realizing say “two items” of sushi will assist make sure you get the amount you need.

Dates and time additionally use counters in Japanese

Similar to gadgets, dates and time have their very own devoted counters. They work the identical manner: Connect the counter as a suffix to the mandatory quantity to point what number of of that counter class there are.

UseJapanese suffixRomanization
hour of the day~時~ji
day of the month and variety of days~日~nichi
month of the 12 months~月~gatsu
variety of months~か月~kagetsu

The distinction between ~ji and ~jikan is the time on a clock versus the period of time.

  • jūji(十時)= 10:00
  • jūjikan(十時間)= 10 hours

The identical is true for ~gatsu and ~kagetsu being the named month versus the variety of months.

  • Tanjōbi wa nigatsu desu.(誕生日は二月です。)= My birthday is in February. (Actually: My birthday is within the second month.)
  • Nikagetsu mae ni daigaku o sotsugyō shimashita.(二か月前に大学を卒業しました。)= I graduated from school two months in the past.

Grasp Japanese grammar with Rosetta Stone

What’s the easiest way to method such all kinds of Japanese grammar guidelines? Utilizing Rosetta Stone’s Dynamic Immersion methodology to soak in Japanese naturally is a good begin! Listening to and studying verb conjugations and particles utilized in context makes the main points of the grammar extra accessible, and you may reinforce your understanding with tales and instantaneous pronunciation suggestions.

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