Basic Japanese Grammar: I Think…

Basic Japanese Grammar: I Think…

Our Nihongo Master Podcast has a language series called Study Saturday, where a Japanese grammar point is introduced in a fun, easy, and bite-sized way. In Season 2 Episode 8, we looked at how to express our opinions with the phrase “I think”.

This grammar point is part of basic Japanese and is used pretty frequently in everyday conversation. It makes your sentence a bit less serious as well. The best part about this grammar point is that it’s so easy to learn! There’s only one phrase in Japanese that is used to express your opinion. 

In the podcast episode, not only did we discuss a bit about the grammar point, but we also had a few roleplaying scenarios using the new grammar to get listeners accustomed to it. The roleplaying scenarios are not in this recap, so you’ve got to tune in to listen! 

Grammar Point

Expressing opinions is crucial in any language. In Japanese, it’s also used to make the tone of the sentence lighter. The grammar to use to say this is pretty simple: you basically just add “to omou” (と思う) or “to omoimasu” (と思います) for the polite form, to the end of any sentence. And viola, that’s it! 

Quick and easy, right?

と思う for i-adjectives and verbs

Let’s have an example. Say you saw someone and thought he was cool: “I thought he was cool”. “Cool” in Japanese is kakkoii (かっこいい). We could say “kakkoii to omou” (かっこいいと思う), but that translates to “I think he is cool”. To make it so it means “I thought he was cool”, we have to change the grammar point we just learned to the past tense. “to omou” ends with an u, so it conjugates to “to omotta” (と思った) for the casual form. For the polite form, simply change the “masu” (ます) to past tense to get “to omoimashita” (と思いました). 

Now put it all together and we get: “kare ha kakkoii to omotta”(彼はかっこいいと思った). For the polite form, it’s “kare ha kakkoii to omoimashita” (彼はかっこいいと思いました). 

Kakkoii is an i-adjective, so there’s no change whatsoever when attaching the grammar phrase at the end. It’s the same when the word that comes before the phrase is a verb, like the sentence “I think we went to a cafe”. “Went” in Japanese is “itta” (行った), the past tense of the word “iku” (行く). All you have to do is have all the pieces and just add the grammar at the end: “kafe ni itta to omou” (カフェに行ったと思う). For the polite form, it’s “kafe ni itta to omoimasu” (カフェに行ったと思います).

だと思う for na-adjectives and nouns

The time you do need to add something on is when the word before is either a noun or a na- adjective. In the sentence “He thought I was beautiful”, the word that comes right before the grammar phrase is “beautiful”, and that’s the na-adjective “kireina” (綺麗な) in Japanese. We can’t say “kireina to omou”, but instead we take the na out and switch it to da, the casual form of desu: “kare ha watashi ga kirei da to omotta” (彼は私が綺麗だと思った). For the polite form, it’s “kare ha watashi ga kirei da to omoimashita” (彼は私が綺麗だと思いました). Remember, that sentence was in the past tense.

Let’s have an example for a noun. Since there is no “na” to switch out, we just add da in between the noun and “to omou”. For example, if you want to say “I think he’s Japanese”, you can say it as “kare ha nihonjin da to omou” (彼は日本人だと思う). The polite form of the sentence is “kare ha nihonjin da to omoimasu” (彼は日本人だと思います).

Negation

In the case where you want to have a na-adjective or a noun in the negative form, like “I think he’s not Japanese” or “I think she’s not beautiful”, their negative form “janai” (じゃない) then acts like an i- adjective, so you don’t need to have a “da” in between: “nihonjin janai to omou” (日本人じゃないと思う), “kirei janai to omou” (綺麗じゃないと思う).

One last thing: if you want to say “i don’t think”, all you have to do is say the negation of “to omou”, which is “to omowanai” (と思わない) or “to omoimasen” (と思いません). So let’s switch “I think he’s not Japanese” to “I don’t think he’s Japanese” — we take the noun as it is and add the negation of the grammar to make, “nihonjin da to omowanai” (日本人だと思わない), or the polite form “nihonjin da to omoimasen” (日本人だと思いません).

Vocab Recap

As always, let’s have a quick vocab recap to wrap it up: 

Kakkoii (かっこいい) — cool

Kireina (綺麗な) — beautiful or pretty

Isha (医者) — doctor

Shokugyō (職業) — occupation

Gaka (画家) — painter

Machigainai (間違いない) — undoubtedly or no doubt 

Ginkõ (銀行) — bank

Hataraiteiru (働いている) — to be working 

Kaku (書く) — to write or draw

Shou ga nai (しょうがない) — it can’t be helped 

Muzukashii (難しい) — difficult

Mirai (未来) — future

Hiraku (開く) — to open 

Sasuga (さすが) — as expected 

Hazukashii (恥ずかしい) — shy 

Shinyū (親友) — best friend 

Kareshi (彼氏) — boyfriend 

Urayamashii (羨ましい) — jealous 

Zettai (絶対) — definitely

Conclusion

And that’s the recap of this episode of Study Saturday, and that means you might already be an expert at expressing your opinions in Japanese. I, for one, have a lot of opinions on a lot of things, so rest assured I’ve been using this every day — if not every hour. Since this article is a recap, head over to the original episode to listen to the full thing now!

If you’re interested in similar bite-sized grammar pointers, head over to the Nihongo Master Podcast for more. The Study Saturday language series comes out every Saturday with a new grammar point with examples and role playing scenarios. Click here for your fill of basic Japanese grammar! 

Basic Japanese Grammar!

Basic Japanese Grammar!

Learning a new language can be tough, especially if you don’t know where to start. One of the key things to any language is the grammar. For the Japanese language, grammar is crucial. For those of us who are learning it in English, like me, it can be a bit confusing at the start since Japanese sentence structure is the complete opposite of the English language’s!

What’s more, in Japanese language, it’s different when it comes to formality. There’s not really any rules for that in English, whereas in Japanese, it’s very strict! The conjugations play a part in the formality rules too!

Now I’m not trying to scare you off from learning Japanese. In fact, I’m trying to do the opposite. Before you dive headfirst into the scary world of Japanese grammar, let’s try to make it not as scary by having a rundown of the basics of Japanese grammar with this article!

Japanese Sentence Structure

Basic Structure

In both Japanese and English, the basic sentence structure is: subject – object.

“This is a pen.”

Kore ha pen.

これはペン。

Action Sentences

The most important thing about basic Japanese grammar is the sentence structure. In English, we usually have our sentences structured like this: subject – verb – object. For example: I eat cake. “I” is the subject, “eat” is the verb” and “cake” is the object or noun.

In Japanese, the verb goes at the end! So the sentence structure goes: subject – object – verb. 

So the same sentence is said like this in Japanese: watashi ha kēki wo taberu. (私はケーキを食べる。) “Watashi” is the subject, “kēki” Is the object and “taberu” is the verb. You must have noticed the particles – we’ll get into that later. 

It might get confusing when you add more parts to the sentence, but it’s actually quite flexible. When you want to add the time, location or preposition, they can basically go anywhere in the sentence. The most important thing is the particles which indicate what is what. 

Oh, and usually, you can omit the subject. Sometimes, it’s more natural to do so.

The handy thing is, every other part of the Japanese sentence is flexible. If you add a location, a time, a preposition, etc., they can go anywhere in the sentence. As long as you mark them with the correct particle and the verb goes at the end, you’re good to go. So, the key to remember here is: the verb always goes at the end.

You can also omit the subject usually, and it sounds more natural to do so.

Describing Existence

Let’s look at another simple grammar pattern, which is describing existence, like saying “there is a cat”.

In Japanese, the format includes “ga iru” (がいる) or “ga aru” (がある). The former describes living things and the latter describes non living things. The structure is: subject – “ga iru/aru”.

If you want to say “there is a cat” in Japanese, it’s “neko ga iru” (猫がいる).

If you want to say “there is a pen” in Japanese, it’s “pen ga aru” (ペンがある).

If you want to say there isn’t something, instead of “ga iru” or “ga aru”, you change it to “ga inai” (がいない) or “ga nai” (がない). This is the negative form of the above phrases.

If you want to say “there isn’t a cat” in Japanese, it’s “neko ga iru” (猫がいない).

If you want to say “there isn’t a pen” in Japanese, it’s “pen ga aru” (ペンがない).

Formal & Informal Speech

As mentioned earlier, the Japanese language has formal and informal speeches. This affects the grammar. To make it simple, it’s the ending of a sentence that varies whether it’s formal or informal.

For example, “neko ga iru” (猫がいる) is informal as it ends with “iru”, the dictionary and plain form of the verb. To make this sentence formal, you have to change “iru” to “imasen” (いません). This is the polite version of the verb.

That’s for verbs, but there’s also for other sentences that end with nouns or adjectives. The simplest way to make a sentence more polite is to add “desu” (です). 

For example, to say “this is a pen” in the polite form, you have to add “desu”: kore ha pen desu (これはペンです).

The same goes for adjectives: “this is pretty” is “kore ha kirei desu” (これは綺麗です).

Japanese Particles

As mentioned earlier, particles are extremely important in Japanese grammar. They indicate intonation, connectors like “and”, provide possessive forms and provide the means to ask questions. 

We have a very in-depth article on Japanese particles here. But here’s a quick summary of the various types of common Japanese particles:

は (wa/ha) – follows the topic of the sentence, making this particle the topic marking particle

が (ga) – to emphasise something or to distinguish it from the rest. It’s also used when you’re first introducing the subject

を (wo) – used to signal the object of the sentence. Most of the time, it follows a noun or a noun phrase

に (ni) – indicates a place or the direction something is moving towards. The particle often follows a moving verb only. It can also be used when you’re talking about the direction of something, like receiving something from others. In that case, it means “from”

で (de) – emphasises location rather than direction

と (to) – “and” 

の (no) – indicates possession

か (ka) – question indicator

Japanese Verbs

Japanese verbs can be quite confusing in the beginning, as the tenses and conjugation are very different from other languages. Let’s take a look at the basic tenses and conjugation of Japanese verbs!

Verb Tenses

Tenses in English can be confusing – there are past, present and future tenses, but there are also continuous, perfect, etc. Don’t worry, in Japanese, it’s pretty simple. There are only the past and present tenses

In English, there are three basic verb tenses: past, present, and future. But in Japanese, there’s only present tense and past tense. And they don’t change based on who is performing the action unlike some languages. They stay the same. 

The present tense of a verb is the dictionary form. For example: taberu (食べる).

The past tense of a verb involves a bit of conjugation. For example: taberu becomes tabeta (食べた).

BONUS: If you want to talk about the future tense, you usually add a time to the sentence. For example: “I’ll eat now” is said as “ima taberu” (今食べる).

Basic Verb Conjugations

Here comes the tricky part. But don’t worry, we’ll make it painless. Japanese verbs split into three types of verbs and they have their conjugations:

る-verbs

う-verbs

Irregular verbs

Depending on the category, the conjugation is different. Here are some common verbs in each category, and how to conjugate them: 

る-verbs – drop the “る” and add “ます”

食べる becomes 食べます, 寝る becomes 寝ます, 見る becomes 見ます

う-verbs – drop the ending “う” sound and add “います”

言う becomes 言います, 飲む becomes 飲みます, 聞く becomes 聞きます

Irregular verbs – they’re irregular so their conjugation has no formula

するbecomes します, 来る becomes 来ます

From there, to make the negation, it’s simple. ます then becomes ません. For example, 食べます becomes 食べません and 言います becomes 言いません.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth article on Japanese verb conjugations!

Ace that Japanese grammar!

Of course, there is more to Japanese grammar than what is listed in this article, but hopefully, this gives you a brief idea of what to expect when learning Japanese grammar. It’s not at all difficult once you get the hang of it. Us at Nihongo Master believe you can do it!

How to Learn Japanese the Fast & Easy Way!

How to Learn Japanese the Fast & Easy Way!

If you want to learn Japanese, you’ve come to the right place! We at Nihongo Master are dedicated to providing you with the best Japanese language learning content on all our various media platforms. Learning a new language is tough, and most of us would want to find ways to do it quickly.

While I personally feel like there are no shortcuts to learning a new language, there are tips and tricks that can help you to learn faster and easier. Of course, these all depend on the individual and what one’s study method is. But generally, if you stick to these 7 tips, you might be able to skip a bit of time out of your language learning journey.

1. Don’t skip the writing systems

The first one I think is the most important tip of all is: do not skip the writing systems. In Japanese, there are three writing systems: hiragana, katakana and kanji. Each of them are used for their own purposes and knowing all three of them is essential if you want to reach a good level of fluency.

Hiragana and katakana are pretty easy to pick up. You can master them casually in a week. They are the Japanese alphabet that represents a syllable. 

As for kanji, they are Chinese characters that are used in Japanese writing. I’d say there are around 2,000 essential kanji characters that you would need to take time to learn. One way to learn kanji is through vocabulary. When you learn new words, look at what the kanji characters for them are. Most conversational words use essential kanji characters. Have yourself be exposed to kanji characters on a daily basis. The more you see them, the more you’re able to recognise them.

Skip the stroke order for now. I would recommend foregoing this unless you’re doing it for school. If you’re here for the fast fluency, you can afford to not know the order of the strokes. 

2. Use language learning hacks

As I mentioned earlier, different people have different styles of learning. Depending on your style, pick up language learning hacks to help you learn Japanese faster and easier. 

One of the most popular methods of learning Japanese fast is using a spaced repetition system (SRS). This is often the use of flash cards. There’s a 80/30 rule that says you get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. So you focus on 20% of the language you use most to yield 80% of your speaking abilities. 

Another way is by using mnemonics. A lot of people find this language learning hack pretty useful. When you have mnemonic devices linked to Japanese language learning, you’ll be able to retain them in your brain faster and easier. 

And while some people often binge study, it may not help all. Some people actually study and retain knowledge better when studying in small chunks of time. This helps you to focus and not push yourself too much. Whatever you learn in that 15 minutes a day, be sure to repeat them and lock them in memory. This will definitely help you to learn Japanese faster.

And last but not least, consistency is key. You’ve got to be a bit responsible for your language learning journey. Stay committed, keep studying regularly, and you’ll be able to reach your language goals as early as 90 days! 

3. Think and explain in Japanese

One of the most important ways to improve your Japanese language skills is by training your brain to think in that foreign language. For this one, you would have to really put in the effort to do this, especially if you’re not already bilingual. 

By doing this technique, you’re going to be able to lock those new words and grammar into your brain even faster. Reading the meaning to a word or an explanation to a grammar point won’t guarantee that you can recall it when you need it. When you actively use these words and grammar, you’ll be able to store them in your brain easier!

The easiest way to start doing this is by reacting in Japanese. If you see a cute dog coming your way, you might start to think in English “it’s cute”. Try to think in Japanese: “あの犬は可愛い” (“that dog is cute”). 

You can also practice this technique by describing your surroundings. You don’t have to do that all the time. You can even do it on your way home from school or work. Describe the area around you. What do you see? What are the people doing? What’s the weather like? 

This last way of practicing this technique is one that I often do, and that’s translating my own conversations. After having a conversation with someone, try to translate that conversation into Japanese at your own pace. Say you ordered something in a restaurant. How would you do that in Japanese?

4. Find language exchange partners early

The best part about the previous technique is that you don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes with someone else. However, that doesn’t give you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. On top of that, you will also start to fear speaking in Japanese. Trust me, I was at that stage once too. 

So, to do that, you should definitely find a language exchange partner early on so you can start using your language skills ASAP.

There are so many ways you can find one. Sometimes, in your city or country, there’s a community of Japanese language learners like yourself. This is the best way to find one. Otherwise, go online and on apps like italki or HelloTalk. These are also great platforms to learn from others just like you! 

5. Immerse yourself in Japanese 

A lot of people say immersion is key. It’s pretty true, but you don’t have to be in Japan to be fully immersed. You can also just surround yourself with the language, through various means that you can control. One of the easiest ways is to constantly play Japanese media like games, TV shows, movies and anime (in Japanese language, of course).

I personally used to listen to Japanese podcasts as well to expose myself to the Japanese language. This method is also a way of passive learning, which kids use to learn when they’re younger and developing. 

If you have a Japanese town in your city, that’s perfect! You can find Japanese speakers around you to practice with in real life too! All these exposure will definitely help you to learn Japanese faster and easier!

6. Practice your Japanese speaking skills

I cannot emphasise this enough, but definitely work on your speaking skills from early on. Learning a language from a textbook and actually using the skill in real life is so so different. You realise there are so many other challenges that you face when you start speaking. You might not be able to recall what you learned, you realise you have a fear of speaking to overcome. Anything can happen. 

Whether it’s practicing in front of the mirror or with a language exchange partner or friend, start early! As soon as you learn your first grammar point, I suggest going straight into practicing your speaking skills!

7. Don’t be afraid to fail

And last but not least, don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, if you don’t fail at some point, you’re not human! All of us are learning. Even natives have things they need to learn. Failing is actually part of your Japanese language learning journey, so don’t avoid it. Instead, embrace it!

Learn Japanese Fast & Easy!

I hope that with these 7 techniques, you’ll be able to learn Japanese fast and easy! One of the best ways you can learn Japanese grammar points and new useful vocabulary words is by tuning in to our Nihongo Master Podcast! We have a language series in the podcast that breaks down grammar points just like our online learning system, and have roleplaying scenarios using the new grammar point. Hey, that’s the 8th technique to learning Japanese fast and easy!

Where to Buy Kigurumi

Where to Buy Kigurumi

Kigurumi is big in Japan. It has always been big. Now it’s big all over the world! Started as a trend back in the ‘90s, who would’ve thought that it would be here to stay? But it did, and we’re all for it!

Now we’re not here to talk about what kigurumi is and how it came about. To know more about kigurumi, we have a whole article on it here! This article is a quick guide on where to buy it. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you first: it’s not hard at all to get your hands on a pair or two. Because it’s so popular now, kigurumi is easily accessible worldwide! 

We’ve listed a few places where you can get yourself a kigurumi, both in and outside of Japan. Keep on reading!

What is “kigurumi”?

Okay, I know I said we wouldn’t cover what kigurumi is in the intro, but we kind of have to… The word “kigurumi” (着ぐるみ) actually is a combination of two words – kiru (着る) which translates to “to wear” and nuigurumi (ぬいぐるみ) which translates to “stuffed toy”. So when you have them together, it refers to costumed characters. Kind of like mascots. Some say that kigurumi can also be a part of cosplay. 

Back in the day, you would get an oversized head along with your animal onesie. Often times this head is in the “chibi” (チビ) style, which is like an anime drawing style. Now, you just get a onesie with a hood. If you’re lucky, you get ears along with it.

While kigurumi was originally used to promote businesses and companies as well as donned by cosplayers, nowadays it’s just for fun. It’s on the streets, in trains, in shops…at least in Japan anyway. 

Buying kigurumi in Japan

I was quite surprised that I couldn’t find a guide online for buying kigurumi in Japan itself. I guess it’s because it’s everywhere. For those of you who have never been to Japan and are planning to get one when you’re here, I’ve got you covered.

Don Quijote is the ultimate place to go for all your costume needs. This is a chain discount superstore that you can find in almost every city and big neighbourhood. There’s always a section in the store that’s all for costumes, and I bet some even have their own sections for kigurumi. If you go to the ones in Shibuya and Shinjuku in Tokyo, I’ve seen them with their own kigurumi section! You can have your pick there. Oh, and it’s sold all year round – not just during Halloween season.

There are also other stores that sell kigurumi, too. While not all outlets have them, Tokyu Hands often has a section for costumes. You’re better off trying in bigger neighbourhoods like Shinjuku and Shibuya, too. 

Dollar shops like Daiso, Seria and Can Do often have their own costume areas, too. Of course, when it’s Halloween season, the section expands even bigger, but I’ve noticed that there are a fair share of outlets that sell them all year round too.

I’ve also noticed that Amazon Japan has quite a few certified sellers for kigurumi. Though you shouldn’t hold me to my word, I would recommend browsing through Amazon Japan and getting expedited shipping while you’re here. You could do that in your own country, but shipping can get expensive. And sometimes, they don’t ship outside of Japan. This might be a shout!

Buying kigurumi outside of Japan

For those of us who are outside of Japan and would like to get our hands on a pair of kigurumi, you’re in luck. There are a lot of online shops that sell them! I told you it’s popular.

The best place to look for kigurumi is Kigurumi Shopi. They are the OG when it comes to creating the best quality and design of kigurumi for overseas. This company is an exclusive North American distributor for SAZAC as well, which is Japan’s most respectable and successful manufacturer of kigurumi. You can’t match their quality, design, attention to detail, textile and service. 

SAZAC also has retail shops all around the world in Asia, Europe and the Americas. So wherever you are in the world, you’re going to be able to get your hands on a kigurumi from here – if not offline, then online.

For UK kigurumi lovers out there, Kigu  is a SAZAC-partnered company where you can get your high-quality kigurumi, too!

While that’s the place to go to for your highest quality kigurumi, nowadays, since kigurumi is so popular, you can get animal onesies just about anywhere online. Amazon, Etsy, EBay, AliExpress and all the online platforms have their version of animal onesies. Bear in mind that they might not be the best of qualities, but if you’re looking to grab one quickly for a party or event, they might just be the place to go to.

Get your kigurumi today!

From the best of my knowledge, experience and research, I have come up with this quick yet detailed guide of where you can get kigurumi, both inside and outside of Japan! So if you’re excited to get one on your trip in Japan, or just for a party in your hometown, we’ve got you covered. Go get your kigurumi today!