A simple and extremely useful Japanese grammar that you should definitely know is how to say “you should”. It’s a simple grammar point that you use quite often in daily conversations, believe it or not. 

In our Season 3 Episode 9 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, as part of the Study Saturday language series, we practiced asking and giving advice like a pro! The Study Saturday language series has a new episode every Saturday, where we break down a useful grammar point, exemplify them with a few roleplaying scenarios and end it off with a list of new vocabulary words we just learned. They’re formatted just like Nihongo Master’s online learning system, so give those episodes a listen for a sneak peek at what our program has to offer!

Grammar Point 

We’re going to look at how to say “you should” in Japanese. This phrase can be used to give advice as well as your opinion on a matter. We can use this one simple, easy and ever-useful grammar point: hou ga ii (方がいい). This translates to “you should” or “it’s better to”…We attach this phrase to the end of a verb in its plain past tense. The format goes:

Verb (plain past tense) + 方がいい (formal: add です at the end)

You should…

For example, let’s translate this sentence into Japanese: “I think my boyfriend should sleep earlier.” It’s a simple sentence — so simple that, if you’ve listened to our past Study Saturday’s, you would have gathered all the vocabulary words by now. So let’s revise: boyfriend is kareshi (彼氏), to sleep is ru-verb neru (寝る) and the past tense will be neta (寝た), and early is hayai (早い). Season 2 Episode 8 introduced the phrase for “I think”, which is to omou (と思う), that goes at the end of everything. 

[My + boyfriend + (subject particle) + sleep early] + should (+ I think) =

[私の + 彼氏 + は + 早く寝た] + 方がいい (+ と思う)

So if we put them all together, you get: 私の彼氏は早く寝た方がいいと思う。(watashi no kareshi ha hayaku neta hou ga ii to omou) 

Let’s have another example: “I’d better eat more healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.” First we get the pieces of the sentence:

[Fruits + (connecting particle) + vebetables + like + (object particle) + more + eat] + I should =

[果物 + や + 野菜 + のような + 健康食品 + を + もっと + 食べた] + 方がいい

So now we just have to put them together: 果物や野菜のような健康食品をもっと食べた方がいい。 (kudamono ya yasai no youna kenkō shokuhin wo motto tabeta hou ga ii)

You shouldn’t…

For the negation, to say “you shouldn’t”, you can’t say “hou ga yokunai”. Instead, we take the verb and change that into its plain negative form. The format is:

Verb (plain negative tense) + 方がいい (formal: add です at the end)

Take this sentence as an example: “Maybe it’s better if we don’t go outside because of COVID-19.” Let’s have the pieces:

[COVID-19 + because of + outside + (location particle) + to not go out] + should (+ maybe)

[コロナ + のせいで + 外 + に + 出ない] + 方がいい (+ かもしれない)

The sentence you get is: コロナのせいで外に出ない方がいいかもしれない。(corona no sei de soto ni denai hou ga ii kamoshirenai.)

Asking a question

If you’re asking for someone’s advice between two options, you don’t really have to use “hou” in the phrase and instead just use “ga ii”. So a common question would be, “docchi ga ii?” (どっちっがいい?) . This translates to: “which is better?”

So if you want to ask” which is better, the red or the black dress?”, the question would be: “sono aka wanpisu to kuro wanpisu, docchi ga ii?” (その赤いワンピスと黒ワンピス、どっちがいい?)

Vocab Recap

We introduced some new words during the example situations during the episode. Here’s a list of the vocabulary words we used:

Kareshi (彼氏) — boyfriend

Neru (寝る) — to sleep

Hayai (早い) — early, or fast

Kenkō shokuhin (健康食品) — healthy food, kenkō is healthy and shokuhin is food 

Kudamono (果物) — fruits

Yasai (野菜) — vegetables 

Mottoもっと — more

Soto (外) — outside

Deru (出る) — to go out 

Docchi (どっち) — which 

Kaigi (会議) — meeting 

Junbi (準備) — preparation 

Issho ni (一緒に) — together 

Tsukau (使う) — to use 

Printo suru (プリントする) — to print

Nanji (何時) — what time

Mochiron (もちろん) — of course, sure

Konya (今夜) — tonight

Yūshoku (夕食) — dinner

Tsukuru (作る) — to make

Shintai ni yoku nai tabemono (身体に良くない食べ物) — junk food, or food that’s bad for your body 

Undou (運動) — exercise

Osoi (遅い) — late

Conclusion

With this grammar point, you can go around seeking and giving advice as you please. For a more in-depth discussion on this grammar point and its usage, check out Season 3 Episode 9 of the Nihongo Master Podcast