Expressing wants and needs are one of the most important things to know how to say in any language. After all, we need to know the difference between what we desire and what we require. We covered how to say “I want” in Japanese in Season 2 Episode 10 of the Nihongo Master Podcast (a recap article can be read here). In Season 4 Episode 2, we covered how to say “I need”.
This is part of our Study Saturday language series on the podcast, where we cover useful, everyday Japanese grammar in a fun and easy way. It is formatted just like the Nihongo Master online learning system, so if you’re thinking about signing up for our program, have a taste of what we have to offer by giving our episodes a listen!
This article is a recap of what we covered in the episode, but there’s enough information here for you to grasp the grammar. For more examples, listen to the full episode!
To say “I need” in Japanese, there are two ways. Both are easy and simple. Depending on the context of the situation and the sentence structure, you have to pick which one to use.
Hitsuyou ga aru (必要がある)
The first way to say “I need” in Japanese is using the phrase “hitsuyou ga aru”. You attach it to the plain form of a verb. The format goes:
Verb (dictionary form) + 必要がある
Here’s an example sentence: “I need to study more.”
The verb in this sentence is “to study” which is benkyou suru (勉強する). “More” in Japanese is motto (もっと). Use the format from above and you get this sentence: “motto benkyou suru hitsuyou ga aru.” (もっと勉強する必要がある。)
Let’s translate another sentence: “I need to pack.”
The verb in this sentence is “to pack”, and in Japanese that is nidzukuri suru (荷造りする). So all you have to do is add the grammar point to the end of the plain form of the verb following our format: “nidzukuri suru hitsuyou ga aru”. (荷造りする必要がある。)
There’s another way to express needs, and that is with “iru” (要る). The pronunciation is the same as the phrase for “there is” — like “neko ga iru” (猫がいる) means “there is a cat”. But this “iru” is written differently in kanji.
Usually, we use “hitsuyou ga aru” when the thing that we need is a verb. If the thing that you need is a noun, we use “iru”. When attaching it with the noun, you have to use the particle “ga” (が). The format is:
Noun + が + 要る
Let’s translate this sentence: “we need to plan.”
While this sentence uses a verb “to plan”, which is junbi suru (準備する), it actually comes from the noun junbi (準備) to mean “preparation” or “arrangement”. The sentence following the format above is: “watashitachi ha junbi ga iru” (わたしたちは準備が要る。)
Let’s have another example: “we need money.”
The noun in the sentence is “money”, and in Japanese that is okane (お金). So we can say it as: “watashitachi ha okane ga iru.” (私達はお金が要る。)
In the episode, we have roleplaying scenarios exemplifying the two grammar above. We used so many new Japanese words. For those who tuned in, here’s a list of words for your reference:
Nidzukuri suru (荷造りする) — to pack
Keikaku (計画) — a plan
Junbi (準備) — preparation
Watashitachi (私達) — we
Okane (お金) — money
Motte iku (持って行く) — to bring
Haburashi (歯ブラシ) — toothbrush
Zenbu (全部) — all
Fuku (服) – clothes
Juubun (十分) — enough
Ryokō (旅行) — travel or trip
Genkin (厳禁) —cash
Yoyaku suru (予約する) — to book or make a reservation
Mada (まだ) — not yet
Hikōki (飛行機) — plane
Benri (便利) — convenient
Hayai (早い) — fast
Yasui (安い) — cheap
Okiru (起きる) — to wake up
Mitai (見たい) — want to see
Yaritai (やりたい) — want to do
Noritai (乗りたい) — want to ride
Bento (ベント) — packed lunch
What do you need?
Now you know how to say “I need” in two different ways in Japanese, what do you need? Maybe you need to buy some toiletries for your next trip, or you need to get some lunch. Whatever it is, you can now express them in Japanese! If you need more listening practice, go and listen to the full episode here!
Before I moved to Japan, I had already started learning Japanese for a few months. So when I got to Japan, I thought I would have enough Japanese language knowledge to have conversations and go through day-to-day interactions without any issue. Little did I know that theory wasn’t enough. I needed practice, but until then, I had to get around with what I call “survival Japanese”.
As Japanese is the main language in Japan, most Japanese people are not fluent in speaking or understanding English. Whether you’re just traveling to Japan or moving there, you have to find your way around ordering food at restaurants where no waiter speaks English, or checking out an order at a supermarket with no English guidance.
In this article, I personally came up with 3 tips on how to master the “survival Japanese” so as to boost your Japanese language skills as well as have lesser interruptions to your travels.
1. The magical “sumimasen”
The first one is the magical word “sumimasen” (すみません), which is one of the most useful Japanese phrases you ought to know. Sumimasen doesn’t really have a direct translation per se— it depends on how it’s used. Depending on the context, sumimasen can be anything from a sorry to a thank you, which is pretty bizarre — but the closest translation to help you understand its most common usages is “excuse me”.
One way to use it is to get someone’s attention — like passing through a crowd or calling the waiter over.
Another way of using it is when you want to apologise. You might think it’s gomennasai (ごめんなさい), which is correct, but some would say that sumimasen is the more formal version of gomennasai — others would disagree and say it’s the casual version.
Anyway, regardless of which usage, I think it’s crucial to know this word as it’ll definitely help you out during your Japan trip! If you want to know more about this phrase, check out our Nihongo Master Podcast, Season 1 Episode 1 where we elaborate more on this phrase and three other useful Japanese phrases.
2. Learn the basics
On top of that, if you haven’t already started learning, you might also want to consider learning the basics of Japanese. When going to any foreign country, it’s no guarantee that everyone can speak English. In Japan, the first language is Japanese. And while the people here learn English in school, not everyone can speak it. To make your trip go more smoothly and just for the sake of convenience, learn basic Japanese. Or what I would call, survival Japanese.
Pick up a cheap Japanese learning book and learn how to introduce yourself, how to order, how to ask questions, and how to ask for directions. It’s okay if you can’t put a sentence together quickly. Just the basics like migi (右) and hidari (左), to mean right and left, or de ii desu ka? Which is a question to ask if something is okay, can go a long way. Our Season 4 Episode 11 discusses how to ask questions, even simple ones, in Japanese.
Or alternatively, you should subscribe to Nihongo Master right now. We have the best of the best materials to help you learn Japanese! Plus, we have a free one-week trial!
3. If using English, speak slow
But hey, if you insist on using English, or you don’t have time to brush up on your basic Japanese, try your very best to speak slowly and use basic words. I recommend adding gestures while you speak. Visual cues and basic words are a good combination to get your message across when there’s a language barrier.
Of course, it definitely helps if you know basic Japanese words as well. Like if you want to ask “is the toilet on the left?”, you can switch out some words to Japanese like “is the トイレ at 左??” Baby steps to mastering your Japanese, am I right?
Master Survival Japanese!
Learning a new language is tough, but what’s tougher is putting it into practice when you’re in the environment. Believe me, I personally went through that. And that’s okay. We’re all at our own pace, but in the meantime, while you’re getting there, you can use these three tips to get the ball rolling for you. Good luck!
Japanese mannerisms are abundant, and some might say that there are a bit too many to remember in a short period of time for those travelling to the country for just a short trip.
In our Season 10 Episode 7 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, this special long mid-season episode is for those in a rush to get into the minimal Japanese manners mode for that week-long Japan trip we all hope to be on this year (like finally).
The first category of mannerisms for travellers we’re going to touch on is public manners. How you act in public is a tad different from what you might be used to. The concept of “public” and “private” in Japan can be quite different from other cultures, so if you don’t exactly know if it’s a private or public space, just treat it as public just to be safe.
As unspoken rules are a big thing and everyone abides by them in Japanese culture, we loop you in on the 5 most important ones.
1. Keep volume down
The first one is to keep your volume down in public spaces. The Japanese people are really mindful of their space, especially when out in public. Speaking in a high volume is not encouraged in Japan, as you would affect others around you. This is seen as respecting the space that you share with other strangers.
When you’re with a group of people, try your very best to keep your volume down, especially on public transport. Even when you’re alone, you’re expected to not blast music too loud on your headphones, as this might disturb the person next to you. You’ll hear announcements to turn your phone to “mana mo-do” which is silent mode, when on trains.
The next unspoken rule in public spaces is the queuing system. The Japanese love their queues – they queue for the ramen shop, outside of a store before it opens, and even for the escalators and lifts! Evenon street pavements and public transport platforms, there are signs to indicate which side to stick to or where to queue so as to not cross paths and walk into each other.
Follow the queue system for everything in Japan. Fall in line and you won’t have to dodge people’s shoulders like it’s a game of dodgeball.
3. Stop to eat and drink
The third rule of this category is to not eat and drink while walking on the streets. This is because when you do this, it’s considered as disrespecting others walking in the same area as you, so don’t drink or eat on the trains either.
Now this raises the question, what if you’re hungry or thirsty? Japan is scattered with convenience stores and vending machines, and the Japanese would eat or drink there and then. You’ll notice that they would be standing outside the store and finishing their food before walking. This is the same for cans from the vending machines. Finish up your food or drink before continuing walking.
You might think you wouldn’t need this, because you think you wouldn’t be in someone’s house during your time in Japan, but trust me, this also applies to ryokan (旅館, traditional Japanese hotels) and events like tea ceremonies.
1. Leave your shoes at the door
The first one is a crucial one to remember whenever entering any indoor space, and that is to leave your shoes at the door! Some of us come from cultures and countries where it’s normal to wear your outdoor shoes in your house, but in Japan, there’s a very clear distinction between outside and inside. If you don’t know if you need to take them off, ask a staff member. You could also observe the people around you to see if they’re taking off their shoes.
Oftentimes, when entering an indoor space, you will find an entrance area. This bit is considered as ‘outside’, even though you’re indoors, and it’s where you remove or put back on your outdoor shoes. The indoor space is usually elevated and can be covered by a different type of flooring, so that’s your best way to differentiate the two.
2. Wear socks if possible
Wear socks if possible, because they’ll be on display quite a bit. Some places don’t offer indoor slippers, and the Japanese believe that having socks on in the house is better than bare feet so as to not carry dust around.
One time you should definitely consider wearing socks is when you’re visiting a traditional indoor space. Say, for example, you’re going to a traditional tea ceremony in Japan. Most of the time these events take place in a tatami mat room, and it’s better to walk on tatami with socks so as to not damage the flooring.
3. Bathroom slippers
The third rule for indoor spaces is to take note of bathroom slippers. Sometimes in bathrooms, there will be bathroom slippers offered. In this case, leave your house slippers (if you have them on) outside the bathroom and switch for the bathroom slippers when you enter. Don’t forget to switch back after you’re done.
Visiting Holy Grounds
Moving on to the third category of Japanese mannerisms for travellers, and that’s when you’re visiting holy grounds. There are a lot of temples and shrines in Japan — so many that you might even find yourself on holy ground without even realising!
1. Don’t touch
The first rule of this category is don’t touch anything. I know, curiosity kills the cat, but refrain from mindlessly touching things you don’t know about on holy grounds. If there’s something on holy grounds that looks unique and intriguing, it’s because it’s meant to be there for a purpose, and that’s not for you to touch. You can admire something’s beauty without having your fingerprints all over them!
But of course, there are also things that you can touch, and oftentimes there are signs to signal that you can.
2. Ask if you don’t know
The next thing to remember when visiting holy grounds is that it’s okay to ask if you don’t know something. In fact, I recommend asking. Say for example you want to know if something is okay to touch — we’re linking it to the first point here — go up to any official staff worker on premises and ask them.
In smaller, more local temples and shrines, there aren’t that many signs that explain things, so I found myself always asking if I could enter a space, or if I should take off my shoes. Basically any question you have in your head, it’s so much better to get that clarified instead of wandering around and potentially misstepping.
3. Behave respectfully
Now the last rule, the general rule, is to behave respectfully. The first two points actually fall under this one, because if you think about it, the reasoning behind those two rules is because you’re respecting the holy grounds.
If you’re entering a church or a mosque, you’re going to behave respectfully just naturally, right? Similarly, with shrines and temples, you should do the same. Things like keeping quiet, whispering instead of talking at a normal volume if you want to talk to your friend, observing what others are doing to give you a sense of what you can do.
We used quite a few new Japanese words in the episode, so here’s a list of them for you to refer back to:
Koukyou no basho (公共の場所) — public space. Koukyou is public, and basho means place
Densha (電車) — train
Sasuga (さすが) — as expected
Narabu (並ぶ) — to queue
Konbini (コンビニ) — convenience store
Shinkansen (新幹線) — Japanese bullet trains
Uchi (内) — inside
Soto (外) — outside
Ryokan (旅館) — traditional Japanese inn
Izakaya (居酒屋) — Japanese style pub
Genkan (玄関) — the entrance bit in homes and other types of establishments
Seiza (星座) — the proper way of seating in Japanese culture
Tera (寺) — temple
Jinja (神社) — shrine
Shitsumon (質問) — question
Sonkei (尊敬) — respect
Basically, as long as your actions are out of respect, you really don’t have to worry as much.
And these are the absolute minimal, essential Japanese etiquette that you should know when you travel to Japan. While these are general rules for travellers, it doesn’t mean you should ignore them if you plan on living in japan. In fact, you should know more than just these mannerisms! Tune in to Season 10 of the Nihongo Master Podcast for more in-depth topics under the theme “Japanese Mannerisms”!
In our Season 10 Episode 5 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we covered a topic that is on one of the top Google searches when it comes to Japanese etiquette: table and dining manners. We bet it was the food of Japan which got a fair few of you interested in the culture in the first place.
While we covered a bit of this in our Season 1 Episode 11: The Picture of Politeness, this episode goes into further details of eating etiquette as well as drinking etiquette in Japan! This article is a recap of the topics discussed in the episode, so check the full episode out for more in-depth information!
As soon as you sit down at a table in a restaurant in Japan, you’re going to be served with an oshibori (お絞り, wet towel). These are provided to customers to clean their hands. You get a cold one in summer, and a hot one in winter! Now here’s your unofficial first tip: only use the oshibori to wipe your hands, and not anywhere else like the face!
If you stick to these three table manners for eating, you’re not going to totally come across as a gaijin at restaurants in Japan. Promise.
Chopsticks take up a crucial chunk in Japanese dining etiquette. If there’s a poster for it, chopsticks will be the main graphic. One of the big-time Japanese dining rules is to know your way around the ins and outs of proper chopsticks usage. If you can work a pair of chopsticks, you’re about halfway there — you just have to keep in mind the acts that are strict no-go’s.
Say you’re at dinner with a couple of friends and decide to share a few dishes. Your own pair of chopsticks are considered dirty, so dipping directly into shared dishes and sauces is frowned upon — it’s similar to passing food from one pair of chopsticks to another. Instead, use the serving utensils or a separate pair of hashi. But if you absolutely can’t avoid it, use the back of your personal chopsticks instead.
While some groups of friends will overlook that last rule, there is one chopstick custom that is essential: never stick your chopsticks upwards in a bowl of rice. That’s because this is the way rice is offered to the dead, and it also resembles sticks of incense at funerals — not the most pleasant image to have at the dinner table, don’t you agree?
The next eating etiquette has to do with dishes and bowls. Food is often served one at a time, rarely all at once. Most of the time, waiting for everyone’s meals to arrive before eating is the way to go. Then, the green light to start eating is when the “itadakimasu” has been said. This loosely translates to “Let’s eat!”
If you have a dish that’s better eaten right away, there’s a way out: say “Osaki ni itadakimasu” which translates to “allow me to start before you”. If your friend has a dish like that, say “osaki ni douzo”, “please go ahead”.
Dishes are often served in small bowls, and when eating, it’s better to pick up the bowl with your hand and bring it closer to your mouth when eating it, rather than bending down to get closer to the bowl. This is the ideal way, as compared to cupping your hands to catch falling food, which is considered bad manners!
Here’s a fun tip: if you’re sharing a dish and there’s one last piece of food left, don’t snag it up instantly! Oftentimes people are reluctant to eat this. The best thing to do is leave this to the seniors of the group! This last piece of meal is called “enryo no Katamari”.
And when everyone’s finished their meal, conclude it with a “gochisousama deshita!” This translates to “thank you for the meal!”. Return your dishes to how they were at the start of the meal, like putting back the lids on bowls and chopsticks back on the chopstick rest.
The third and final eating etiquette we’re covering today is slurping! In Japan, the louder you slurp your noodles, the better. When you slurp your noodles, you’re indirectly letting the chef know you’re enjoying the meal.
For a conservative society, the Japanese aren’t afraid to shout out their satisfaction from one end of a restaurant to the other. If it goes against some of your personal customs, don’t worry, it’s not compulsory.
Now we move on to everyone’s favourite part: drinking! Yes, the Japanese have drinking etiquette too! In Japanese culture, drinking is more of a shared experience, and there’s a bit of expectation to get the same drinks. But don’t worry, in my three years of living in Japan, I haven’t had anyone pressure me to not get my gin and tonic cocktail and get a haiboru instead.
1. Wait for everyone
The first thing you need to know when drinking in Japan is to wait for everyone’s first drink to come first. When everyone’s drinks have arrived, if no one has said it yet, you do the honours of raising your glass while saying “Kanpai!” That’s the Japanese equivalent of “cheers!”
This “kanpai”-ing can happen a few times in a night, especially with every new drink. Some may expect the group to drink at the same pace and get another round of drinks at the same time, but don’t feel pressured to do so if you’re not as strong with alcohol. Keep your pace, and when the second round of kanpai comes around while you’re still at your first drink, just raise the same glass.
2. Pour for each other
The next drinking etiquette you ought to know is to not pour your own drink, but instead pour for each other. When drinking in Japan, it’s customary to let others refill your glass from communal bottles. Not only are you supposed to thank them, but also reciprocate when someone pours a drink for you.
As hierarchy is a big thing in Japan, typically, the ones lower in the social ladder pours for the senior members. This is especially so during work drinking events or anything formal.
Hold your glass or sake cup when another is filling it up for you as a gesture of goodwill.
3. Drink up
And the final drinking etiquette is…drink up! Japanese people love a good pint of beer or two, and it’s a common sight to see a group of businessmen at a bar as soon as it’s the end of the workday. Accepting an invitation for a few pints after work is pretty expected.
The thing is, Japanese drinking sessions can turn into a full-on drinking marathon that can go on till the sun comes up. Others might pressure you to get another round after another round. The trick here is to not start strong and fail to finish. Maintain a good pace and sip water in between. While we’re all about the team spirit here, we’re also all about drinking responsibly.
Now, what if you’ve drank too much and need to stop? Hey, it’s bound to happen. And all you need to do is stop. Leave your glass full so no one refills your glass. And if you need to leave, don’t feel pressured to not do so. A simple farewell of “otsukaresama deshita”, which loosely translates to “you’ve worked hard” is the most common way to end a drinking session.
We used a lot of new Japanese vocabulary words in the episode, and here we list them down for your reference:
Oshibori (おしぼり) — wet towel
Hashi (箸) — chopsticks
Yūshoku (夕食) — dinner. The other meals of the day are chōshoku (朝食) or asagohan (朝ご飯) for breakfast, and chūshoku (昼食) or hirugohan (昼ごはん) for lunch
Osaki ni (お先に) — this translates to first, or to go ahead
Enryo no katamari (遠慮の塊) — the last piece of food
Itadakimasu (いただきます) — Let’s eat!
Gochisousama deshita (ご馳走様でした) — thank you for the meal
Gaijin (外人) — short for gaikokujin (外国人), to mean foreigner
Haiboru (ハイボール) — high ball, which is whiskey and soda water
Izakaya (居酒屋) — a Japanese bar that not only serves drinks but small dishes as well, like skewers
Kanpai (乾杯) — cheers!
Tokkuri (徳利) — sake bottles
Otsukaresama Sama deshita (お疲れ様でした) — you’ve worked hard
Japanese table manners are not at all hard to get used to. They’re pretty straight forward when it comes to why it exists, and mostly it’s the social awareness aspect and the team spirit. Don’t you think so? Check out the full episode of the Nihongo Master Podcast: Season 10 Episode 5!
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!
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)
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 =
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)
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？)
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
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!
There are just some things in life that are not 100% and more like a half-and-half. In that case, how does one express this possibility of something? If you think something’s going to happen but you’re not 100% sure, you’re going to add the word “might”, “maybe” or “perhaps” in the sentence, aren’t you?
In our Season 3 Episode 6 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we break down step-by-step how to express possibility in Japanese. This is an easy way to step up your Japanese game, because it’s so simple to learn and it’s so easy to add into your everyday sentences like “maybe it’s going to rain” or “perhaps I’ll cook dinner”. All of that is easily achievable with the grammar language that will be in this article!
Even though this article is a recap of the podcast episode, it does have just enough information for you to grasp the entirety of the grammar point. However, we highly recommend you to tune in to our podcast, as our Study Saturday language series is formatted just like our online learning system – we introduce the grammar point, put it to use with a few roleplaying scenarios, and compile a list of new vocabulary words at the end!
To express the possibility of something happening or something you want to do, in English, we use the words “maybe” or “perhaps”. There are a few ways to go about that in English. However, in Japanese, there are only two ways to go about it, so you can learn how to express possibility pretty quickly!
The first one is by using the word “tabun” (多分). The word itself already means “maybe”. Now we need to know how to incorporate it into a sentence. Usually, it’s at the beginning of the sentence. The format goes:
多分 + (sentence)
For example, let’s say this sentence in Japanese: “Perhaps the Spanish language is easy.”
Tadaa! That’s it for the first grammar point! It’s good to note that while it’s preferable to use at the beginning of the sentence, you can also use it at the end, depending on the situation.
The next way to express possibility is by adding ~kamo shirenai (or ~kamo shiremasen for the polite form), to the end of the sentence. The format is:
(Sentence) + かもしれない (polite: かもしれません)
For example, let’s say this sentence in Japanese: “I thought I might be falling sick.”
Slightly longer, but not an impossibly hard sentence to translate. To say “to fall sick” in Japanese, it’s byōki ni naru (病気になる). To express opinions, which we covered in another Study Saturday podcast episode (you can check out the recap article here), we say “to omotta” (と思ったと) or “to omoimashita” (思いました) for the polite form at the very end of the sentence.
We can’t use kamo shiremasen for this one; we only change the ending to the polite form.
We could also say it as tabun byouki ni naru to omotta (多分病気になると思った). Both ways of saying “maybe” are interchangeable for the most part!
We often wrap up the episode with a list of vocabulary words, so we list them out here for listeners to refer to:
Supeingo (スペイン語) — Spanish language. You can add ~go (語) to most country names to talk about their language. For example, French is furansu-go (フランス語)
Kantan (簡単) — easy
Byōki ni naru (病気になる) — to fall sick. Byōki on its own refers to sickness
Tsukareteiru (疲れている) — to be tired
Tada (ただ) — “just”, you can also use dake in certain situations
Au (会う) — to meet
Tonari (隣) — next to
Kōen (公園) — park
Komu (混む) — to be crowded
Soto (外) — outside
Chikaku (近く) — near
kaban (カバン) — bag
wasurechau (忘れちゃう) — it comes from the word wasureru, which means to forget
hakubutsukan (初物館) — museum
ryōhō (両方) — both
Tanoshimi ni (楽しもに) — looking forward to something
Basho (場所) — place
Kaigai (海外) — overseas
Fuyu (冬) — winter
Samui (寒い) — cold
Yasumu (休む) — to take a day off
Rokugatsu (六月) — June. It combines the number 6 and the word month, since June is the sixth month. For July, the seventh month, it’s shichigatsu (七月), and August is hachigatsu (八月)
Maybe…Tune in to our podcast?
Now you’re a pro at expressing possibility in two ways in Japanese! You’ll use this quite often in everyday conversations, more than you think! In Japanese culture, it’s better to be indirect than reply with a direct answer, so this acts as a buffer from giving a straight “yes” or “no”. Practical, isn’t it?
For a more in-depth explanation at how to use these two grammar points, check out the full episode of the Nihongo Master Podcast: click here!
One of the best ways to improve your Japanese is by tackling one basic Japanese grammar at a time, and we do that in our Study Saturday language series of the Nihongo Master Podcast! In Season 3 Episode 4, we break down the grammar point of saying “I can” in Japanese, a useful grammar language that we can’t live without.
Whether it’s at work or just among friends, there will definitely come a time when you mention or respond with your abilities, capabilities or attributes. And sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be about you — it can be about the people around you or even things! Can the AC work? Can she make it in time? Can I sleep in today? All of these have different subjects, but they all still use the same grammar language.
If that’s not proof enough that this particular grammar point is extremely useful, then I don’t know what is.
So, this article will recap what we discussed in the podcast episode – introducing the grammar point and a few examples, as well as listing the new vocabulary words we used. If you want to know more in-depth about this grammar language, give Season 3 Episode 4 a listen!
Expressing your capabilities and abilities are pretty useful in any language, and it’s not only useful to prove to your bosses of your skill set. In fact, this can definitely be used in everyday conversation.
This grammar point is known as the potential form, and there are two ways to express this.
Koto ga dekiru
The first one is by adding ~koto ga dekiru (ことができる) to the plain form of any verb. For the polite form, it’s “koto ga dekimasu” (ことができます). The format is:
Verb (plain form) + ことができる
For example, to say “I can eat spicy food”, we’ll need to put together the words for spicy, which is karai (辛い), food which can be either tabemono (食べ物) or ryōri (料理), and the verb “to eat” which is taberu (食べる). At the end of the sentence, all we have to do is add the phrase we mentioned earlier.
辛い + 料理 + は + 食べる + ことができる (polite: ことができます)
= 辛い料理は食べることができる (karai ryōri ha taberu koto ga dekiru.)
If you’re the opposite of me and cannot eat spicy food, just negate “dekiru” to make “dekinai” (できない). The polite form is then “dekimasen” (できません). This is to say “I cannot…”. The format is:
Verb (plain form) + ことがでない (polite: ことができません)
You get this sentence:
辛い料理は食べることができない (karai ryōri ha taberu koto ga dekinai)
The other way is slightly trickier — depending on whether it’s a -ru or u-verb, you would then have to conjugate it differently. We’ll use the same example about spicy food. For ru-verbs like “taberu”, you would need to take out the last syllable “ru”, and add “rareru” (られる) afterwards, to make “taberareru”. The polite form is “raremasu” (られます).
Ru-verb (take out the ending る) + られる (polite: られます)
食べる = 食べ (without る) + られる = 食べられる
So the sentence becomes: 辛いk料理は食べられる (karai ryōri ha taberareru)
If you want the negation, the ending “ru” becomes “nai”. For the formal, it’s “masen” instead.
Ru-verb (take out the ending る) + られない (polite: られません)
Casually, we can omit the “ra” in “rareru”, to make “reru” (れる) . Grammatically it’s incorrect, but it does sound more natural to most Japanese people today.
食べられる = 食べれる (more colloquial but grammatically incorrect)
For u-verbs, ;et’s use this sentence as an example: “I can speak a little bit of Japanese”.
The words in the sentence are:
A little bit: 少し (sukoshi)
Japanese: 日本語 (nihongo)
To speak: 話す (hanasu)
話す is an u-verb, so to conjugate it, we take the u sound at the end and change it to e, then add “ru” (る). For the polite form, the ru is substitute with “masu” (ます)
U-verb (without う) + え + る (polite: ます)
話す = はなす – う + え = 話せ = 話せる
The sentence in Japanese is:
日本語を少し話せる (nihongo wo sukoshi hanaseru)
The negation is the same as we mentioned before. The ending “ru” becomes “nai”. For the formal, it’s “masen” instead.
U-verb (without う) + え + ない (polite: られません)
話す = はなす – う + え = 話せ = 話せない
One quick thing to note: there are two irregular verbs that don’t conjugate like the rest, and that is suru (する) and kuru (来る).
Suru becomes dekiru (できる).
Kuru becomes korareru (来られる).
If you can’t remember, just use the safe option of koto ga dekiru — it’ll then be suru koto ga dekiru (することができる), and kuru koto ga dekiru (来ることができる). No change in meaning at all.
Here’s a list of vocabulary words that we used in the episode:
Karai 辛い— spicy
Tabemono 食べ物— food
Ryōri 料理— cuisine
Taberu 食べる— to eat
Sukoshi 少しor chotto ちょっと— a bit
Nihongo 日本語— Japanese. You can add -go語 to most countries to talk about their language. Spanish would then be supeingo スペイン語
Our Season 2 Episode 12 of the Nihongo Master Podcast is actually a follow-up episode of our Study Saturday Christmas special, where we discussed how to express wants in Japanese. That was the perfect grammar to ask for the ideal Christmas present!
The follow-up episode looked at how to express we got something, gave something, and someone gave something to us for Christmas! It’s only a matter of time before I ask this question: did you get the present you wanted for Christmas?
This article is a summary of that podcast episode: we looked at three different grammar languages to convey these gift-giving and gift-receiving exchanges, focusing on communicating what we got, what we gave, and what people gave us…for Christmas!
Before going into the grammar point, there’s the concept of soto and uchi. They play huge roles in direction and what grammar to use for who:
Soto & Uchi
In English, we use “to give” for any two parties — whether it’s a friend to a friend, a family member to you, or you to a stranger. In Japanese, however, it’s all about point-of-view and direction — there’s this concept of “soto” (外, outside) and “uchi” (内,inside). Long story short, uchi refers to your inner circle like yourself, your family, and people you’re close with. Soto refers to everyone else.
So when do you use ageru? To simplify it, I’ll list it out:
– the first is when the giver is “watashi”, and receiver is soto or uchi (it doesn’t matter)
– Second is when someone from your uchi is the giver, and the receiver is someone from soto
– Third is when both giver and receiver are people from soto
Now, here is when you use kureru:
– First is when the giver is either soto or uchi, and the receiver is “watashi”
– Second is when the giver is soto and the receiver is uchi.
We usually looked at example sentences when explaining new grammar points. The first sentence was “I gave my boyfriend a wallet”. For this kind of sentence, we use the grammar point “ageru” ().
The basic formula you’ll need is: giver + ha () + receiver + ni () + object + wo () + ageru.
In this case, the giver is me (watashi, 私); the receiver is my boyfriend (kareshi, 彼氏); the object is a wallet (saifu, 財布). All together, it’ll be: watashi ha kareshi ni saifu wo ageta (私は彼氏に財布をあげた).
So the subject of the sentence is the giver, and in that example, it was me. How about this sentence: My boyfriend gave me a necklace for Christmas. The giver is still the subject, but who is it? Yup, it’s the boyfriend. In this case, we use a different grammar point: “kureru” (くれる).
Lucky for us, the same formula applies — the giver is boyfriend; the receiver is me; the object is a necklace (nekkurasu, ネックラス). What do we get when we put them all together: Kareshi ha watashi ni nekkurasu wo kureta (彼氏は私にネックラスをくれた).
The third grammar point isn’t as confusing as the first two, because it translates to “to receive”. Soto and uchi don’t play a part here — both the receiver and giver can be anyone from your inner or outer circle.
What if you want to say that you got something from someone? Let’s use this sentence as an example: “I got a scarf from him.” We use the grammar point “morau” (もらう). Unlike the first two where the subject is the giver, this one has the receiver as the subject.
The formula is slightly different then, and we have: receiver + ha + giver + ni/kara + object + wo + morau.
In this case, I am the receiver, the giver is “he” (kare, 彼), the object is a scarf (sukāfu, スカーフ). You get this sentence: “watashi ha kare ni sukāfu wo moratta” (私は彼にスカーフをもらった).
We wrapped the episode up with a quick vocab recap. Here’s a list of them for your convenience:
Kareshi (彼氏) — boyfriend
Saifu (財布) — wallet
Soto (外) — outside
Uchi (内) — inside
Tomodachi () — friend
Hana (花) — flower
Tanoshii (楽しい) — fun
Sugoku (すごく) — very, kind of like “meccha” (めっちゃ) and “totemo” (とても)
Urayamashi () — jealous
Tsumaranai (つまらない) — boring
Toku ni nani mo (特に何も) — nothing special
Piasu (ピアス) — earrings
Ureshii (嬉しい) — happy
Takai (高い) — expensive, but it can also mean “high”
Boushi (帽子) — cap
Kaban (カバン) — bag
Atarashii (新しい) — new
Shashin (写真) — picture
Wasurechatta (忘れちゃった) — to forget
Tanjoubi omedeto (誕生日おめでとう) — happy birthday, the word for birthday is “tanjoubi” (誕生日)
Shigoto (仕事) — work
Yasashii (優しい) — kind
Shinyū (刺入) — best friend
Kutsu (靴) — shoes
Kutsu shita (靴下) — socks
Sumaho (スマホ) — smartphone
Saikō (最高) — the best
Not only can you use these grammar points to talk about what you got and gave for Christmas, but also in other conversations in everyday situations. For examples of how to use this, our full episode has two roleplaying scenarios exemplifying these grammar points. Check it out!
If you’re a Japanese language learner, you would have already known about the JLPT test. There are only two JLPT test dates in a year, and in some places, only one. Some plan well in advance to catch the next test date or to apply for a job with the passed test results. But not all of us are well prepared.
Even if you’re not familiar with it, you’re here reading this article because you’re curious as to what’s in store next after taking the test. Some don’t know exactly what to do with that certificate, or the opportunities that the test can provide.
So the answer to this question in our heads greatly depends on the reason you take the test in the first place. Read on to find out some of the things you can consider.
By the way, if you don’t know why you should take the JLPT in the first place, check out one of our articles about it here!
The JLPT and its levels
Let’s first take a look at what JLPT is in the first place. We have a whole article on that already, but let’s have a brief summary of it here regardless.
JLPT stands for Japanese Language Proficiency Test. This is the only test that is standardised to evaluate the level of Japanese language proficiency one has. You can take the JLPT tests twice a year in over 60 countries worldwide. You have to register online in advance and it takes up to three months to get your results. This is important to know, especially if you’re using the results to apply for a job or university in Japan. Check this list for a testing centre near you.
There are five levels for the JLPT: N1 to N5:
JLPT N5 is the lowest but easiest to pass of them all, which covers the writing systems and the grammar basics. JLPT N4 covers most of the grammar that you need to speak conversational Japanese. Once you cover all of the JLPT N4 and N5 materials, you can get around Japan without any problems.
JLPT N3 is where it gets a bit difficult as it covers a bit more complicated grammar points. It gets you ready for the next level, JLPT N2, which is the proficiency level you need to work in Japan. It covers the most written and spoken Japanese.
And finally, you have JLPT N1, which is the highest level and as close to a native you can get. You’re pretty much qualified for any job in Japan at this point.
The JLPT tests cover written and listening comprehension, but not speaking or writing. Here at Nihongo Master, we have practices for all the various mediums. Start learning Japanese with a free trial here!
Now, let’s look at three things you can do after you’ve passed your JLPT test, regardless of which level you took.
1. Continue your studies
The first thing you can do is continue your studies, regardless of what JLPT level you passed. It doesn’t have to be studying for the next test. It can just be learning casually. Learning a language is a lifelong journey. You should never really stop learning, whether actively or passively. You have to keep using this new language so that you don’t forget it.
There are a few ways you can do this. You can pick up reading and start reading a Japanese book. Just like how you can learn a lot from reading an English book, you can learn new words, kanji characters and sentence structures through reading Japanese books.
Alternatively, you can continue learning Japanese through other forms of media like anime and manga. Some of us are already learning Japanese through these methods, so going back to them is definitely a great way to continue your learning journey.
Another way to continue your studies is by actively conversing in Japanese. Since the JLPT tests don’t cover speaking skills, this is a good opportunity to put that theory into practice. You can decide to attend conversational classes where you speak in Japanese during class, or make Japanese friends online. In Japan, some cafes let you meet others who are just like you, wanting to practice their conversational skills.
2. Start with professional plans
For some of us, taking the JLPT is for our career. So once you’ve got that certificate that shows you’ve passed that level, you should start looking at how you can use that for job interviews, job advancements or promotions. Some jobs require a certain level of JLPT, so if you have met that requirement, definitely get on how you can apply for that.
If the job that you want requires a level higher than what you’ve just passed, then read on to our next point…
3. Prepare for the next test
As mentioned earlier, there are only two testing dates in a year for the JLPT, and you need to book months in advance for it. If you’re thinking of sitting for the next level of JLPT, whether it’s for your career or just personal reasons, take note of the opening date for applications.
Start studying for that level. Get books to help you prepare for it. Some may want to go for classes where they guide you through the preparation, as well as provide mock exam papers. These all depend on your studying methods as not everyone studies the same way.
Whichever route you choose to take after passing your JLPT, you should definitely congratulate yourself on this achievement. It’s a huge milestone, regardless of which level it is. Give yourself a break, a pat on the back, maybe even a nice cake. Then, jump right back into learning Japanese!
As the new year comes around, some of us have the habit of making New Year’s resolutions. Who’s with me? What is your New Year’s resolution? Are there any new things you want to try? It’s the best time of the year to come up with a list of new things you want to try – whether it’s new and exciting activities or the ones you missed out on completely in 2020. Why not have that list written down in Japanese as well?
In our Season 3 Episode 2 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we broke down step-by-step the grammar of how to say “to try” in Japanese. And this article is a recap of what we discussed in that episode. But don’t worry, you get just enough information to fully grasp the grammar. Of course, if you want to be more comfortable with its usage, our episode has a few roleplaying scenarios exemplifying this new grammar.
I thought the best way to understand this grammar point is by relating it to myself. So let’s say, my New Year’s resolution is to try a new sport. I also want to try cooking Japanese food.
If you want to say that you’re going to try something out, the Japanese grammar for it is extremely simple and clear cut: it’s basically the te-form of any verb, and add “~miru” (みる) to it at the end. And you’re done. Super simple, right?
Sentence ending with verb (in its te-form) + みる
Let’s take a look at an example: “My New Year’s resolution is to try a new sport.” The word for resolution in Japanese is houfu (豊富), New Year’s, is shinnen (新年), new is atarashii (新しい), and sports as a verb is spōtsu wo suru (スポーツをする). Then add “miru”. Now that we have all the words, let’s put it together: 私の新年の抱負は新しいスポーツをしてみる(watashi no shinnen no houfu ha atarashii supōtsu wo shite miru).
Let’s change this sentence into Japanese: “I will try to eat other country’s cuisine.” Here are the pieces: other is hoka (他), country is kuni (国), cuisine is ryōri (料理) and eat is taberu (食べる). Let’s put it all together: 他の国の料理を食べてみる (Hoka no kuni no ryōri wo tabete miru).
Want to try…
I’m going to throw in another grammar language that I pretty much use all the time. I like to try new things, so I would always say “I want to try…”
We basically want to combine our newly learnt grammar point with the way to say “want to”, and that’s to add ~tai (たい). You can learn how to do that in our Season 2 Episode 10, or its article recap. “Miru” (みる) is a ru-verb, so its stem form is just “mi” (み). When we combine them both, we get mitai (みたい).
Sentence ending with verb (in its te-form) + みたい
So to say “I want to try cooking Japanese food”, we have to put together the words: Japanese food is nihonshoku (日本食) or washoku (和食), cooking, in this context, is tsukuru (作る), and our new grammar: 日本食を作ってみたい (Nihonshoku wo tsukutte mitai).
We always have a vocab recap in our episodes. So here’s a list of the new words we used in that episode:
Houfu (豊富) — resolution or ambition
Shinnen (新年) — new year
Atarashii (新しい) — new
spōtsu (スポーツ) — sports
Ryōri (料理) — cuisine
Hoka (他) — other
Kuni (国) — country
Taberu (食べる) — to eat
Nihonshoku (日本食) or washoku (和食) — Japanese food
Tsukuru (作る) — to make, but we can also use it as in the context of cooking
Kotoshi (今年) — this year
Takusan (たくさん) — a lot
Yasai (野菜) — vegetables
Rikujoubu (陸上部) — track and field
saisho (最初) — first
Kenkou (健康) — healthy
Zenbu (全部) — all
Gōkaku suru (合格する) — to pass a test
Nibanme (二番目) — second
Shumi (趣味) — hobby
Egaku (描く) — to paint
Muzukashii (難しい) — difficult
Tanoshii (楽しい) — fun
Houkago (放課後) — after school
Kaimono (買い物) — shopping
Itsumo (いつも) — always
Onaji (同じ) — same
Chigau (違う) — to be wrong, but also can mean different
Betsu (別) — other
Oishii (美味しい) — delicious
Chikaku (近く) — near
Osusume (おすすめ) — recommendation
Takusan (たくさん) — a lot
Iro iro (色々) — various
Maa maa (まあまあ) — not good, not bad
Omoshiroi (面白い) — interesting
What do you want to try?
Now you can go off and write that New Year’s resolution list in Japanese, too! Or just to express trying out new things, which is something I definitely recommend — new year or not. Be sure to check out the original episode for the full version of this content.
Our Study Saturday language series of the podcast is formatted just like our online learning system, so give that series a listen, and if you like it, subscribe to our program! I promise you won’t regret it!