Basic Japanese Grammar: Asking and Giving Permission with てもいい

Basic Japanese Grammar: Asking and Giving Permission with てもいい

One of the most important grammar points is asking and giving permission. The way to do that is by using the phrase “te mo ii” (てもいい).

If you ask me how often I use it, I’d say pretty often. If it’s not me using it, it’s me hearing it being used. In both statement and question form, this grammar language can save you a few minutes of language barrier and miscommunication. Sure, a “daijoubu” (大丈夫) can cover most situations, but aren’t we all here to up our nihongo game? 

The information in this article can also be found on our Nihongo Master Podcast, Season 4 Episode 11. While you can get most of the information in this article, we have roleplaying scenarios on the podcast. Check that out!

Image Credit: Max Pixel

Grammar Point

If you read online, some pages would say that this grammar language is about granting permission or asking permission. That’s the formal way to put it. It’s kind of like saying “You may do this” or “May I do this?” Reminds me of when I was in elementary school and had to ask permission to go to the toilet. 

But this is not that kind of permission. It’s more like asking casually “Can I do this” or “Is this act permitted to do”. The best example when you want to try something on when you’re in a clothes shop but are unsure if it’s okay to do that. So you ask, “can I try this on?”

Quick Recap of the Te-Form

The first part of the grammar point is to understand the te-form. We covered that in Season 4 Episode 13 of the podcast, but keep an eye out for the article on the blog! 

Anyway, ru-verbs have the ending ru (る) changed to te (て), while u-verb ending with u (う) have a few different conjugations. Here’s a quick breakdown: 

  • Those ending with ru (る), tsu (つ) or u (う) have their final syllable replaced with tte (って). For example, noru (乗る) becomes notte (乗って)
  • Those ending with ku (く) have their final syllable replaced with ite (いて). For example, kaku (書く) becomes kaite (書いて)
  • But if it ends with gu (ぐ), like oyogu (泳ぐ, which means to swim), then the gu (ぐ) is replaced with ide (いで) to make oyoide (泳いで).
  • Those ending with nu (ぬ), bu (ぶ) and mu (む) have their final syllable replaced with nde (んで). Shinu (死ぬ) becomes shinde (死んで)
  • Those ending with su (す) have their final syllable replaced with shite (して). For example, hanasu (話す) becomes hanashite (話して).

Asking for permission using てもいい 

Now onto the format of this grammar point. After getting the te form, we add mo ii to the verb. The format is:

Verb (て form) + もいい

As for our example of “can we try this on?”, we first get the verb, which in this case is shichaku suru (試着する) to mean “to try something on”. We change it to its te-form, which means instead of ending in the u sound, it ends with te instead. 

In our case, we have suru — this is an irregular verb which changes from suru (する) to shite (して). And you get shichaku shite (試着して). We then add the grammar point which is “mo ii”, to get: shichaku shitemo ii? (試着してもいい?) The polite form of the question is: shichaku shitemo ii desu ka? (試着してもいいですか?)

We usually add “ka” (か) to ask if something is okay or permitted to do: temo ii desu ka? (てもいいですか) You can also omit the “ka” if it’s in casual form, or even add “no” (の) to make “temo ii no” (てもいいの).

Giving perrmission using てもいい

If you remove the ka (か) at the end, you basically get the sentence version instead of a question. 

Let’s have another example: let’s say you want to tell someone, “it’s okay to eat the cake.” 

The verb to eat is taberu (食べる), but make sure to change it to its te-form which is tabete (食べて). Cake is kēki (ケーキ); now put them together with the grammar point and you get: kēki wo tabetemo ii (ケーキを食べてもいい).

You can also say that it’s okay to not do something as well, and the grammar point is “nakutemo ii” (なくてもいい). All you have to do is get the verb in its negative form and then change it to its te-form.  

The format is:

Verb (negative て form) + もいい

Don’t panic just yet, it’s not that hard at all. We’ll use the cake example. If you want to say “it’s okay to not eat the cake”, we change taberu (食べる) to tabenai (食べない), then change it to tabenakute (食べなくて). Then just add the grammar language. All together you get: kēki wo tabenakutemo ii (ケーキを食べなくてもいい).

Vocab Recap

In the episode, we introduced a few new Japanese words. Here’s a list of them for your reference:

Shichaku suru (試着する) — to try something on

Taberu (食べる) — to eat

Kēki (ケーキ) — cake

Wanpisu (ワンピス) — dress

Meccha (めっちゃ) — very

Ao (青) — blue

Aka (赤) — red

Shichaku shitsu (書着室) — fitting room

Chigau (違う) — to differ or to vary

Ookisugiru (大きすぎる) — to be too big

Saizu (サイズ) — size

Esu (エス) — S (for size)

Iro (色) — colour

Reji (レジ) — cash register

Kādo (カード) — card, short for credit card

Genkin (現金) — cash

ijou (以上) — more than

Tsukau (使う) — to use

Kau (買う) — to buy

Hoshii (欲しい) — want

Suwaru (座る) — to seat

Mada (まだ) — not yet

Kimeru (決める) — to decide

Chikaku (近く) — nearby

Miru (見る) — to see

Oishii (美味しい) — delicious

Nanika (何か) — something

Isshoni (一緒に) — together

Fuku (服) — clothes

Takusan (たくさん) — a lot

Surippa (スリッパ) — slippers

Bīchī (ビーチー) — beach

Hayai (早い) — fast or early

Kutsu (靴) — shoes

Haku (吐く) — to wear (for items like pants, skirts, footwear), if it’s shirts you use “kiru” (着る) instead

Benri (便利) — convenient

Ask and Give Permission in Japanese!

Isn’t granting and asking permission a breeze? Whether it’s for shopping or just everyday situations, it’s without a doubt a useful grammar language you want to have up your sleeve. I mean, it can even be used in business situations — but that’s a whole other episode on its own!

Check out our other blog articles for similar basic Japanese grammar points, as well as our Nihongo Master Podcast’s Study Saturday language series!

Top 4 Activities On Your Japan Travel Bucket List!

Top 4 Activities On Your Japan Travel Bucket List!

As the world slowly opens up again, we’re hoping Japan is going to open up its borders, too. In fact, there are rumours that we might be able to travel for leisure to the Land of the Rising Sun as soon as the end of the year! 

So to get yourself prepared for your adventure to Japan, why not create a Japan travel bucket list? 

I’m sure you’ve read tons of articles online about this. There’s the standard “visit these specific places” and “eat local food”, and the list goes on to more than 50 things to do! Boy, we don’t all have the time in the world to read or do that! So that’s not what we’re going to do in this article.

Instead, our Japan travel basic bucket list has only 4 activities! It’s the most basic of lists, but a really good one, if I do say so myself. 

#1: Balance City & Nature  

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The first on your Japan bucket list is balancing city and nature. Most of us think of the bright lights and neon signs of Tokyo when thinking about travelling to Japan. But keep in mind that this island nation is huge! There’s literally so much more to Japan than the Shibuya Scramble and Asakusa’s Sensoji.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t visit Tokyo. In fact, Tokyo is lovely and a city that will always have a place in my heart. But you should definitely spread out your time across the mainland rather than just one city. 

Venture out to the rural areas and you’ll discover a whole other side of the country. You don’t even have to go so far. Even just a quick one to two-hour drive out of Tokyo to Yamanashi. You’d be surprised at the world of difference these two areas have. 

If going from one end of the stick to another is too extreme for you, then pick the middle ground: a suburban area, like Kawasaki and Chiba. Alternatively, you could kill two birds with one stone and pop by the mountainous town of Hakone. This is just an hour’s train ride from Tokyo. You can not only venture out of the city zone but also experience local hot springs and the beautiful nature all year round.

2: Drown in Spirituality

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The next thing on the bucket list you need to do in Japan is drowning yourself in spirituality. Scattered around the country are shrines and temples. Even with a walk down the street your accommodation is at, you can come across a few local ones.

During your time here, never stop visiting these holy grounds. If you’re visiting various cities, visit a few of them in each one. There are some uphills, making you work for the view. There are others with hidden caves where you can pray for a deep desire. There was one shrine that I went to in Fukuoka called Dazaifu Tenman-gu Shrine. It had a small cave but I had to really find it, though. It’s believed that if you make a wish in that cave, it’ll definitely come true. A friend of a friend wished to be married and the year after she went there, she actually did!

If you’re not sure whether the holy grounds you’re at is a temple or a shrine, look out for torii. This is a traditional Japanese gate that’s usually red. It marks the transition of mundane to sacred ground. If you see one before entering the grounds, then it’s a shrine.

3: Immerse in Culture

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The third on our Japan travel bucket list is to immerse yourself in culture. Every city that you go to will be sure to have a museum. The Land of the Rising Sun has quite a story to tell, even about the times when it wasn’t known as Nippon. While you can read about them online, these museums have information that you can’t find anywhere else. There are also artefacts that you can see with your own very eyes. 

There’s a variety of indoor and outdoor museums for you to discover. Some even have cafes for a short break in between your learning journey. If you go to outdoor ones, they might even have a foot bath!

I understand that not everyone’s interested in walking around staring at figures. If you’re not such a huge fan of history, then go to an art gallery instead. Japan is rich in art, from paintings to fashion. Take your pick of permanent and temporary exhibitions, featuring legendary local and international artists and designers.

4: Drink Your Hearts Out!

Image Credit: Unsplash

And last but definitely not least on our bucket list: drink your hearts out! While there are lots of local delicacies, not many talk about the drinking culture. Get your fill of all the alcoholic drinks this country has to offer. Different cities have local breweries as well, so you can go on a beer tasting trip around the nation!

If you’re short on time and can’t afford to hop from city to city, don’t worry, your local bar by the accommodation has you covered. There’s everything from the standard draft beer to cocktails. In fact, some places have nomihodai (飲み放題), an all-you-can-drink deal. This is where you can… drink all you want! For a certain amount of time, of course, and for a bargain price!

Vocab Recap

In our Season 4 Episode 1 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we have more fun facts and details of a Japan travel bucket list. In that episode, we introduced new vocabulary words. Here’s a list of them for your reference:

Toshi (都市) — city

Inaka (田舎) — countryside or rural

Kougai (郊外) — suburban

Shizen (自然) — nature

Jinja (神社) — shrine. Another way to call a shrine is jingu (神宮)

Otera (お寺) — temple

Taisha (退社) — grand shrine

Torii (鳥居) — the red gate

Omikuji (おみくじ) — fortune slip

Hakubutsukan (博物館) — museum

Bijutsukan (美術館) — art gallery

Sake (酒) — alcoholic drinks

Nihonshu (日本酒) — Japanese rice wine

Nama bēru (生ビール) — draft beer

Kokuteru (コクテール) — cocktail 

Nomikai (飲み会) — drinking party

Nomihōdai (飲み放祭) — all-you-can-drink

Create Your Japan Travel Bucket List Now!

What did I tell ya? Our bucket list might be basic, but it’s still extensive. It’s going to get you doing the things you can only do in Japan. What are you excited to do first? Let us know!

Also, tune in to the Nihongo Master Podcast for more content like this, as well as fun and quick Japanese grammar lessons.

Basic Japanese Grammar: Step-By-Step Guide to the て-Form!

Basic Japanese Grammar: Step-By-Step Guide to the て-Form!

One of the most important conjugations in the Japanese language is the te (て) form. You need it for a lot of other conjugations. So if you don’t master the te form, you can’t really get into a lot of other grammar points.

In our Season 4 Episode 13 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we decided to break down the basics of the te-form. When I was studying Japanese on my own, I remember this being one of the most difficult points to wrap my head around. But hey, my past struggle is now for your benefit, because I’ll break it down nice and easy for you! 

The way this recap article, as well as the original podcast episode, is structured is exactly like Nihongo Master’s online learning system – grammar point explanation and breakdown, a few example situations (only on the podcast), and ending it off with a very handy list of all the vocabulary words we used. So if you like our breakdowns on the blog and podcast, sign up for our program now!

Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Grammar Point

Oh, the te-form, my old friend. This is without a doubt one of the most important conjugations in Japanese grammar. Without the te-form, you won’t be able to really grasp some of the other Japanese grammar. It’s kind of like a level up token. As soon as you master this, you go from speaking short simple sentences to flawlessly and fluidly expressing your thoughts in clauses. 

Let’s first take a look at how to conjugate the te form.

Te Form Format

The te form has a different format for different types of words. We’ll take a look at verbs first.

Ru Verbs

For ru (る) verbs, they’re pretty simple. You first remove the ending ru (る) and then add te (て). The format is:

Ru verb (minus る) + て

Let’s use “taberu” (食べる) which is a ru verb. All you have to do is switch the ending ru with te:

食べる = 食べ = 食べて

U Verbs

How about u () verb conjugations then? U verbs can be a little confusing, so we’ll take it slow here. I’ll make the breakdown simple:

U-verb that ends with ru (る), tsu (つ) and u (う), you take the ending letter with the sound of u (う) and add tte (って). The format is:

U verb (minus ending う sound) + って

Examples: 

乗る (noru) = 乗 (no) = 乗って (notte)

待つ (matsu) = 待 (mat) = 待って (matte)

会う (au) = 会 (a) = 会って (atte)

U-verb that ends with nu (ぬ), bu (ぶ) and mu (む), you take the ending letter with the sound of u (う) and add tte (んで). The format is:

U verb (minus ending う sound) + んで

Examples:

死ぬ (shinu) = 死 (shi) = 死んで (shinde)

遊ぶ (asobu) = 遊 (aso) = 遊んで (asonde)

飲む (nomu) = 飲 (no) = 飲んで (nonde)

U-verb that ends with ku (く),  you take the ending letter with the sound of u (う) and add tte (いて). The format is:

U verb (minus ending う sound) + いて

Example:

書く (kaku) = 書 (ka) = 書いて (kaite)

U-verb that ends with gu (ぐ),  you take the ending letter with the sound of u (う) and add tte (いで). The format is:

U verb (minus ending う sound) + いで

Example:

泳ぐ (oyogu) = 泳 (oyo) = 泳いで (oyoide)

U-verb that ends with su (す), you take the ending letter with the sound of u (う) and add tte (して). The format is:

U verb (minus ending う sound) + して

Example:

話す (hanasu) = 話 (hana) = 話して (hanashite)

There are exceptions known as irregular verbs: 

To do: する(suru) =して (shite)

To come: くる(kuru) = きて (kite)

To go: 行く (iku) = 行って (itte)

い Adjectives

Conjugating i-adjectives to its te-form is simple. You take the ending i (い) and add kute (くて). The format is:

I-adjective (minus い) + くて

美味しい (oishii) = 美味し (oishi) = 美味しくて (oishikute)

Nouns & な Adjectives

Getting the te form for nouns and na-adjectives are the same. You just add de () after the word. The format is:

Noun + で

Na-adjective (without な) + で

日本人 (nihonjin) = 日本人で (nihonjin de)

簡単な (kantanna) = 簡単 (kantan) = 簡単で (kantan de)

Ways of using the te form

So what exactly does the te-form do? There are five ways:

Permission

The first way is to ask and give permission with te mo ii (てもいい). It’s like saying “is it okay to…?” Check out our recap article or Season 4 Episode 11 of the podcast to learn more. In short, the format is:

Verb te form + もいい

Connect sentences

The next way of using the te form is by using it as a simple conjunction. Instead of saying “I did A. I did B”, you’ll be able to say “I did A and B” with the te-form. 

Let’s have an easy example: “I ate pizza and drank coffee.”

You can say it as “ピザを食べた。コーヒーを飲んだ。” (piza wo tabeta. Kōhī wo nonda.) But this translates to “I ate pizza. I drank coffee. To have the “and” in the middle, you use the te-form to get: ピザを食べてコーヒを飲んだ。(piza wo tabete kōhī wo nonda.)

Command

The third way to use the te-form is by using it as a simple command. If you want to politely command someone to sit, like “hey, sit down”, just conjugate the word for “to sit” (座る) into its te-form: 座って (suwatte).

But a command to not do something gets tricky: you first have to change the word to its negation and then add a “de”. The format is:

Negative verb (without い) + で

To say “don’t sit down”, you say it as 座らないで (suwaranaide)

It’s different from the negative form of the te-form, which can’t be used as a command. For the negated te-form, whether it’s verbs or adjectives, all you have to do is negate the word first, then change the ending nai (ない) to nakute (なくて). 

Negative verb (minus い) + くて

Example:

食べる (taberu) = 食べない (tabenai) = 食べなくて (tabenakute) 

Express reason or a means

The fourth way to use the te form is to express a reason or a means. It’s like saying “so” or “because”. While you can use the particle kara (から) for “because”, this is another way to say it. 

Let’s have this example: “I saw some really cheap shoes, so I bought them.”

You could use “kara”, like 靴が安いから買った。(kutsu ga yasui kara katta). But you could also conjugate the i-adjective: 靴が安くて買った。(kutsu ga yasukute katta).

Present Participle

Our final way of using te-form is by combining it with iru (いる) to make te iru(ている) , the present participle. 

Verb (て form) + いる

To say “I’m watching TV”, you say it as “テレビを見ている。”(terebi wo miteiru)

Vocab Recap

In the podcast episode, we have roleplaying scenarios that exemplify this grammar point. Since we used a lot of new words, here’s a list for your reference:

Noru (乗る) – to ride

matsu (待つ) – to wait

au (会う) – to meet

kaku (書く) – to write

oyogu (泳ぐ) – to swim

hanasu (話す) – to speak

kutsu (靴) – shoes

yasui (安い) – cheap

yu-mei (有名) – famous 

miru(見る)  – to see

hima (暇) – free time

eigakan (映画館) – cinema. eiga (映画) is movie, kan (館) is building

kaimono (買い物) – shopping

mise (店) – shop

Nanji (何時) – what time

Ame ga furu (雨が降る) – to rain

Kasa (傘) – umbrella

Motsu (持つ) – to bring 

tatsu (立つ) – to stand up

suwaru (座る) – to sit

sugu (すぐ) – immediately

shigoto (仕事) – work

taihen (大変) – difficult

hirugohan (昼ごはん) – lunch

isogashii (忙しい) – busy

nomisugiru (飲みすぎる) – to drink a lot

ochitsuku (落ち着く) – to calm down

yameru (止める) – to stop

hanasu (話す) – to speak

shuumatsu (週末) – weekend

Conjugate the Te Form Like A Pro!

Okay, that’s pretty loaded. So, can we all agree that the te-form is one of the most useful grammars in Japanese? Let’s have a short recap to conclude what was discussed in the article and podcast episode:

Te form is used in 5 ways:

  • to give and ask permission by adding もいい to make てもいいi
  • As a simple conjunction
  • As a simple command (for the positive te-form only)
  • To express a reason
  • To form present participle by adding いる to make ている

To conjugate verbs into te-form, figure out if its a ru or u verb.

With る-verbs, the ending る is replaced with て.

With u-verbs,

Those ending with る, つ or う have their final syllable replaced with って.

Those ending with ぬ, ぶ and む have their final syllable replaced with んで.

Those ending with く have their final syllable replaced with いて. 

Those ending with ぐ have their final syllable replaced with いで.

Those ending with す have their final syllable replaced with して. 

To conjugate adjectives, i-adjectives just have the い change to くて, and な-adjectives have the な changed to で.

To conjugate nouns, add で.

The negated te-form is achieved just by negating the word (both verb and adjective) and then having the ない changed to なくて.

Phew. What’s the toughest part of this conjugation for you? If you need a bit more practice, check out the full podcast episode on the Nihongo Master Podcast! Or even better, get a subscription with us and you can practice the te form as much as you want! 

Basic Japanese Grammar: Expressing Superlatives with 一番, もっとも and 最〜

Basic Japanese Grammar: Expressing Superlatives with 一番, もっとも and 最〜

This article will cover a grammar point that is super easy, ridiculously quick to learn and basically the best for a laid-back study sesh. Can you guess by the hints I’m dropping?

In our Season 4 Episode 15 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we take a look at expressing superlatives in Japanese as part of our Study Saturday language series. We cover all the ways to say “the best”, “very”, “super”, “extremely” and everything else in between. If you don’t already know, the Study Saturday language series is formatted just like the Nihongo Master online learning system. Give the podcast a listen, and if you love it, you’d love our program!

Anyway, even though this article is recapping what we covered in the podcast episode, it also has enough information to get you to grasp the basics of Japanese superlatives!

Image Credit: Freesvg

Grammar Point 

The superlative in English is made with ending most words in “-est” or start them with “the most”. Fast becomes fastest. Convenient becomes the most convenient. But we’re not here to learn English, we’re here to learn Japanese. 

Ichiban (一番)

And in Japanese, the most common way to express superlative is by using the word “ichiban” (一番). This means “number one”. The format goes:

一番 + adjective

Let’s take a look at a few examples. “Fast” is hayai (早い) in Japanese. To say “fastest”, we just add that word after the word “ichiban”: 一番早い. It literally translates to “number one fast” but it’s basically saying “fastest”. 

“Convenient” is “benri” (便利) in Japanese. To say “the most convenient”, using the format above, we get: 一番便利

Mottomo (もっとも)

The formal version of that is “mottomo” (もっとも). So instead of using “ichiban”, you switch it out for “mottomo”. The format is exactly the same: 

もっとも + adjective

Ichiban hayai (一番早い) becomes mottomo hayai (もっとも早い). Ichiban benri (一番便利) becomes mottomo benri (もっとも便利).

Sai~ (最〜)

Another common way to express superlatives is with the prefix “sai” (最), which can be translated to “most”. Words in this category are mostly Sino-Japanese, which means that it’s of Chinese origin or makes use of morphemes of Chinese origin. There are a few exceptions to this, but we won’t go into detail, of course. 

Some common words that use the “sai” prefix that I hear often are: saitei 最低 or saiaku 最悪 (to mean the worst ) and saikou 最高 (to mean the best).

Expressing them in a scope

In any of the ways, you can express them within a scope. All you have to do is have the region after the subject, connect it with “no naka de” or just “de” to mean “in” or “among”, and then add whichever superlative form you want (ichiban, mottomo or sai prefix). The format is:

Subject + Scope (using の中で or で) + Superlative (一番 or もっとも or 最〜) + Adjective + Noun

For example, if you want to say, “Tokyo Sky Tree is the tallest building in Japan”, where the scope is “in Japan”, you can say it as: Toukyou sukaitsurii ha nihon no naka de ichiban takai tatemono. (東京スカイツリは日本の中で一番高い建物。)

Don’t be confused just yet. Let’s have another example. We all know Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. How do we say that in Japanese? Following the format, we get: eberesuto ha sekai de ichiban takai yama. (エベレストは世界で一番高い山。)

Asking a superlative question

Now how do we ask a superlative question? Easy. Simply add the question words (like dare, doko, itsu, Nani and dore), then the ga () particle, then the superlative form of the adjective and then the noun. The format is:

Question word (だれ or どこ or いつ or なに or どれ) +が + Superlative (一番 or もっとも or 最〜) + Adjective + Noun

So if you want to ask your classmate who they think is the coolest in class, you say it as:

kurasu no naka de, dare ga ichiban kakkoii to omou? (クラスの中で、誰が一番かっこいいと思う?)

Vocab Recap

In the podcast episode, we used a few new Japanese words. Here’s a list of them for your reference:

hayai (早い) – fast

Benri (便利) – convenient

Saitei (最低) or saiaku (最悪) – the worst

Saikou (最高) – the best

No naka de (の中で) – in or among

Sekai (世界) – world

Takai (高い) – tall, it can also be used to mean expensive 

Yama (山) – mountain

Kakkoii (かっこいい) – cool

Onaka ga tsuku (お腹がつく) – to be hungry

Chou (超) – very

Iroirona (色々な) – various

Isshoni (一緒に) – together

Sugu (すぐ) – immediately

Douyatte (どうやって) – how

Meccha (めっちゃ) – the informal way of totemo (とても)

Saisoku (催促) – fastest

Houhou (方法) – way

Dekoreeshon (デコレーション) – decoration

Saishin (最新) – latest

Shokuji (食事) – food. Tabemono (食べ物) is also another way to say food 

Tokubestu (特別) – special

Chuumon suru (注文する) – to order

Muzukashii (難しい) – difficult

Dame (だめ) – impossible

Conclusion

So, do you think this article is the best at explaining superlatives? I think it’s the simplest and easiest way of explaining superlatives in Japanese!

Now, I have a question for you: ニホンゴマスタポッドキャストの一番いいことは何ですか?

Speaking of the podcast, tune in to our latest seasons! We have an exclusive podcast promo code that is 50% off your entire subscription of the Nihongo Master program! 

Stay tuned for a blog-exclusive promo code! 

Basic Japanese Grammar: Expressing Hope with ばいい, たらいい, といい, ならいい

Basic Japanese Grammar: Expressing Hope with ばいい, たらいい, といい, ならいい

All of us have hopes and dreams, and don’t we want to express them? In our Season 4 Episode 8 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we looked at how to say “I hope…” or “it’ll be good if…” in Japanese.

When I first started learning Japanese, I realised that this is one of the ways to level up my language skills fast and easy. So I thought it would be good to share it with all of you. This article is a recap of what we covered in the podcast episode. But don’t worry, you will get the full information you need here, too. 

The only thing you’ll be missing is the roleplaying scenarios. You would have to tune in to the podcast for that! 

Image Credit: Picpedia

Grammar Point 

The thing to note about this grammar point is that half of it has already been covered in Season 3 Episode 13. This covers the conditional form “if”. There are a lot of ways to express conditional. There are a total of four, and today, we’re going to use all four of them. Check the full episode out, or our recap article here. To summarise:

The first way is using とto express constant results and actual conditions: 

Verb (plain) / i-adjective +と 

Noun / na-adjective + だと

The second way is using ば to express a hypothetical condition, and is one of the more general forms:

Verb (with the last う sound changed toえ) + ば

i-adjective (the い sound changes toえ) + ば

noun / na-adjective + あれば

The Third way is たら. It is similar to “ba” as it’s also the other general conditional form, but it’s more for one-time results:

Past tense of any word + たら

Last but not least, the fourth way is なら, and it is for contextual conditions:

Plain form of any word + なら

Conditional + いい

Once you know how to conjugate to the conditional form, it becomes easy after that. To express hope using “i hope” or “it’ll be good if”, you add いい to the conditional form:

Conditional と + いい

Conditional ば + いい

Conditional たら + いい

Conditional なら + いい

From what I know, the differences between them are very slight, and very much based on the context. I’d say it’s similar to how you’d use the conditional forms. I always stick to tara ii and ba ii as I hear them being used the most.

Let’s have an example sentence: “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” The first step is getting the conditional sentence first, which gets you “ashita ha ame ga furanai to” (明日は雨が降らないと). This is using the first type of conditional. Then add the “ii” afterwards to make the sentence: “ashita ha ame ga furanai to ii” (明日は雨が降らないといい). This translates more better to “If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, it’ll be good”.

To say “it’ll be good if it rains”, you can say it as: ame ga fureba ii (雨が降ればいい). I personally have no problem saying it as “ame ga futtara ii” (雨が降ったらいい) either. So to me, they all are more or less interchangeable.

Using it as a question

If you want to use it as a question, like “is it good if I…”, or in other words, “should I…”, I don’t think all conditional forms work. I would suggest sticking with tara ii and ba ii. 

The best example is: “what should I do?” You can change “dou suru” (どうする) which means “what to do” to either of the two conditional forms and have the same meaning: “dou sureba ii?” (どうすればいい?) or “dou shitara ii?” (どうしたらいい?)

Vocab Recap

In the podcast episode, we use a lot of new vocabulary words. Here’s a list for you to refer back to: 

Ame ga furu (雨が降る) — to rain

Jikan (時間) — time

Hontoni (本当に) — really

Hareru (晴れる) — to clear up

Warui (悪い) — bad

Asatte (明後日) — the day after tomorrow 

Mirareru (見られる) — to be able to see 

Kawari ni (代わりに) — instead

Ryouhou (両方) — both

Tonikaku (とにかく) — anyway

Konya (今夜) — tonight

Kaimono (買い物) — shopping

Komu (混む) — to be crowded 

Nipponshoku (日本食品) — Japanese food 

Takai () — expensive or high 

Onaka tsuita (お腹ついた) — to be hungry

Shinpai (心肺) — worry

Tenki yohou (天気予報) — weather report 

Tanoshimi ni (楽しみに) — looking forward to

What are you hoping for?

So, what are you hoping for? It can be as small as hoping for a sunny day to hoping for a holiday to Japan. I’ll let you figure that one out, now that you’re a pro at expressing hope in Japanese. Check out the full episode to have more examples of this grammar point in our roleplaying scenarios, as well as other everyday grammar points. 

Better yet, sign up with us for unlimited access to our online learning materials to level up your Japanese game! 

Basic Japanese: Too Much & Not Enough (すぎる・足りない・十分〜ない)

Basic Japanese: Too Much & Not Enough (すぎる・足りない・十分〜ない)

In our Season 4 Episode 4 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we looked at the ways to say “too much” and “not enough” in Japanese as part of our Study Saturday Language Series.

I remembered the times I went somewhere in Japan and needed to express something that’s too much or not enough — let alone having to request for something more or less because of it. My beginner Japanese textbooks did not teach me these. 

So I thought, hey, I can take my past struggles and make it into something someone else can learn from.And here I am — guiding you through all the language you need to navigate through the excessive and insufficient!

The Study Saturday language series on the podcast is formatted just like the Nihongo Master online learning system, so for a sneak peek at what our program has to offer, tune in to our podcast!

Too Much using すぎる

Maybe you ate too much for dinner? Or over the weekend you were in bed practically the whole day because the night before you drank too much beer! 

The phrase to use to say “too much” is “sugiru” (すぎる). So to say “too much”. We attach this to the end of adjectives and verbs

With Adjectives

For adjectives, we take off the i (い) from i-adjectives and na (な) from na-adjectives, then attach the phrase at the end. The format is:

I-adjective (without い) + すぎる

Na adjective (without な) + すぎる

Let’s say you want to say “it’s too old” in Japanese. The world for “old” is “furui” (古い). First we take い out of furui to get furu (古),  then add the phrase. You get: “furusugiru” (古すぎる). 

That’s an example for i-adjective. Here’s an example for na-adjective: “It’s too easy.” The word for “easy” is na-adjective “kantanna” (簡単). First you take out the な from kantanna to make kantan (簡単) Then you add the phrase to get: kantansugiru (簡単すぎる).

With Verbs

For the verbs, it’s pretty similar to adjectives. Take out ru (る) from ru-verbs, and change u (う) from u-verbs to i (い). The format is:

U-verb (without う) + い + すぎる

Ru-verbs (without る) + すぎる

Here’s an example for u-verb in a sentence: “I drank too much beer”. “Beer” is easy: bīru (ビール). To drink is nomu (飲む), then and because it’s an u-verb, you change the ending う to い, and you get nomi (飲み) Using the format, you get: “bīru wo nomisugita.”(ビールを飲みすぎた。)

すぎる conjugates like a ru-verb, so its past tense is sugita.

Here’s an example for a ru-verb in a sentence: “I ate too much for dinner.” “Dinner” is yūshoku (夕食). “To eat” is taberu (食べる), which becomes tabe (食べ). The sentence you get using the format is: “yūshoku ni tabesugita. (夕食に食べすぎた。) 

Now, to say something’s not enough, there are two ways — the first is using the word tarinai, the negation of tariru which means “to be enough”. So if you want to say “I don’t have enough money”, we say it as “okane ga tarinai”. Oh, aren’t we all short on cash… But anyway, this phrase is more often attached to nouns as it translates more closely to “there isn’t enough….”

Another way is using juubun (it literally translates to ten parts but in Japanese it refers to being 100%). If you want to say you haven’t eaten enough, you say it as “juubun ni tabetenai”. You have to negate the verb in the sentence when you use juubun.

Not Enough 足りない and 十分〜ない

What about… if you don’t have enough money! Or what if for dinner, instead of eating too much, you didn’t eat enough?

To say something’s not enough, there are two ways: the first is using the word tarinai足りない, the negation of tariru足りる which means “to be enough”. This phrase is more often attached to nouns as it translates more closely to “there isn’t enough….” You add ga after the noun. The format is:

Noun + が + 足りない

Here’s an example sentence: “I don’t have enough money”. “Money” is “okane” (お金). Then using the format we get this sentence: “okane ga tarinai.” (お金が足りない。)

Another way is using “juubun” (十分). It literally translates to ten parts but in Japanese it refers to being 100%. This phrase can be used with verbs. First, you add the phrase then add ni (に). Then, you have to negate the verb in the sentence. The format is:

十分 + に + Verb (ない form)

Noun + 十分 + じゃない

十分 + な + Noun + がない

Let’s translate this sentence using the verb format: “I haven’t eaten enough”. Following the format, you get: “juubun ni tabenai.” (十分に食べない。)

BONUS: Requesting using 多めで and 少なめ

When you get something too much or not enough, you might find yourself requesting to fix it. You might want to make requests to add more of something because it’s not enough or add less of something because it’s too much. This was something I had to figure out the hard way, but not for you guys!

If you want more of something, you use the phrase “omori de” (おもりで) or oome de” (多めで) after the noun. The format is:

Noun + おもりで / 多めで

Say you want a larger portion of rice or pasta at a restaurant. You’d want to say something like this: “a large portion of rice, please”. “Rice” is gohan (ご飯). Then add the phrase to get: “gohan omori de onegaishimasu”. (ご飯おもりでお願いします)

Let’s have an example with the other phrase. Say you want more pickles in your dish, for whatever reason, just say “pikurusu oome de onegaishimasu”. (ピクルス多めでお願いします。)

What about the opposite? What if you want less of something? 

Something that’s extremely fresh in my memory is when I went to Starbucks and wanted to ask for less syrup in my coffee — I don’t know why, but Starbucks coffee is always extremely sweet! So I found out that all you have to do is say “sukuname” (少なめ) to mean less than usual.

Noun + 少なめ

So in my case, using the format we get: “shiroppu sukuname onegaishimasu!” (シロップ少なめお願いします。)

Vocab Recap

We used a lot of new words in the episode, so let’s have a list for reference:

Furui (古い) — old

Kantan (簡単) — easy

Tariru (足りる) — to be enough

Okane (お金) — money

Karai (辛い) — spicy

Chuumon (注文) — order. The verb is chuumon suru (注文する)

Kirai (嫌い) — hate

Sushi ya (寿司屋) — sushi shop. Ya (屋) can be attached to anything to mean shop, like ramen ya  (ラメン屋) is Ramen shop

Itsumo (いつも) — always

Aji (味) — flavour or taste

Nemu (眠む) — to rest or sleep. Nemuru (眠る) is also another way to say to sleep 

Enki (延期) — postponement

Tanoshimi suru (楽しみする) — to look forward to something

Tomodachi (友達) — friend

Shoukai suru (紹介する) — to introduce

Nomikai (飲み会) — drinking party

Too Much or Not Enough?

So you see, the grammar language introduced here is useful for both travel and everyday conversations. What is something that is too much or not enough for you recently?

If you’re interested in similar bite-sized grammar pointers, head over to the Nihongo Master Podcast for more. On the blog, we have recap posts of our podcast episodes — not only is there a brief summary of what we discussed in each episode but also the full vocab list for you to refer back to.

Basic Japanese: Asking and Receiving Directions

Basic Japanese: Asking and Receiving Directions

In one of our Study Saturday language series episodes on the Nihongo Master Podcast, Season 4 Episode 6, we looked at directions in Japanese. This is one of the basic Japanese knowledge that one should master when starting out with learning Japanese. In fact, we can also agree that this is a key essential in any traveller’s Japanese language travelling kit.

Study Saturday is our language series that gives you bite-sized grammar pointers on-the-go. It is formatted just like the Nihongo Master online learning system – we cover the language point, give a few examples through role playing scenarios and listing out the new vocabulary words used. If you’re considering signing up for our program but unsure of how it goes, give our Study Saturday language series a listen to try out! 

Grammar Point 

When you’re in a new country, there’s a pretty high chance of getting lost. I must admit that I’m not that good with directions, so I get lost even in my own country! There are two sections under the category of directions: asking for them and receiving them.

Asking for directions

So what’s the most basic question you’d ask when you’re looking for something? “Where is…”. To ask that in Japanese, it’s “…ha doko desu ka?” (〜はどこですか?) If you’re asking someone you’re more familiar with, drop the polite form and just say ”…doko?” (〜どこ?)

Where is (place/item)?

(Place/item) はどこですか? (formal)

(Place/item) どこ?(informal)

Say you asked someone where the toilet is — the most common question in the world. 

Where’s the toilet?

Toire ha doko desu ka?

トイレはどこですか?

If you want to be a little fancy and ask someone, “how do I get to…”, then you can say this: “…ni ha douyatte ikimasuka?” (にはどうやって行きますか?)

How do I get to (place)?

(Place) にはどうやって行きますか? (formal)

(Place) にはどうやって行く?(informal)

Another important question you might want to have in your notebook is “dono kurai kakarimasu ka?” (どのくらいかかりますか?). This translates to “how long/much will it take?” 

How long/much will it take…?

〜どのくらいかかりますか?

Say you want to know how long it takes to go from the station to the park, you can ask it with this sentence: “eki kara Koen made dono kurai kakarimasu ka?” (駅から公園までどのくらいかかりますか?) You can even use it to ask about how much it’ll cost — “ryōkin ha dono kurai kakarimasuka?” (料金はどのくらいかかりますか?)

Receiving directions

Ifyou’re going to ask somebody questions for directions, be prepared to get answers for directions. What’s the point of knowing how to ask when you can’t understand the answer?

First off, you need to know your basic directions like left, right, front and back.

Hidari (左) — left

Migi (右) — right

Mae (前) — front

Ushiro (後ろ) — back

Some directional answers are like “it’s over there” — that’s where your “soko” (そこ), “asoko” (あそこ) and so on come in handy. Here are the general directional words:

Koko (ここ) — here

Soko (そこ) — there

Asoko (あそこ) — over there

Some other important words to note are “massugu” (まっすぐ) which means “straight” and “magaru” (曲がる) to mean “to turn”. 

Usually, you combine “massugu” with “iku” (行く) to make “massugu iku” (まっすぐ行く) to say “to go straight”. There are also other directional responses like “turn left” or “turn right”. For those, you have to add the direction to the word “magaru”. 

To turn left/right

Left/right + に + 曲がる

“To turn left” it’s hidari ni magaru (左にまがる) and “to turn right” it’s migi ni magaru (右に曲がる). Here’s the basic directions listed:

Massugu (まっすぐ) — straight

Magaru (曲がる) — to turn

Massugu ni iku (まっすぐに行く) — to go straight

Hidari ni magaru (左に曲がる) — to turn left

Migi ni magaru (右に曲がる) — to turn right

When you ask a worker “toire ha doko desu ka?” (トイレはどこですか?), they might respond with directions like: 

Massugu itte, kado de hidari ni magatte kudasai.

まっすぐ行って、角で左に曲がってください。

Please go straight and turn left at the corner.

Vocab Recap

Let’s wrap it up with a quick vocab recap: 

Ryōkin (料金) — price

Kaban (カバン) — bag

Omoidasu (思い出す) — to recall or remember 

Jinja (神社) — shrine

Michi (道) — street or way

Eki (駅) — station

Hanasu (話す) — to speak 

Hayai (早い) — fast or early 

Yukkuri (ゆっくり) — slowly

Ichibanme (一番目) — the first. You can change ichi to another number to make it second, third, fourth and so on.

Kōen (講演) — park

Oboeru (覚える) — to remember

Saisho ni (最初に) — firstly

Deguchi (出口) — exit

Daigaku (大学) — university 

Daigakusei (大学生) — university student 

Yaku (やく) — approximately

Soto (外) — outside

Jitensha (自転車) — bicycle

Don’t be afraid to ask and receive directions!

How confident are you now with your directional language? I feel so much better every single time I revise it. With this basic guide, i assure you that you have nothing to worry about when asking and receiving directions during your Japan trip! Be sure to tune in to Season 4 Episode 6 of the podcast for the full detailed explanation of directions in Japanese!

Basic Japanese Grammar: Making Comparisons (の方が・より・ほど)

Basic Japanese Grammar: Making Comparisons (の方が・より・ほど)

As part of our Study Saturday language series on the Nihongo Master Podcast, we cover bite-sized language pointers in a fun and easy way. It’s formatted just like our online learning system: : we’ll go through the grammar point, then have a few role playing scenarios for you to get yourself accustomed to the new grammar language, and end it off with a recap of all the new vocab words we used.

In our Season 3 Episode 11, we learn how to make comparisons with “more than” and “less than”. Have you ever needed to make a comparison before? I do it on a daily basis — whether it’s to say that taking the train is faster than the bus or if coffee’s better than tea. 

Regardless of what type of comparison you’re making, we can all agree that it’s a pretty common daily occurrence and we must definitely learn how to say it in Japanese, right? And the best part of it all is that it’s not difficult in the least to do that!

This article is a recap of what was discussed in the episode, so check the full episode out on our podcast (where we have some scenarios for you to practice with). But don’t worry, you’ll be able to get the sufficient amount of information to use the grammar in this article, too!

Grammar Point 

If you’ve checked out our previous Study Saturday episodes, we covered how to give advice using “hou ga ii” in Season 3 Episode 9. Check out our recap article here, too. You’ll find that a part of this week’s grammar language is pretty similar. In summary, there are three ways to state comparison: “no hou ga…yori”, “yori” and “hodo”.

No hou ga…yori (の方が〜より)

The first way of comparison is by using “no hou ga…yori” (の方が〜より). It’s pretty similar to “hou ga ii” which is a way of saying “you should” in Japanese. “No hou ga” is like saying “more”, and “yori” is like saying “than”. The format is:

A の方が B より(adjective)

(Adjective) A more than B.

Let’s have an example sentence: “I like vanilla ice cream more than chocolate ice cream.“

The adjective in this sentence is “I like” which is suki (好き). Subject A, which is the one that is more than the other, is vanilla ice cream (バニラアイス). Subject B is then chocolate ice cream (チョコアイス). You get this structure:

バニラアイス (A) + の方が + チョコアイス (B) + より + 好きです(adjective) = 

バニラアイスの方がチョコアイスより好き(です)。

Banira aisu no houga choco aisu yori suki desu.

Here’s another example sentence: “I think horror movies are more interesting than action movies.”

Subject A in this sentence is ”horror movies” (hora- eiga, ホラー映画). Subject B is “action movies” (akushon eiga, アクション映画). The adjective is “interesting” (omoshiroi, 面白い). To say “I think”, it’s “to omou” (と思う). Check out Season 2 Episode 8 of the podcast, or the recap article here.

You get the sentence:

ホラー映画の方がアクション映画より面白いと思う。

Hora- eiga no houga akushon eiga yori omoshiroi to omou. 

Ha…yori (は〜より)

The second way of stating comparisons is similar to the first way. You can switch out no hou ga with the particle ha (は), and just use yori to make comparisons. The format is: 

A は B より(adjective)

(Adjective) A more than B.

So the above sentence can also be said as: 

ホラー映画 (A) + は + アクション映画 + より + 面白いと思う。

ホラー映画はアクション映画より面白いと思う。

hora eiga ha akushon eiga yori omoshiroi to omou.

One thing to note is that you can only use “ha~yori” when the thing that’s being compared is the topic of the sentence. For the previous example, “horror movies” is the subject of the sentence. If the topic of the sentence is just “movies”, then the sentence becomes:

映画はホラーの方がアクションより面白いと思う。

Eiga ha hora- no hou ga akushon yori omoshiroi to omou.

As for the first sentence on ice cream, the topic of the sentence is “vanilla ice cream”. If the topic of that sentence is just “ice cream”, the sentence than becomes: 

アイスはバニラの方がチョコより好きです

aisu ha banira no hou ga choco yori suki desu. 

See the difference?

~Hodo (〜ほど)

Last but not least, the third way of comparing. We use ~hodo (〜ほど) to talk about the opposite construction: X is not as something as Y. “Hodo” can translate to mean “to the extent of”. The format is: 

X は Y ほど (adjective in the negative form) 

X is not as (adjective) as Y.

Let’s translate this sentence: “I think running is not as fun as swimming.” 

X in this sentence is “running”, which is hashiru (走る). Y in this sentence is “swimming”, which is oyogu (泳ぐ). The adjective in this sentence is “fun”, and the negative form “not fun” is tanoshikunai (楽しくない). You will get this full sentenceL:

走るは泳ぐほど楽しくない。

Hashiru ha ogogu hodo tanoshikunai.

We can also have this sentence using the previous grammar point (using ha…yori), and it becomes: 

泳ぐ方が走るより楽しい。

Oyogu hou ga hashiru yori tanoshii. 

Swimming is more fun than running. 

If you’re comparing verbs, you don’t say “no hou ga”, but rather just “hou ga”.

It might be a bit overwhelming but let’s have a quick recap:

We use no hou ga…yori (の方が〜より) to make comparisons.

We can also use ha…yori (は〜より), only when the subject of comparison is also the topic.

We use ~hodo (〜ほど) when comparing in the opposite construction of “not as something as”. 

Vocab Recap

In the podcast episode, we used a few Japanese words. Here’s a list of them for your reference:

banira (バニラ) — vanilla

Choco (チョコ) — chocolate

Aisu (アイス) — ice cream

Sukina (好きな) — like

Hora- (ホラー) — horror 

Akushon (アクション) — action

Eiga (映画) — movie 

Omoshiroi (面白い) — interesting 

Hashiru (走る) — to run 

Oyogu (泳ぐ) — to swim 

Tanoshii (楽しい) — fun

Amai (甘い) — sweet

Shiokarai (塩辛い) — salty

Takai (高い) — expensive

Yasui (安い) — cheap

Chuumon suru (注文する) — to order 

Kau (買う) — to buy

Kaban (カバン) — bag

Kutsu (靴) — shoes 

Kaimono (買い物) — shopping 

Gogo (午後) — afternoon 

Iro (色) — colour

Tenki (天気) — weather

Aka (赤) — red

Aoi (青) — blue

Kuro (黒) — black

Shiro (白) — white

Start Comparing!

Adding comparisons to your everyday sentences quickly levels up your skills in the language. And it makes for great conversations with your friends. Why don’t you give this a try the next time you’re practicing your Japanese? For more ideas and examples of these grammar points, check out the full episode on the Nihongo Master Podcast!

The 3 Parts of the Japanese Railway System

The 3 Parts of the Japanese Railway System

One of the most impressive things about Japan is its transport systems. If you see yourself coming to Japan pretty soon, whether it’s next month or next year (fingers crossed the borders are open by then), then be prepared to be on Japanese trains for more than half the time, especially if you’re planning to go to more than one city.

Transportation in Japan, particularly the train system, has been complimented time and time again to be one of the world’s most efficient. And regardless of whether or not you’ve been here, the whole thing can be quite confusing. In our Season 4 Episode 5 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we cleared things up right up while preparing you for your next visit, but here’s a recap of what we talked about (don’t worry, you will have plenty of information on this blog post too). 

Transporting in Japan

The Land of the Rising Sun is well connected with all the methods you can imagine — air, land and sea. Flights from one city to another are running even during the pandemic, and ferries and ships are abundant too, linking mainland to the smaller islands. But the most prominent means of transport is land, consisting of everything from buses to taxis, but today we’re looking particularly at railway transport.

And for this type of public transport, which makes up 72% of the country’s transport system, you’d need an IC card. What is it, you ask? It’s a type of rechargeable card used to pay fares on transport and not just that — you can use it to make payments at other places like vending machines, convenience stores, restaurants and other types of transport with just a touch of the card.

When it comes to IC cards, though, there’s more than one company that makes it. There are a total of 10 of Japan’s most popular IC cards, and since 2013, they’re all compatible with each other and able to be used in most of Japan’s large cities. 

Suica by JR East Company is the prepaid IC card that you can get in Greater Tokyo, Niigata and Sendai regions. Pasmo is the IC card initially for Tokyo’s railway and bus systems. Icoca by JR West Company is the one mostly used in the Kansai region, including Osaka and Kyoto. 

So as you can see, commuting in Japan via train is a breeze — but the price does rack up quite a bit. That’s because there are various transport companies that make up the transport system in Japan. We’ll have a brief look at a few categories: JR System, shinkansen and private railway companies.

JR System

First and foremost, the JR System. Quite a vast majority of railway services in Japan are operated by JR. JR stands for Japan Railways, and the six regional companies are divided into the various areas of the country but they all run as one. There are other rail companies under JR that are smaller, existing in major cities, but in most parts of the country, you’ll just get JR.

With the Japanese railway, you’ll get a few types of trains. There’s the local train (futsuu, 普通)and it stops at every station. You also get the rapid train (kaisoku, 快速) — this type of train skips a few stations so it’s definitely faster than the local. Then you have the express train (kyuukou, 急行) and it skips a lot more stops so it’s naturally more expensive. And at the top of that list is the limited express (tokkyuu, 特急) and it’s faster than the express and therefore more expensive.

If you’re planning on travelling mostly by JR train lines, your best bet to saving a few bucks is by getting the Japan Rail Pass — at a flat rate, you’re allowed to travel on virtually all of the JR services for 7 consecutive days which includes buses, ferries and Shinkansen (which we’ll get into in a bit). If you’re only roaming around for a couple of days in just one city, I don’t recommend this one.

Shinkansen

The Shinkansen is something not a lot of people don’t know about. The Japanese bullet train is called that because of its design — it looks like a bullet with its smooth, rounded front and back ends. On this type of train, you barely feel the speed — it goes up to 320 kilometres per hour!

There are six main Shinkansen Iines that connect the south end of the island to the north end, and there are three types of trains: kodama which stops at all stops (kind of like the local train of Shinkansen trains), hikari which stops at major stations (so the equivalent of a rapid train) and nozomi which is the fastest service of them all and only available on one line. 

With nozomi trains, you’ll pay a hell lot more for the speed, so if you’re going one end to the other, you’ll cut down quite a bit of time.

After you’ve chosen your type of train, you have to choose your type of carriage. There’s the more expensive first-class ones known as the Green Car. Some believe that it’s named after the pale green line drawn on the outside of the car so it’s easily recognised.

After that, you now have to pick your seat — pick between reserved or non-reserved. There are sections for the seat types, and some train types don’t even offer non-reserved seating, so you are kind of forced to fork out the extra cash.

Private Railway

Our last category is the private railway companies. This is where your transport prices bump up even more — switching from JR to these private companies. While the JR System brings you to most parts of Japan, you might find yourself coming across private railways not owned by JR.

Larger cities have bigger private railway companies like some subway lines — so don’t think it’s only the smaller cities that have privately-owned railway systems. Kanto’s private lines connect Tokyo to major tourist cities like Nikko, Chiba and Gunma.

Some railway runs only in the city — take Hakone for example. This mountainous city has a private railway system that climbs up the mountainous terrain. So if you go there from Tokyo, you’ll be switching from JR to private, so you’d have to come out with a bit of extra cash on top of your JR Pass if you bought one.

But don’t worry, popular cities offer discount passes for a flat rate over a period of time — kind of like the JR Pass.

Vocab Recap

We used a lot of useful new words in the episode, so here’s a list of it:

Jihanki (自販機) — vending machine. You can also call it by its full name, jidouhanbaiki  (自動販売機)

Konbini (コンビニ) — convenience store

Inaka (田舎) — countryside

Toshi (都市) — city. A word to mean the opposite of the countryside is tokai (都会). 

Futsuu (普通) — local train. This is also the word for normal 

Kaisoku (快速) — rapid train

Kyuukou (急行) — express train

Tokkyuu (特急) — limited express train

Kodama (こだま) — local Shinkansen 

Hikari (ひかり) — a rapid Shinkansen 

Nozomi (のぞみ) — the fastest shinkansen

Guriin-sha (グリーン車) — green car

Shitei seki (指定席) — reserved seat

Jiyū seki (自由席) — non reserved seat. Seki means seat 

Katamichi (片道) — one-way

Oufuku (往復) — round trip

Chikatetsu (地下鉄) — subway 

Tetsudou (鉄道) — railway

ekiin (駅員) — station attendant 

The Reliable Japanese Railway System!

And within minutes, the complicated railway system of Japan has been broken down into three categories — with all the basic vocab words you need on your first few travel trips here. Head over to the Nihongo Master Podcast for the full episode on this topic, and more!

Basic Japanese Grammar: The Conditional ”If” (と・ば・たら・なら)

Basic Japanese Grammar: The Conditional ”If” (と・ば・たら・なら)

One of the most important grammar in any language is the conditional form. In our Season 3 Episode 13 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we looked at how to express the conditional form “if” in Japanese. 

There are four ways to express “if” in japanese. Now don’t get put off by the idea just yet! That’s where the Nihongo Master’s learning system comes in and saves the day: we structure this podcast series very similarly to our online learning system, where we break down the grammar points for you step-by-step in the simplest way possible, and assist you even more with a few roleplaying scenarios filled with the key grammar. 

This article is a recap of what we discussed in the episode. Most of the important points can be found in this article, but if you want to listen to the roleplaying scenarios, you’ve got to tune in to the full episode! 

Grammar Point 

There are many ifs in life: If I turn off the light, it gets dark. If I get sick, I’ll eat medicine. I’ll go to the museum if I have time. Or…if someone wants to learn Japanese, I’ll introduce them to Nihongo Master!

It’s no doubt that the conditional form is crucial to learn for any language. After you get over this hurdle of the four ways to express it in Japanese, you can consider it as a level up in your Nihongo journey. 

To (と)

The first way of expressing conditional is to use the particle “to” (と). This particle also means “and”, and it’s also used as a way to connect nouns. But it is also the first conditional grammar we’re looking at. 

The format is: 

Condition (end with verb or i-adjective) と Constant Result

Condition (ends with noun or na-adjective) だと Constant Result

If (condition), (constant result).

(Constant result) if (condition).

This is used to express constant results. In other words, you’re talking about matter-of-facts — things that are unchanging, like one plus one is two. Usually, you use this for habitual actions, natural phenomenons or the like.

For example, “if I turn off the light, it gets dark.” This is obvious, isn’t it. When you do something, it leads to a result everyone expects. In Japanese, this kind of “if” uses the particle “to”. 

The condition in this sentence is “turn off the light”. In Japanese, that’s “denki wo kesu” (電気を消す). The constant result of this sentence is “to get dark”, which is “kuraku naru” (暗くなる) in Japanese. The sentence you get is:

電気を消すと暗くなる。

denki wo kesu to kuraku naru. 

Ba (ば)

The next way of expressing the conditional is “ba” (ば). This form is used when you’re expressing hypothetical conditions. I use this the most. The format of this sentence is…

Conditional ば Action

If (condition), (action).

(Action) if (condition).

Here’s an example for this type of conditional sentence: “If I get sick, I’ll eat medicine.” 

The conditional part of the sentence is “to get sick”, which is “byouki ni naru” (病気になる). This has to be conjugated accordingly (read below). The action part of this sentence is “to eat medicine”, which is “kusuri wo taberu” 病気になる. The full sentence is: 

病気になれば薬を食べる。

byouki ni nareba kusuri wo taberu.

Unlike the first one where there are no changes to the word before, this one’s a bit different. Here’s a general breakdown:

Verbs

For verbs, to put it simply, you change the last う to えば. There’s a slight difference between ru-verbs and u-verbs.  For ru-verbs, it’s simple: replace the ending る with れ, then add ば. The format is:

Ru-verb (minus る) + れば

Eg. 見る = 見 = 見れば

As for u-verbs, you replace the last う sound with the え sound, then add ば. The format is:

U-verb (minus last う sound) + えば

Eg. 話す = 話せ = 話せば

I-adjectives

I-adjectives are similar to u-verbs: remove the last “i” sound and add “kereba”. The format is:

I-adjectives (minus い) + ければ

Eg. 寒い = 寒 = 寒ければ

Nouns and na-adjectives

The latest category is nouns and na-adjectives. They are so simple: no changes, just add de areba. The format is:

Noun/na-adjective + であれば

Eg. 靴 = 靴であれば

Tara (たら)

Moving on to the third way of expressing conditional, and that’s “tara” (たら). We use this to express a one-time result, but it’s similar to “ba” as it expresses a general conditional. 

Most of the time, tara and ba are interchangeable — ba is used more generally and tara is usually talking about a one-time result. Grammatically, you can’t use ba when the conditional clause doesn’t talk about a potential, or if the subject for both clauses are the same. You use tara instead.

Some call it the past conditional as you use the past tense of any word:

[ Verb (たform) ] + ら + Action

[ Noun + だった ] + ら + Action 

[ な-adjective (minus な) + だった ] + ら + Action

[ い-adjective (minus い) + かった ] + ら + Action

If […], (Action).

(Action) if […].

Let’s have an example sentence: “I’ll go to the museum if I have time.” 

The action of this sentence is “to go to the museum”, and in Japanese it is “hatsubutsukan ni iku” (初物館に行く). The other part of the sentence is “to have time” which is “hima ga aru” (暇がある). This is the part where you have to conjugate using the format above, so you get “hima ga attara” (暇があったら). The full sentence you get is:

時間があったら、初物館に行く。

Jikan ga attara hakubutsukan ni iku.

Nara (なら)

The last way of expressing the conditional is nara (なら). We use this when talking about contextual conditions. This is used in response to a given context — compared to the other ones where the context is set by oneself, this one has to be set by someone else. With this form, we just add it to the plain form of any word. 

[ Noun ] + なら + Action

[ Verb (casual form) / adjective (+ の) ] + なら + Action

The の is optional, and adds more emphasis.

If […], (Action).

(Action) if […].

So you can use it for this sentence: “if someone wants to learn Japanese, I’ll 

introduce them to Nihongo Master.” 

The conditional part of this sentence is “wants to learn Japanese”, and that’s “nihongo wo naraitai” (日本語を習いたい). The action part of this sentence is “to introduce them to Nihongo Master”, and that’s “nihongo masuta wo shoukai suru (日本語マスタを紹介する). Following the format, you will get this sentence:

日本語を習いたいなら日本語マスタを紹介する。

Nihongo wo naraitai nara nihongo master wo shoukai suru.

Summary

We’ll briefly recap them:

“to” is used to express constant results and actual conditions

“ba” is used to express a hypothetical condition, and is one of the more general forms

“tara” is similar to “ba” as it’s also the other general conditional form, but it’s more for one-time results

“nara” is for contextual conditions

Vocab Recap

In the podcast episode, we used a few Japanese words. Here’s a list of them for your reference: 

Denki (電気) — light

Kesu (消す) — To turn off

Kuraku naru (暗くなる) — to get dark

Byouki ni naru (病気になる) — to fall sick

Kusuri (薬) — medicine

Jikan ga aru (時間がある) — to have time. Jikan means time 

Hakubutsukan (初物館) — museum

Narau (習う) — to learn or take lessons in

Shoukai suru (紹介する) — to introduce 

Gakkou (学校) — school

Kaimono (買い物) — shopping

Ame ga furu (雨が降る) — to rain

Suzuki (鈴木) — cold

Kasa (傘) — umbrella

Uwagi (上着) — jacket

Kau (買う) — to buy

Wanpisu (ワンピス) — one piece, usually means casual dress 

Doresu (ドレス) — dress

Ni atteiru (似合っている) — to suit someone 

Betsu (別) — different

Onaji (同じ) — same

Igai (以外) — other than

Hoshii (欲しい) — want 

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Now you know all the four ways to express the conditional in Japanese! If you learned a thing or two from this article, do check out the full podcast episode over at the Nihongo Master Podcast!