Basic Japanese Grammar: I Think…

Basic Japanese Grammar: I Think…

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

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

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

Grammar Point

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

Quick and easy, right?

と思う for i-adjectives and verbs

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

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

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

だと思う for na-adjectives and nouns

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

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

Negation

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

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

Vocab Recap

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

Kakkoii (かっこいい) — cool

Kireina (綺麗な) — beautiful or pretty

Isha (医者) — doctor

Shokugyō (職業) — occupation

Gaka (画家) — painter

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

Ginkõ (銀行) — bank

Hataraiteiru (働いている) — to be working 

Kaku (書く) — to write or draw

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

Muzukashii (難しい) — difficult

Mirai (未来) — future

Hiraku (開く) — to open 

Sasuga (さすが) — as expected 

Hazukashii (恥ずかしい) — shy 

Shinyū (親友) — best friend 

Kareshi (彼氏) — boyfriend 

Urayamashii (羨ましい) — jealous 

Zettai (絶対) — definitely

Conclusion

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

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

How to Say “Do You Know” in Japanese — わかる and 知っている

How to Say “Do You Know” in Japanese — わかる and 知っている

(NM Podcast Recap! S2E6)

One of the most commonly used phrases in any language is “do you know…?” This phrase is without a doubt an essential one for not only daily conversations but also at work. Remember asking your friend if they knew of a specific person, or your colleague if they knew how to use the copy machine? 

The question is: do you know how to ask “do you know” in Japanese?

If you don’t, then you should tune in to our podcast’s language series, Study Saturday. In our Season 2 Episode 6, we looked at two ways on how to say this phrase in Japanese! 

In the podcast episode, we broke down the grammar points and looked at the proper usage with a few role playing scenarios and useful vocabulary words. This article is a recap of the grammar and vocabulary we used — while you get the gist and general idea of the grammar in this article, we highly recommend tuning in to the episode for exemplary usage!

Grammar Point

Compared to English grammar, where “do you know” is at the start of the sentence, the Japanese grammar for that attaches itself to the end, just like most other

grammar points. In Japanese, the sentence structure is basically the opposite of English.

Shitteiru (知っている)

So for this one, we have “shitteiru” (知っている) or “shitteimasu” (知っています) to mean “to know”. The phrase comes from the word “shiru” (知る), which means “to find out” or “to get to know”. I won’t confuse you with the details, but long story short the difference is that “shiru” is an action, while “shitteiru” is a state, and the former is rarely used.

So in question form, we have it as “shitteiru” (知っている) or “shitteimasuka” (知っていますか). For example, “do you know John?” Can be translated in Japanese as “Jon wo shitteiru?” (ジョンを知っている?) or “Jon wo shitteimasuka?” (ジョンを知っていますか?) We use the particle “wo” (を) for this grammar most of the time.

A を 知っていますか?

A wo shitteimasuka?

If you know, you reply as: shitteiru (知っている) or shitteimasu (知っています)

If you don’t, you reply as: shiranai (知らない) or shirimasen (知りません)

Another way to use this phrase is like this question: “do you know where he lives?”. For this type of sentence, it’s said a different way — that’s because we’re connecting two parts into a sentence:

1. ”Where he lives” = “kare ga doko ni sundeiru” (彼がどこに住んでいる)

We replace the wo (を) particle which we would usually use, with ga (が)

To attach the two sentences together, we have to use the question particle which is ka (か). Then the second part:

2. ”Do you know” = “shitteiru” (知っている)

Put it all together, and you get: “kare ga doko ni sundeiru ka shitteiru” (彼がどこに住んでいるか知っている?) “kare ga doko ni sundeiru ka shitteimasuka?” (彼がどこに住んでいるか知っていますか?)

Here’s another example: “do you know if he’s going to the party tonight?” 

In Japanese, it’s: “konban no pātī ni iku dou ka shitteiru?” (今晩のパーティーに行くどうか知っている?)

BONUS:

Sometimes, you can use shitta (知った) in specific situations. For example, “dou yatte shitta?” (どうやって知った?) This means “how did you know?”.

There’s also a common saying, that is: “hajimete shitta” (初めて知った) to mean “that’s the first I’ve heard”.

Wakaru (分かる)

It’s quite common to confuse shitteiru with wakaru (分かる) or wakarimasu (分かります) for the polite form. The clearest way of explaining the difference is that, “shitteiru” as a question implies that you don’t expect the person to know, and as an answer implies that you already knew. “Wakaru” as a question has a nuance of

“do you remember/understand”, implying that the person should already know because it was brought up before, and as an answer implies that you remember/understand.

If you want to ask someone if they know Japanese, you usually would say “nihongo wakaru?” (日本語分かる?) or “nihongo wakarimasuka?” (日本語分かりますか?). This means “do you understand Japanese?” 

If you ask it as “nihongo shitteiru?” (日本語知っている?) or “nihongo shitteimasuka?” (日本語知っていますか?), it’s kind of like saying “have you heard of the Japanese

language?” 

If you do know Japanese — and understand it — reply with a “wakaru” or “wakarimasu”. If you don’t know, a simple “wakaranai” (分からない) or “wakarimasen” (分かりません) does the trick.

Vocab Recap

At the end of our Study Saturday episodes, we have a quick vocab recap of the words we used in the episode. Here’s a list for reference:

Doko (どこ) — where

Sundeiru (住んでいる) — to be living, it comes from the root form “sumu” — to live

Konban (今晩) — tonight

Dou ka (どうか) — …or not

Saigo (最後) — last

Atta (会った) — met. The root word is “au”, to mean “to meet”

Otetsudai wo suru (お手伝いをする) — the polite version of “tetsudau” to mean “to help”

Honjitsu (本日つ) — a polite version of saying “today”

Hatarakasete (働かせて) — the root form is “hataraku” to mean “to work”

Tsukai kata (使い方) — how to use. 

Tsukau (使う)  —to use

Kata (方) — way of

Fūni (風に) — this way

Yaru (やる) — to do

Tonari (隣) — next to

Aiteiru (空いている) — to be open, coming from the word “aku” which means “to open”

Conclusion

Now you have the general gist of how to say “do you know” and “i know” in Japanese! You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll be using it day to day. As mentioned before, this is just a recap and summary of what we discussed about in our language series episode. Check out the full episode over at Nihongo Master Podcast

How to use the Japanese Sentence Endings desu & da!

How to use the Japanese Sentence Endings desu & da!

One of the first things you learn about the Japanese language is “desu” (です). In fact, even those who don’t know Japanese know generally how to use this copula. Just stick it at the end of the sentence and you’re good to go, right?

And for those of us who watched an anime or J-drama episode or two, we’re pretty familiar with the copula “da” (だ), aren’t we? As the textbooks would tell us, these two are supposed to be interchangeable. One is used for formal context and the other for informal ones.

I’m here to tell you that there’s more to them than that, and you won’t find your answers in textbooks. They’re from observation and practice in conversation with local Japanese people – read on to find out what they are!

The Usage of “Desu”

“Desu” (です), as we all know, is used at the end of a sentence to make it formal. This phrase is a copula, so it’s kind of like “to be” (is, am, are) in English. For example, “this is a pen” is said as “kore ha pen desu” (これはペンです). “Desu” is used to link the subject to a subject complement.

When you end a sentence with “desu”, there’s a certain level of formality attached to it. Usually, you would use “desu” when speaking to people who you aren’t familiar with as well as those above you in the work or social hierarchy. If you’re talking to your boss, I’d recommend ending your sentences with “desu”. If you’re talking to your teacher, yup, definitely use it. If you’re talking to your good friend, chances are you don’t have to use it.

“Desu” is attached to nouns and adjectives only. Verbs have their own conjugation that has the same formality as “desu”. Ending a verb with “masu” (ます) is like saying “desu”, but that’s a whole other article altogether.

The Usage of “Da”

Da (だ) is also a copula and acts the exact same way as “desu” most of the time. If you want to say “this is a pen” but using “da” instead, just replace the “desu” with “da”: “kore ha pen da” (これはペンだ). The message is conveyed across just the same.

While “desu” is more formal, “da” is more informal. You often hear it in conversations among good friends, and never with superiors and those you are not familiar with. I would advise you never to use “da” with your boss or teachers. More often than not, guys are the ones using it among themselves. That’s not to say girls don’t say it, too. My girl friends use it, and so do I.

However, “da” is often used in combination with other Japanese particles like “yo” (よ) and “ne” (ね) to make “da yo” (だよ) and “da ne” (だね). Sometimes, you’ll even hear “da yo ne” (だよね) attached at the end of sentences as well as on its own. That’s because, “da” on its own can sound rude and dry in conversation and it’s often used in written form instead of “desu” to imply informality. Using “da yo”, “da ne” and “da yo ne” brings the “da” from cold to casual.

“Da ne” is the most common one of them all, in my opinion. Attaching the “ne” with “da” automatically makes the sentence an engaging one. It’s kind of like asking the other person for their opinion – if they agree or not. If you say “Kono kēki wa oishī da ne” (このケーキを美味しいだね) is like saying “this cake is delicious, isn’t it?”

“Da yo” has a more aggressive tone to it. If you say “watashi da yo” (私だよ), it kind of sounds like “it’s obviously me!” If you’re not so close with someone, it’s best to stay away from this one.

I often use “da yo ne” (だよね) as a response and use it on its own. For example, this phrase is perfect as a response to the cake statement. Saying “da yo ne” to that is you agreeing that the cake is delicious. 

The Difference Between “Desu” and “Da”

In textbooks, they’ll tell you that “da” is the informal version of “desu”. That’s pretty accurate. In theory, it is. You can definitely use “da” to make your sentences sound more informal. But make sure you’re also aware that it can also make you sound rude and aggressive. 

Using “da” on its own is rather rare in conversation. “Desu”, however, is extremely common. If you’re unsure of what to use at the end of a sentence, it’s never wrong to use “desu”, but it’s not so straightforward with “da”. My advice is to stick with “desu” until you’re comfortable with the various ending particles like “da yo” and “da ne”, or even “yo” and “ne” on their own. Read our Japanese Particles article if you want a clearer picture of what you can use and how to use them.

And there you have it! “Desu” and “da” can seem pretty clear-cut, but it’s not so black and white until you have to actually use it in conversation. I was like that when I first got to Japan, but after countless observations and practice, I now have a better understanding of their usage. Remember, Japanese is a constant learning journey. Good luck! 

Learn Japanese Now! Here are 7 Awesome Reasons.

Learn Japanese Now! Here are 7 Awesome Reasons.

Have you ever found yourself wanting to learn Japanese? You’re not alone. By learning a new language you can also get a glimpse at the culture behind the language. Without the ability to communicate, you can never understand a culture on its own terms. Discovering and learning about Japanese language and culture is easier now than ever thanks to Nihongo Master. Learning a new language is a logical step to expand our own horizons. There are lots of reasons to learn Japanese. Let’s find out why.

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Have You Ever… ことがある? (Podcast Recap! S2E2)

Have You Ever… ことがある? (Podcast Recap! S2E2)

Our second season’s second episode of the Nihongo Master Podcast introduces a language series in the mix: Study Saturday! In this series, we bring you a new grammar episode every Saturday — bite-sized and full of vocabulary words. They’re going to be very similar to the lessons Nihongo Master offers, so if you realise you love Study Saturday, you’ll love our interactive online learning system.

The series episode flow goes like this: grammar point, roleplaying scenarios, vocab recap.

And for our very first episode, we looked at one I personally use every day: Have you ever…? Like… Have you ever needed to ask someone if they had ever done something? Or tell someone that you have or have never done something before? Yes? Exactly! 

If you missed that episode, go check it out! Here’s a recap of what we covered in that episode, along with a list of vocabulary words that we used.

Have You Ever…ことがある?

Before we get to playing “Never Have I Ever”, we gotta know how to ask the basic question: Have you ever…?

To ask this question in Japanese, all you have to do is add “koto ga aru” (ことがある) / “koto ga arimasuka?” (ことがありますか) to the casual past tense of any verb.

We looked at this example: “Have you ever been to Europe?” 

For this question, we’ll use the verb for “to go” which is iku (行く), then change it to the casual past tense: itta (行った). Then, just add the phrase we mentioned before to make “itta koto ga aru” (行ったことがある) / “itta koto ga arimasuka” (行ったことがありますか). So when you have the subject and put it all together, you get: “yoroppa ni itta koto ga aru?” (ヨーロッパに行ったことがある?) / “yoroppa ni itta koto ga arimasuka?” (ヨーロッパに行ったことがありますか?)

In the episode, we gave a few more examples — check it out for more clarity.

We also looked at how to reply. There are two ways to go about this kind of question: “Yes, I have…” or “No, I haven’t…” While you could get away with a simple “hai” or “iie”, but why not up your game a bit? 

To say you’ve done something, the formula is pretty much the exact same as the question. Reply the example question with “yuroppa ni itta koto ga aru” (ヨーロッパに行ったことがある) / “yuroppa ni itta koto ga arimasu” (ヨーロッパに行ったのとがあります). As simple as ABC! Or, you could even cut it short to “itta koto ga aru” (行ったことがある) / “itta koto ga arimasu” (行ったのとがあります) — leaving out the subject. 

For the negative reply “No I haven’t…”, we gotta make a slight change to the ending — aru (ある) has to be in its negative form, which is nai (ない) or arimasen (ありません). So then it becomes: “yuroppa ni itta koto ga nai” (ヨーロッパに行ったことがない) / “yuroppa ni itta koto ga arimasen” (ヨーロッパに行ったのとがありません). Similarly, you can cut it short by leaving out the subject:  “itta koto ga nai” (行ったことがない) / “itta koto ga arimasen” (行ったのとがありません).

In short, the formula to ask “Have you ever…” is: 

subject + particle  + verb in the casual past tense + koto ga aru/arimasuka (ことがある/ことがありますか).

And for the answer of “I have/have never…”, it’s the same with a slight difference at the end: 

subject + particle + verb in the casual past tense + koto ga aru/koto ga arimasu (ことがある/ことがあります) for positive; koto ga nai/koto ga arimasen (ことがないことがありません) for negative.

For the full explanation with everyday examples, head over to Spotify or Apple Podcasts — we even have a few roleplaying scenarios using this grammar language a few times!

Vocab Recap

Just like our previous episodes, we wrapped it up with a vocab recap for all the Japanese words we used. Here’s a compiled list of it:

Kouhai (後輩) — people of lower status

Tomodachi (友達) — friend

Senpai (先輩) — people of higher status

Kazoku (家族) — family

Iku (行く) — to go

Yoroppa (ヨーロッパ) — Europe

Taberu (食べる) — to eat

Kankoku (韓国) — South Korea

Ryouri (料理) — cuisine

Kohi (コーヒー) — coffee

Koucha (紅茶) — black tea

Nomu (飲む) — to drink

Nominomo (飲み物) — drink

Tabemono (食べ物) — food

Ichiban suki (一番好き) — literally translates to number one like, but it actually means favourite

Igai (以外) — with the exception of, or except

Suki (好き) — like

Daisuki (大好き) — love

Meccha (めっちゃ) — a casual way to say really

Chuugoku (中国) — China

Ippai (いっぱい) — a lot

Onaka tsuita (お腹ついた) — to be hungry

hyaku pacento (百パーセント) — 100% 

Eigo (英語) – English language

Jetto kosuta (ジェットコスタ) — roller coaster

Noru (乗る) — to ride

Muri (無理) — impossible

Kowasou (怖そう) — looks scary

 Hitori de (一人で) — alone

Uso (うそ) — a lie

Tanoshii (楽しい) — fun

Issho ni (一緒に) — together

Ikou (行こう) — let’s go. It comes from the word “iku”

Shiata (シアター) — theatre

Pafomansu (パフォマンス) — performance

Miru (見る) — to see or to watch

Majikku (マジック) — magic tricks. you can also call it tejina

Omoshirosou (面白そう) — looks interesting

Chotto (ちょっと) — a bit, but it can also mean “wait”

Tanomu (頼む) — please

Tabun (多分) — maybe

Yakusoku (約束) — promise

And that’s the recap of our very first episode of our language series, Study Saturday. If this recap has been useful to you, perfect! You’ll love the Study Saturday podcast series — so pop open your preferred streaming app and give Nihongo Master Podcast a listen!