Basic Japanese: Verb Conjugation

Basic Japanese: Verb Conjugation

Verbs are crucial in language learning. Some may argue that it’s the very foundation of some languages. It would be hard to express yourself if you don’t know verbs. 

In Japanese, knowing the various types of verbs and its basic conjugations is extremely significant. But don’t let that scare you off yet, because as soon as you master the basic conjugation, you will be able to express yourself in Japanese and get by in Japan. This article is a comprehensive guide to the basics of verbs and conjugations! 

For more in-depth expansions and discussions, we talk about verb conjugations in our Nihongo Master Podcast Season 9 Episode 4!

Types of Verbs

In any language, some sentences require a verb. Verbs are action words like “to see” or “to write” or “to do”. There’s not much categorisation in English when it comes to verbs and their conjugation, but in Japanese, it all boils down to two categories: ru verbs and u verbs. 

Ru Verbs

Ru-verbs are known as ichidan doushi (段動詞) They are easy to distinguish from the rest, most of the time, as they are verbs that end with ru (る). Ru verbs have the base of the verbs remain when conjugating. Examples are 見る (miru, to see) and 食べる (taberu, to eat).

However, there are some verbs ending with ru that are not ru-verbs, but in fact the next category of verbs.

U Verbs

U-verbs are also known as godan doushi (五段動詞). These are verbs that end with u (う) vowel sound at the end. When conjugating this type of verb, the stem’s final vowel changes to another vowel in the hiragana chart. 

Examples are 書く (kaku, to write) and 話す (hanasu, to speak), 買う (kau, to buy) and 飛ぶ (yobu, to fly). Bear in mind that there are u-verbs that also end with ru, like 知る (shiru, to know). But these types of verbs still fall under the u-verb category. To know which they are, you have to memorise them.

Irregular Verbs

There is also a category for irregular verbs, and that category only has two: する (suru, to do) and 来る (kuru, to come). They have unique conjugations that are only for them, and the only way to know them is to memorise them. 

A lot of nouns have these irregular verbs attached to them to make nouns. For example, 勉強する (benkyou suru, to study) is a combination of “studies” (勉強) and “to do” (する).

Stem Form (ます form)

The stem form is a type of Japanese verb form that’s often used to make other types of conjugation. It’s also known as the masu (ます) form. Just like how in English, the word “see” can become “see” or “saw” or “seen”, Japanese words rely on conjugation from the stem form. 

For ru-verbs, you can get the stem form by just taking away the ru (る). For example, 見る (miru) becomes 見 (mi). 食べる (taberu) becomes 食べ (tabe).

For u-verbs, the stem form is achieved by taking the う (u) vowel sound out, 

For example, 書く (kaku) becomes 書 (kak). 話す (hanasu) becomes 話 (hanash).

For its masu form, there is an additional step where you switch it with い (i). For example, 書く (kaku) becomes 書き (kaki). 話す (hanasu) becomes 話し (hanashi). Depending on the type of conjugation, you would either use the stem form or masu form.

The irregular verbs don’t have a set of rules to follow, you just have to memorise their conjugation. する (suru) becomes し (shi), and 来る (kuru) becomes き (ki).

These verbs are now in their stem form. Stem form is used in a lot of types of conjugation, like 〜たい (~tai), to say “I want”. This conjugation type is covered in Season 2 Episode 10 of the Nihongo Master Podcast. We have a recap article that you can read here too.

For the ます form, all you have to do is add the “masu” to the stem form. The masu form is the formal version of the plain form of the word. 

Type of verb: Plain form – Stem form – Masu form

Ru-verbs: 見る – 見 – 見ます

U-verbs: 書く – 書き – 書きます

Irregular verbs: する – し – します

Past Tense

The past tense of verbs is the next step you should take on your verb conjugation learning journey. In this section, we will look at how to conjugate to the plain past tense, and the formal past tense. 

Plain Past (た)

The plain past tense refers to the past tense form of the plain verb. This conjugation depends on the verb categories as well.

For ru-verbs and irregular verbs, you add た (ta) to the stem form. For example, 見る (miru) becomes 見 (mi), then becomes 見た (mita). する (suru) becomes し (shi) then becomes した (shita).

For u-verbs, it gets a bit complicated. It depends on the last hiragana. 

  • If it ends with う, つ or る, add った (tta) to the stem form. For example, 笑う (warau) becomes 笑 (wara), then becomes 笑った (waratta).
  • If it ends with む, ぶ, ぬ, change the last hiragana to んだ (nda). For example, 読む (yomu) becomes 読 (yo), then becomes 読んだ (yonda).
  • If it ends with く, change the last hiragana to いた (ita). For example, 書く (kaku) becomes 書 (ka), then becomes 書いた (kaita).
  • If it ends with す, change the last hiragana to した. For example, 話す (hanasu) becomes 話 (hana), then becomes 話した (hanashita).

Formal Past (ました)

The formal past tense is the past tense form of a formal verb. It’s so much simpler than the plain past tense, as all you have to do is add た (ta) after the masu form to make ました. For example, 見る (miru) becomes 見ます (mimasu) then becomes 見ました (mimashita). 読む (yomu) becomes 読みます (yomimasu) and then becomes 読みました (yomimashita).

Negative Form

The next category we’ll look at is negation. Similarly, ru and u verbs negate differently, and it’s also slightly different from the stem form. We’ll also break it down to plain negative and formal negative.

Plain Negative (ない)

The plain negative form is the negation of a pain verb word. 

For ru-verbs, it’s very straight forward. Take the ru out and replace it with nai (ない), for informal, or masen, for formal. 見る (miru) becomes 見ない (minai). 食べる(taberu) becomes 食べない (tabenai).

For u-verbs, take the う (u) vowel sound out, and replace it with あ (a), then add ない (nai). 書 (kaku) becomes 書か (kaka) then becomes 書かない (kakanai).  話す(hanasu) becomes 話さ (hanasa) then becomes 話さない (hanasanai). There’s one exception to the plain negation, and that’s the u verb ある (aru), which becomes ない (nai).

For irregular verbs, add nai to the stem form. For example, する (suru) becomes しない (shinai).

Formal Negative (ません)

The formal negative is the negation of a formal verb word. 

For ru-verbs, take take the ru out and replace it with masen (ません). 見る (miru) becomes 見ません (mimasen). 食べる(taberu) becomes 食べません (tabemasen).

For u-verbs, take the stem form, then add masen (ません). 書 (kaku) becomes 書き (kaka) then becomes 書きません (kakimasen).  話す(hanasu) becomes 話し (hanashi) then becomes 話しません (hanashimasen).

For irregular verbs, add masen (ません) to the stem form. For example, する (suru) becomes しません (shimasen).

Past Negative

The last conjugation on the list of basic verb conjugation is the past negative. This is a lot simpler once we know how to do the negation and past tense separately. It’s a matter of combining the two together. Similarly, we’ve split it up to plain and formal past negative.

Plain Past Negative (なかった)

The plain past negative is the plain negation in the past tense. It’s like saying “I did not…” To do this, for all types of verbs, you negate it first, then conjugate the past tense.

Regardless of the category, you take the word and change it to its plain negative form, then change the い at the to かった (katta). This creates なかった (nakatta), and it is the way to make an い ending into its past tense form.

Type of verbs: Plain form – plain negative form – plain past negative form

Ru-verbs: 見る – 見ない – 見なかった

U-verbs: 書く – 書かない – 書かなかった

Irregular verbs: する – しない – しなかった

Formal Past Negative (ませんでした)

The formal past negative is the negation of the formal form of the verb. This is conjugated similarly to the plain past negative. You negate the word first then conjugate to the past tense. 

This applies to all categories: first change it to its formal negative form, then add deshita (でした). This makes masendeshita (ませんでした).

Type of verbs: Plain form – formal negative form – formal past negative form

Ru-verbs: 見る – 見ません – 見ませんでした

U-verbs: 書く – 書きません – 書きませんでした

Irregular verbs: する – しません – しませんでした

You’re now a verb expert!

And with that, we  wrap up our comprehensive guide to Japanese verbs and its basic conjugations! There are many ways to conjugate a verb – we have the various types of conjugation on our blog as well as our Nihongo Master Podcast. Check both of them out now!

Basic Japanese Grammar: I Try… (みたい)

Basic Japanese Grammar: I Try… (みたい)

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.

Grammar Point

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.

To try…

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).

Vocab Recap

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!

The Etiquette of Japanese Gift-Giving and what to give!

The Etiquette of Japanese Gift-Giving and what to give!

The practice of gift-giving is one that’s very prominent in Japanese culture. I mean, who doesn’t like getting gifts? If I could get presents besides my birthday, I most definitely wouldn’t be opposed to the idea.

However, for the Japanese, it is more than just casually giving someone a souvenir from a recent trip or a present for an occasion. It’s an act of appreciation, a show of respect and a presentation of gratitude. This art of gift-giving dates back to the Edo period, a healthy practice that lives to this day in respect to the original intentions of the various types of gifts.

So what are the various types of gifts? In our Season 3 Episode 3 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we looked into the various types of gifts, along with a brief history of the practice as well as gift-giving etiquette to prepare you for when you do find yourself in the situation of having to give a gift in Japan.

While this article is a recap of the episode, it gives you a good amount of information to understand this practice as well. So read on to find out more!

Types of Gifts & Its History

I can only count on one hand the occasions in a year in which I receive gifts: birthday, Christmas, and a once-in-a-lifetime wedding event. Besides the standard suspects, which are also included in the whole practice of it all, Japan’s gift-giving culture has other occasions where you give gifts. And depending on the occasion, you might need to get a different type of gift.

East Asia has a long and important tradition of gift-giving. Japan is one of them. The Japanese do not take gift-giving lightly, like many other traditions in their culture. It’s a serious act that strengthens relationships and maintains ties with one another – whether it’s a personal friend or a business partner. It can also be a way to show fondness for others.

Let’s take a look at the types of gifts:

Omiyage

Omiyage (お土産) is a type of gift that one brings back from a trip, and most of the time it’s edible products like local snacks, Japanese sweets or alcohol. While having edibles as omiyage is more common, some do instead bring back a local handicraft that’s significant to the place they visited. The difference between omiyage and souvenir is that, generally, a souvenir can refer to a takeaway from a country whether it’s for others or yourself; an omiyage is something you solely buy for others.

Omiyage isn’t a recent practice – this act of gift-giving purchases from trips dates back to the Edo period of the 17th to 19th century. Back then, travelling wasn’t as accessible as it is now. A bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto is roughly USD200, but back in the day, this distance of travel was equivalent to today’s USD3,000!

Back in the day, this trip was usually a pilgrimage rather than a holiday. For those who were lucky enough to go on this adventure, they brought back a takeaway from their destination for those who had chipped in for the travel cost of sending them off on their merry way.

Edibles weren’t the first viable option for omiyage in those days – I mean, food preservation wasn’t all too common. By the time the traveller returned home, all their wagashi would’ve turned bad. So instead, omiyage came in forms of charms and rice wine cups as they were believed to bring blessings.

Nowadays, omiyage comes in bright boxes with individually wrapped snacks in them. Travelling to a certain area and bringing back a prized delicacy from there is kind of like sharing the experience with them. 

Temiyage

The next type of gift is the temiyage (手土産). This one’s not a gift you give when you go travelling, but rather a gift with a purpose. The kanji for temiyage and omiyage are pretty similar – the only difference is that temiyage has the kanji for “hand” in it. 

Temiyage is common to give when you’re visiting someone or a family – if you’re visiting someone’s home, it’s a sign of thanks. Generally, this type of gift conveys your thankfulness for something the person has done for you, or will do for you.

If it’s the latter, you can even add this commonly used phrase when giving it: osewa ni nari masu (お世話になるます). It loosely translates to “thank you and I feel obligated to you for burdening you.” You can use this phrase, as well as give a temiyage, to a new boss, a new landlord, movers or your homestay host if you’re travelling. It’s pretty similar to the Western culture of house gift, where you bring the host of the house a gift when you’re invited over.

Okaeshi

The third and final type of gift is the okaeshi (お返し) gift. This word translates to “return something”. This is a type of gift you give in return as a way of saying thanks. Okaeshi gifts can go back and forth for….forever, actually, unless one puts a stop to it.

The rule to an okaeshi gift is that it has to be about half of the value of the original present. So if you got a gift that’s generally valued at $100, the okaeshi gift you give back should be about $50. If you’re stuck on what to get, alcohol is your safest bet.

While you can give okaeshi gifts any time of the year, there are two specific seasons every year specially for gift-giving: ochugen (お中元) and oseibo (お歳暮). Ochugen is set mid-year in summer, starting from the first of July to the fifteenth. Oseibo is set at the end of the year. During these two seasons, Japanese people make their rounds of giving gifts to family, friends and people who they want to show their appreciation to.

Etiquette

Just like other aspects of Japanese culture, there’s a proper way to go about the art of gift-giving in Japan. Gift-giving requires proper etiquette – it’s serious business here in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Firstly, whenever you’re giving as well as receiving gifts, always use both your hands as a sign of

respect. This is similar to giving and receiving name cards.

Secondly, when you are given a gift, reject it twice before finally accepting it. This is just customary. Similarly, if you’re giving one, prepare to be rejected twice and don’t take it personally.

Oh, when you do get a gift, do not open it in public.

The next etiquette is, when you’re giving one, try to give it when there’s no one else around, out of courtesy. In a business setting, or any setting, gifts are given after rather than before the encounter. If you give it before, you’re kind of implying that you’re rushing the other party.

If you’re wondering if the presentation of the gift matters, yes it does, but to a certain extent. Ribbons, bows and wrapping paper are often used, but you could also use a furoshiki (風呂敷), which is a traditional wrapping cloth. Additionally, keep in mind the colours you pick when you wrap the gift – the safest bets are pastels. Bright and flashy colours can be interpreted in negative ways – especially red, as it’s associated with funerals, and sexuality.

Vocab Recap

We always have a vocab recap in our episodes, so here’s a list of the new words we used in that episode:

Omiyage (お土産) – a takeaway, usually edible, from a trip 

Wagashi (和菓子) – Japanese sweets

Sake (酒) – alcohol

Shinkansen (新幹線) – bullet train

Meibutsu (名物) – specialty from a certain area 

Temiyage (手土産) – a type of gift to show thanks 

Okaeshi (お返し) – a gift to return a gift

meishi (名詞) – namecard

furoshiki (風呂敷) – wrapping cloth

iro (色) – colour

Ochugen (お中元) – the first gift-giving season in the middle of summer

Oseibo (お歳暮) – the second gift-giving season at the end of the year

Which gift will you give?

It’s quite praiseworthy how seriously the Japanese take gift-giving, and how much thought is put into this practice. Now that you know the various types of gifts and the ways to go about it, will you take up this practice?

Remember to check the full episode out on the Nihongo Master Podcast page!

Basic Japanese: Adjectives

Basic Japanese: Adjectives

Adjectives are important in language learning. They are used to describe things and express how you feel about something. It’s like saxing “the shoes are beautiful” or “the meal was expensive”

In Japanese, adjectives are classified into two categories: i-adjectives and na-adjectives. How they’re classified is based on the ending of the adjective. Depending on the type of adjective it is, you conjugate it differently. Conjugation is a huge part of Japanese language and grammar.

But don’t worry, all adjectives fall in either one of these two categories. We’ll look at conjugating into negative, past and past negative tenses. Once you have gotten the hang of these conjugations, you’ll be a pro in Japanese adjectives. 

I-Adjectives

I-adjectives refer to adjectives that end with the い hiragana. Here are some examples of the i-adjective:

Good – いい (ii)

Cheap –安い (yasui)

Big – 大きい (ookii)

New – 新しい (atarashii)

Fun –  楽しい (tanoshii)

Interesting – 面白い (omoshiroi)

If you notice, they all end with the same hiragana い. Almost all i-adjectives conjugate the same, except for one: いい (good) changes its first syllable to よい to other tenses.

One thing to note is that i-adjectives cannot have the auxiliary verb added. For example, you cannot say it as “これは大きい”, but instead say it as “これは大きい”. 

Past Tense

Changing an i-adjective to its past tense is pretty simple. All you have to do is change the ending い to かった. 

(I-adjective without い) + かった

Here are some examples of the conjugation:

Is Expensive – 高い (takai) 

Was expensive – 高かった (takakatta)

Is cheap – 安い (yasui)

Was cheap – 安かった (yasukatta)

Is big – 大きい (ookii) 

Was big – 大きかった (ookikatta)

Interesting – 面白い (omoshiroi) 

Was interesting – 面白かった (omoshirokatta)

The only exception is いい (ii) , which changes to よかった (yokatta).

Negation

To make an i-adjective its negation, you have to change the ending い to く. Then, you add nai (ない), which is the negation of the word “aru” (ある, to exist). 

(I-adjective without い) + く + ない

For example, let’s use the word “expensive (高い)” and change it to its negation.

Not expensive =  高 + く + ない = 高くない

Here are some other conjugations to the negative form of an adjective:

Cheap – 安い (yasui) 

Not cheap – 安くない (yasukunai)

Big – 大きい (ookii) 

Not big – 大きくない (ookinunai)

Interesting – 面白い (omoshiroi) 

Not interesting – 面白くない (omoshirokunai)

Negative Past Tense

If you want a negative past tense, you first negate the word, then change it to its past tense. The formats is:

Negative i-adjective (without い) + かった

For example, let’s change “expensive” to its past negative.

Was not expensive = 高 + く + な (ない without the い) + かった = 高くなかった

Here are some other examples:

Cheap – 安い (yasui) 

Was not cheap – 安くなかった (yasukunakatta)

Big – 大きい (ookii) 

Was not big – 大きくなかった (ookinunakatta)

Interesting – 面白い (omoshiroi) 

Was not interesting – 面白くなかった (omoshirokunakatta)

Polite Conjugation

To make the adjective polite, you add desu (です) after the i-adjective, regardless of tense.

I-adjective + です

Here’s an example in various tenses:

Present: Cheap – 安いです (yasui desu) 

Past: Was cheap – 安かったです (yasukatta desu)

Negative: Not cheap – 安くないです (yasukunai desu)

Past Negative: Was not cheap – 安くなかったです (yasukunakatta desu)

Alternatively, you can change the negative form and past negative form into a different way of polite form. 

ないです = ありません

なかったです = ありませんでした

Here are some examples: 

Negative: 

Not cheap – 安くないです (yasukunai desu) = 安くありません (yasuku arimasen)

Past Negative: 

Was not cheap – 安くなかったです (yasukunakatta desu) = 安くありませんでした (yasuku arimasen deshita)

Na-Adjectives

Na-adjectives are adjectives that end with な. It’s easier to look at it as those that don’t end with い. Here are some examples of na-adjectives:

Quiet – 静か (shizuka)

Like  – 好き (suki)

Convenient – 便利 (benri)

Good at – 上手 (jouzu)

However, there are some exceptions to the rule. For example, the word “beautiful’ (綺麗, きれい), “hate” (嫌い, きらい) and “grateful” (幸い, さいわい) all end with い, but they are actually na-adjectives.

Unlike i-adjectives, the auxiliary verb is supposed to be added to na-adjectives, but casually can be omitted. For example, to say “it’s quiet”, you say it with a “da” at the end: “静か” (shizuka da).

Past Tense & Polite Past Tense

Because na-adjectives take on the auxiliary verb, it’s easier for the conjugation. This is similar to noun conjugations where you just add “datta” (だった) or “deshita” (でした) for its past tense.

Na-adjective + だった (informal) / でした (formal)

Here are some examples:

Is quiet – 静か (shizuka)

Was quiet – 静かだった (shizuka datta) / 静かでした (shizuka deshita)

Like  – 好き (suki)

Liked – 好きだった (suki datta) / 好きでした (suki deshita)

Convenient – 便利 (benri)

Was convenient – 便利だった (benri datta) / 便利でした (benri deshita)

Is good at – 上手 (jouzu)

Was good at – 上手だった (jouzu datta) / 上手でした (jouzu deshita)

Negation & Polite Negation

Similarly to the past tense, it’s pretty simple to conjugate to its negation, past negation, and polite negation. They conjugat similarly to nouns.

Let’s look at negation first. You add “de ha nai” (ではない) or “de ha arimasen” )ではありません: 

Na-adjective + ではない (informal) / ではありません (formal)

Here’s an example:

Quiet – 静か (shizuka)

Not quiet – 静かではない (shizuka de ha nai) / 静かではありません (shizuka de ha arimasen)

Past Negation & Polite Past Negation

For the past negation, you add “de ha na katta” (ではなかった) or “de ha arimasen deshita” (ではありませんでした) to the adjective:

Na-adjective + ではなかった (informal) / ではありませんでした (formal)

Here’s an example: 

Quiet – 静か (shizuka)

Not quiet – 静かではなかった (shizuka de ha na katta) / 静かではありませんでした (shizuka de ha arimasen deshita)

Conjugate Adjectives Like A Pro!

And that’s a comprehensive guide to basic adjectives and it’s conjugations into various tenses! If you like this kind of article, you should check out our Nihongo Master Podcast as we have a language series, Study Saturday, where we break down Japanese grammar similar to this one! 

Basic Japanese Grammar: I Think… (と思う)

Basic Japanese Grammar: I Think… (と思う)

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

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

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

Grammar Point

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

Quick and easy, right?

と思う for i-adjectives and verbs

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

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

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

だと思う for na-adjectives and nouns

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

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

Negation

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

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

Vocab Recap

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

Kakkoii (かっこいい) — cool

Kireina (綺麗な) — beautiful or pretty

Isha (医者) — doctor

Shokugyō (職業) — occupation

Gaka (画家) — painter

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

Ginkõ (銀行) — bank

Hataraiteiru (働いている) — to be working 

Kaku (書く) — to write or draw

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

Muzukashii (難しい) — difficult

Mirai (未来) — future

Hiraku (開く) — to open 

Sasuga (さすが) — as expected 

Hazukashii (恥ずかしい) — shy 

Shinyū (親友) — best friend 

Kareshi (彼氏) — boyfriend 

Urayamashii (羨ましい) — jealous 

Zettai (絶対) — definitely

Conclusion

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

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

Basic Japanese Grammar!

Basic Japanese Grammar!

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

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

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

Japanese Sentence Structure

Basic Structure

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

“This is a pen.”

Kore ha pen.

これはペン。

Action Sentences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Describing Existence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Formal & Informal Speech

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

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

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

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

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

Japanese Particles

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

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

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

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

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

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

で (de) – emphasises location rather than direction

と (to) – “and” 

の (no) – indicates possession

か (ka) – question indicator

Japanese Verbs

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

Verb Tenses

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Verb Conjugations

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

る-verbs

う-verbs

Irregular verbs

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

る-verbs – drop the “る” and add “ます”

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

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

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

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

するbecomes します, 来る becomes 来ます

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

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

Ace that Japanese grammar!

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

How to Learn Japanese the Fast & Easy Way!

How to Learn Japanese the Fast & Easy Way!

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

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

1. Don’t skip the writing systems

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

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

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

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

2. Use language learning hacks

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

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

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

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

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

3. Think and explain in Japanese

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

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

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

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

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

4. Find language exchange partners early

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

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

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

5. Immerse yourself in Japanese 

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

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

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

6. Practice your Japanese speaking skills

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

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

7. Don’t be afraid to fail

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

Learn Japanese Fast & Easy!

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

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

Basic Japanese Words and Phrases for Holiday Celebrations!

Basic Japanese Words and Phrases for Holiday Celebrations!

Holidays are just around the corner. Who’s excited? I know I am! But the holidays shouldn’t stop us from keeping up with our Japanese language learning journey. So instead, we should incorporate some holiday into it! 

Do you know any Japanese words and phrases for the holiday celebrations? If not, you’ve come to the right place! Just like in English, there are certain words and phrases we use to wish people for the holidays and to describe the holiday season. It may not always be in the first few chapters of your Japanese textbook, but we’ve compiled the top 10 words and phrases you can use for this upcoming festive season! 

Keep reading to find out!

1. Omedetou (おめでとう)

The first one has definitely got to be omedetou (おめでとう). You can say this for a lot of different things. It’s so versatile. This word actually translates to “congratulations”, but it’s also used in the Japanese way to say “happy new year”, and that’s “akemashite omedetou” (あけましておめでとう). It actually comes from the word “akeru” (開ける) to mean “to open”, so you’re kind of welcoming the opening of the new year. 

You can also say “akeome” (あけおめ) with your friends. This is a casual and slangy way to say it.

You can also attach “omedetou” to other types of holidays like Hanukkah: Hanu-ka omedetou” (ハヌーカおめでとう). Or even Kwanzaa: “Kuwanza omedetou” (クワンザおめでとう).

2. Yoi Otoshi Wo (良いお年を)

One of my favourite phrases to say when the New Year approaches is “yoi otoshi wo” (良いお年を). This translates to “have a happy New Year” and it’s a very common phrase used by Japanese people.

Bear in mind that this phrase is used before the clock strikes midnight on January 1st. When you want to wish someone a happy new year after that, use the phrase before this.

3. Yasumi (休み)

The next basic Japanese word great for the holidays is yasumi (休み). That’s because this word translates to “holiday” or “off day”. You can say to someone to enjoy their holidays by saying “yasumi tanoshinde” (楽しんで). Although it’s perfect for the holiday celebrations, this word can also be used all year round to talk about days you’re not working or school holidays, too. 

4. Mata rainen (また来年)

I find this next phrase pretty cute, because it’s a bit quirky and pretty similar to English. Usually, you’d say to someone “see you later”, but when it’s the new year period, I like to say “see you next year” as a quirky saying. I bet a lot of people do, too.

In Japanese, that’s “mata rainen” (また来年). “Mata” (また) actually means “again” but in colloquial Japanese, you can also just say “mata” to mean “later” or “see you”. “Mata ashita” (また明日) means “see you tomorrow”.

5. Kyuuka (休暇)

While we already have the word for holiday before, this is another basic Japanese word for “holiday”: “kyuuka” (休暇). This is a more formal version than “yasumi” but it’s often combined with other words like “Christmas holidays” or “summer holidays”.

“Christmas holidays” is “kurisumasu kyuuka” (クリスマス休暇) and “summer holiday” is “kaki kyuuka” (夏季休暇).

6. Tanoshinde (楽しんで)

This next basic Japanese phrase for the holidays is “tanoshinde” (楽しんで), which means “have fun”. You can attach this to another word to make sentences like “have a fun Christmas party”, or you can just say it on its own.

“Have a fun Christmas party” is “kurisumasu pa-ti wo tanoshinde!” (クリスマスパーティを楽しんで!) .

7. Oshougatsu (お正月)

The next basic Japanese word you should know for the holidays is “oshougatsu”, which translates to “Japanese New Year”. This is a more common word to describe the first of January, but there’s also another word: ganjitsu (元日). While both are acceptable to use, the first one is more popular.

8. Purezento (プレゼント)

If you’ve mastered your katakana, you already know what this word means: presents! Purezento (プレゼント) is the katakana form of the English word “present”, and what’s the holidays without a gift or two, am I right? 

9. Meri Kurisumasu (メリークリスマス)

We have a few ways to talk about the holidays and New Years, but not so much on how to say “Merry Christmas”. It’s pretty simple, which is why I saved it for the last few. “Merry Christmas” is just the katakana form: meri kurisumasu (メリークリスマス).

10. Shinnen ga yoi toshi de arimasu you ni (新年が良い年でありますように)

This is a pretty long one, but also a good basic Japanese phrase to learn for the holidays. You’re wishing someone the best wishes for the next year. Kind of like the shorter phrase above “yoi otoshi wo”. However, this is a more formal and genuine wish.

You can also use parts of this phrase to say other things like “I hope you have a good day”. Just use the “de arimasu you ni” and attach it to another wish like “a good day”, which is “yoi hi” (良い日): “yoi hi de arimasu you ni” (良い日でありますように). Just attach this phrase to any good wish you want to give!

Have a happy holiday season! 

And that wraps up the top 10 basic Japanese words and phrases for the holiday celebrations. I hope you learn them just in time for the festive season. They’re super easy and super useful. Try it out with your family and friends! Have a wonderful holiday season, everyone! よいお年を!

10 Best Polite Words to Have Handy in Japanese

10 Best Polite Words to Have Handy in Japanese

Learning a new language can be tough. While the Japanese language is a beautiful one, it can be difficult to pick up in the beginning. But what you should take note of even before learning the language is that it’s a polite language. There are so many aspects of the Japanese language that are based on politeness.

To get you started, here are the top 10 polite words in Japanese that will definitely come in handy – regardless of whether you’re just starting out or you’re travelling to Japan soon. This is one of the best ways to learn Japanese fast and easy!

1. Sumimasen (すみません)

This word is one that’s super commonly used. “Sumimasen” (すみません) has a few different meanings and can use in a few different situations. Check out our podcast episode, Season 1 Episode 1, for a full rundown of how to use this phrase. 

In summary, you can use this phrase to apologise for inconveniencing someone, kind of like “pardon me”. You can also use this phrase to say “excuse me” – for example, you’re getting off the train and there are people blocking your way. Say “sumimasen” to let them know you need to get through.

2. Gomennasai (ごめんなさい)

Another polite word to have handy is “gomennasai” (ごめんなさい). When you learn Japanese, this is one of the first things you’ll learn. Gomennasai translates to “I’m sorry” and it’s used as an apology. It’s similar to the first one, but this word can’t be used to say “excuse me”. Our Season 1 Episode 1 podcast episode also talks about this phrase!

3. Onegaishimasu (お願いします)

Also part of our Season 1 Episode 1 podcast episode is “onegaishimasu” (お願いします). This phrase can also be used in a lot of situations. It essentially means “please” when asking for help. 

For example, the konbini (コンビニ) cashier might ask you if you want to heat up your food. You reply with “hai onegaishimasu” (はい、お願いします) to mean “yes please”. For more examples and situations, check our podcast episode!

4. Otsukaresama (お疲れ様)

The next word is “otsukaresama” (お疲れ様). I like this word a lot, because it has such a heartwarming tone. This word can translate to “thanks for all your hard work” and is often said to other coworkers after work or groups of people/friends after an event. You can use the longer form “otsukaresama deshita” (お疲れ様でした) or even cut it short with people who you are familiar with, to “otsukare” (お疲れ)

5. Itadakimasu (いただきます)

If you’ve watched anime (アニメ) before, you would probably have heard this phrase. Before eating a meal, you should say “itadakimasu” (いただきます) which can be translated to “thank you for the meal” or “I’m digging in!” Either way, it’s showing appreciation for the meal presented to you.

6. Gochisou sama deshita (ご馳走様でした)

After your amazing meal, don’t forget to show appreciation too. To do so, say “gochisou sama deshita” (ご馳走様でした) which is also saying “thank you for the meal”. Note that this phrase can only be used after a meal, and the previous word is used only before a meal. Don’t mix them up! This is a good pair of Japanese words to learn fast and easy! 

7. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu (よろしくお願いします)

I’m sure you recognised half of this phrase – see, you’re already learning Japanese! “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (よろしくお願いします) can have a few different translations. Oftentimes, this phrase is used after a greeting with someone new. In this case, it’s translated to “nice to meet you” or “please take care of me” or even “I look forward to working with you”.

Sometimes, you can use this when requesting someone to do something for you. In that case, this translates to “please fulfill my request”. You’ll see it quite often at the end of emails.

I would say the best English equivalent would be something like “thank you in advance”. It’s commonly used in formal situations. You can also cut it short to “yoroshiku” (よろしく), but it then becomes quite informal.

8. Shitsurei shimasu (失礼します)

Another common polite word or phrase in Japanese that you should learn is “shitsurei shimasu” (失礼します). This translates to “pardon my rudeness” most of the time. You can say this when you’re interrupting a conversation or basically anything. If you are walking through a group of people and they’re talking, you can say this as you walk through them.

You can use this phrase in the past tense too, to make “shitsurei shimashita” (失礼しました). This is often said after the ‘rude act’, and it somewhat translates to “sorry for being rude earlier”. It’s a pretty handy Japanese word to know and have, I think.

9.  Ojama shimasu (お邪魔します)

Another phrase similar to the one before is “ojama shimasu” (お邪魔します). This one translates more to “I’m going to get in your way” or “I will disturb you”. Most of the time, this is used when you’re entering someone’s house. In my opinion, it sounds slightly harsher – or at least, the ‘act of rudeness’ is slightly harsher.

10. Ki wo tsukete kudasai (気をつけてください)

Last but not least, a polite word or phrase to have handy in Japanese is “ki wo tsukete kudasai” (気をつけてください). I personally have this as a personal favourite, because it shows so much kindness and warmth. This translates to “please take care”, and can be said to anyone. 

When I get my food delivered by a delivery man, I often say this phrase to them. When parting ways with friends, we often say this to each other.I It’s just a nice sendoff for anyone.

Conclusion 

And that wraps up our list of polite Japanese words and phrases to have in handy. This list is a fun and easy way to learn Japanese fast, because everything on this list is used almost on a daily basis! There are so many polite words in the Japanese language, but knowing this is a good start. Good luck!