Thursday, March 7, 2013

Important Announcement!

Hey everyone, I hope you're all still studying your Japanese diligently. I'm writing this announcement to let you all know that I will not be updating on here for a while because I will be going to Japan.

I will studying abroad for six months, and I'm pretty excited. Will I not be updating for six months? No, I will try my best to, but the soonest I can probably begin updating again will probably be around the end of March. I will be landing and spending a week in Tokyo, and then staying with a host family for a few days. Getting settled into my dorm is only when I see myself as being available to write again, as I'll most likely be busy until that point.

Until then, keep striving to be as knowledgeable as you can. I'll be back soon.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Frequency Adverbs

Since we've learned a few verbs up to this point, I think it's good to review frequency adverbs. If you don't remember, adverbs describe verbs. We'll cover frequency, as in how often you do something.

たいてい (taitei) usually
ちょっと (chotto) a little
ときどき (tokidoki) sometimes
よく (yoku) often
あまり (amari) not much
ぜんぜん (zenzen) not at all; never

わたしはときどきがっこうにいきます。 (watashi wa tokidoki gakkou ni ikimasu)
Sometimes, I go to school.

わたしはよくケーキをたべます。 (watashi wa KEEKI wo yoku tabemasu)
I often eat cake.

For the adverbs あまり and ぜんぜん, the verb they are describing HAS to be negative.

せんせいはあまりテレビをみません。 (sensei wa amari TEREBI wo mimasen)
The teacher doesn't really watch television.

ともだちはしゅくだいをぜんぜんません。 (tomodachi wa shukudai wo zenzen shimasen)
My friend never does homework.

Just keep in mind that all positive adverbs describe a positive frequency of doing things and will be affirmative (ます), and the negative adverbs make verbs negative (ません) because they are describing how you don't really perform the verb.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A List of Verbs 1

I will begin a new set of posts every here and there just providing Japanese words. As I need an organized way of growing and adding vocabulary, I will post words, their kanji, and meaning, and I will also attach a picture that includes them for easier studying. If you ever forget a word and want to search for which post has the word, you can just use the search function.

This list includes some useful verbs to know.

Verb Kanji Romaji Meaning
いく 行く iku to go
かえる 帰る kaeru to return
きく 聞く kiku to listen; to hear
のむ 飲む nomu to drink
はなす 話す hanasu to speak; to talk
よむ 読む yomu to read
あう 会う au to meet; to see (a person)
ある - aru there is; there exists; to be (inanimate)
かう 買う kau to buy
かく 書く kaku to write
とる 採る toru to take (pictures)
まつ 待つ matsu to wait
わかる 分かる wakaru to understand
おきる 起きる okiru to get up
たべる 食べる taberu to eat
ねる 寝る neru to sleep
みる 見る miru to look; to see; to watch
いる - iru there is; there exists; to be (animate)
くる 来る kuru to come
する - suru to do
べんきょうする 勉強する benkyousuru to study

I recommend you save this picture and use it to study.

A few things to note:

- The verb ある is for inanimate (nonliving) things whereas いる is for animate (living) things. For example, if you say you have an apple, you would use ある (りんごがあります = ringo ga arimasu). If you say that you have a cat, you would use いる (ねこがいます = neko ga imasu). To use ある for living things would mean they are dead, and it is not considered grammatically correct.

-Not all verbs have kanji, such as ある, いる and する. They are usually written in kana alone. On the other hand, some verbs may have more than one acceptable kanji, such as あう (会う and 逢う).

-A lot of verbs will consist of a word, usually a noun, with する (to do) attached to it, such as べんきょうする (to study). べんきょう by itself means study, but by adding する to it, it becomes a verb.

-The particles I list is to help you as a beginner, and are not particularly the only particles that can be used for that verb. Practice these particles and remember which ones are properly used for each verb.

Friday, March 1, 2013

How to Invite (~ませんか)

Since we've just learned about the ます form, here's a quick lesson on how to use it as an invitation.

Recall that adding か to the end of a statement makes it a question. By adding か to a negative, present verb, you create an invitation.

ばんごはんをたべません。 (bangohan wo tabemasen)
I won't eat dinner.

ばんごはんをたべません。 (bangohan wo tabemasen ka)
Won't you eat dinner (with me)?

Using the above statement by itself, it is implying that you are asking the person to eat dinner with you, or to join you for dinner. If you want to specify it as together, in the sense that it is only the two of you, you can use いっしょに (issho ni = together) or わたしと (watashi to = with me):

いっしょにえいがをみませんか。 (issho ni eiga wo mimasen ka)
Won't you watch a movie (together with me)?

わたしとえいがをみませんか。 (watashi to eiga wo mimasen ka)
Won't you watch a movie (with me)?

You can even use it to ask someone out and make it official between the two of you.

(わたしと) つきあいませんか。 (watashi to tsukiaimasen ka)
Won't you go out with/date me?

(The verb つきあう tsukiau means "to date." In its ます form, it is つきあいます tsukiaimasu)

That's all there is to this lesson. Now you can invite people to do things with you.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The ます (masu) Form Part 2

We learned how to conjugate a verb from its dictionary form to its ます form, and now we'll learn a little more about how to make it past tense and negative.

Remember, conjugating a verb from its dictionary form to its ます form is simple. Just drop る for る-verbs, or replace the -u ending with -i for う-verbs, and then add ます. However, this only conjugates it into the affirmative, present tense.

To conjugate verbs from their dictionary form to negative, present tense ます form:
It's the same as conjugating to ます form, but instead of ます you use ません (masen).
たべる (taberu = to eat) becomes たべません (tabemasen = to not eat)
のむ (nomu = to drink) becomes のみません (nomimasen = to no drink)

To conjugate verbs from their dictionary form to positive, past tense ます form:
It's the same as conjugating to ます form, but instead of ます you use ました (mashita).

たべる (taberu = to eat) becomes たべました (tabemashita = to have eaten)
のむ (nomu = to drink) becomes のみました (nomimashita = to have drank)

To conjugate verbs from their dictionary form to negative, past tense ます form:
It's the same as conjugating to ません (present, negative), but you just add でした (deshita) at the end. でした is past tense version of です (desu).

たべる (taberu = to eat) becomes たべませんでした (tabemasen deshita = to have not eaten)
のむ (nomu = to drink) becomes のみませんでした (nomimasen deshita = to have not drank)

The ます form is pretty simple, and foreigners often learn about the ます form before the dictionary (short) form of verbs. For now until you begin learning how to use short forms, use ます and です so you'll become comfortable with polite speech.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The ます (masu) Form Part 1

Japanese verbs have all sorts of conjugations, but the first conjugation we'll learn is the ます (masu) form. What is the ます form? Japanese has different levels of honorific speech. Also known as the long form, the ます form is the polite way of speaking when describing actions of yourself and others. Along with ます, polite language also includes the usage of です (desu).

So, let's recall that there are two different kinds of verbs (well kinda, there's three):

- verbs: verbs ending in る (i.e. たべる taberu = to eat)
-verbs: verbs ending in う (i.e. のむ nomu = to drink)
Irregular verbs: verbs having irregular conjugation (する suru = to do, くる kuru = to come)

When we conjugate these verbs to the ますform, we use a certain method for each verb (for the irregular verbs, they have their own unique conjugation).

For る- verbs: drop , and add ます.
For example, たべ becomes たべます.

For う-verbs: drop the -u ending, and add います. *
For example, の becomes のみます.

As for irregular verbs, する becomes します, and くる becomes きます. **

*The -u ending to the う-verb is replaced with -i, and then -masu is added to it. In the example used, のむ (nomu), you remove the -u, giving you noM. You replace it with -i, making it noMI. You then add -masu, making it noMImasu. The character changes from む (MU) to み (MI) because you replaced -u with -i, thus changing the sound. Other examples of う-verb endings look like this:

becomes , such as き (kiKU = to listen) conjugating to きます (kiKImasu).
becomes , such as かえ (kaeRU = to return) conjugating to かえます (kaeRImasu).

**These are really the only two irregular verbs, so just remember them as they are.

Keep in mind though that what we've just learned is the PRESENT AFFIRMATIVE tense for the ます form. In the next lessons, we'll learn about the present negative, past affirmative, and past negative.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Asking and Telling Time Part 2

Previously, we learned how to tell time specifically by hour. To say that the time is at 30 minutes (7:30, for example) you use はん, "han" (半). 半 means "half." It is placed after じ (時), the hour.

いまはごぜんよおじはんです。 (ima wa gozen yoji han desu)
It is 4:30 AM right now.

To say a specific minute, such as 9:03, you have to use a counter for minutes. The counter for minutes is ~ぷん, "~pun" (分). However, take note of the ones pronounced differently.

1 minute                     いっぷん                     (ippun)                           一分      
2 minutes                   にふん                         (nifun)                            二分
3 minutes                   さんぷん                      (sanpun)                         三分
4 minutes                   よんぷん                      (yonpun)                       四分
5 minutes                   ごふん                          (gofun)                          五分
6 minutes                   ろっぷん                       (roppun)                       六分
7 minutes                   ななふん                       (nanafun)                      七分
8 minutes                   はっぷん, はちふん     (happun, hachifun)         八分
9 minutes                   きゅうふん                    (kyuufun)                      九分
10 minutes                 じゅっぷん                    (jyuppun)                      十分
30 minutes                 さんじゅっぷん             (sanjyuppun)               三十分

The kanji 分 is pronounced "pun" but sometimes it is read as "fun." For 2, 5, 7, and 9 minutes, 分 is pronounced "fun." For 8, both はっぷん (happun), and はちふん (hachifun) is accepted. Also, we learned that 30 minutes is はん (半). さんじゅっぷん (sanjyuppun) is also used.

Be sure to remember that 2, 5, 7, and 9 is pronounced differently from the rest!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Asking and Telling Time Part 1

To ask what the time is in Japanese, you simply say:

いまなんじですか。 (ima nanji desu ka)
What time is it now?

In this sentence, いま (今) means "now," なん (何) means "what," and じ(時) means "hour." Literally, you're asking what hour it is.

To answer this question, you simply say what hour it is, followed by じ. If it is 5 o'clock, you say 五時です (ごじです = goji desu). To specify if it is AM (ごぜん = gozen) or PM (ごご = gogo), you just place it before the time.

ごぜんろくじです。 (gozen rokuji desu)
It is 6 o'clock AM.

ごごななじです。 (gogo nanaji desu)
It is 7 o'clock PM.

How about if you want to say 7:30 or a specific minute? Well, it gets a little more complicated, so I'll explain it in the next lesson.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Numbers Part 4

In the last part of our lesson on numbers, so we'll cover big numbers.

1,000                      せん                        (sen)                              千
2,000                      せん                    (nisen)                          二
3,000                      さんぜ                 (sanzen)                       三
4,000                     よんせん                (yonsen)                       四   
5,000                     せん                    (gosen)                         五
6,000                     せん                    (rokusen)                      六   
7,000                      ななせん               (nanasen)                     七         
8,000                      はっせん               (hassen)                       八
9,000                      きゅうせん           (kyuusen)                     九               
10,000                     いちまん               (ichiman)                      一万
Million                      ひゃくまん            (hyakuman)                  百万
10 Million                 せんまん              (senman)                      千万
100 Million               おく                       (oku)                             億
1 Billion                  じゅうおく             (jyuuoku)                   十億

Note that 3,000 and 8,000 are pronounced "sanZEN" and "haSSEN," respectively. As for higher numbers such as 10,000, you can see that the kanji is using 一 for 1 and 万 for 10,000. 20,000 would be 万. One million is literally 100 10000's (100 x 10,000 = 1,000,000), hence the kanji for that is 百万. 億 (oku) means 100 million, so 10 of those (十億) would equal 1 billion.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Numbers Part 3

Previously, we covered single and double digits. Now we'll cover triple digits. Take note of the special ones, as you'll have to remember they are pronounced a little differently from the others.

100                 ひゃく                       (hyaku)                              百
200                 にひゃく                      (nihyaku)                          二
300                 さんびゃく                   (sanbyaku)                       三
400                よんひゃく                (yonhyaku)                       四   
500                ごひゃく                    (gohyaku)                         五
600                ろっぴゃく                (roppyaku)                       六   
700                ななひゃく                (nanahyaku)                     七         
800                はっぴゃく                (happyaku)                      八
900                きゅうひゃく            (kyuuhyaku)                     九               
1000              せん                             (sen)                                 千

Also, note that 400, 700, and 900 use よん, なな, and きゅう, respectively. As for 300, 600, and 800, you'll have to memorize how they are pronounced as they aren't pronounced "hyaku" like the others.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Numbers Part 2

Here are more numbers in Japanese, along with their kanji.

11                じゅういち                                (jyuuichi)                              十一
12                じゅうに                                    (jyuuni)                                十二
13                じゅうさん                                (jyuusan)                              十三
14                じゅうよん, じゅうし            (jyuuyon, jyuushi)                 十四   
15                じゅうご                                    (jyuugo)                               十五
16                じゅうろく                                (jyuuroku)                            十六   
17                じゅうなな, じゅうしち        (jyuunana, jyuushichi)           十七         
18                じゅうはち                                (jyuuhachi)                           十八
19                じゅうきゅう, じゅうく        (jyuukyuu, jyuuku)               十九               
20                 じゅう                                   (nijyuu)                                二十
21                 じゅういち                           (nijyuuichi)                           二十一    
30                 さんじゅう                (sanjyuu)                             三十
40                 よんじゅう               (yonjyuu)                              四十
50                 ごじゅう                 (gojyuu)                                五十
60                 ろくじゅう                (rokujyuu)                             六十
70                 ななじゅう               (nanajyuu)                             七十
80                 はちじゅう               (hachijyuu)                           八十
90                 きゅうじゅう              (kyuujyuu)                            九十
100               ひゃく                   (hyaku)                                 百

Note that 14 can be じゅうよん or じゅうし, but 40 has to use よん (よんじゅう).
Note that 17 can be じゅうなな or じゅうしち, but 70 has to use なな (ななじゅう).
Note that 19 can be じゅうきゅう or じゅうく, but 90 has to use きゅう (きゅうじゅう).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Numbers Part 1

Like the rest of the world, Japan uses numbers that you will recognize (1, 2, 3, etc.) but it's also important to recognize the Japanese kanji characters for numbers. These should be the first kanji you learn since they are pretty easy to work with and memorize.

0                 ゼロ, れい   (zero, rei)              
1                 いち            (ichi)                       
2                                 (ni)                         
3                 さん            (san)                       
4                 , よん      (shi, yon)                
5                                 (go)                        
6                 ろく            (roku)                     
7                 しち, なな   (shichi, nana)         
8                 はち            (hachi)                    
9                 きゅう,    (kyuu, ku)              
10               じゅう        (jyuu)                     

For 0, ゼロ and れい are both equally used.
For 4, よん is more commonly used. In some cases, it will be only (よにん = 4 people). Also, in some cases only is used for certain things (しがつ = April).
For 7, なな is more commonly used. In some cases, only しち is used for certain things (しちじ = 7 o’clock).
For 9, きゅう is more commonly used. In some cases, only is used for certain things (くじ = 9 o’clock).

Monday, February 11, 2013

X is NOT Y! (~じゃありません)

We learned how to say "X is Y" by using "X は Y です" but what if we wanted to say that X isn't Y? It's simple. You simply replace です with じゃありません (jya arimasen)

わたしはがくせいです。 (watashi wa gakusei desu)
I am a student.

わたしはがくせいじゃありません。 (watashi wa gakusei jya arimasen)
I am not a student.

For now, keep in mind that じゃありません is used for nouns, so Y has to be a noun. In the case that Y is an adjective (such as 'X is fast'), we will learn about this later. Remember, there are い-adjectives and な-adjectives and they are different in conjugation. じゃありません is used for な-adjectives, but I don't want to start confusing you so don't worry about it until later.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

~よ (I Tell You)

Like ね (ne), you can add よ (yo) to the end of a statement, but よ makes your statement sound assuring. It gives your statement a sense of authority. You can think of よ roughly meaning "I tell you" or something along those lines.

わたしのせんもんはにほんごですよ。 (watashi no senmon wa nihongo desu yo)
My major is Japanese (I tell you).

ほんださんのねこはちいさいですよ。 (Honda-san no neko wa chiisai desu yo)
(I assure you) Honda-san's cat is small.

That's all there is to ~よ. かんたんですよ。(It's easy, I tell you!)

Friday, February 8, 2013

~ね (Right?)

At the end of a statement, you can add ね (ne) to make it sound as if you are asking for confirmation, or are suggesting agreement. Its translation is something along the meaning of "right?" or "isn't it?".

いいおてんきですね。 (ii otenki desu ne)
It's good weather, isn't it?

これはさかなですね。 (kore wa sakana desu ne)
This is fish, right?

And that's all there is to this lesson. かんたんですね。 (Easy, right?)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Particle も (mo) and Another Function of は

To understand the function of the particle も (mo), let's first take a look at these two sentences.

あきとさんはにねんせいです。(akito-san wa ni nensei desu)
Akito-san is a second year (student).

さくらさんもにねんせいです。 (sakura-san mo ni nensei desu)
Sakura-san is also a second year (student).

The first sentence establishes にねんせい (second year) as a characteristic or property. Now, if you were to use "X も Y です," it relates back to the previously established characteristic. The particle も comes after a noun and replaces は  to give the meaning of "Noun is also..." instead of simply restating "Noun is..." (this is what は does).

However! Take a look at these three sentences:

あきとさんはにねんせいです。(akito-san wa ni nensei desu)
Akito-san is a second year (student).

さくらさんもにねんせいです。 (sakura-san mo ni nensei desu)
Sakura-san is also a second year (student).

ゆかりさんさんねんせいです。 (Yukari-san wa san nensei desu)
Yukari-san is a third year (student).

There is another function to the particle は, and that is to show contrast. The first two sentences is establishing にねんせい (second year) as a characteristic, but the third sentence changes it to さんねんせい (third year). In this case, the は in "X は Y です" isn't necessarily the topic marker, but one that indicates a contrast to the the previous sentence.

That's pretty much it to the particle も. Hopefully, all of these particles aren't confusing yet.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"This Noun" and "That Noun" (この, その, あの, どの)

The last set of ko-so-a-do words are この (kono), その (sono), あの (ano), and どの (dono). These words also mean "this" and "that," like これ, それ, あれ, and どれ. However, これ, それ, あれ, and どれ refers to an object as "this thing" and "that thing" whereas この, その, あの, and どのare followed by a noun to mean "this (noun)" and "that (noun)." Just remember: the -れ words are always by themselves and the -の words always have a noun.

これえんぴつです。 (kore wa enpitsu desu)
This is a pencil.

このえんぴつは。。。 (kono enpitsu wa)
This pencil is...

This is the difference between これ and この. この is followed by a noun to make it specific (this pencil), and これ by itself refers to an object (this object near me).

So following the ko-so-a-do pattern we've learned before, here are the definitions of この, その, あの, and どの:

この + NOUN = this NOUN (NOUN is near the speaker)

その + NOUN = that NOUN (NOUN is near the listener)

あの + NOUN = that NOUN (NOUN far from both speaker and listener)

どの + NOUN = which NOUN (question word)

Like どれ, どの also means "which," the difference being that どの needs a noun after it. Also, どの + NOUN cannot have the particle は after it and must use が.

どのえんぴつやすいですか。 (dono enpitsu ga takai desu ka)
Which pencil is cheap?

どれやすいですか。 (dore ga yasui desu ka)
Which one is cheap?

And with this, we are done with our ko-so-a-do words!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Here and There (ここ, そこ, あそこ, どこ)

 Here are another set of ko-so-a-do words. Like これ, それ, あれ, and どれ, which corresponds to objects of relative distances, these words correspond to relative locations.

ここ (koko) = here (near me, the speaker)

そこ (soko) = there (near you, the person being spoken to)

あそこ (asoko) = over there (far from both the speaker and listener)

どこ (doko) = where (question word)

As you can see, these words are very similar to the other ones because of ko-so-a-do. The good thing though is that the overall meaning hasn't really changed, and you probably noticed that.

: close to you
: close to listener
: far from both speaker and listener
: question word

I hope things are beginning to make sense with ko-so-a-do. It's very simple once it's understood.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

This and That (これ, それ, あれ)

これ (kore) means "this." It refers to an object that is close to the speaker. If you're the speaker talking about an object near you, you would use これ.

それ (sore) means "that," but you use it when the object is close to the person you are talking to. Imagine if you were buying something and the object was behind the counter near the cashier. If you were to point out something that you wanted that was near the cashier, you would use それ (and they would use これ because it is near them).

あれ (are) refers to an object that is far from you and the person you are talking to. So if you pointed to something out at night in the sky and told someone to look at it, you would use あれ. If the person you were talking to is speaking about that same thing, they would use あれ also.

Another word that can be related to these words is どれ (dore), meaning "which." It is a question word. You use どれ to specify an object. Some question words like どれ and なに cannot be followed by the particle は, and must use the particle が (ga). We'll learn more about that later.

どれがやすいですか。 (dore ga yasui desu ka?)
Which one is cheap?

Together, these set of words are called "ko-so-a-do." Take the first characters of れ, れ, れ, and れ, and you get こそあど (ko-so-a-do). There are more words similar to these that are in the set of ko-so-a-do, and we'll learn them next.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Asking a Question

Asking questions in Japanese is not difficult at all. You simply add か (ka) to the end of a sentence. Take for example the X は Y です format.

せんせいはきびしいです。(sensei wa kibishii desu)
The teach is strict.

Add か to the end of the sentence and you get:

せんせいはきびしいですか。(sensei wa kibishii desu ka)
Is the teacher strict?

That's pretty much all there is to it. Here are a few question words:

なに, なん (nani, nan) = what
どこ (doko) = where
いつ (itsu) = when
どうして (doushite) = why

There are two forms of "what," なに and なん. You use なに when it comes before a particle, and you use なん when it comes before a counter*, or です.

なにがおかしいですか。 (nani ga okashii desu ka)
What is (so) funny?

せんせいはなんさいですか。 (sensei wa nansai desu ka)
How old is (the) teacher?

なっとうはなんですか。 (nattou wa nan desu ka)
What is nattō?

*counters are used for when numbering things. The counter for age is -さい

That's all there really is to なに and なん. Make sure that when you ask a question in Japanese, you pronounce か with a rising tone, otherwise you'll sound monotone.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

More Particles!

Last time, we learned about the particle は. There are more particles, and knowing them will help you form sentences. Let's take a look at a few more particles, namely で (de), に (ni), へ (he), and を (wo).

The particle で tells us where an action takes place. It is placed after the location and before the verb.

こうえんテニスをしました。 (kouen de TENISU wo shimashita)
I played tennis at the park.

The particle に has a lot of meanings, and will most likely be a particle that will confuse you at times. For now though, let's just take a look at two of its meaning: movement consisting of a goal, and the time something happens (it is placed after a time reference).

わたしはこうえんいきます。 (watashi wa kouen ni ikimasu)
I will go to the park.

ろくじしゅくだいをします。 (roku ji ni shukudai wo shimasu)
 I will do homework at 6 o'clock.
*じ = hour

The particle へ, pronounced "e" (like え),  is also used for movement. It's basically another version of に, but strictly only the meaning of having a goal for movement. You can use に and へ interchangeably, but again, only in the sense of movement towards something.

The particle を, pronounced "o" (like お), indicates objects/nouns that are affected by an action/verb. It is placed after the object and before the action in a sentence.

きょう、テニスします。 (kyou, TENISU wo shimasu)
Today, I will play tennis.
*します = to do, so literally, the sentence means "Today, I will do tennis."

As you can see, を takes place after テニス, meaning that テニス is the noun being affected by the verb, します.

With more practice, understanding of particles will come naturally. The more you see them, the easier of a time you'll have. Also, many verbs are specific with which particles they use. That means you'll have to memorize which correct particle to use or else your sentence won't be correct.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Particle は

Particles are probably one of the most confusing things about learning Japanese. Due to the fact that particles all have their rules and uses, and some verbs using certain particles, among other things, students often find themselves using the wrong particles or forgetting which particle to use.

So we'll start out with the particle は . In the previous lessons, we used は in the sentence "X はY です。" は is pronounced "wa" and not "ha," even though it uses that character. What is は? It is a topic marker. It is used to mark the item of focus in a sentence.

せんせいはわかいです。(sensei wa wakai desu)
The teacher is young.

In this example, the subject, せんせい, is the item of focus. Keep in mind though that は marks the item of focus and not necessarily the subject of the sentence. Take for example this sentence:

せんせいしゅうまつはいそがしいですか。 (sensei, shuumatsu wa isogashii desu ka?)
Teacher, is your weekend busy?

As you can see, the subject of the sentence is せんせい, but the object of focus within the sentence is しゅうまつ (weekend). You'll often find it marking other things besides the subject, which is why it is important to remember that it only marks the item of focus in a sentence.

Of course though, this can also help you greatly. Since you know that  は follows the object of focus, you'll know what it is. It can come in handy when someone asks you a seemingly convoluted question:

せんせいがわたしにくれたしゅくだいどこですか。 (sensei ga watashi ni kureta shukudai wa doko desu ka?)
Where is the homework that the teacher gave me?

I know I've included grammar that is a little more advanced and particles that I haven't mentioned yet, but the point is that when you initially look at a sentence like that, it seems like a lot of things are being said. However, just focus on は. The noun before は is しゅくだい (shukudai = homework). Even though しゅくだい is modified (せんせいがわたしにくれた = given to me by the teacher), は marks the item of interest, which is simply just しゅくだい.

Without even knowing much else of the sentence, you're at least able to realize that they are asking where their homework is. Now, you can point to somewhere near them and yell out "そこです!” (soko desu = there).

Monday, January 28, 2013

There Are 2 Kinds of Adjectives!

In Japanese, there are two kinds of adjectives: い (i) and な (na) adjectives. What's the difference? Like る and う verbs, い-adjectives end in い. な-adjectives are different though, they end in な, but only when they modify a noun.

Take for example the adjective げんき (genki = lively, energetic). By itself, it is an adjective. However, if you modify a noun, な is added at the end of げんき.

げんきながくせい (genkina gakusei) = energetic student

Some example of な adjectives are: すき (suki = likeness), だいすき (daisuki = loveable), しずか (shizuka = quiet), ハンソム (hansomu = handsome), ひま (hima = not busy; free)

い-adjectives are simple in the way that they always end in い even when they modify a noun. Let's use the adjective おもしろい (omoshiroi = interesting).

おもしろいがくせい (omoshiroi gakusei) = interesting student

As you can see, い is still used at the end of the adjective and there is no further need to change it. Some examples of い-adjectives are: ちいさい (chiisai = small), あつい (atsui = hot), たのしい (tanoshii = fun), かわいい (kawaii = cute), むずかしい (muzukashii = difficult)

Like always though, there are strange exceptions. Some adjectives can be used for both, like おおきい (ookii = big). おおきい is an い-adjective, as it ends in い. However, it can also use なwhen it modifies nouns, in which case it would be おきな (okina). The meaning is still the same and both forms of usage are considered correct.

おおきいがくせい (ookii gakusei) = おきながくせい (okiina gakusei) = big student

Now that you know about adjectives, hopefully you'll be able to identify them when you hear them! You've probably heard many Japanese adjectives before, but if you haven't,  you can now recognize most words if they are い- or な-adjectives.

Be careful though! Some adjectives that end in い are in fact な adjectives! For example, きらい (kirai = dislike) ends in い, but is a な adjective, and is きらいな when it modifies nouns. This was a small, but fatal mistake that almost got me into a lot of trouble in Japanese class. Take it from me and make sure you know which adjectives are い- or な-adjectives!