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!