皆様、こんにちにゃあぁ！Welcome to Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Online. Perhaps you have decided it’s finally time. It’s time to go off into the unknown, broadening your horizons and expanding your perspectives. You may think that you’re ready to purchase your ticket and easily fly right into the centre of the action. Though many offer quick trips and short-cuts, these paths hold pitfalls and dangerous or dubious directions. This isn’t to say the opposite of the easy way is the difficult way, either. It’s all in your perspective. Learning a new language is a journey, and if you miss a step or you rush through the path, you may trip over the brush or even get lost or become discouraged, even backing out of the journey or staying stuck amidst something you’ve jumped into too quickly. We’re Kiki and Koko, your guides to Japanese language and culture. We’re here to give you the tools you need for you Japanese Language Survival Kit. With these tools equipped, we’ll lead you through the sometimes daunting aspects of the terrain so that you’ll be able to truly understand and even enjoy the experience. There’s no rush, here. You can learn at your own pace, and we’ll be there to help you weave through the foliage, appreciate the flora, hike the mountains, and rappel the canyons. It’s all about taking things one step at a time, and this lesson, we’re going to introduce to you an important part of grammar that functions a bit differently to what you may be used to in English.
In previous lessons, we’ve tackled creating sentences and nouns as well as basic particles, but once you’ve become comfortable with these skills, you’re probably looking for a bit more spice in your sentences. You’re perhaps looking for some sentence enhancers to make a spicy sentence sandwich. We’re talking, of course, about adjectives! When you’re first starting out in any language, we think it seems like one of the first parts of speech that feel most natural to use whilst feeling more insightful than literal. It’s important to be able to identify an object and knowing the vocabulary, but you may get a better reaction pointing at a new car and saying, ‘Neat!!‘ than you will saying, ‘Car!!‘ But, if the car is driving right towards the subject, and they’re in the middle of the road in Japan, then shouting ‘Car!!‘ in Japanese would be a bit more fitting. So, no need to think less of knowing basic vocabulary, every piece of grammar and vocabulary builds onto each other to allow you to properly communicate. You may already be here to learn about adjectives, but it’s always good to have a motivation in mind, knowing that these are concepts you’ll use.
But, before we move onto the heart of this lesson, the new tools we’ll be introducing will be most useful to you if you have a good understanding of the previously introduced concepts. Otherwise, the lessons would mainly consist of overly simplified recapitulations that wouldn’t give you all you needed to survive out there. Before we jump into this next adventure, we advise you to equip your kit with these essentials as well as some basic forms of sustenance:
The top-most image leads to the main Essentials page, whilst the others bring you to です、は、が、and を, respectively. There are more you’d benefit from as well such as the many vocabulary words as well as the series on の. But, all in all, it’s simply best to have a grasp on all of our previous particle and grammar lessons. So, have a look around at the supplies and return when you’re comfortable.
And, now that you’re hopefully comfortable with the previous material, it’s time to get settled in and prepare the sustenance for your journey. That’s right, it’s time to create that spicy sentence sandwich we’d mentioned. And, we’re going to go step by step. Empty your mind of English adjectives and start with a clean slate. Always remember that with any of these grammatical concepts, they’ll be much easier if you don’t necessarily try to see them through an English lens. Though there are similarities, it can sometimes make things a bit muddled. We’re taking each of these concepts from their most basic forms, being first introduced to the concepts without any other baggage, like a baby yoda, too precious for this world. And, we’ll be sure to treat you in kind~ Now, let’s move onto the basics of Japanese adjectives.
Where are Japanese adjectives placed?
This depends on the type of arrangement of your sentence. Let’s start with a basic noun and adjective, not as a sentence, but just alone as a fragment.
kirei na kaoku
(a) pretty house
So, if you’re modifying a noun, you’ll put the adjective before the noun, unlike some languages that may put it after the noun. We’re going to try not to muddle this with too many linguistic terms, but basically, this is useful if the main purpose of the sentence isn’t the adjective you’re using, but rather, the adjective is perhaps being used to differentiate between objects or just to spice up the sentence.
綺麗な 家屋を 探しています。
kirei na kaoku wo sagashiteimasu.
(I’m) looking for a pretty house.
これは 綺麗な 家屋です。
kore wa kirei na kaoku desu.
This is a pretty house.
Hopefully it makes it a bit easier to compare by using the same subject. As you can see, it makes a clause so that you can sort of plug it into the sentence. But, being able to do this relies on something important, and that is the specific modifier used, which we’ll cover in a moment.
Let’s say you’re trying to describe a topic or simply stating an adjective with an implied topic. You would place it in the same way as any of the other basic sentences we’ve covered in the past:
kaoku wa kirei desu.
The house is pretty.
(It is) pretty.
Now, this particular type of adjective behaves differently when placed in this part of the sentence, losing its modifier, but the basic idea is that you place it in the usual basic sentence structure, the topic and/or the subject, then the adjective, and the polite ending ‘verb’. To get further into this, we’re going to have to delve into these modifiers and the types of adjectives in Japanese.
What are the types of Japanese adjectives?
So, clearing away the way this is handled in English, Japanese adjectives aren’t put in front of the noun without a safety belt connecting them. No, no, that would be quite dangerous at times. (In future, there may be times where you don’t need it, but that’s for another time.)
For all intents and purposes for the basic nature of this, here is a general list of the types of adjectives:
☆na-adjectives (ナ形容詞, na keiyoushi)
☆i-adjectives (イ形容詞, i keiyoushi)
And: no-adjectives (ノ形容詞, no keiyoushi)
We didn’t want to include too much linguistic jargon, but from our experience, this makes it a lot more absorbable. We don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, but we also don’t want to leave you without the tools you need.
Alright, let’s begin with na-adjectives, known as 形容動詞, keiyoudoushi, which is an adjectival noun. This is important for conjugation, such as making it negative or past tense, as you would treat the adjective like a noun. This is something you’ll want to store for another lesson. The takeaway from this is that this type of noun is handled in its own way and ～な, –na, is used to modify the noun, which is why it’s called a na-adjective or ナ形容詞, nakeiyoushi. But, it puts the point across more easily with the previous term. We’re going to come back to this. Let’s have a quick look at some na-adjectives in action.
taisetsu na ressun desu.
(This is an) important lesson.
The word 重要, jyuuyou, alone is also considered a noun, and with another particle, it can be an adverb. So, this is something you should pay attention to in order to know how to treat and conjugate it in future.
(watashi wa) genki desu.
(I am) well.
So, even though there isn’t a な, to be seen, this is a na-adjective. If you’re familiar with the basic sentence lessons, you’ll see that this is being treated just as a noun.☆ So, here’s one very useful tip for na-adjectives. You only need the modifier when you’re trying to connect it to the verb directly. This will come in handy with the last type of adjective, as well.
So, the second one, i-adjectives, or イ形容詞, i keiyoushi, are adjectives that end with い, i. For future reference, this is the one that will keep the modifier even if it’s placed in a different part of the sentence. These are usually words of Japanese origin or Japanese reading, and are treated specifically as adjectives, given their own type of conjugation. Again, we cannot stress this enough: no pressure, of course, but it will be very important in future to know which of these is treated as an adjective or a noun. But, perhaps, we’ll give a quick example to show you these adjectives in action, as the others had their chance:
natsukashii bideogeemu desu ne.
(It’s) a nostalgic video game, innit.
ano bideogeemu wa tanoshii desu.
That video game is fun.
And, lastly, is one this is not usually mentioned in beginning textbooks, but it’s very important and useful. So, you’re getting the true inside scoop to create the perfect spicy sentence. Now, no-adjectives, or ノ形容詞, no keiyoushi, are actually also 形容動詞, keiyoudoushi, otherwise known as adjectival nouns, just like na-adjective or ナ形容詞, nakeiyoushi. This should honestly be its own topic because its so far-spanning, however, we reckoned it important to touch on in this first introductory stage of Japanese adjectives. So, no-adjectives are nouns turned adjective with the particle の. Technically, many nouns can simply be converted into adjectives, modifying the noun, by adding の. This may bring about more questions than answers, though. So, the idea of no-adjectives, or ノ形容詞, no keiyoushi, is really used in JSL as a way to make things simpler to understand. Basically, almost every noun can be made into an adjective with の, depending on context, in which case it will be translated differently. In the same way, na-adjective or ナ形容詞, nakeiyoushi, are more widely considered adjectives, but function as nouns as well. To make it simpler, it’s best to simply learn these on a case-by-case basis for now. They’re technically the same as they’re categorised in the same way, but there are simply cases where の will be used over な or vice versa.
Overall, the best way to think of it, not as a broad brush, but just as a way to understand it, is that の will often be the one to adapt nouns that aren’t always used as adjectives.
これは 本物の ルビー です。
kore wa honmono no rubii desu.
This is a real ruby.
kono rubii wa honmono desu.
This ruby is real.
As you may notice, this behaves just as the na-adjective as the modifier—の acting as a modifier in this instance—is unnecessary in a basic sentence where the adjectival noun isn’t directly modifying the other noun.
There is quite a bit left to learn about the basics of Japanese adjectives, but we don’t want to overwhelm you with too much in one lesson. Along with the previous lessons, this should give you just enough to work with in order to use the adjectives QUIZBO™ has introduced in our Word of the Week segments. Luckily, this first lesson opens the door to learning and using new adjectives in Japanese. Though we had explained basic sentences and particles in past lessons, we knew it was important to introduce you to the basics of adjectives. This will also assist you with many of the future lessons we’ll be presenting, and get you prepared to step into some new concepts that will jettison you into a new area of Japanese language.
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