Japanese Conversation Grammar

NOTE! This page is by far not complete.

The base of this online book comes from one from 1905 — the grammar explanations were extremely bad, and there weren't many examples that even had translations. I've completely thrown out their grammar teachings and am writing my own from scratch, inserting more examples where necessary.

The exercises were still good, except you were supposed to memorize words without knowing anything about the grammar and just figure things out as you went. Still, this was the best book I'd seen for making a learner feel like they can actually "read Japanese" fast, so I decided to fix it. While the Japanese written language has changed drastically in the past 100 years, the spoken, and especially the grammar of the spoken, hasn't changed a bit — aside from having taken in more loanwords from English.

Books used as sources:

1. Japanese Conversation-Grammar with Numerous Reading Lessons and Dialogues, by Hermann Plaut. 1905. (Dialogues and basic structure of the book)

2. A Handbook of Colloquial Japanese, 1907.
(Example sentences)


Japanese has two different spelling systems. One is hiragana, smooth letters, which look like あはまら — together with katakana, sharp letters, which look like アハマラ. The difference between these two is the same as between print and cursive, or between normal font and bold, italics, or capslock in English. They make all the same sounds and can always replace one another for stylistic purposes, it's just that the smooth letters are the standard font. The sharp letters are easier to read from a distance.

The second alphabet is Chinese characters, called "kanji" - kan is an ancient word for China, and ji means "letter (of the alphabet)". Originally, in ancient Chinese, each Chinese character was one whole word — meaning and pronunciation together. When a more complicated word was needed, these single words were then compounded into each other, so that multiple small kanji would be squished together into a new kanji, sometimes with small modifications, in order to make it so that the new word could still be written with just one "letter" overall.

Kanji fragments are called radicals in most textbooks. There are said to be something over 200 radicals worth knowing, except most of these are or were kanji on their own already. Certain sources will tell you that it's important to learn to recognize all of the possible radicals before beginning to learn kanji, but it's much more efficient to learn them as they come up instead.

You need to know why that specific kanji is made the way it is, that is to say, you need to know the etymology and logic behind the look of the kanji. Being able to just recognize the radical, then making up a story connecting them for memory help, is actually in most cases worse compared to knowing the real history behind the letter. Kanji are very logical, when you ignore this logic it naturally makes them harder to learn.

Example one:

土 Dirt. Shows a small plant 十 growing up out of the dirt 一.

木  A single tree. Inside another kanji, can also mean "a plant". This is just the small plant 十 from before, shown as having more branches 八 at the sides, like a pine tree.

林 A forest. Shows a small amount of large trees.

森 A thick forest, or grove (small forest). Shows many small trees grouped closely together.

Example two:

几 The old kanji for table-like things (tables, desks, shelves, benches etc). No longer in use today.

机 The new kanji for table. They added "tree" 木 for clarification (tables are usually made of wood).

冗 Uselessness. Two tables 几 stacked on top of each other makes at least one of them useless.

凡 Mediocre. If your table is full of dents or marks, "mediocre" is the best it can be.

Example three:

禾  Grain, or a crop. This is a tree (plant) 木 with an ear of grain on top — imagine the cob or ear of a corn attached near the top of a stalk.

火  Fire. When inside other kanji, represents heat or using heat (ex. cooking) in general. The kanji shows three dancing flames, or if it's easier to imagine, one flame and some sparks.

秋 Autumn. In China they would burn 火 what was left of the stalks of grain 禾 in the field after the autumn harvest, both to fertilize the ground in preparation for the next spring and to kill off any insect larvae that might otherwise breed so much as to destroy the entire future harvest.

Example four:

山  A mountain, sometimes "a temple". When inside another kanji, is used non-literally to mean "very large" or "a huge pile of". While it looks like a single mountain, the kanji actually shows the peaks of three mountains connected by a strip of land 一 at the bottom. It ended up symbolizing temples because in China and Japan those are commonly built on top of mountains.

鳥 A bird from the side. First there's a feather sticking out at the top of its head, then there's the head with an eye (the line in the middle), a beak below that, and below that the puff of its belly. The lines on its belly are to show its toes or feathers.

烏  A crow. Crows have black feathers as well as black eyes, so "the eyes can't be seen" and thus aren't drawn in the kanji. Otherwise, it's the same as bird 鳥.

島 (嶋) An island. Islands are, in many cases, underwater mountains 山 and birds 鳥 often fly overhead. There were multiple ways of writing this kanji, such as 嶋, but after a spelling reform 島 became the proper one.

Example five:

元 Origin. The bottom part shows two roots underneath layers of dirt 二, roots are the origin of a tree.

完  End, complete. The origin (beginning of something) 元 has had a lid put on it, so it can't grow further — thus its growth has "ended" and "is complete".

Example six:

寸 A small measurement. The small line or dot in the middle marks the space between two outstretched fingers on the same hand.

斗 A larger measurement than 寸. Notice how it has two marks instead of one.

日  A sun, used to mean "a day" because in most places in the world, the sun visibly rises and falls once per day. When inside other kanji, it means "time" in general. In the past, this kanji was actually rounded (like a circle) but it became rectangular over time because all kanji strokes ended up turning into fairly straight lines.

寺 This is 土 dirt, and 寸 a small measurement, combined together to mean "temple". Monks were essentially scholars who grew their own food and lived on only "small measures" of things. The pronunciation that stems from Chinese for this kanji is ji.

時 Time, hour, when. 日 hints that the meaning has something to do with time, and 寺 shows that the Chinese pronunciation is ji.

人  A human, a person. This used to be 大, showing a human whose arms and legs are spread out wide. 大 began to be used non-literally, to mean "large" (which it still means today), so the arms were removed and the new kanji for human became 人.

侍  Samurai, servant (as in a maid etc). Samurai were servants of other people. The human legs of 人 (大) were bent upwards and put on the left to note that the kanji has something to do with some kind of human. 寺 was put to mark that the Chinese pronunciation is ji.

手 Hand. This shows the two hands of a person folded together (fingers locked together). The line down the middle is the "seam" at the knuckles and palms, and the lines out to the sides are the folded fingers.

持 Hold. This is 手 hand (though it lost a line at the very top), to hint towards the meaning of "to hold in the hands", with 寺 temple, to show that its Chinese pronunciation is ji.

Example seven:

子  Child, offspring. A child with its arms out to the sides and its legs bound together in a cloth (as most cultures used to do in order to carry babies around all day).

了 Finish. If you've wrapped up the child's arms as well as its legs, you've probably finished wrapping it.

女  Female. A woman walking to the side, with her arms outstretched and legs taking wide steps. That big empty space for her chest might be where she holds the 子 child.

好 Like, love. The feeling that normally exists between a female 女 and her offspring 子.

The method of writing a kanji doesn't ever change even if it's within another kanji. 女 and 子 are written the same way (with the same "stroke order", meaning where you begin and end) even when they're inside 好. So the key to remember and learn kanji fast is to memorize them in an order like:
子 了 女 好 十 土 木 林 森

Even if you actually want to learn 好 first, before that you need to learn 子 了 女. These three will appear over and over again within other kanji so it's not a loss of time. Even if it seems like it's more steps in the beginning, by the end it'll have helped you much more.

How useful are kanji? How many to learn?

You cannot read anything in Japanese, besides Braille, certain comics, children's books, telegrams, certain old newspapers, and certain videogames or videogames from back when memory constraints were a problem, without kanji. Japanese children begin learning kanji in first grade, kanji is basic literacy.

Unless something drastic happens, kanji will not disappear from Japanese in our lifetime — they're too useful. We in Engilsh have two, to, too and through, threw, words that sound the same but are spelled differently so the meaning is clearer. Japanese is the same, due to various reasons it's currently much easier to read Japanese when kanji exist compared to when there aren't any. It will continue to be so until Japan replaces so many of its words, originally borrowed from China and all sounding the same as each other, from those of other languages that don't sound the same.

You can learn 300 kanji in two months. With 500 kanji, you can get the gist of most comics, videogames and even certain novels (however, not very technical writing, not comics about ex. robotics, and likely not newspapers). You can easily learn 1.000 kanji in one year, and with that amount together with basic grammar you can understand at least the gist of everything in Japanese. 2.300 kanji is roughly the amount that the average Japanese person will know. Each kanji is 2-3 words in the spoken language and makes reading much easier. In fact, your focus should be more on kanji than on normal vocabulary.

Normally kanji have 1-3 pronunciations worth specifically learning, and normally 1-2 come from Chinese and 1 comes from Japanese. In Chinese, each kanji only has one pronunciation but Japan borrowed the letters, "translating" the Chinese words to Japanese, thus giving them two pronunciations (one Japanese, one Chinese). Sometimes Japan re-borrowed a kanji in a different time period or from a different place in China, so the same kanji grew to have more than one Chinese pronunciation. If the Japanese language completely lacked a word for the Chinese word they were borrowing, then no Japanese pronunciation exists for that kanji. Likewise, a small amount of kanji were created in Japan and those don't have a Chinese pronunciation.

So 女 is pronounced "oṋna おんな" from Japanese, "jo じょ" from Chinese. Chinese pronunciation is basically used when more than one kanji directly touch each other in a sentence, as in 少女, or when the word didn't exist in Japanese to begin with.

Japanese pronunciation is used when the kanji sits alone (is directly surrounded or separated by hiragana or katakana, as in 女の子). It's also used in Japanese names, such as family and place names, and used for 90% of verbs.

Any pronunciations other than the most common 1-3 of a kanji aren't worth memorizing specially, they'll simply be learnt as exceptions as they come up.

How to practise kanji?

"Memorize" (learn to recognize) the 1-3 most common pronunciations, taking note of which is the Chinese and which the Japanese. Do the same for the 1-3 most common meanings. "Read" (move your eyes over) Japanese even if you don't understand anything of it, and soon enough a kanji you know will be found. This strengthens your memory of it.

At some point (I personally prefer to wait until I can comfortably recognize and remember the meaning of the kanji and pronunciations), begin handwriting practise. You should not simply write the kanji over and over, instead you need to be asked "When is your birthday?" and be forced to write the date in kanji. You need to be exercising your brain, not mindlessly copying. Make a grocery list, write sentences in a diary, create a story, copy down a Japanese spoken sentence in kanji instead of hiragana or Latin letters. You don't need to show these attempts to anyone, they're simply practise.

Lesson One: Introduction

Japanese doesn't have the words "and, with, the, than, or, when, a, an" and in fact has almost no grammatical words at all if we compare to the ones we use in English. There are no adjectives (words that describe names and nouns), and no adverbs (words that describe verbs).

There is no special form of the word to show that a word is plural (dog, dogs), and usually none to show gender (lion, lioness, stallion, mare). Instead, words are what we call a sort of "collective noun" already.

Imagine a sentence like "The dog is a creature that has only recently been domesticated". Here, "the dog" actually means "all dogs in the world", it's a singular standing in for a plural. Another example is the word "family", it means a collection of more than one person but we treat it as a singular ("I have a family", not "families"). When we say a phrase like "family life", we again mean the general life of all the families in the country, society or world.

Thus in Japanese, the word "dog" means:
dog, dogs, a dog, the dog, the dogs.

Almost all words are actually two or more words put together — for example the name "Tokyo", which is the current capital of Japan, is literally "Eastern Capital" in Japanese. Most languages in the world are like this, all or almost all words clearly being just multiple single words put together.

Japanese grammar almost always follows the rules, and there isn't much to learn. Japanese has very few words in daily use compared to English, the grammar can be learnt very fast, and overall the language is just very quick to learn if it's taught correctly.

However, having few words also means that the exact meaning of a word or phrase can only be known by knowing the circumstances that they're said in. The same is true for English in many cases. For example, the phrase English teacher can mean "a person from England who teaches any subject", or "a person from any country, who teaches English".

Our word run can mean:
1. Physically running, as in "I run to the store"
2. To start a machine, as in "I'll run a laundry"
3. To not have anything, as in "I'm running out of milk"
4. To last, as in "The talk ran on for hours"
5. Various other things, as in "He's running his mouth off".

Every language on earth does this to a greater or lesser extent, but believe it or not, English is usually more difficult in this regard than Japanese is. A Japanese word normally only has one to three different meanings, so our word "run" is already more difficult. However, Japanese words can always be both literal and non-literal, and they'll simply leave out parts of the sentence that are obvious based on context.

This is why you cannot truly learn any language from only a textbook. Instead you must learn the grammar, learn the most-often used words, and learn the logic behind how to understand what you are reading or what is being said to you. After that you must practise with real-life materials of some sort, such as comics and television. This book is preparation material to get you to that stage.

As Japanese has only nouns and verbs, sentence structure directs most of the meaning. The rule is "what comes before, describes what comes after", in other words, "when, where, how or why always comes first". The more minor rule is that in complete sentences only a verb can end the sentence, but this is constantly broken because the full sentence often doesn't have to be said.

 Plural Nouns

These don't actually mark plurality, as normal nouns can always be either singular or plural. Instead, it marks a sort of wider concept than the original single word:

ほう 方 one out of two sides
ほう ぼう 方々 all sides, everywhere

いろ 色 a color
いろ いろ 色々 "multi-colored", which is used metaphorically to mean "diverse, all sorts". If an item originally came in just one color, having more colors would mean that different versions of the same sort of item exist.

ところ 所 a place (whether in time or location)
ところ どころ 所々 several places, here and there

くに 国 a country, land
くにぐに 国々 various lands, multiple countries

Instead of words such as "I, you, he" which really only mean those things, Japanese uses normal nouns that originally meant different things. For example:

わたし 私 "private", but now meaning "I, me".

おまえ お前 "in front", but now meaning "thou, you (speaking to just one person)".

Knowing this, it isn't strange that the Japanese can refer to each other by their titles instead of their names:

おくさん 奥さん, or 奥さま "wife"
せんせい 先生 "one who was born before", which translates to a term of respect for anyone who is good or learned enough at something to teach you it — meaning "teacher, doctor, writer" and so on.

In order to make these nouns that refer to people specifically plural, special endings are put on:
がた, たち, しゅ, ども, ら

For example:

こども 子供
わたしたち 私たち
おんなしゅ 女種
おまえら お前ら

A small amount of words, and only those deriving from Chinese, become plural when ばん (ten thousand), しょ (all) or すう (number — at times shortened to す) are put in front:


Japanese does not have the word "and", thus when two nouns are put together it may symbolize either this, or an adjective:

海川 - sea-river; ocean and rivers
草木 - herb-tree; herbs and trees
兄弟 - older brother younger brother; brothers.
月日星 - moon-sun-star; the moon, sun, and the stars

灰 色
ash color
= an ashen colour. Grey.
Ash describes how the color is, so it comes first. "Ashen" is the adjective of the noun "ash".

四 時
four hour
= fourth hour
= four o'clock

Fourth is the adjective of "four". The rest of the sentence, "the fourth hour according to the clock", isn't said — so we're left with simply "fourth hour".

We may also see shortenings:
さくじつ こんにち=さっこん
yesterday-today = recently

Nouns can also be the combination of two similar or opposite ideas. These occur in words taken from Chinese. We have some in English, such as "frenemy: a friend-enemy" but Chinese uses them much more often:

えんきん 遠近 "far-near", distance.
かんだん 歓談 "cold-heat", temperature.
なんにょ 男女 "man-woman", gender.

Japanese words don't do such a thing, but as back in time it was considered good to copy Chinese as much as possible, well-educated people did this with Japanese as well. How many such phrases are left in modern Japanese remains to be seen.


Practically all words in Japanese are compounds, even if the Japanese themselves don't know it. For example:

みち 道 "road, path" is from み, a politeness-increasing prefix that really means nothing, and ち, the original word for "road".

みかど "The Imperial Court, the Emperor" is from the same mi, and かど "a gate". 
かがみ "a mirror" is from かげ "a shadow, reflection" and みる "sees, views".

Yoko-hama - cross strand
E-do (Yedo) - inlet door
Tokyo -
Jima -

Personal names, if not easily translatable (such as are our "April, May") are often references to Chinese classics, just as our "John, Mary" reference the Bible. There are a few names, such as "Tarou - big male, eldest son" and "Jiroo - next son, second son" which are clear in other ways. These correspond to our names like "Anderson, Peters - Ander's son, Peter's son".

list of prefixes and suffixes for nouns here.
koto = a thing of the mind. something not touchable: a fact, idea, situation, act, behaviour.
mono = a touchable, material thing, a person. (almost always).

onaji mono = the same (exact) item
onaji koto = the same idea; the same sort of thing

I, to Tokyo, am going.

To Tokyo describes where I "am going", so it comes before the verb "going". Furthermore, "I" describes who is going to Tokyo so it comes before "to Tokyo".

I'm hungry, so I bought food.

I'm hungry is why I bought food. The "why" of the part of the sentence — the reasons, excuses and justifications — come before whatever the action is that we're using them towards.

In more literal English, a Japanese sentence looks like:

monday's location, morning meal ate.
= On Monday, (I) ate breakfast.

All words are nouns except for "ate", the final one, which is a verb. Meal describes what was eaten, so it comes before "ate". Morning describes the type of meal it was — when, where, why or how we eat the meal is "morning", thus "morning" comes before the word "meal".

In English our word on is used for both physical and non-physical locations. "The book is on the table", "On Mondays I go to school", "What's your opinion on that topic?". Japanese is the same, they have one single word for this and it can be used for both types of situations. Above, it's translated as "location".

describes when, where or how that location is. It may be easier to think of it as "Monday's location", so that's what's written above. Together, Monday's location or "on Monday" describes when, where, why or how the entire phrase "ate breakfast" was done, so it comes before that.

This word "location" is what is often called a particle in English. Particles are just condensed words or strings of words that are used just as frequently as we use our grammatical words in English. The name "particle" likely comes from the fact that the pronunciation is often a mere particle of the phrase's original form. The reason for why they use particles so much is clear:

He said I thought.
= 'He said,' I thought.
= He said, "I thought"
= He said that I thought that...

We don't know which one it is if we don't rearrange the sentence, add in punctuation, or add in grammatical words to clarify the meaning. Japanese is the same, except instead of re-arranging the sentence they just insert words.

The beginning grammar is always the most difficult, but with enough example sentences you'll begin to understand. Don't worry if everything seems confusing in the beginning, just keep reading. You can always re-read a section later on once you've seen more.


There are two types of verbs in Japanese. The first usually describe things that change in state, require time in order to function, or can only be done by living creatures. For example, we can only die if we have first been alive — it's a change in state from life to death. When we dream, it's a change in state from being awake. Neither life nor sleep are permanent, inherent states. Things that have never been alive (such as rocks) can't experience life, sleep or death.

Other changes in state include words like "becomes, gets, causes, forces". For example, when "become or get sick" we mean that we're changing from being healthy to being sick. If we say "I made him do it, I forced him", we caused a change from "him not doing it" to "him doing it". These are called "action-verbs" in this book, and in pronunciation they end in the -u sound in basic form (るくむう etc).

The second group of verbs is everything else, and usually means adjectives in English. Even a rock can be brown. Ice is always cold no matter what, it's simply a part of being ice. 4:00 is always early in the morning, and children are always young, by pure definition. These are called "state-verbs" in this book, and end in い in basic form, except for a few archaic ones where the final い has been lost.

Both verb types always automatically contain the words "is, am, are" according to need — we say "He runs", but Japanese also says "He reds" (instead of "He is red").

The two have the same rules in sentence structure as everything else. What comes before describes what comes after. The difference is that we much more often describe things with states, so those are more often seen in the "describing" position.

If a verb comes in front of a noun, it turns into an adjective that contains the same tense (time) information:

The dog is talking (= verb)
The talking dog (= adjective)

This mountain is amazing me (= verb)
This amazing mountain (= adjective)

However, Japanese also says:

The man arrived (verb)
The arrived man (adjective)

The dog talked (= verb)
The talked dog (= adjective)

The ticket will be bought (=verb)
The will-be-bought ticket (=adjective)

We in English normally have to change the word order of these types of sentences and say "The man who arrived", "The dog that talked", "The ticket that's going to be bought" instead. This will be made clear in the example sentences further on in the book.


Particles always act like nouns or verbs. Here are some of the most important particles. If you can't remember them don't worry, simply read over this section once and then move on — the example sentences will always be clearly translated.

Particles are things that we don't have in English, so naturally they're difficult in the beginning, but unfortunately it's the most difficult particles of all that make up the very basics of Japanese grammar.

 Ni に  location

This marks a location in time, place or situation. We use all sorts of different words to mark location in English:

Physical Location
Non-literal Meaning
by the river
it was written by my teacher,
by the time I found out
on the table
on Monday, on the phone,
on TV, on the radio
in the box
in time, in a week, in secret,
in my opinion, in writing,
in that regard
walk to the store,
walk towards it
listen to the radio,
I gave it to my teacher
ashore (on, at,
in or to shore)
aside from that (=at
the side away from that)
asleep (=in a state of sleep)
at the seashore,
at sea
at 3:00, at rest, I laughed at that

All of the above words (by, at, on, to) simply mark "location" and are condensed into the single Japanese word に. When they want to clarify which type of location it is, such as "inside" or "underneath", they add in more words.

learn-building's location 
→ at school

Where is the location? School. Thus, the word "school" comes before location.

げつ ようび  
moon-weekday's location 
→ on Monday

What kind of weekday is it? The moon's weekday. Thus, "moon" comes before "weekday".

よ じ 
fourth-hour's location
= at 4:00

silence's location 
→ in silence

とう きょう  いく
Eastern Capital's location goes
= goes to Tokyo

"The Eastern Capital" answers the question of where, why, how or when we are "going", so it comes before the verb "goes". Furthermore, "East" describes where the "capital" is, so it comes first in the compound word "east-capital". Eastern is the adjective of east.

However, Japanese will use this word even where English wouldn't. Sometimes this seems like a pure peculiarity, but at other times it's simply due to the surrounding grammar.

うま  のる
horse's location rides
= rides atop a horse. ("atop" is, of course, short for "at the top of")

 ka か

This marks something as being "completely unknown" to the speaker (there's another one marking "slightly unknown" that's used less often). It goes at the end of whatever it is we don't know about.

だれ = who
だれ  = who unknown = someone, anyone, an unknown person

いい = good
いい  = good unknown = is it good? is it alright?

In order to mark a sentence as a question, we put in ka か. If it's already obvious that it's a question then we don't include か, and か can also be used in rhetorical questions (things that we're "asking" but we don't really expect an answer to).

learn-building unknown
= school, huh? is it school?

だれ  いい?
who unknown is-good?
= anyone's fine? it doesn't matter who it is?

Everything before か is what's unknown, so in this example who exactly is or would be good is unknown — not the fact that they're good. Usually, verbs in basic form don't use か because it's simply obvious if it's a question or not based on punctuation, context and tone of voice:

がっこう に いく ()?
learn-building's location goes?
= are (you) going to school?

Japanese people don't say things that are obvious. This means that if something would normally come after か, they might cut the sentence short and even cut out the か too. The full question is then always understood from context:

だれ か… (rest of sentence goes here)
→ だれ?

who... (did this, is that person, told you that, etc.)
→ who?

However, to what degree all these か sentences are questions depends entirely upon context and tone of voice, just as how we can say "He didn't do it, right." (not a real question) and "He didn't do it, right?" (a real question).

If か is written, a question mark doesn't need to be used at the end of a sentence. If it isn't written, then there does need to be one. There can be both か and a question mark at the same time.

wa は, ga が

は points backwards to entire parts of sentences, saying "pay more attention to what was already said than to what is going to be said next". が is the exact opposite, saying "pay more attention to what comes next than to what I already said".

てき は くる!
enemy <---- arrives!
= enemies are coming!

The stress is what's before は, in this case "enemies". For example, the commanding officer was just about to go out in a hurry, a subordinate asks what for, and he replies "Enemies!!", as if the subordinate had no clue that enemies existed.

てき が くる!
enemy ----> arrives!
= enemies are coming!

Now the subordinate echos what was just said to him but instead stresses what's after が, meaning that while he's perfectly aware that enemies exist in war he hadn't realized they were arriving here and now.

We can simplify this exchange to:
は: Enemies!
が: They're arriving?!

テレビ が ある
Televi ----> exists/is-with
= there is a television. I do have a television.

テレビ が ない
Televi ----> is-without/doesn't exist.
= there isn't a television. I don't have a television.

テレビ は ない
Televi <---- is-without
= there isn't a television.

There may be other things, such as internet, I'm specifically mentioning that there is no TV.

が can connect either entire sentences or single words together, and thus it can often translate to "but".

For example if we say "I have a cat (pay attention to what I'm just about to say!) ----> I'm allergic", this translates to "I have a cat but I'm allergic to it". This would use が.

If we say "(a, the) dog ----> is in the garden", we're in a situation where where the dog is is the more important information. For example, maybe your family owns a dog but it isn't allowed to be in the garden. This would use が.

However if we say "(a, the) dog <---- (pay attention to what I already said!) is in the garden", it means the dog itself is more important. For example, maybe we don't own a dog — so we're shocked that there's a dog anywhere at all, and the fact that it's in our garden of all places is less important. This would use は.

If we say "I'm <---- (pay attention to what I already said!) from Sweden", or "My name is <---- Anna" we mean "I'm Swedish, my name is Anna, remember that it's me and not that other person!". This would use は.

If we say or write "Who bought this?" we would use ----> が, because in order to figure out "who do I mean, out of all the people in the world I could suddenly be talking about", we need the listener or reader to know and pay attention to the description of that person that we're about to say — "that one person who bought this".

Wa and ga are the most difficult grammatical words in all of Japanese because their usage normally entirely depends upon the point of view or circumstances of those who are involved in the conversation! You'll simply learn from the examples and translations in this book as you go along.

いい もの
is-good thing
= something good.

いい てんき
is-good heaven's-mood
= good weather

てんき が いい
heaven's-mood ----> is-good
= the weather's good

The weather's good (as opposed to anything else it might be able to be — such as bad).

こん にち は てんき が いい
this day <---- heaven's-mood ----> is-good

Today (as opposed to whatever other day we might possibly be able to talk about — yesterday, perhaps), the weather's good.

If you're "with" something, for example "I am with an umbrella", it clearly means that you currently own or are carrying an umbrella. Thus it translates to "I have an umbrella". If the umbrella "exists in your house", that also usually means that you own one.

Likewise, if you're "not with", or are "without" something, it means you're either not currently holding it or that you don't own one. The verbs are opposites.

The reason we use が to point to the verb in sentences like the above is because we are indeed actually wondering about the verb or the status of the item, not the item itself. We're asking "what is the weather doing? it's being good", and "is a television existing at your place?" "yes, it's existing". Again, most people have huge difficulties with this so it will just come in time as you see the translations and examples in this book.

 o を, no の

These two are like は and が, only weaker. Instead of being able to mark entire phrases and sentences, they can only mark what comes directly before or after themselves by one spot.

o を <--. This is like a weaker は, however instead of putting it wherever we want, it just connects from a verb that comes after, to the one word directly before を. This translates to that it marks whom was hit by the verb, not who did the hitting.

In the sentence "I hit him", we know whom was hit because the word "he" changes to "him" (we can't say "I hit he"). Japanese, instead of changing the word "he" to "him", simply attaches を to the end of it.

デモーン  たたかう
demon <-- battles
= battles demons. battles a demon.

A demon is who, what, why, when or where we battle, so it comes before.

みず  のむ
water <-- ingests
= drinks water

no の -->. This is the opposite of o を, and is a weak が. It simply shows that two words are connected in meaning, without being so tightly connected that they're literally the same word.

is short for the noun もの (物) which means "object, physical thing", as in an object that has a physical body and that you can touch. Mono gets used to mean something like "stuff" in English — this will be made clear later on in the examples, so we'll ignore it for now. The more important point is that の often ends up being a placeholder for something's name, or for marking possession:

犬 小 屋
dog's little house
= doghouse, kennel

Here, everything is one word.

白犬  小屋
white-dog --> little-house
= a white dog's doghouse. a white dog's kennel

Here, the dog is white but the doghouse isn't white, so the two ideas of "dog" and "little house" are separated by の. If not separated, both the dog and house would be "white".

人 犬
human dog
= a human that acts like a dog.

人 の 
human --> dog
= a person's dog

Here, the human and the dog aren't the same being, meaning that the two base ideas of "human" and "dog" are separate. So we separate them with の.

スウェーデン 人
sweden human
= a Swedish person. A person who is Swedish themselves.

スウェーデン  人 たち
sweden --> human of-that-sort.
= Sweden's people or population.

"Tachi" is one way of denoting the closest Japanese can get to plurality (this will be explained later), but it's only the noun "human" that's plural, there's no "Swedens". Thus the two concepts are separated by の. Note that "tachi" with different kanji is slang for a certain thing relating to gay men, so it doesn't always mean plural.

is normally used towards words that're touchable objects, such as "a house, a person". This is because there's another particle that's normally used for qualities that you seem or act like, such as "prettiness — being pretty" and "stupidity — acting stupid". Since o を already marks which object is being hit by a verb, no の doesn't have that job.

うち  にわ 
house --> garden's location
in/at the house's garden

がっこう  まえ 
learn-building --> before's location 
→ in front of the school

私  夕食  食べる まえ  勉強 する
I <---- evening-meal <-- eats before's location study <-- occasions
= before eating dinner, I study.

Study describes what is occasioning (happening, being done, etc). Before eating describes when, where, why or how the studying is done, so it comes before. Evening describes the type of meal, and "evening meal" together describes what is being eaten. Finally, "I" describes who is doing the entire sentence — the eating and studying — and thus comes at the very beginning of it all.

Here we have our second taste of literal and non-literal meanings together in one word. まえ can mean a physical location (even in English, if you stand before something it means you stand in front of it), or a place in time, as in before an event. It's also used as a shortening for "before now", which translates to "... ago":

一 時 間  
one hour's gap before (now)'s location
= at the start of the gap between an hour before now and now
= one hour ago

When の ends a sentence or appears in what seems to be an odd place, it can be using its old meaning of "thing". This "thing" can replace re-naming something we've already talked about, just as how we say "one" in English ("I'm looking at puppies, I want that one" instead of "I'm looking at puppies, I want that puppy"):

いい も
is-good thing
= a good thing; a good one

いい  か?
is-good thing unknown?
= is it a good one? is it something good? is it alright?

ほうし の おうじさま
prince of the stars, not "a star that's a prince".

けいさつ  データベース  アクセス
police --> database --> access
police's database --> access
= access to the police's database.

Alternatively, this の simply marks that we have something left unsaid and we're supposed to know what comes next. A Japanese sentence can always be shortened to the shortest sentence possible that still gives the listener or reader enough information to understand what's really being said. Remember that words don't give meaning to the sentence, they only help clarify a meaning that was already there.

だれ の 犬?
who --> dog?
= whose dog?

だれ の?
= whose (dog)?
This would be used if it's already obvious that we're talking about a dog.

Everything to do with particles will make more sense once we learn more about verbs and can illustrate more complex sentences.

 Comprehensive Examples

These examples aren't meant to make sense, they're just to illustrate the grammar.


There are a few words that have condensed themselves, for example これ の "this thing" is normally used in the condensed form この:

→ こ
"this thing".

 いみ が わかる か!
this meaning ----> understands (unknown)!
= do you understand what this means?!

Obviously, because の already exists we don't double it and say このの or これのの.

これ の
あれ の
それ の

デーモン  こころ  あい  ない!
demon --> heart's location, love <---- is-without!
= there's no love in a demon's heart!

What doesn't exist is love, thus it comes before the verb. Where, how, or why that love is, is "in a demon's heart", so that phrase comes before the phrase "is without love". It's not any random heart that doesn't have love, it's the demon's heart — so "demon" comes before "heart".

However, we don't have to literally say "inside a demon's heart" (こころ の なか に - heart --> inside's location) because the meaning is already obvious based on the rest of the sentence. How obvious it is exactly depends on your point of view, but once you're better at Japanese you'll learn what the Japanese point of view normally is.

Introductory Chapter's Vocabulary:

とうきょう 東京 
"Eastern Capital", Tokyo
いく 行く [A-verb]
うち 内
me, (my) house
ある 有る [A-verb]
exists, is with, a certain...
がっこう 学校 
"learn-building", school
ない 無い [S-verb]
is without, doesn't exist
にわ 庭 gardenいい 良い is good [S-verb]
よじ 四時 4:00
こころ 心 heart, coreの -->, thing, 's
あい 愛 deep loveが ------>

を <--
に locationは <------

Again, keep in mind that grammar and language cannot in reality be learnt in small pieces. The entire language functions together as a whole, and in order to understand properly you need to know everything in the sentence as well as the context that surrounds that sentence.

In these first few chapters we know so little Japanese that it's most likely difficult for you to understand the grammar lessons — that doesn't matter, just keep reading without worrying about memorizing anything. In order to understand you just need to see enough examples, but in order to make all those examples we need to teach a little more grammar first.

Chapter Two:

し an occasion
する occasions
へ towards
ます (adds politeness)
とき 時 time, when
と shortening of とき
いたい hurts, is painful
ーたい wants (desires)
て being (a verb)
たかい is high, is tall
な being (a noun)

しばかり firewood-cutting
おとこ 男 male
やま 山
おんな 女 female
かわ 川
こ 子 child, offspringせんたく 洗濯 washing (laundry)
どこ where
すき 好き a fondness
in the past, long ago

じじ gramps (grandpa)

ばば gram (grandma)

とき、と time, when

Japanese has no word for "when" so they substitute this instead. Just like all nouns, it can be used even if a verb or phrase comes in front.

風邪 の とき
sick thing time
= when you're a sick thing; when ill

雨 が ふる とき
rain ----> falls time
= when it rains

わたし は 子ども の とき に
I <---- child --> time's location
= when I was a child; in my childhood

ケーキ の ローソク を 消す とき
cake --> candle <-- extinguishes' time
= when the candles extinguish; when it's time to extinguish the candles

Here, candles are what is extinguished, so it goes in front of the verb. What kind of candles are they? Candles for or on a cake, so "cake" goes in front of "candle". The entire phrase extinguishes the cake's candles describes what time we're talking about, so time goes at the very end. Finally, the word "time" itself gets translated to our word "when".

とき is often shortened into simply と. It technically means the same, but is normally more easily translated as "at the same time as", and is usually used when something else comes after (ex. another long part of a sentence). Furthermore, と is used in place of "and" in some situations:

雨 が ふる 
rain ----> falls time...
= when it rains... (the rest of the sentence goes here)

ねこ  いぬ
cat when dog
= a cat at the same time as a dog
= a cat and a dog

たま  いし を みる
jewel when stone <-- sees
= a jewel is seen at the same time as a stone is seen
= sees jewels and stones in the same way
= (he) thinks of jewels and stones as being worth the same

かれ を てき  おもう
he <-- an enemy when thinks
= when he is thought of, "enemy!" is thought at the same time
= (she) thinks of him as an enemy

hello  いう
hello when says
= "hello" at the same time as speaking
= says hello

Verbs to Nouns:

The two different verb types change into nouns in opposite ways. Action-verbs change their ending to "-i" or drop the last syllable. State-verbs change their ending to "-ku".

ある exists
あり an existance
いく goes
いき "a go"
のむ ingests, drinks
のみ "an ingest, a drink"
ない is without,
doesn't exist
なく non-existance
たかい is high, is tall
たかく tallness, height

If one verb or more verb is describing another, they all turn into noun-form except for the very last one in the string.

たかい ない 
→ たかく ない
tallness is-without
= isn't tall

電気 を 消す と 暗く なる。
electricity <-- extinguishes when darkness becomes
= when one turns off the lights, it becomes dark at the same time (and then nothing is visible).

ます is a special action-verb. In ancient times it meant similar to ある, but it lost all of its meaning and is now only used as a way to make the sentence slightly more polite. It can't be used alone and can only be attached to the end of other action-verbs:

ある ます 
→ あり ます
exists (more polite than simply saying ある)

いく ます 
→ いき ます
goes (more polite than simply いく)

Similarly, the special state-verb たい can only attach to the end of verbs, and means "wants":

いく たい 
→ いき たい
= wants to go

のむ たい
→ のみ たい
= wants to drink

In fact, たい is a shortened form of the state-verb いたい "hurts, is painful". We can see how, if the thought of owning a cute dog pains your heart a little, it means you want to own one.

な being (noun)

The word な, taken from the action-verb なる "is, am, are, being", is now used at the end of words to mean "being". It's normally used on nouns that aren't verbs in disguise. Remember that な is for qualities, personalities and so on. の is more for physical objects.

きれい beauty
きれい  "being a beauty", beautiful
きれい  "beauty thing", a beautiful one. (ex. "I don't want a cheap one, I want a beautiful one!")

ばか unwise (foolish, stupid)
ばか  "being foolish", ex. a stupid idea. "That's rubbish!"
ばか もの "a foolish thing", ex. an idiot. "You're stupid!".
People are "touchable things", so の is used in place of a noun saying "a human", or the noun saying the person's name, etc.

いい な
is-good being

ふしぎ な こ
mysterious kid

て and, being (verb)

Japanese has no word for "and". Instead, they simply put two words together:

しろ くろ
= black and white (ex. a photo)

The word て attaches to the noun-form of both types of verbs in order to denote "being (verb)", but this is often used when we say "and" in English:

ちり つもっ て、やま と なる
dust a mass being, mountain when becomes
= dust being a mass, and at the same time (becoming) a mountain
= dust piles up into a mountain if you leave it alone.

The moral: If you put off doing something it'll only become more troublesome later on.

風邪 の とき、お風呂 に 入っ て は ダメ
flu --> time, bath's location an enter being <---- USELESS!
= when ill, entering the bath is NO GOOD!
= don't take a bath when sick!

——————— REAAAAALLY NEEDS EDITING PAST HERE!! old stuff from my old versions

あの ひと  いき ました
yonder human when a go existed
= (I) went at the same time as that yonder/distant human, went my "go, went, trip" happened
= I went together with that person over there

(?) むすこ  ふた り
my-son when two humans
= when (one thinks about) my son, it's two humans
= it's two people, including my son.

It happens that words don't become said or written, and instead only the context can clarify what should be said there. The longer phrases mean that they're more polite:

なん  おっしゃった? (polite)
= なん  いった? (not polite)
= なん ? (totally not polite)

= what when said? (polite)
= what when? (totally not polite)

At times like that, you only know which verb should go there according to how smart you are.

When words are suddenly cried out, or emphasized, they're said with a powerful push of breath, the Hh-sound, or a pause in speaking, which becomes written with the small つ. This takes the place of both an apostrophy in English (hasn't -> has-not. ありた -> あた, かきた -> かた), and the !-symbol (ア -> ah!). This letter often becomes written before と:

バタっ  おち ました
»bata!« when a fall existed
= it went "bata!" as or when it fell.

はっ  おもい ました
»ha!« when a thought existed
= I (suddenly) thought "ha!"

• In the non-polite language, verbs that otherwise become used between と and て don't get used. For example, »と いっ て  when a say being; when saying«, と おもっ て »when a thought/opinion being; when thinking, when having an opinion«, become shortened to simply て or て. Which words become used when they're missing? We only know according to how smart we are:

お ゆ に いく  て、 で ました
bath locationally goes when (...) being, an out-go existed
= when (he) exited (the room, he) said "(I'm) going to the bath".

We only know that he "said" this because it's the action that makes the most sense in context. Maybe it's not too clear here, but if we had more than one sentence of context it would be.

• Because とて is more "clear" in meaning than simply って, it often carries a "stronger" or more forceful meaning, which then is understood as »と いっ て も«:

いくら がくもん した  て、おこない が わるければ、 なんにも なり ません = 
how-much studied when (a say) being, behaviour if-bad, nothing doesn't-become
= however much at all (he) says that (he) studied, if (he) acts badly (then that study) becomes nothing
= even if he says he studies a lot, that doesn't excuse bad behaviour

ぞうへいきょく は、むやみ に いった から て、 はいけん は でき ません
the money-creation-department, without-thought time-locationally said from when (...) being, view an outcome not-exists.
= (at the same time as) thoughtlessly (talking) about the mint, a view won't be the outcome.
= you need permission beforehand in order to check out the mint.

と in ancient times meant "that, which, who, the" when mentioning something previously talked about, and this meaning still exists in some rigid phrases, dialects, and quotes from old texts:

ちち  い ます ひと
father that/who an existance exists human
= that human is (my) father. The person who is (my) father (is that one).

とかく = »that this way« = any way at all; anyway, however.

ゆく  です = »goes that locationally-exists« = that (person who) goes.

1. ござ かさ  かぶる
grass-mat a hat when wears

2. ござ かさ に かぶる
grass-mat a hat locationally wears

1 = the grass-mat is a quasi-hat.
"the grass-mat is a hat when he wears it." meaning that at other times, when he's not wearing it, it's not a hat.

2 = the grass-mat is an actual hat.
"he wears the grass-mat in the same location and/or the same time-location (=situation) compared with the location and time that a hat gets worn."

1. ひと ちち  あがめる =
human father when respects

2. なんじ ざいにん  みなす
thee a criminal when considers/regards

1: when (she) respects "a human", it is "a father"
= (she) respects him as if he were (her) own father.

2: when (he) thinks of thee, it is "a criminal"
= he thinks of thee as if thou art a criminal