- What are adjectives?
- The two types of adjectives: i-adjectives | na adjectives
- Adjective construction
- adverbial adjectives
What are adjectives?
An adjective is a word whose main role is to modify a noun or pronoun. Adjectives modify nouns or pronouns by giving more information about them. In other words, adjectives are used to describe a person, a place or a thing:
Let’s see examples in English of how adjectives modify the following nouns:
1. That is a pretty flower.
2. He is a kind person.
(In the first example, “pretty” is the adjective that is describing or giving more information about the noun ‘flower’. In example 2, “kind” is the adjective since it is describing or giving more information about the noun ‘person’.)
Now let’s take a look at how those same sentences are formed using adjectives in Japanese:
|Adjectives in an English sentence||Adjectives in a Japanese sentence|
|A. That is a pretty flower.||A. sore wa kirei na hana desu.|
|B. He is a kind person.||B. kare wa shinsetsu na hito desu.|
As you can see by looking at the examples above, Japanese adjectives are similar to English adjectives in that they both serve the same purpose which is to modify/describe nouns.
That’s great news since that means that Japanese adjectives are not a hard concept to grasp since they function the same way English adjectives do!
Japanese Adjective Placement:
Japanese adjectives are usually placed right before the word it is describing. The same is true for English adjectives.
Japanese adj: kireina hana
English adj: pretty Flower
However, Japanese adjectives are not always placed directly before the noun it is describing, it can be placed after. In English we can place the adjective before or after the word it is describing, for example:
A. It is a pretty flower.
B. The flower is pretty.
The good news is that Japanese adjectives are as flexible as English adjectives in terms of their placement in a sentence in relation to the noun it is describing. So, just like English adjectives, Japanese adjectives can be placed before or after the noun it is describing.
A. It is a pretty flower. | A. kirei na hana desu.
B. The flower is pretty. | B. sono hana wa kirei desu.
Okay, so far so good! We have learned that Japanese adjectives have the same function as English adjectives which is to describe a noun or a pronoun. We also learned that Japanese adjectives have flexible placement within a sentence and therefore can be placed before or after the word it is describing (Just like English adjectives can).
However, there is one major difference between Japanese and English adjectives…There are actually two types of adjectives in the Japanese language. This brings us to the next section!
Two types of Japanese adjectives:
The first peculiar thing you’ll learn about Japanese adjectives is that there are two types. You might have a puzzled look on your face since no such thing exists in the English language, but don’t worry, learning about Japanese adjectives and how to conjugate them just requires memorizing a set of rules and few exceptions to those rules.
- The first type of Japanese adjectives are called “i-adjectives” since they end in the vowel (i).
|Type 1:||Type 2:|
- The second type are called “na-adjectives” since they require the suffix (na) when placed before nouns.
Let’s take a look at some examples of (i) & (na) adjectives:
|ii = good||benri na = convenient|
|ureshii = happy||genki na = healthy, lively,energetic|
|isogashii = busy||shinsetsu na = kind|
Looking at the above table, you might be thinking to yourself :
“okay, that’s easy enough! i-adjectives end in (i) and na-adjectives end in (na).“
While that is the case 90% of the time, there are some exceptions to that rule.
- Not all adjectives that end in (i) are i-adjectives
Not all adjectives that end in “i” are i-adjectives. So just because it ends in (i) doesn’t mean it’s an i-adjective, in fact a couple of adjectives that end in (i) are actually na-adjectives.
For example, the adjective (genki) which means ‘healthy’ ends in (i), but is actually a na-adjective!
- na-adjectives are not always written with the na-ending, however, they are still considered na-adjectives. For example, the adjective (benri) which means (convenient/ Useful) is still a na-adjective even without the -na ending.The rule goes as follows:
If the na adjective is directly before the noun, then the -na ending must be added to the adjective.
benri na mise
a convenient store
(We added the -na to the adjective since it comes directly before the noun “store”)
If the na adjective is not directly before a noun, then you do not add the -na ending to the adjective.
kono waapuro wa taihen benri desu.
This word processor is very useful.
(Here, we did not add the -na ending to adjective “benri” since it is not directly before the noun “word processor”, instead benri comes after the noun, thus we do not need to add the -na ending to our adjective.)
- Watch out for adjectives ending in (ei)
While it is true that Japanese i-adjectives end in (i), they however, never end in the combination (ei). So if you come across and adjective like “kirei” which means (pretty;clean) remember that it’s automatically disqualified as an i adjective since it ends in (ei).
Q. So, if “kirei” is not an i-adjective, then what is it?
A. ‘kirei’ is actually a na-adjective, so make sure to add (na)!ex:
kanojo wa kireina me wo shiteiru.
She has pretty eyes.
All these exceptions can be confusing when you first start learning about Japanese adjectives, but give yourself time to expand your vocabulary and to become familiar with these exceptions. Until then, here are some tips that will help you identify (i) and (na) adjectives:
General tips to identifying (i) and (na) adjectives
If the adjective ends in double “i” (ii), then it’s definitely an i-adjective:
If the adjective ends in the consonant (n), (a), (u), or (o) then it’s a na-adjective:
If the adjective ends in “ei” then it’s a na-adjective):
|na-adjectives if ending in ei||Meaning|
|kirei na||pretty, clean|
There are na-adjectives that don’t follow any rules or logic, therefore they must be learned the old fashion way, that’s right, through memorization. The good news is that the majority of adjectives in the Japanese language are (i) adjectives, so you won’t be dealing with a large number of na-adjectives.
Below, is a list of na-adjectives for you to memorize.
(Only a few of the na-adjectives listed below are actually used daily in Japan, so don’t stress if you can’t remember them all right away!)
|daiji na||valuable, important|
|genki na||healthy, well, energetic, lively(person)|
|kirai na||unlikeable, unfavorable|
|nigiyaka na||lively, busy, bustling(place)|
|shizuka na||quiet, silent|
|taihen na||1. immense 2.serious 3. difficult|
|kekkou na||quite, fairly, well, fine|
|heta na||unskilled, poor, bad at|
|onaji na||same, alike|
|raku na||easy, comfortable|
|tanki na||impatient, quick tempered|
|byouki na||sick, ill|
|dame na||no good|
Japanese adjective construction:
Now that you are familiar with the two types of adjectives in Japanese, let’s learn how properly use them in a sentence:
- Place adjective directly before the noun it is modifying
adjective + noun
kawaii + onnanoko
1. kanojo wa kawaii onnanoko desu.
She is a pretty girl.
Japanese i-adjectives are as flexible as English adjectives! That means that the adjective can come before or after the noun it is modifying as shown below:
a. It is a fast car.
b. The car is fast.
In example a, the adjective ‘fast’ comes directly before the noun it is modifying which is ‘car‘. In example b, the adjective comes after the noun.
Even though the adjective is placed in different positions in each sentence, both sentences are still grammatically correct in English. The same case applies to Japanese adjectives. Let’s take a look:
a. hayai kuruma desu.
[It is a fast car.]
b. Sono kuruma wa hayai desu.
[The car is fast.]
- Step 1: Place -na ending after the adjective
- Step 2: Place noun after the na-adjective
adjective + na ending + noun
benri + na + mise
1. benri na mise.
A convenient store.
2. watashi wa yuumei na haiyuu desu.
I am a famous actor.
3. sore wa taisetsu na tegami desu.
This is an important letter.
na adjectives require the -na ending when placed before a noun.
To modify or not to modify, that is the question.
When learning about Japanese adjectives it is important that you note that i-adjectives are written the same way every time regardless of whether it’s modifying a noun or not, as shown below:
Let’s use the i-adjective (minikui=ugly) as an example:
Not modifying a noun:
1. That is ugly.
Sore wa minikui desu.
Modifying a noun:
2. That is an ugly house.
Sore wa minikui ie desu.
The adjective ‘minikui’ is written the same way regardless of whether it’s modifying a noun or not. This is the case for all i-adjectives!
na-adjectives on the other hand are written differently depending on whether the na-adjective is directly modifying a noun or not.
Let’s use the na-adjective (kirei=pretty) as an example:
Not modifying a noun
1. This is pretty.
kore wa kirei desu.
Modifying a noun
2. This is a pretty ring.
kore wa kirei na yubiwa.
Conjugating Adjectives into the four tenses:
Here come examples of common i-adjectives for you to practice with. They are written in the 4 tenses covered in the video.
|Present affirmative||Present negative||Past affirmative||Past negative|
|takai = is expensive||takakunai =is not expensive||takakatta = was expensive||takaku nakatta = was not expensive|
|yasui = is cheap||yasuku nai = is not cheap||yasukatta = was cheap||yasuku nakatta = was not cheap|
|ureshii = is happy||ureshiku nai = is not happy||ureshikatta = was happy||ureshiku nakatta = was not happy|
|oishii = is delicious||oishiku nai = is not delicious||oishikatta = was delicious||oishiku nakatta = was not delicious|
|mazui = is bad tasting||mazuku nai = is not bad tasting||mazukatta = was bad tasting||mazuku nakatta = was not bad tasting|
|kanashii = is sad||kanashiku nai = is not sad||kanashikatta = was sad||kanashiku nakatta = was not sad|
|atsui = is hot||atsuku nai = is not hot||atsukatta = was hot||atsuku nakatta = was not hot|
|samui = is cold||samuku nai = is not cold||samukatta = was cold||samuku nakatta = was not cold|
|chiisai = is small||chiisaku nai = is not small||chiisakatta = was small||chiisaku nakatta = was not small|
|ookii = is big||ookiku nai = is not big||ookikatta = was big||ookiku nakatta = was not big|
|akarui= is bright||akaruku nai = is not bright||akarukatta = was bright||akaruku nakatta= was not bright|
|kurai = is dark||kuraku nai = is not dark||kurakatta= was dark||kuraku nakatta = was not bright|
|isogashii = is busy||isogashiku nai = is not busy||isogashikatta = was busy||isogashiku nakatta = was not busy|
|tanoshii = is fun||tanoshiku nai = is not fun||tanoshikatta = was fun||tanoshiku nakatta = was not fun|
|hayai = is fast||hayaku nai = is not fast||hayakatta = was fast||hayaku nakatta = was not fast|
|osoi = is slow||osoku nai = is not slow||osokatta = was slow||osoku nakatta= was not slow|
|ii = is good||yoku nai = is not good||yokatta = was good||yoku nakatta = was not good|
|warui = is bad||waruku nai = is not bad||warukatta = was bad||waruku nakatta = was not bad|
|atarashii = is new||atarashiku nai = is not new||atarashikatta = was new||atarashiku nakatta = was not new|
|furui = is old||furuku nai = is not old||furukatta = was old||furuku nakatta= was not old|
|yasashii = is easy||yasashiku nai = is not easy||yasashikatta = was easy||yasashiku nakatta = was not easy|
|Muzukashii= is difficult||Muzukashiku nai = is not difficult||Muzukashikatta= was difficult||Muzukashiku nakatta = was not difficult|
|omoshiroi = is interesting||omoshiroku nai= is not interesting||omoshirokatta= was interesting||omoshiroku nakatta = was not interesting|
|tsumaranai = is boring||tsumaranaku nai= is not boring||tsumaranakatta= was boring||tsumaranaku nakatta= was not boring|
|tooi = is far||tooku nai = is not far||tookatta = was far||tooku nakatta = was not far|
|Chikai= is close
||Chikaku nai = is not close||Chikakatta = was close||Chikaku nakatta= was not close|
|Itai= is painful||Itaku nai= is not painful||Itakatta = was painful||Itaku nakatta = was not painful|
|Amai= is sweet||Amaku nai = is not sweet||Amakatta= was sweet||Amaku nakatta= was not sweet|
|Suppai= is sour||Suppaku nai= is not sour||Suppakatta = was sour||Suppaku nakatta = was not sour|
|Omoi = is heavy||Omoku nai = is not heavy||Omokatta = was heavy||Omoku nakatta = was not heavy|
|Karui= is light||Karuku nai = is not light||Karukatta = was light||Karuku nakatta = was not light|
|Semai = is narrow||Semaku nai = is not narrow||Semakatta = was narrow||Semaku nakatta = was not narrow|
|hiroi = is wide||hiroku nai = is not wide||Hirokatta = was wide||Hiroku nakatta = was not wide|
Adverbial form of Japanese adjectives
Japanese adjectives can be turned into adverbs. In English an Adverb is used to express time (often), manner (quickly), place (inside), degree (very).
Example of Adverbs:
- Slowly = osoku
- Quickly = hayaku
- Quietly = shizuka ni
Note that Adjectives modify nouns (person, place, thing), While Adverbs modify verbs (actions)
How to construct the adverbial form of adjectives
The rules for how to turn and i-adjective into an adverb are different from the rules for turning a na-adjective into an adverb. Let’s go over their individual construction.
For i-adjectiveschange (i) to (ku).
-Let’s practice with the (i) adjective hayai which means ‘quick,fast,early‘
- hayai first remove the final (i)
- haya + ku we are left with ‘haya’, now let’s add the (ku) ending.
- hayaku <—–Done! our i-adjective is now an adverb.
1. hayaku kinasai.
Come here quickly.
2. Watashi no tomodachi wa itsumo osoku arukimasu.
My friend always walks slowly.
Change (na) to (ni)Let’s use the (na) adjective “jouzu na” which means ‘skillful, good at’
- shizuka na
- shizuka ni <—–Done! our i-adjective is now an adverb.
1. kanojo wa shizuka ni heya ni haitta.
She entered the room quietly.
2. kanojo wa jouzu ni uta wo utaimasu.
She sings well.