First Aid in Japanese

Adjectives: Using 「い」and「な」adjectives Adjectives: Overview of adjective forms
Describing people and their capabilities:
Making Adverbs and Nouns

Adjectives & different sentence patterns: mixing and talking About verbs and nouns

1. Adjectives: Using「い」and 「な」adjectives

In Japanese, you have two sets of adjectives; just like in English.

「い」adjectives describe the noun. They describe things without needing to compare with other things.

「な」adjectives compare the noun to another noun. They describe things by comparison to another noun. This is the same as using [noun + ish] in English: bookish, for example.

Here is a short list of 「い」and 「な」adjectives:
「い」adjective 「な」adjective
うれしい happy しあわせ 「な」 fortunate
かわいい cute きれい 「な」 beautiful
おかしい humorous へん 「な」 strange/odd
やさしい (kanji: 易しい) plainly ふくざつ 「な」 complex
つよい strongly とが 「な」 sophisticated

For example:

Let's look at how to use 「が」with a bit more detail.


Previously, we encountered 「が」in the sentence:
「<だれか が>じゅっぷん かかりました。」meaning "Ten minutes spent <by someone>."

The part 「が」puts an emphasis on what comes after it and turns it into a description. It puts a focus on explanations, descriptions, and clarifies something about the subject. In English, this is represented by the two tones you can use "is" with: the statement tone and the descriptive tone.

For example:

You can feel how 「が」creates a kind of opening for the second half of the sentence to shine!English speakers have many different ways of intoning sentences like these, so as long as you feel that there is some kind of emphasis on that second part, that is good and will work.

In short, we use 「が」to explain things and describe them to other people.


However, there are also times where we need to clarify what we want to have a conversation about, or even check which thing the other person is describing. To do that we need the Japanese word for which:「どれ」. This word is in the exact same group as the words covered in "Introduction to Nouns"; this means that you can use 「どれか」to say "whichever"!

「どれ が おもしろい ですか。」means "Which is interesting?"
「どれか も いい です。」means "Whichever, also fine."

2. Adjectives: Overview of adjective forms

Because of the way 「い」and「な」adjectives are different, they are transformed differently in sentences. In particular, 「な」adjectives are usually transformed similarly to nouns.

「い」adjective 「な」adjectives
present tense proper ~い です ~ です
past tense proper ~い でした ~ でした
present tense plain ~い ~ だ
past tense plain ~かった ~ だった
negative form proper <lit. ~ it is not%gt; ~い ではありません  ~ じゃありません
past negative form proper ~い ではありませんでした ~ じゃありませんでした
negative form (optional です) ~くない (です) ~ じゃない (です)
past negative form plain (optional です) ~くなかった (です) ~ じゃなかった (です)
3rd POV descriptive style <fig. "Having said--"> ~い よう ~だ よう
1st POV descriptive style <fig. "y'knnow?"> ~よう
3rd-person reporting style <fig. "So I heard"> ~い そう ~だ そう
1st person reporting style <fig. "I want to say so/I think"> ~そう
adverb form ~く
(e.g.: はやく いきます)
(e.g. ふくざつに おしえます)
noun form ~さ ~なの
list form (can be combined together) ~くて、~くて ~だ し、~だ し

We will use some of these (the descriptive and reporting styles) to create more nuanced sentences later in the "Novice" section of this website (to be written). This material will cover the adverb form later on this page (see: Making Adverbs and Nouns). For now, though, you can use this as a handy guide.

3. Describing people and their capabilities:
The use of どんな人/どの人
and ~が じょうず/へた/すき/きらい/あります

Previously, we talked about how you can talk about your experiences and skills (here). This section is going to cover how to describe other parts of a person: bodily or by clothes, and by proficiency in a skill.

a. What kind of person? Which profile?

In a conversation, people usually ask for you to point out a person from a crowd of many. The words for these are 「どんなひと」and 「どのひと」.

「どんなひと です か。」: What kind/type of person?
「どのひと です か。」: What physical profile of person? <lit. what-stuff person>

Example conversation 1:
Example conversation 2:

b. Using ~が すき/きらい/じょうず/へた です

In the previous section, we covered 3. Talking about experiences and skills.

In this section, we want to elaborate and talk about:
how much we like thingswhat our skill-level is
だいすきreally like/loveじょうずvery, very good
すきlikeだいたいpretty advanced
かまいませんI don't mindまあまあmiddling
ちょっと...<It's a little...>not my preferenceあまり よくない <lit. a little not-good>kind of unable
きらいhateへた100% sucky

We can use a simple sentence structure to make use of these descriptors:
ー が ーです。 or ーは ーが ーです。

4. Making Adverbs and Nouns

  • Adverbs:
  • Noun form: