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Japanese Adjectives


As in English, Japanese adjectives are placed either before a noun (a good book, for example) or at the end of a sentence (The book is good). All Japanese adjectives end in either "i "or "na" when placed before a noun.

Adjectives that end in "i" are called i-ending adjectives or ikeiyoushi (i-kei-you-shi). Adjectives that end in "na" are called na-ending adjectives or nakeiyoushi (na-kei-youshi). There is no clear distinction between the two groups in terms of meaning. For example, taka-i and koka-na both mean "expensive," but one is an ikeiyoushi and the other is a nakeiyoushi.

Look at some adjectives that modify the noun hon (ho-n; book):

  • kirei-na hon (ki-rei-na hon; a beautiful book).
  • koka-na hon (ko-ka-na hon; an expensive book).
  • omoshiro-i hon (o-mo-shi-ro-i hon; an interesting book).
  • taka-i hon (ta-ka-i hon; an expensive book).

You conjugate English adjectives based on whether they're comparative or superlative, like tall, taller, and tallest, but you conjugate Japanese adjectives based on different factors, such as tense. Look at the following Japanese sentence structure, all of which include either taka-i (ta-ka-i; expensive), an i-ending adjective, or koka-na (ko-ka-na; expensive), a na-ending adjective:

  • Are wa koka jya arimasen. (a-re wa ko-ka jya a-ri-ma-sen; That over there is not expensive.)
  • Hanbaga wa taka-ku arimasen. (han-ba-ga wa ta-ka-ku a-ri-ma-sen; Hamburgers are not expensive.)
  • Koka-na nekkuresu o kaimashita.(ko-ka na nekku-resu o ka-i-ma-shi-ta; I bought an expensive necklace.)
  • Kore wa taka-katta. (ko-re wa ta-ka-katta; This was expensive.)
  • Taka-i hon o kaimashita. (ta-kai hon o kai-ma-shi-ta; I bought an expensive book.)

As mentioned earlier tenses of an adjective is one of the factors to be considered while conjugating adjectives. Following are the rules in which you can change the tense and the way you use them:-

    For ikeiyoushi (i-ending adjectives/ I adjectives):

  1. Present/ Future Affirmative Tense: Atsui- Hot
  2. Present/ Future Negative Tense: While changing an i-ending adjective into Present/ Future negative tense just remove the ending "i" and add "kunai". As in - Atsui Atsu + kunai Atsukunai: Not hot
  3. Past Affirmative Tense: While changing an i-ending adjective into past tense, remove "i" and add "katta" to it. For Example Atsui Astu + Katta Atsukatta Was hot
  4. Past Negative Tense: While changing an i-ending adjective into past tense, remove "i" and add "kunakatta" to it. As in Atsui Astu + kunakatta Atsukunakatta Was not hot
  5. While joining i-ending Adjective: While join the first ikeiyoushi to any other ikeiyoushi or nakeiyoushi in the sentence, the "i" is removed and "kute" is added to it. Following is the example for both:
    Kuruma wa furukute takhai desu. (The car is old and expensive.) Denshya wa yasukute benri desu. (The train is cheap and convenient.) In the first statement, an ikeiyoushi is joined to another ikeiyoushi. Whereas, in the second sentence, an ikeiyoushi is joined to a nakeiyoushi.
  6. When a verb comes after i-ending Adjective: When a verb comes immediately after i-ending adjective, the "i" is removed and "ku" is added to it. For example Watashiwa mai asa hayaku okimasu. (I wake up early every morning.)

    For nakeiyoushi (na-ending aadjectives/ Na adjectives):

    The nakeiyoushi follows the rule of "desu".
  1. Present/ Future Affirmative Tense: Nigiyakana (desu) - Crowded
  2. Present/ Future Negative Tense: While changing a na-ending adjective into Present/ Future negative tense just remove the ending "na" and add "dewa arimasen". As in - Nigiyakana Nigiyaka + dewa arimasen Nigiyakadewa arimasen: Not crowded
  3. Past Affirmative Tense: While changing a na-ending adjective into past tense, remove "na" and add "deshita" to it. For Example Nigiyakana Nigiyaka + deshita Nigiyakadeshita: Was crowded
  4. Past Negative Tense: While changing a na-ending adjective into past tense, remove "na" and add "dewa arimasen deshita" to it. As in Nigiyakana Nigiyaka + dewa arimasen deshita Nigiyakadewa arimasen deshita: Was not crowded
  5. While joining na-ending Adjective: While join the first nakeiyoushi to any other ikeiyoushi or nakeiyoushi in the sentence, the "na" is removed and "de" is added to it. Following is the example for both: Kono hito wa jyouzude yuumei desu. (This person is expert and famous.) Kanji wa kantande omoshiroi desu. (Kanji is easy and interesting.) In the first statement, a nakeiyoushi is joined to another nakeiyoushi. Whereas, in the second sentence, a nakeiyoushi is joined to an ikeiyoushi.
  6. When a verb comes after na-ending Adjective: When a verb comes immediately after na-ending adjective, the "na" is removed and "ni" is added to it. For example Michiwa nigiyaka ni narimashita. (The road had become crowded.)

Some adjectives are irregular, which means they don't conjugate the same as other adjectives. The irregular adjective used most frequently is ii (i-i; good). The stem "i" becomes "yo" in all the forms except the present affirmative form, regardless of whether you place it at the end of a sentence or right before a noun. Take a look at the following examples:

  • ii hon desu (i-i hon de-su; is a good book)
  • ii desu (i-i de-su; is good)
  • yokatta desu (yo-katta de-su; was good)
  • yoku arimasen deshita (yo-ku ari-ma-sen de-shi-ta; wasn't good)
  • yoku arimasen (yo-ku ari-ma-sen; isn't good)

Table below lists the ikeiyoushi and nakeiyoushi adjectives, along with its meaning.

Japanese na-adjective

It is very important to know that when to specify the "na" of the nakeiyoushi in the sentence and when not to. Whenever the "na" adjective occurs at the end of the sentence at that time "na" is omitted. On the other hand, when a noun follows a "na" adjective then in such a sentence the "na" has to be written. Following examples will help you understand the difference.

Kono machi wa nigiyakana machi desu. (This city is a crowded city.)

Denshya wa benri desu. (The train is convenient.)

Japanese i-adjective

By now, you must have mastered the use of adjectives in Japanese. While learning the na-ending adjective you will observe that there are some, which sound like an i-ending adjective, but you have to remember that they belong to na-ending adjective list. So, start using Japanese adjectives in your sentences as frequently as possible.

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