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All You Need to Know About Japanese Adjectives

Japanese adjective behaves differently than English adjective which we are familiar with. But these are all you need to know about it.

BASIC CONJUGATION RULES FOR JAPANESE ADJECTIVE:


Conjugation is very important in Japanese. You need to conjugate to show the +/- or current/future/past state of a noun/verb/adjective. So the first important thing to know is how to conjugate adjective.

Note that there are 2 types of adjectives い Adjective and な Adjective and they conjugate with different formula.


How to Conjugate い Adjective

Check out how to conjugate い Adjective such as 早い (hayai: fast) below

japanese-I-adjective
Sample Sentences

Present
そのモルモットは早いです
Sono Morumotto wa hayai desu
That Guinea Pig is fast

Past
そのモルモットは早かったです
Sono Morumotto wa hayakatta desu
That Guinea Pig was fast
all-about-japanese-adjective-fast
Present-Negative
そのモルモットは 早くないです
Sono Morumotto wa hayakunai desu
That Guinea Pig is not fast

Past-Negative
そのモルモットは 早くなかったです
Sono Morumotto wa hayakunakatta desu
That Guinea Pig was not fast
japanese-adjective-not-fast
*All sample sentences are written as formal/polite version.
To make it informal, you can drop the です.


How To Conjugate な Adjective

Check out how to conjugate な Adjective such as きれい (kirei: beautiful) below


japanese-na-adjective
Sample Sentence

Present
そのモルモットはきれいです
Sono Morumotto wa kirei desu
That Guinea Pig is beautiful


Past
そのモルモットはきれいでした Sono Morumotto wa <emp”>kireideshita
That Guinea Pig was beautiful
japanese-adjective-pretty
Present-Negative
そのモルモットはきれいじゃないです
Sono Morumotto wa kireijanai desu
That Guinea Pig is not beautiful

Past-Negative
そのモルモットはきれいじゃなかったです
Sono Morumotto wa kireijanakatta desu
That Guinea Pig was not beautiful

japanese-adjective-not-pretty
*all sample sentence are written as formal/polite version. To make it informal, you can drop the です.
** でした is the formal/polite version of だった

BASIC ROLES OF ADJECTIVE

Now we’re going to learn the roles of adjective. First is as noun modifier.


As a Noun Modifier

Noun modifier means that we are using adjective such as BIG to modify CAT. The word then become A BIG CAT (A cat noun with big attribute).

japanese-I-adjective-na-adjective

As you can see, when you use Japanese NA-adjective as noun modifier. We need to add な between the adjective and noun. Now you know as to why the な-adjective is named that way.

Did you know that you can also use noun to modify/add atribute to another noun using particle の?
It’s similar to Winter Coats or Hollywood Movies in English. These sentences below will show you how it works:

彼女部屋
Kanojo NO heya (Her room)
:: Adding she attribute to the room. By attaching pronouns, we give possesion attribute to a noun.

勉強
Eki NO chikaku (Nearby the station)
:: Adding nearby attribute to a station


Midori NO hon (The green book)
:: Adding green attribute to book

As Predicates

Predicate is when we use an adjective to describe a noun. As in [THAT CAT IS BIG]. Used as predicates, the only rules you need to remember is to never put だ after I-adjective.


japanese-adjective-as-preposition


As Adverbs

We can create adverbs from adjective as what we can do in English slow – slowly or easy – easily. Below are the rules to turn Japanese adjective into adverb


japanese-I-adjective-as-adverb

japanese-na-adjective-as-adverb

CONNECTING ADJECTIVES


Connecting Japanese adjective isn’t hard. The rules are quite simple. You just need to conjugate all the adjective except the last one.
You simply remove い and turn it into くて for I-adjective and add で for Na-adjective.
connecting-japanese-adjective connecting-japanese-adjective

It is not natural to combine adjective of contradicting nuance in Japanese.

This means that when you are meant to praise something, you cannot said a bad attribute and vice versa.


connecting-japanese-adjective

But to understand what bad/good in Japanese require experience and knowledge. For example, wide is good, while narrow is bad. So you cannot say that your room is beautiful and narrow. This is because narrow in Japanese is identical with cramp space. So saying that your room is beautiful and cramp is inconsistent.

“Are you praising your room or what? I cannot understand it!” (┛◉Д◉)┛彡┻━┻


Additional: The previous case is logical, but there’s also case such as 面白い[Omoshiroi: Interesting] . This word has a nuance of “interesting since it’s a little bit strange/ unusual/ unexpected”. Therefore, some people consider it as a bit negative attribute.


Q: How to connect 2 different attribute then?
A: We can use ですが which means but to connect them. 彼女はきれいですが煩いです
Kanojo wa kirei desu ga urusai desu
She is beautiful but annoying.


AND THAT’S ALL ABOUT JAPANESE ADJECTIVE BASICS YOU NEED TO KNOW


But for you who are looking for a thorough explanations regarding Japanese adjectives and adverbs to understand more about the logic, difference in nuance, and how they work, you can check out this book here. The Handbook of Japanese Adjectives and Adverbs

The book is written to explain the background and logic of Japanese adjective and adverbs, and the similarity / difference between Japanese and English version. So it will help you to understand how Japanese adjective and adverbs works.

The best part about the book is explanation regarding subtle difference of nuance between each word choice. For example, 時々 (tokidoki means once in a while) and たまに (tama ni also means once in a while, but the time period is longer than tokidoki). So you use 時々(tokidoki) when you say that you sometimes work overtime (a few days within a month) and たまに (tama ni) when sometimes means (a few days within a year).

Japanese adjectives and adverbs is one of the most important key to understand Japanese, so if you’re the type of person who need textbook reference to guide you to study Japanese, The Handbook of Japanese Adjectives and Adverbs is one of the book you should read.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT ADJECTIVE


Ooki vs Ookina – Chiisai vs Chiisana

You might hear words similar to ookii and chiisai , which are ookina (大きな) and chiisana (小さな) . What is the difference?

Eventhough they have in the end ,it doesn’t make them a な Adjective. Just think of them as adjectives which posses an unusual behaviour, and you only need to remember what you can do with them. They can only be used as noun modifier

This image below will help you to understand the difference between 大きい and 大きいな

japanese-adjective-ookii-vs-ookina



Tips To Differentiate I-Adjective And NA-Adjective


People often ask “How do we know if an adjective is the I-adjective or Na-adjective?”. There are a few things that can help you to differentiate い Adjective and な Adjective.

Here’s the list below:

1. For 100% accuracy, use your dictionary.

Below is links to offline Japanese dictionary you can download for free that have entry for い Adjective and な Adjective : JED for Android | Imiwa for IOS

2. Most of the time, い Adjective end with obviously…
But you might notice that in rare case, there are some な Adjective that end with such as きれい or きらい. But don’t worry to much about them since they are only a few of words like this.

きれい Case
In きれい, actually, if you check in dictionary, it is written as full kanji 綺麗. There is no at all as in 早い (hayai:fast) . Most of な Adjective which seems to end with can be easily differentiate when written as kanji.

好き Case
好き (suki:like) sounds like it end with I but it really isn’t .
What we’re looking for is い : (I) sound of hiragana while suki end with き (ki)

嫌い Case
嫌い (kirai:hate) really do end with . Case like this is very rare, and you will only need to deal with 嫌い for now. Just remember it as a な Adjective

Why 好き (suki:like) and 嫌い (kirai:hate) are considered as adjectives?
Think of like as in when something/someone have a desireable/likeable attribute. As in “Something that is red”. With 好き, its “Something that you like”.


If the explanation provided above is too simple and isn’t enough for you, you can try to read The Handbook of Japanese Adjectives and Adverbs since the book best feature is explanation of stuff like this.



3. Note: Treat this one as “fun fact” only.
If you get a list of common い Adjective and な Adjective. You will grasp that most い Adjective are attribute that can be seen at glance and can be measured. While Na-adjective are attribute that are more complex, can be felt with heart or what you feel about something/someone as time goes by or by experience it, and most of it are people personality .

For example, い Adjective are big, tall, fast, etc…
While, な Adjective are likeable ,special ,quiet , etc…

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6 comments

    1. Hello! The past for Kirei as (na-adjective) is Kireidatta. While Hayai as (I-adjective) is Hayakatta. So the picture is correct while indeed there is a typo in the past tense sample sentence. It has been fixed now thanks to you 。゚✶ฺ.ヽ(*´∀`*)ノ.✶゚ฺ。 

      1. You’re welcome :). I am new to this page. Let me tell you that your page is really creative. I like the pictures and designs and the way you explain grammar with that is easier for me to understand. So it’s all thanks to you. 🙂

  1. You’re the best. My teacher is sick, so I have to study adjectives on my own and your explanation is really nice. It’s like adjectives for dummies. 😀 Thank you very much! 🙂

    1. “Japanese adjectives for dummies”! lol. It was actually written to make it easy to learn, we’re glad that it help you! Check out our other lessons too and let us know your feedback 。゚✶ฺ.ヽ(*´∀`*)ノ.✶゚ฺ。  You’re welcome btw~ ヾ(@°▽°@)ノ

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