Japanese Adjectives


This is a companion tutorial to my Japanese Verbs, and I trust that it will also become a concise and convenient resource for those learning or reviewing Japanese.

Please have an English-Japanese/Japanese-English dictionary and notebook handy as you study. As new words are introduced, use your dictionary to learn or check their meanings, and make a word list in your notebook to add new vocabulary to. It's a proven fact that the process of looking up and writing vocabulary will help the learning process, along with regular reviewing.

Please see Getting Started with the Japanese Language for pronunciation guides and other relevant information.

Please note: In order to avoid technical explanations, only the simplest and most general translations of words are given. Also, romaji (romanized Japanese words) used herein are written in their true, romanized form: elongated vowels are shown as such, etc.

© Tim R. Matheson

Table of Contents

1. Introduction to Japanese Adjectives

2. Plain Positive and Plain Negative

3. Colors

4. Combining Adjectives

5. Adjectives suki, kirai, hoshii, jouzu and heta

6. Adverbial Forms

7. Conditional Forms

8. The Te Form + mo

9. Plain Past

10. Adjectives with sou and sugiru

11. Adjective Modifiers

Lesson 1
Introduction to Japanese Adjectives

Japanese adjectives come in two basic types: "true" and "quasi." In some circles they are also known as "i adjectives" and "na adjectives" because those are the suffixes they get when they are followed by a noun. Nevertheless, I prefer calling them "true" and "quasi" because there are some quasi-adjectives that end in i, making the names "i" or "na" unnecessarily confusing.

Some examples of true adjectives are:

  • ii: good
  • yoi: good
  • warui: bad
  • takai: expensive; high; tall
  • yasui: cheap
  • hikui: low
  • nagai: long
  • mijikai: short
  • katai: hard
  • yawarakai: soft
  • atsui: hot
  • samui: cold (used for weather or room temperature)
  • tsumetai: cold (used for tangible objects, food, drinks, and unfriendly feelings between people: a cold look, a cold reply, etc.)
  • hiroi: wide; spacious
  • semai: narrow; cramped
  • tsuyoi: strong (used for things which are powerful or sturdy, etc.)
  • yowai: weak (used for the opposite of the above)
  • kitsui: strong (usually used for "too strong," as in flavors, medicines, personalities, etc.)
  • abunai: dangerous
  • akarui: bright
  • kurai: dark
  • karui: light
  • omoi: heavy
  • furui: old (not used with people or animals)
  • hayai: fast; early
  • osoi: slow; late
  • omoshiroi: interesting

Many true adjectives end in shii:

  • oishii: delicious
  • muzukashii: difficult
  • utsukushii: beautiful
  • tanoshii: fun
  • ureshii: happy
  • kanashii: sad
  • kurushii: hard; painful
  • isogashii: busy (This is Japan's most popular adjective — you'll hear it used several times an hour.)
  • kibishii: strict; severe
  • yakamashii: noisy
  • mabushii: too bright; glaring
  • sabishii: lonely; desolate
  • hazukashii: ashamed; shy
  • atarashii: new
  • yasashii: gentle; soft (voice or manners); not strict; easy (question or problem)
  • otonashii: gentle; quiet (children or animals); well-behaved; tame

The basic colors are often used as true adjectives:

  • akai: red
  • aoi: blue
  • kiiroi: yellow
  • shiroi: white
  • kuroi: black

And now let's look at some good quasi-adjectives:

  • kantan na: easy, as in easy to do
  • raku na: easy, as in an easy situation; comfortable
  • kara na: empty
  • kirei na: pretty; clean
  • kechi na: stingy (not generous)
  • binbou na: poor; destitute
  • hinpan na: frequent
  • benri na: convenient
  • fuben na: inconvenient
  • busaiku na: clumsy; awkward
  • tanki na: impatient; quick-tempered
  • ganko na: stubborn
  • byouki na: sick
  • genki na: healthy; to be feeling well
  • shizen na: natural, proper
  • yutaka na: full; abundant
  • anzen na: safe
  • kanzen na: perfect
  • fukuzatsu na: complicated

"Big" and "small" have a true and quasi form:

  • ookii / oki na: big
  • chiisai / chiisa na: small

Many quasi-adjectives are made by adding teki na to a noun:

  • kokusaiteki na: international
  • kagakuteki na: scientific
  • rekishiteki na: historical
  • ippanteki na: general
  • rakkanteki na: optimistic

It's time for some examples. From a grammatical angle, adjective use in Japanese is very similar to English. With both true and quasi you include the final i or na when placing them before a noun, usually an object. Here are some with true adjectives:

  • Sore wa ii hon desu. (That's a good book.)
  • Douzo, tsumetai gyuunyuu o nonde kudasai. (Please, have some cold milk.)
  • Omoi hako desu ne. (This is a heavy box, isn't it. [with dropping intonation])

And here are some examples using quasi-adjectives:

  • Sore wa kirei na inu desu. (That's a pretty dog.)
  • Kare wa ganko na hito desu. (He's a stubborn person.)
  • Ichiban kantan na houhou o oshiete ageru. (I'll show you the easiest way to do it.)

Now, when a true adjective comes after the noun it modifies — the subject in most cases — it usually does not change:

  • Sono hon wa ii desu yo. (That book is good.)
  • Sono gyuunyuu wa tsumetai desu ka? (Is that milk cold?)
  • Kono hako wa omoi desu ne. (This box is heavy, isn't it. [with dropping intonation])

However, when a quasi-adjective comes after its noun/subject, leave off the na:

  • Sono inu wa kirei! (That dog is pretty!)
  • Kare wa ganko! (He's stubborn!)
  • Sore wa kantan deshita ne. (That was easy, wasn't it. [with dropping intonation])

(This is where calling adjectives "i" or "na" could get too confusing, which is why I avoid it.)

Now it's time to introduce the quirks. First, there are some strange quasi- (quasi-quasi?) adjectives that, according to the dictionaries and grammar books, use the multi-purpose no particle instead of na:

  • tokubetsu no: special
  • tokutei no: specific
  • fumei no: unclear; vague

However, I have heard native speakers use na with these. When I ask about the discrepancy, I am told that na is normal. So, while it's true that the books say no, and official documents use no, in everyday "unofficial" life it is perfectly acceptable — even preferred — to use na, so don't concern yourself with these until you have to be official.

There are, however, colors which use no and never na after them when modifying a noun:

  • midori no kasa: a green umbrella
  • murasaki no hana: a purple flower
  • nezumiiro no boushi: a gray hat

It's only natural to think that adjectives which exist in English should exist in Japanese. Sure, most do, but many don't. In these, the "adjectival idea" is conveyed through verbs. Two examples of these are:

  • o-naka (ga) suita: hungry
  • nodo (ga) kawaita: thirsty

Naka means "stomach" or "abdomen," and suku means "to be empty," so you're saying "my stomach is empty" when you put these together. Nodo is "throat," and kawaku means "to be dry," so these together equal "I'm thirsty." Here, the ta form of the verb is used for the present, which will be a bit confusing to beginners because this form is normally used for the plain past. Just do what I do: think of this as "a verb in an adjective's role," and, as such, the rules slightly change.

Using hungry, let's take a look at the different popular tenses. Note the verb changes:

  • O-naka (ga) suku deshou. (We'll probably get hungry.) (Base 3 for infinitives and the future tense)
  • O-naka (ga) suita deshou? (You're hungry, right?) (Ta Form for the present)
  • O-naka (ga) suite inai. (I'm not hungry.) (Te Form + inai / imasen for the present negative)
  • O-naka (ga) suite ita. (I was hungry.) (Te Form + ita for the past)
  • O-naka (ga) suite inakatta. (I wasn't hungry.) (Te Form + inakatta / imasen deshita for the negative past)

The ga is optional, and is usually omitted in familiar situations.

Note also how naka gets the honorable o- prefix and nodo doesn't, so I guess our throats aren't as honorable as our stomachs. The next time you're at a party with native speakers and run out of topics to discuss, ask about this. It will keep them hemming and hawing for a while. But it may also make them avoid you in the future.

Here are two more that are often used:

  • yaseru: to lose weight; become thin
  • futoru: to gain weight; become fat

There are true adjectives for "fat" and "thin" (futoi and hosoi), but they, like their English counterparts, have to be used carefully because they can be offensive. When commenting about others, if you must, use the verbs:

  • Sukoshi futotta mitai. (Looks like you've put on a little weight.)
  • Yasemashita ka? (Have you lost weight?)

There are a couple of strange, colloquial "-tai adjectives" that I should mention: nemutai and omotai. Actually, they are:

  • nemui: sleepy
  • omoi: heavy

However, nemutai and omotai are used often in daily conversation. As far as I know, these are the only adjectives that can do this. By the way, this -tai ending on these two adjectives has nothing to do with the "want to do" -tai ending used on Base 2 verbs. "Want to sleep" is netai.

Finally, when used as simple exclamations, native speakers will often leave the final i off of some adjectives:

  • Samu! (It's cold!)
  • Atsu! (It's hot!)
  • Uma! (It's delicious!)
  • Mazu! (It's nasty!)
  • Ita! (Ouch!)

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Lesson 2
Plain Positive and Plain Negative

As in English, using Japanese adjectives in plain positive statements is simple — just say the adjective. Here are some true adjectives:

  • Oishii. (It's good. [delicious])
  • Atsui. (It's hot.)
  • Muzukashii. (It's difficult.)

And here are some quasi-adjectives:

  • Benri. (It's convenient.)
  • Raku. (It's comfortable.)
  • Kantan. (It's easy.)

Now let's make all these negative. Like the verbs, adjectives use nai to do this. True adjectives drop their final i and add ku before adding nai:

  • Oishiku nai. (It's not good. [not delicious])
  • Atsuku nai. (It's not hot.)
  • Muzukashiku nai. (It's not difficult.)

One exception is ii (good). It is always used as it is and never conjugated. Use yokunai for "not good."

Quasis add de and then nai:

  • Benri de nai. (It's not convenient.)
  • Raku de nai. (It's not comfortable.)
  • Kantan de nai. (It's not easy.)

Although de is standard after quasis in negative constructions, dewa or ja can be used instead. Use ja only in familiar settings.

Now let's look at some endings and combinations which can be added to plain adjectives. (There are others, but these are the most used in my opinion.) If you've already been through my Japanese Verbs, these should look familiar.

Group A

  • deshou?: ..., right? (request for agreement)
  • deshou: it probably is...
  • ka dou ka: whether or not it is...
  • kamo shirenai / shiremasen: it may be...
  • nara: if it is...
  • rashii: it seems to be...; I hear it is...

Group B

  • hazu: it is supposed to be...
  • hou ga ii: it would be better if it were...
  • no: one(s) (used in place of nouns when they are known)
  • node: because it is...
  • noni: in spite of the fact that it is...

Group C

  • kara: because it is...
  • keredomo / kedo: although it is...
  • to omou: I / We think it is...

You may want to call the above three groups "quasi handling groups" because they only apply to quasi-adjectives. We'll get to those a little later.

First, some positive examples. Any add-on from any group above can be added after a true adjective without changing it:

  • Oishii, deshou? (It's good, isn't it?)
  • Muzukashii rashii. (I hear it's difficult.)
  • Shiroi hazu. (It's supposed to be white.)
  • Yoi ka dou ka wakaranai. (I don't know if it's good or not.)
  • Mari no kaban wa ookii to omou. Chiisai no wa Keiko no. (I think Mari's bag is big. The small one is Keiko's.)
  • Yasui kara katta. (I bought it because it was cheap.)

With quasis, it gets a bit trickier. Those in Group A above are added without any particle:

  • Kara deshou. (It's probably empty.)
  • Benri kamo shirenai. (It might be convenient.)
  • Byouki nara byouin ni ikinasai. (If you're sick, go to the hospital.)

Note: In Japan you don't "go see a doctor," you "go to the hospital."

Those in Group B are added after first adding na:

  • Motto kantan na hazu. (It's supposed to be easier.)
  • Ryokou wa raku na hou ga ii. (A relaxing trip is best.)
  • Carl wa byouki na noni gakkou ni kita. (Carl came to school even though he's sick.)

And add da before adding those in Group C:

  • Kirei da kara, kanojo wa ninkimono desu. (She's popular because she's pretty.)
  • Ron wa ganko da kedo, seikaku ga ii. (Ron's stubborn, but he has a good personality.)
  • Kono mondai wa kantan da to omou. (I think this problem is easy.)

Da is actually the plain form of desu, which could be used with kara or kedo (keredomo) instead of da to make it more polite. For more about desu, please see Lesson 5 of my Japanese Verbs.

Now let's do some negative ones. First some with true adjectives:

  • Oishikunai deshou? (It's not very good, is it. [with dropping intonation])
  • Shirokunai hou ga ii deshou. (It would probably be best if it weren't white.)
  • Muzukashikunai rashii. (I hear it's not difficult.)
  • Mari no kaban wa ookikunai to omou. (I don't think Mari's bag is big.)
  • Yasukunai kamo shirenai. (It might not be cheap.)

And here are some with quasi-adjectives:

  • Kara de nai deshou. (It's probably not empty.)
  • Benri de nai kamo shirenai. (It might not be convenient.)
  • Kantan de nai hazu. (It's not supposed to be easy.)
  • Bob wa byouki de nai noni gakkou ni konakatta. (Bob didn't come to school even though he's not sick.)
  • Joe wa ganko de nai kedo, seikaku ga muzukashii. (Joe's not stubborn, but he has a difficult personality.)

There are two more handy negative add-ons that I'd like to introduce here. They are:

  • nakereba naranai: it must be... (literally, "if it's not..., it won't do")
  • nakutemo ii: it doesn't need to be... (literally, "even if it's not..., it's good")

Here they are with a true adjective:

  • Ookiku nakereba naranai. (It has to be big.)
  • Ookiku nakutemo ii. (It doesn't have to be big.)

And with a quasi:

  • Kantan de nakereba naranai. (It has to be simple.)
  • Kantan de nakutemo ii. (It doesn't have to be simple.)

Note: In written Japanese there are no spaces between "words." In my lessons I usually use what is most common for romanized Japanese, but may add spaces for clarification in long constructions. This is why there will sometimes be inconsistencies.

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Lesson 3

Because colors are usually used as adjectives, and because Japanese colors have their own strange set of rules, I thought I'd make a separate lesson out of them.

Here are ten popular colors as they are used when not preceding a noun, which is most of the time:

  • aka: red
  • ao: blue
  • kiiro: yellow
  • midori: green
  • murasaki: purple
  • daidaiiro: orange
  • chairo: brown
  • shiro: white
  • kuro: black
  • nezumiiro: gray

Please keep in mind that iro means "color," and that four of the above are made by adding iro to a noun:

  • kiiro: yellow (ki [sulfur] + iro [color])
  • daidaiiro: orange (daidai [a kind of orange] + iro [color])
  • chairo: brown (cha [tea] + iro [color])
  • nezumiiro: gray (nezumi [mouse] + iro [color])

While it is possible to leave off the iro in some instances, this is how these colors are used most of the time. It is also possible to add iro to the others which usually don't use it: midori iro (green, greenish); shiro iro (white, whitish); etc.

Here are a few examples where the color comes after the noun it modifies:

  • Rick no kuruma wa aka. (Rick's car is red.)
  • Watashi no inu wa shiro to chairo. (My dog is white and brown.)
  • Kondo jitensha o kattara ao ga ii. (The next time I buy a bicycle I want a blue one.)

Again, most of the time the color of something is mentioned in Japanese, it's after the subject or object in question, like in the above examples. When you want to put a color directly before the object, add i to aka, ao, shiro and kuro; add no — not na — to midori, murasaki, daidaiiro and nezumiiro; and you can add either i or no to kiiro and chairo:

  • Kanojo no utsukushii kuroi kami o mite. (Look at her beautiful black hair.)
  • Watashi wa shiroi kutsu o kaitai. (I want to buy some white shoes.)
  • Junko wa kiiroi kasa o motte iru. (Junko is holding a yellow umbrella.)
  • Kono akai jisho wa dare no? (Whose red dictionary is this?)
  • Kono murasaki no fuusen wa mise de moratta. (I got this purple balloon at the store.)
  • Bob wa ooki na nezumiiro no tsukue o katta. (Bob bought a big gray desk.)

Colors with i added become and behave the same as true adjectives; those with no behave like quasis.

There's a handy prefix that works especially well with three colors. It's ma, and it means "true." Note how the pronunciation changes with ma added:

  • makka: bright red
  • masshiro: pure white
  • makkuro: jet black

These are usually handled as regular quasi-adjectives, and use na before any noun they modify:

  • Ano makka na hana ga kirei desu ne. (That bright red flower is pretty, isn't it?)

And here's a useful suffix: -ppoi. It works like "-ish" in English, and comes in handy when you don't know what to call a color. All colors become true adjectives with it attached:

  • Kanojo wa midorippoi boushi o kabutte ita. (She was wearing a greenish hat.)
  • Sono kiiroppoi sushi wa mazui. (That yellowish sushi is nasty.)

By the way, you will find that the names for colors in Japanese, especially the primary ones, have a more abstract role than their English counterparts. Aka can mean anything from dark orange to copper or reddish purple; ao from green to bluish purple; and kiiro from light orange to pale yellow. In Japan, you stop when the light is aka, and go when it turns ao.

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Lesson 4
Combining Adjectives

When you need to combine two or more adjectives to describe something, just follow these rules for adjectives which are placed before other adjectives.

For true adjectives, drop the final i and add kute: akai (red) becomes akakute, ookii (big) becomes ookikute, etc.:

  • ookikute otonashii inu (a big, gentle dog)
  • akakute ookii hana (a big, red flower; a big, red nose)

You will notice that in the second example above I changed the order of the adjectives to conform with natural English. In Japanese there is no "proper order" for adjectives. When the adjectives come before the noun they describe, you start with the one you want to emphasize most. So the above example means the flower (or nose) is RED and big. Ookikute akai hana would be a BIG red flower (or nose). When speaking, you would want to say the first adjective a bit louder and more drawn out than the following one if you really mean to emphasize it.

For those wondering, yes, you can use the "quasi" form of ookii (ooki na) instead before the noun: akakute ooki na hana.

For quasi-adjectives, just change na to de:

  • kantan de benri na kamera (a simple, handy camera)
  • anzen de joubu na jitensha (a safe, sturdy bicycle)

These can be mixed with true adjectives in practically any order:

  • otonashikute kirei na inu (a gentle, beautiful dog)
  • ookikute kirei de otonashii uma (a big, beautiful, gentle horse)

The quasi forms of ookii and chiisai (ooki na, chiisa na) are not used for linking to other adjectives. Use the true forms ookikute and chiisakute.

When using contrasting adjectives use katsu or shikamo between them to convey "moreover," "yet," etc.:

  • oishikute katsu yasui shokuji (a delicious yet inexpensive meal)
  • utsukushikute shikamo yuudoku na sakana (a beautiful but poisonous fish)

When ending a phrase with an adjective before continuing on with a more complex description, replace the final i with ku in true adjectives. Quasis stay with de, as outlined above:

  • Kanojo wa utsukushikute kashikoku, shikamo shinsetsu desu. (She is beautiful and intelligent, and also very kind.)
  • Kyou no jugyou wa totemo fukuzatsu de, soshite totemo nagakatta desu. (Today's lesson was very complicated, and also very long.)

The -katta conjugation is for expressing the plain past and will be covered in Lesson 9.

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Lesson 5
Adjectives suki, kirai, hoshii, jouzu and heta

These five adjectives play by their own set of rules. Since they are used regularly, I think it would be good to get used to their weird ways as soon as possible.

Suki means "to like" and kirai means "to dislike." Yes, that's right — just as there are ideas conveyed through verbs in Japanese where adjectives would be used in English, as mentioned in Lesson 1, the reverse is also true. If you check your dictionary, you will see that both of these exist in verb form: suku and kirau; but the chances are very slim that you will ever hear them used that way. You will, however, hear them used in passive constructions, like:

  • Kazuko wa doko ni itte mo sukareru. (Kazuko is liked wherever she goes.)
  • Nattou wa takusan no hito kara kirawarete iru. (Nattou [fermented soybeans] is disliked by many people.)

For regular, straightforward talk about what you and others like and don't like, use suki and kirai in quasi-adjective form:

  • Nihon no aki ga suki. (I like autumn in Japan.)
  • Nihon no natsu wa mushiatsui kara suki dewa nai . (I don't like summers in Japan because they're hot and humid.)
  • Mina gokiburi ga kirai. (Everyone hates cockroaches.)

Note that ga is used to link suki or kirai to their object when there is no other necessary element between them.

You can put dai (a lot; very much) before suki or kirai to emphasize them:

  • Linda wa ichigo ga dai suki. (Linda loves strawberries.)
  • Beth wa kumo ga dai kirai. (Beth really hates spiders.)

When you put the object in question after suki or kirai, use the quasi indicator na:

  • Sore wa boku no suki na ongaku. (That's the music that I like.)
  • Tanaka-san wa boku no kirai na tabemono bakari tsukuru. (All the food Mrs. Tanaka makes is the stuff I don't like.)

Interestingly, and mainly colloquially, these can also be used to modify the indirect object:

  • Yasai no suki na kodomo ga sukunai. (There are few kids that like vegetables.)
  • Sashimi ga kirai na hito ga takusan imasu. (There are many people that don't like raw fish.)

While hoshii is a true adjective, it's used to represent the English verb "want." It also uses ga when following its object, but remains alone when preceding it:

  • Fuusen ga hoshii! (I want a balloon!)
  • Watashi no hoshii iro ga nai. (They don't have the color I want.)
  • Akai fuusen no hoshii kodomo ga ooi. (There are many kids who want a red balloon.)

Although hoshii isn't necessarily a kid's word, outside of familiar circles it could make you sound like one when expressing your own desires, so you'll want to be careful with it.

I should mention here that hoshii can be used with verbs in the Te Form to imply "want (someone) to...," just like -te moraitai. It's not used on yourself. It's used like this:

  • Boku wa ima kono heya o souji shitai. Soshite kimi ni tetsudatte hoshii. (I want to clean this room now, and I want you to help.)
  • Motto eigo o benkyou shite hoshii. (I want you to study English more.)
  • Kore o yonde hoshii. (I want you to read this.)

This is very plain and familiar, however. Be sure to upgrade to something like -te kudasai or -te itadakitai when necessary. (See Japanese Verbs Lessons 49 and 55.)

Like suki and kirai, jouzu and heta are quasi-adjective opposites that fill the role of ideas usually expressed by verbs in English. They also use ga before or na after in the same manner. Jouzu means "to be good at; well done," and heta means the exact opposite:

  • Kanojo wa ryouri ga jouzu desu ne. (She's a good cook, isn't she. [with falling intonation])
  • Sore wa jouzu na e. (That's a nicely done painting.)
  • Watashi wa piano ga hontou ni heta desu. (I'm really bad at playing the piano.)
  • Heta na uta! (What a poorly done song!)
  • Karaoke ga jouzu na hito ga sukunai. (There aren't many people who are good at karaoke.)

There are a few expressions with jouzu where the ga is often omitted:

  • Kare wa eigo jouzu. (He speaks English well.)
  • Sachi wa ryouri jouzu deshou? (Sachi's a great cook, isn't she?)

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Lesson 6
Adverbial Forms

Making adverbs from adjectives is quite easy. With true adjectives, just replace the final i with ku before adding the verb. With quasis, just add ni:

  • Ojii-san wa itsumo osoku taberu. (Grandpa always eats slowly.)
  • Hayaku shinasai! (Do it quickly! / Hurry up!)
  • Kazuya wa e o jouzu ni kakeru. (Kazuya can draw pictures well.)
  • Kono shigoto wa kantan ni dekiru yo. (You'll be able to do this job easily.)

The verb naru (to become) is often used with adverbs:

  • Shinpai shinaide! Dandan jouzu ni naru yo. (Don't worry! You'll gradually become better at it.)
  • Mai toshi boku no shigoto wa muzukashiku narimasu. (My job gets more difficult every year.)
  • Lisa wa kaigai kara kaeru to, itsumo byouki ni naru. (Lisa always gets sick after returning from overseas.)

Use suru with descriptive adverbs for "to make":

  • Ookiku shite kureru? (Would you make it bigger?)
  • Atatakaku shite agemashou. (I'll make it warmer for you.)
  • Watashitachi wa anzen ni shinakereba naranai. (We must make it safe. / We must do it safely.)

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Lesson 7
Conditional Forms

To make positive conditionals, replace the final i with kereba in true adjectives, and add nara to quasis:

  • Yasukereba kaimashou. (If it's inexpensive, let's buy it.)
  • Soto wa atsukereba detakunai. (I don't want to go out if it's hot outside.)
  • Inu wa byouki nara, juui ni tsurete ikou. (If the dog's sick, let's take him to the vet.)

Note: Naraba is also used after quasi-adjectives, but nara is more common.

For negative conditionals, use ku nakereba (the negative-forming ku nai + kereba) with true adjectives, and de nakereba (the negative-forming de nai + kereba) with quasis:

  • Ashita wa samuku nakereba ikimashou. (If it's not cold tomorrow, let's go.)
  • Kono pasokon ga hoshiku nakereba, betsu no mise ni ikimashou. (If you don't want this computer, let's go to another store.)
  • Mise no basho wa benri de nakereba, kyaku ga konai deshou. (If the store isn't in a convenient location, it probably won't get many customers.)

Please see Lesson 2 for more about negative structures.

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Lesson 8
The Te Form + mo

There are just two adjective "te form" endings that I hear used often enough to mention. The first is mo ii, which means "it's okay if...," and the second is mo kamawanai, a similar ending meaning "I don't mind if...."

To convert true adjectives to the "te form," remove the final i and add kute; quasis just need a de. Here are a few examples:

  • Ookikute mo ii. (If it's large that's okay.)
  • Sukoshi furukute mo ii. (It's all right if it's a little old.)
  • Kare wa heta de mo ii. (It's okay if he's not good at it.)
  • Johnson sensei wa kibishikute mo kamawanai. (I don't mind if Mr. Johnson's strict.)

Note: Sensei is the name suffix for "teacher."

  • Sono mise wa fuben de mo kamawanai no? (Don't you mind that store being inconveniently located?)

To make these polite, add desu to ii and use kamaimasen instead of kamawanai:

  • Sukoshi fuben de mo ii desu. (It's okay if it's a bit inconvenient.)
  • Soto wa samukute mo kamaimasen. (I don't mind if it's cold out.)

The negative forms of -kute mo ii and de mo ii were covered at the bottom of Lesson 2.

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Lesson 9
Plain Past

Use katta and datta to make adjectives plain and past tense. Datta is the universal plain form of deshita, and can be used at the end of many sentences to make them plain and past. Katta is for true adjectives only, however, and is added after removing the final i.

Here are a few true adjective examples:

  • Kyou wa atsukatta! (It was hot today!)
  • Suugaku no shiken wa totemo muzukashikatta. (The math test was very difficult.)
  • Kinou no ryokou wa tanoshikatta. (Yesterday's trip was fun.)

And here are some quasi examples:

  • Kinou byouki datta. (I was sick yesterday.)
  • Juu nen mae ni John wa binbou datta. (Ten years ago John was poor.)
  • Rekishi no shukudai wa kantan datta. (The history homework was easy.)

Now, having done this, you can further conjugate using the endings and combinations applicable to other plain forms, like those in Lesson 2:

  • Samukatta deshou? (It was cold, wasn't it?)
  • Chiisakatta hazu. (It was supposed to be small.)
  • Kare wa totemo ganko datta rashii. (It seems he was very stubborn.)

If you are ending a sentence with an adjective and want to make it past and polite, just add desu after katta in true adjectives, and use deshita instead of datta with quasis:

  • Kaigi wa nagakatta desu. (The meeting was long.)
  • Shokuji wa kanzen deshita. (The meal was perfect.)

Note: The adjective ii (good) is not conjugated into the past tense. Use yokatta to say that something "was good."

Finally, in case you need the plain past negative, just change the nai covered in Lesson 2 to nakatta:

  • Kinou wa atsuku nakatta. (It wasn't hot yesterday.)
  • Sore wa kantan dewa nakatta. Totemo muzukashikatta! (That wasn't easy. It was very difficult!)

To upgrade these to polite, use arimasen deshita instead of nakatta.

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Lesson 10
Adjectives with sou and sugiru

This lesson should clarify sou (I hear that [something] is [adjective]) and sou ([something] looks/sounds/seems [adjective]).

Here's how they work: Sou (I hear that [something] is [adjective]) is basically used to report hearsay or the reports of others without the involvement of your personal senses or opinion. It is added after both true and quasi-adjectives with no change to the adjective itself:

  • Ano daigaku no nyuugaku shiken wa muzukashii sou desu. (I hear that that university's entrance exam is difficult.)
  • Sono hon wa takai sou desu. (I hear that book is expensive.)
  • Ano atarashii mise no basho wa fuben sou desu. (I hear that the new store is in an inconvenient location.)

The other sou ([something] looks/sounds/seems [adjective]) is used to express your own impression of something based on hearsay, seeing a picture, etc. This one takes the place of the final i in true adjectives, and is added after quasis, just like the other sou:

  • Oishisou! (Sounds delicious! / Looks delicious!)
  • Sono jitensha wa takasou. (That bicycle looks expensive.)
  • Kare wa ganko sou na ojii-san desu ne. (He seems like a hard-headed old man, doesn't he?)

Thanks to various unwritten rules, these two sous are fairly easy to keep straight. In the first sou outlined above, sou is said without stress, in a matter-of-fact kind of way. Also, I've noticed that native speakers will usually add desu or da after it. (That's why I added desu in the examples.) The second sou is stressed and drawn out, and said with at least a little excitement if it's describing something good. It doesn't need desu or da, and is often used as a simple exclamation:

  • Tanoshisou! (Sounds fun! / Looks fun!)
  • Samusou! (Looks cold! [as one might say while watching a program about Alaska])
  • Mazusou! (Sounds nasty! [not good to eat])
  • Kantan sou! (Looks easy!)
  • Raku sou! (Looks comfortable!)

Note: The adjective yoi is an exception with this sou. You need to add sa first: yosasou (sounds good). This, by the way, is how you add sou to the negative nai as well. For example: yoi (good) + nai = yokunai (not good) + sou = yokunasasou (doesn't sound good).

Sugiru is a verb that means "to be excessive." Combined with adjectives it means "too (much of something)," and is also used a lot. It works like the second sou above, meaning it replaces the final i of true adjectives:

  • Kono o-cha wa atsusugiru! (This tea is too hot!)
  • Ano hako wa omosugiru! (That box is too heavy!)
  • Kyou no shiken wa muzukashisugita. (Today's test was too difficult.)
  • Kore wa kantan sugiru! (This is too easy!)
  • Kanojo wa kechi sugiru kara, tomodachi ga inai. (She doesn't have any friends because she's too stingy.)

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Lesson 11
Adjective Modifiers

In this last lesson we will look at the bits and pieces needed to adjust the meaning of adjectives so they convey exactly what we want. Everything here applies to both true and quasi-adjectives.


In sentences where an adjective is used to compare two things, use yori after the object which is used for comparison. Note how the compared object (underlined) sits between the subject and adjective of the main idea:

  • Ken no inu wa Shizuka no inu yori ookii. (Ken's dog is bigger than Shizuka's dog.)
  • Kyou no shiken wa kinou no yori kantan datta. (Today's exam was easier than yesterday's.)

...but how it comes before other objects which are not a part of the subject:

  • Watashi wa yakisoba yori yakimeshi ga suki. (I like fried rice more than fried noodles.)

Alternately, yori can be placed after the subject in structures that follow other finalized statements:

  • Shizuka no inu wa ookii desu ga, Ken no inu wa yori ookii. (Shizuka's dog is big, but Ken's dog is bigger.)
  • Kyou wa atsukatta kedo, ashita wa yori atsukunaru sou desu. (Today was hot, but they say it's going to be hotter tomorrow.)

Note: Mo is sometimes added to yori — yorimo. It's completely optional and does not change the meaning of the sentence.

Another popular way to compare things is to use motto, which is roughly the equivalent of "more" in English. It is placed directly before the adjective it modifies, and could be used to replace yori in the last set of examples above:

  • Shizuka no inu wa ookii desu ga, Ken no inu wa motto ookii. (Shizuka's dog is big, but Ken's dog is bigger.)
  • Kyou wa atsukatta kedo, ashita wa motto atsukunaru sou desu. (Today was hot, but they say it's going to be hotter tomorrow.)


Mottomo or the well-known ichiban (number one) can be placed before adjectives to make them superlative. Ichiban without an adjective can be used to simply mean "the best":

  • Kore wa kono mise no mottomo yasui pasokon desu. (This is the cheapest computer in this store.)
  • Sore wa boku no ichiban suki na hon desu. (That's my favorite book.)
  • Nakajima-san no ramen wa ichiban! (The ramen Ms. Nakajima makes is the best!)

Negative Comparatives and Superlatives

Negative comparatives and superlatives are not used that much in Japanese. In fact, there is no equivalent to the least. To convey something in a negative superlative way, just use an adjective with that meaning, or make the adjective negative, as in:

  • Kore wa mottomo warui. (This is the worst.)
  • Kore wa ichiban oishikunai. (This is the least delicious.)

For negative comparatives where "less" is implied, you can put hodo, which means "to the extent of," after the object of comparison. You must also make the adjective negative. Let's do this to the first two examples used in the Comparatives section above. Note how the subject and compared object change places in order to convey the same meaning:

  • Shizuka no inu wa Ken no inu hodo ookikunai. (Shizuka's dog isn't as big as Ken's dog.)
  • Kinou no shiken wa kyou no hodo kantan dewa nakatta. (Yesterday's exam wasn't as easy as today's.)

Emphasizing or De-emphasizing

There are two other handy modifiers I'll mention here because they're used a lot: toku ni and amari. Toku ni means "especially" and amari means about the opposite of that when used with a negative form of an adjective. Use them to strengthen or weaken the impact of adjectives. Here's how they are used:

  • Kyou wa toku ni isogashikatta. (Today was especially busy.)
  • Kyou wa toku ni isogashikunakatta. (Today wasn't especially busy.)
  • Ano eiga wa amari omoshirokunai. (That movie is not really that interesting.)
  • Kenji no seiseki wa toku ni warui. (Kenji's grades are particularly bad.)
  • Kyou wa amari atsukunakatta ne. (Today wasn't that hot, was it. [with dropping intonation])

Creating Nouns with sa

And another easy and convenient trick is using sa to create noun forms from adjectives. Just add it to the end of true adjectives after dropping the final i, or to quasis as-is:

  • Kare no yasashisa wa doko kara kuru deshou? (Where does his kindness come from?)
  • Kono oishisa wa sugurete iru! (This deliciousness is outstanding!)
  • Bob wa sono shiken no taisetsusa o setsumei shimashita. (Bob explained the importance of that exam.)

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