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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 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 7 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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