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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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