An Introduction to the Japanese Language

by Tomioka Nobuyuki

HOME

  1. Characters
  2. Pronunciation
  3. Word order
  4. Ellipsis
  5. Particles
  6. Verbs
  7. Adjectives
  8. Auxiliary Verbs
  9. Honorific
10. Pronouns
11. Plurals
12. Yes & No

hokusai fuji view

This page also answers the following questions and many more.

  1. Which town is called "three boxes and three lines"?   three boxes
  2. Do three trees make a forest?   mori
  3. Why did she go to the hospital to have her hair permed?   biyooin
  4. Why is a train stopping when it is standing?   tomatteiru
  5. Why can chemistry be haunting?   bakegaku
  6. Why is Nikon not Japanese?   Nikon
  7. Does a toy want you?
  8. Isn't wo pronounced wo?

Chapter 1. Characters

The Writing System of Japanese

The Roman alphabet is used in this book. In order to read or write the Japanese language, however, you need to master its original writing system.

   Three kinds of characters are used in writing Japanese, besides the Roman alphabet and Arabic numerals. They are kanji, hiragana, and katakana.
   Japanese children start with hiragana. If you master the 46 characters of hiragana and some rules to use them, you can write anything in Japanese and read easy books for children. Katakana is reserved for loanwords, foreign names, onomatopoeias, etc. In order to read newspapers and books, you must learn about 2000 kanji or more.

Kanji

Kanji were imported from China hundreds of years ago; many of them are still of the same shape as the characters used in Mandarin or standard Chinese, but they have been simplified in different ways than have their counterparts in mainland China. They also look different from those used in Hong Kong and Taiwan, which retain their old forms.
   Chinese characters are ideograms; every character has one basic and some derivative meanings. In Chinese, most of the characters have only one pronunciation, but in Japanese every kanji has more than one pronunciation, after many centuries of employment original in Japan.

Do three trees make a forest?
Mori in kanji Many of the kanji started from pictographs and are highly symbolic. The character for "ki (tree)" derives from a picture of a tree extending its boughs and roots. Groves and woods are symbolically represented by two "trees." And, yes, three "trees" are combined to form the kanji for "forest". There is a childish riddle, which goes, "Then, what do four trees stand for?" The answer is "jugle".

Which town is called "three boxes and three lines"?
Shinagawa in kanjiThe visual image of kanji will greatly help you to memorize them. For example, Shinagawa, one of the towns in Tokyo, is often remembered as "three boxes and three lines" for its presentation in kanji.
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Hiragana

hiraganaHiragana is a set of 46 syllabic characters, which derive from cursive styles of kanji. They are phonograms and have no meanings of their own. Every hiragana, which has only one sound each, represents a syllable consisting of a consonant and a vowel, except the first five for vowels and the last one which stands for syllabic "n".

What is "bakegaku"?
Japanese has many homophones, resulting from many words imported from Chinese or created in Japan by means of kanji. For example, "science" and "chemistry" are both "kagaku." They give you no problem when written in kanji, but when written in hiragana or spoken, they often tend to cause misunderstanding. That is why people often say "bakegaku" for "chemistry" using another way of reading the kanji for "ka" of "kagaku (chemistry)". "Ka" of "kagaku (science)" can also be read "shina", so that some people say "shinagaku" for "science", but this word is as rarely used as "bakegaku" often is.
   "Bake-ru" is a verb which means changing into something else, often something weird, like a ghost. "Shina" means "class" or "article". "-Gaku", meaning "learning", corresponds to the English "-ology".
   For the same reason, the word "shiritsu" may often be replaced by "watakushiritsu" to mean "run by a private body" or by "ichiritsu" to mean "run by a city": thus, "watakushiritsu no daigaku" vs. "ichiritsu no daigaku" for "shiritsu daigaku", which is either "private university" or "municipal university".    
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Katakana

Katakana, which was made by taking only a part of kanji, is also a set of 46 syllabic characters, each of which has its counterpart in hiragana. Katakana is pronounced and used in the same way as hiragana, but usually reserved for loanwords, foreign names, onomatopoeias, etc.
   Nowadays, some unique ways of using katakana have been devised so that it can stand for certain sounds which the Japanese language originally did not have. For example, the katakana for "u" with two small dots stands for the consonant "v", and the katakana for "te" with a smaller katakana for "i" represents the sound for the English word "tea".

Why is the United States called a "rice country"?
The United States is usually called "Amerika" in Japan but sometimes also "beikoku," from its presentation in kanji. The first part "bei" is the kanji for "rice (kome)", the latter representing "country (kuni)", so that the kanji for "beikoku" looks like "rice country (kome no kuni)".
   "Beikoku" is an abbreviated form of "Amerikakoku" as it was written in kanji in the Edo Era.

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Chapter 2. Pronunciation

The romanization used in this book is based on the Hepburn system, with some modifications.

2.1 Vowels

The Japanese language has only five vowels, a, i, u, e and o, which are pronounced mostly like those of Spanish or Latin.

Long and short vowels are clearly distinguished.

Short Vowels

a

like the vowel of British "hut" or American "hot"

i

like the vowel of "beat" The vowel of "bit" sounds more like "e" to the Japanese ear.

u

like the vowel of "boot", but lips are less rounded.

e

like the vowel of "end"

o

like the vowel of "oak," but not so much rounded

Why is Nikon not Japanese?
As everyone knows, Nikon is the world-famous camera, produced by Nikon Corporation, Japanese optical industry company whose original name was Nippon Kogaku Co., Ltd. In Japan, this camera has been, and still is, known as "ni-ko-n". The way English speakers pronounce its name, it would be taken for "nigh con" or "na-i-ko-n" and not be recognized by most Japanese.
   Another Japanese export "karate" should be pronounced "ka-ra-te" and not like "kuraatii" as it will sound when pronounced in an English context.    
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Long Vowels

Long vowels cover two syllables and retain the same quality all the way. Japanese has no diphthongs or no such glides as are found in "ou" in "soul" or "ei" in "rein".
In the Hepburn system of romanization, long vowels are usually marked with horizontal bars over the letters. In this book, however, a, i, and u are doubled for long vowels, like aa, ii, and uu, while a long e is written ei or ee and a long o is written ou or oo, according to the way hiragana is used.

aa

like the vowel of "father"

ii

like the vowel of "bead"

uu

like the vowel of "ooze", lips not rounded

ei, ee

like the vowel of French "Seine", rarely like the English diphthong in "sane"

ou, oo

like the vowel of French "eau", but unrounded. It is rarely like the English diphthong in "home".

Why did your landlady look angry when you just tried to be friendly?
English-speaking people will have some difficulty in distinguishing between "obasan (aunt or elderly lady)" and "obaasan (grandmother or old lady)". In English the length of vowels is not the distinctive feature of different words, so they tend to let stressed vowels sound longer than the unstressed, at least to the Japanese ear. You can say "obasan", calling not only to your aunt but also to a woman of your mother's age, if you are on first-name terms with her. However, you should be very careful not to call her "grandmother" even if you feel inclined to.    back to Q list

The length of vowels is a distinctive feature.

For example:

obaasan (grandmother, old woman)

cf. obasan (aunt)

ojiisan (grandfather, old man)

cf. ojisan (uncle)

yuukai (kidnapping)

cf. yukai (enjoyable)

seikai (political world or correct answer)

cf. sekai (world)

souri (prime minister)

cf. sori (sleigh)

ei and ee

The combination "ei" or "ee" represents the same sound, the long or double "e". It is never the vowel of "seize" or "seed". Neither is it supposed to be the slide you find in "saint", even though you sometimes hear Japanese intentionally pronounce it like "e-i", in order to let you clearly catch a certain word. Some Japanese may even insist they should and do pronounce it "e-i", but actually they don't do that in their normal conversation. It covers two syllables which retain the same "e" quality.

The only exception is "ei (ray as a fish)", in which two syllables are pronounced distinctively, like "e-i".

In hiragana, all long "e"s are written "ei", except "neesan (big sister)". Thus:
"seikai" (political world, correct answer) is pronounced in the same way as "seekai" would. "eigo" (the English language) is pronounced as "eego" would.

ou and oo

The combination "ou" or "oo" represents the same sound, the long or double "o". It is not the diphthong you find in "soul" or "brooch". It covers two syllables which retain the same "o" quality.

ou ( king )

pronounced "o-o"

Toukyou ( Tokyo )

pronounced "to-o-kyo-o"

souri ( prime minister )

pronounced "so-o-ri"

In hiragana, most long "o"s are written with "ou", with a few exceptions as follows:

    tooi ( far away )
    ookii (big, large)
    ooi ( many, a lot)
    koori (ice )
    ookami (wolf )
    too (ten )
    tooru ( to pass)
    oou ( to cover )     etc.

"Oui" ( throne, kingship ) is pronounced in the same way as "ooi" (many), that is to say, like "o-o-i".
"Toui" (the circumference of a head) is pronounced in the same way as "tooi"(far), only with a difference in accent (which will be explained later).

Other combinations of vowels

Any other combination of vowels represents just so many syllables, each of which should be distinctively pronounced. It should be noted again that there are no diphthongs or triphthongs in the Japanese language.

For example

aienka (tobacco lover)

a-i-e-n-ka (five syllables). Not "eye inker" or "a yen car"

ie o uru (to sell a house)

i-e-o-u-ru (five syllables). Not "yeah oh roo"

o-ushi ( bull )

o-u-shi

Is "koushi" different from "koushi"?
You need to be careful about the last example, in which the compound happens to contain the combination "ou", which does not constitute a long "o" but is pronounced separately. In the same way, "ko-ushi (baby bull or cow)" must be strictly distinguished from "koushi (checkers, grid)" which is pronounced "ko-o-shi". Compounds are identified by hyphens in this book, but hyphens are not used in the Japanese writing system, so that in hiragana "ko-ushi" and "koushi" are written in the same way.

Beware of beauty parlors.
When English-speaking people say the word "biyooin (beauty parlor)", they tend to pronounce the first vowel "i" too fast and too lightly, so that the word sounds to the Japanese ear quite like "byooin (hostpital)". You may be asked what is wrong with you when you just mean you are going to a beauty parlor.    
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2.2 Consonants

The consonant "f"

In the Hepburn system of romanization, the letter "f" is used only before the vowel "u". It does not represent the labiodental fricative as it does in Englishs, but the bilabial fricative. It is like "wh" in "what", as some people pronounce it, not as "wat" or "hwat". It is produced by exhaling through rounded lips as if you blowed out a candle.

    In Japanese, there is no "f" sound as it is used in English. There is no "h" sound before the vowel "u" as it is used in English "who", either. The romanized Japanese "fuudo" can mean not only "hood" as in "fuudo no tsuita oobaa"( an overcoat with a hood), but also "food" as in "doggu fuudo" (dog food).

    Many Japanese say "fuirumu" and "fuan" using the bilabial fricative described above, meaning "film" and "fan" respectively. Some people, trying to pronounce them more like English, may say "firumu" and "fan", but you should note that the f's here are still the bilabial fricative described above, not the English "f".

The Syllabic Consonant "n"

The consonant "n", with no vowels attached to it, occupies one syllable. The beginners may pronounce this syllabic "n" like the English "n". Phonetically speaking, however, it represents several sounds, such as "n", "m", "ng", etc., affected by the following sounds.

When followed by "p", "b" or "m", it represents "m" sounds. For example, "kanmuri (crown)" is pronounce "kam-muri", "kanban (sign)" like "kam-bang", "kenpou (constitution)" like "kem-pou".

Unlike the English "n", it does not give "n" sound to a word beginning with a vowel, as in "an apple" being pronounced like "an napple". English speaking people should be careful not to pronounce a phrase "hon o uru ( to sell books)," for example, like "hon no uru".

An apostrophe is used, in this book, between the syllabic "n" and the following vowel when it happens in a word. For example, "han'ei" (prosperity) should not be pronounced like "hanei" or "hannei". Strictly speaking, it is pronounced like "haãei" ("ã" representing the nasalized "a" in French "blanc") or "hang-ei".

For example:
    an'i (easy, simplistic)     cf. ani (big brother)
    tan'i (unit)     cf. tani (valley)
    nan'i (south latitude)     cf. nani (what)

Double consonants

Why did you get some butter when you meant a "batter"?
The first letter of double consonants represents one syllable.
So "rannaa" (runner) has four syllables (ra-n-na-a), although the English word "runner" has just two (run-ner). "Battaa" (batter) is distinguished from "bataa" (butter) only by the syllable put between "ba" and "ta". You should also be careful not to prolong the vowel of "ba" only to obtain "baataa" (barter) instead.

For example:
    kanna (carpenter's plane)
    konma (comma)
    kassai (applause)
    bosshuu ( confiscation)
    sakka (author)     cf. saka (slope)
    suppai (sour)     cf. supai ( spy )


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Chapter 3. Word Order

The standard word order of the Japanese language is SOV: the subject comes first, the object second, and the verb at the end.

Watashi wa hon o yomi masu.     ( I read books.)

Words:
watashi ( I, me ); wa (a particle or postposition to indicate the topic); hon (book); o (a particle or postposition to indicate the object of a verb); yomi masu (to read, a polite form).

To be more precise:

The predicate comes at the end of the sentence, preceded by other elements of the sentence, such as the topic, the subject, the object, etc., unless they are understood.
   The predicate contains either a verb, an adjective or an auxilliary verb of statement.

Watashi wa Toukyou ni sunde i masu.

( I live in Tokyo.)

Watashi wa kaishain desu.

( I am a company employee. )

Watashi wa mainichi isogashii.

( I am busy every day. )

Watashi wa mainichi isogashii desu.

( I am busy every day. [a polite form])

Words:
Toukyou (Tokyo); ni (a particle or postposition that stands for in, at, or to); sunde i masu (live, be living [a polite form]); kaishain (company employee); desu ( to be [an auxiliary verb of statement, a polite form]); mainichi (every day); isogashii (busy [adjective]).

The modifier precedes the modified.

Watashi wa atarashii hon o yomi masu.

( I read new books.)

Watashi wa bijinesu no hon o yomi masu.

( I read books on business.)

Watashi wa wakai kaishain desu.

( I am a young company employee.)

Watashi wa Toukyou ni sunde iru kaishain desu.

( I am a company employee living in Tokyo.)

Watashi wa mainichi kaisha de isshoukenmei hataraite i masu.

( I work diligently in the office every day.)

Words:
atarashii (new); bijinesu no (of business, on business); wakai (young); sunde iru (living, who lives [adjectival form]); kaisha de (in the office, in a firm); de ( in, at, on [particle or postposition]); isshoukenmei (diligently, hard); hataraite i masu ( work, be working [polite form])

Nouns are preceded by their adjective clauses.
There are no relative pronouns or adverbs.

Watashi no kaisha wa Toukyou ni ari masu.

( My company is situated in Tokyo.)

Watashi wa Toukyou ni aru kaisha de hataraite i masu.

( I work for a company that is situated in Tokyo.)

Watashi ga hataraite iru kaisha wa Toukyou ni ari masu.

( The company for which I work is in Tokyo.)

Watashi wa kaisha ga aru Toukyou ni sunde i masu.

( I live in Tokyo, where my company is situated.)

Watashi no kaisha ga aru Toukyou wa nihon no shuto desu.

( Tokyo, where my company is situated, is the capital of Japan.)

Words:
watashi no (my); no (of [particle or postposition]); ari masu ( exist, be situated [polite form]); aru ( existing, situated [adjectival form]); ga ( particle or preposition to indicate the subject of the predicate); hataraite iru (working [adjectival form]); nihon (Japan); shuto (capital city).

The word order is not changed for questions.

The particle ka, put at the end of the sentence, makes questions.
Interrogatives do not necessarily come at the head of sentences.

Jon wa koohii o nomi masu ka.

( Does John drink coffee?)

Jon wa nani o nomi masu ka.

( What does John drink?)

Jon wa kaishain desu ka.

( Is John a company employee?)

Jon wa doko ni sunde i masu ka.

( Where does John live?)

Dare ga Toukyou ni sunde i masu ka.

( Who lives in Tokyo?)

Are wa dare desu ka.

( Who is that?)

Are wa Jon desu ka.

( Is that John?)

Words:
koohii (coffee); nomi masu ( drink [polite form]); nani ( what ); doko ( where ); dare ( who ); ga ( the particle to indicate the subject );

Adverbs of time often come at the head of sentences
without causing any difference in meaning.

Mainichi watashi wa kaisha de isshoukenmei hataraite i masu.
Watashi wa mainichi kaisha de isshoukenmei hataraite i masu.

( I work diligently in the office every day.)

Kyou watashi wa Toukyou ni iki masu.
Watashi wa kyou Toukyou ni iki masu.

( I will go to Tokyo today.)

Kinou watashi wa Toukyou ni iki mashita.
Watashi wa kinou Toukyou ni iki mashita.

( I went to Tokyo yesterday.)

Words:
mainichi (every day ); kaisha de (in the office, in a firm); de ( in, at, on [particle or postposition]); isshoukenmei (diligently, hard); hataraite i masu ( work, be working [polite form]); kyou (today); ni (to, in, at [particle or postposition]); iki masu (go, will go [polite form]); kinou (yesterday); iki mashita (went [polite form])

The topic comes at the head of sentences.

You put something you want to talk about at the head of sentences, marking it with the particle wa. This particle shows you have picked up something particularly to talk about or compare with something else.

Toukyou ni wa takusan no gaikokujin ga sunde i masu.

( In Tokyo, there are a lot of foreigners.)

Mekishiko de wa supeingo o hanashite i masu.

( In Mexico, Spanish is spoken.)

Kitte wa ano mise de utte i masu.

( Postage stamps are sold at that store.)

Words:
takusan no ( many ); gaikokujin ( foreigner ); Mekishiko ( Mexico ); supeingo ( the Spanish language ); o ( the particle to indicate the object of a verb ); hanashite i masu ( speak, be speaking [polite form]); kitte ( popstage stamp ); ano ( that ); mise ( store ); utte i masu ( sell, be selling [polite form] ).

The word order is less fixed than in English.

In English, the word order is very much fixed, because it decides the roles words are to play in sentences.

      Mark loves Julia.
      Julia loves Mark.

In some other languages, however, words change their forms in order to show what roles they play. In Latin, for example, you can tell what roles they play just by seeing their forms. So the word order is quite free.

      Marcus amat Juliam.     ( Mark loves Julia.)
      Juliam amat Marcus.     ( ditto. )
      Marcus Juliam amat.     ( ditto. )
      Juliam Marcus amat.     ( ditto. )
      Amat Juliam Marcus.    ( ditto. )
      Marcum amat Julia.      ( Julia loves Mark.)

In Japanese, particles indicate the roles of nouns, so that the word order can be more flexible than in English, though less so than in Latin.

      Maaku wa Juria o aishite i masu.     ( Mark loves Julia. )
      Juria o Maaku wa aishite i masu.     ( ditto. )
      Juria o aishite i masu Maaku wa.     ( ditto. )
      Maaku wa aishite i masu Juria o.     ( ditto. )

Of the four sentences above, the first is the usual order. The second can be used when the stress falls on "Julia". The third can also be used colloquially, with "Julia" emphasized. The fourth is possible and understandable as colloquialism, but rare.

"John gave his son a lion." can be said in the following ways.

      Jon wa musuko ni raion o atae mashi ta.
      Jon wa raion o musuko ni atae mashi ta.

The former is in the usual word order. In the latter, a little emphasis is put on "lion". As with the Mark-loves-Julia sentences, the other orders are possible with their respective nuances and colloquialness.

Words:
musuko ( son ); ni ( to, in, at [particle or postposition ]); raion ( lion ); o ( particle to indicate the object of the verb ); atae mashi ta ( gave [polite form]).


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Chapter 4. Ellipsis

The subject and/or the object can be understood.

As you see in the following conversation between two people, the subject and/or the object the sentence are very often understood. In other words, personal pronouns are usually omitted.

Watashi wa Amerikajin de wa ari masen.     Kanadajin desu
        ( I'm not an American, but a Canadian. )
        Watashi wa is understood in the second sentence,
        though it is not the subject but the topic, strictly speaking.
        The subject is always omitted if it is the same as the aforesaid topic.

Koocha wa nomi masu ka.
        ( Do you drink tea? Literally: As for tea, drink it? )
       The subject you is understood, for it is evident from the context.
       The object tea or it is omitted because it is the same as the topic.
       The second person pronoun is usually omitted. ( See Honorific.)

Kanai wa nomi masu ga watashi wa nomi masen.
        ( My wife does, but I don't.    Literally,
            As for my wife, drink, but as for me, don't drink.)
       The object tea or it is omitted because it is evident from the context.

Words:
wa ( the particle to indicate the topic of the sentence); Amerikajin (an American); de wa ari masen (the negative form of desu); Kanadajin ( a Canadian); koocha ( black tea ); kanai ( my wife ); ga ( but [conjunction]); masen ( the negative form of masu ).

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Chapter 5. Particles

Some particles, attached to nouns, indicate the roles played by those nouns in certain sentences, and other particles, put at the end of sentences, show the speaker's attitude toward those sentences.

5.1.1 The particle wa indicates the topic of the sentence.

The subject of the sentence very often, though not necessarily, coincides with the topic.

Watashi no kaisha wa Toukyou ni ari masu.

( My company is situated in Tokyo.)

Toukyou ni wa takusan no kaisha ga ari masu.

( In Tokyo, there are a lot of companies.)

Watashi wa yuugata goji made hataraki masu.

( I work till 5 in the evening.)

Watashi wa getsuyoubi ga yasumi desu.

( As for me, Mondays are my days off.)

Words:
watashi no (my); kaisha ( company, firm, office ); ni ( in, at, to [particle or postposition]); ari masu ( exist, is situated [polite form]); takusan no ( many ); yuugata ( early evening ); goji ( five o'clock ); made ( till, to ); hataraki masu ( work [polite form]); getsuyoubi ( Monday ); ga ( particle to indicate the subject ); yasumi ( day off, holiday ); desu ( is [auxiliary verb of statement] ).

5.1.2 The particle wa highlights a certain word of phrase.

It often, though not necessarily, implies comparison with something else.

Kaisha wa mainichi iki masu ka.

( Do you go to work every day.)

Mainichi wa iki masaen.

( I don't go to work every day.)

Getsuyoubi kara kin'youbi wa iki masu ga
doyoubi to nichiyoubi wa iki masen.

( I go to work from Monday through Friday,
but not on Saturday and Sunday.)

Kyou wa ii nekutai o shite i masu ne.

( You are wearing a nice necktie today.)

Kyou wa desu ka.

( You mean today and not on any other day?)

Words:
mainichi ( every day ); iki masu ( go [polite form]); ka ( particle to make interrogative sentences ); iki masen ( do not go [polite form]); kara ( from ); kin'youbi ( Friday ); made ( till, to ); ga ( but ); doyoubi ( Saturday ); to ( and ); nichiyoubi ( Sunday ); kyou ( today ); ii ( nice, good ); nekutai ( necktie ); o ( particle to indicate the object ); shite i masu ( be doing, be wearing [polite form]); ne ( particle to show that the speaker takes it for granted that the other will agree to him.); desu ( is [auxiliary verb of statement] ).

5.2 The particle ga indicates the subject of a sentence.

It combines the subject and the predicate to produce a clause, which in its turn introduces new information or serves as an adjectival clause.

5.2.1 A whole sentence as new information

Tori ga tonde i masu.

( There is a bird flying.)

Mite kudasai. Hoshi ga tottemo kirei desu.

( Look. The stars are so beautiful.)

Watashi no oji ga Toukyou ni sunde i masu.

( I have an uncle living in Tokyo. )

Words:
tori ( bird ); tonde i masu ( be flying [polite form]); mite kudasai ( Look. [polite form]); hishi ( star ); tottemo ( so, very [emphatic form of totemo]); kirei ( pretty, beautiful ); oji ( uncle ); sunde i masu ( live, be living [polite form] ).

5.2.2 A predicate as new information

In the above examples, the sentences as a whole introduce new pieces of information, while in the sentences below it is only the predicative parts that present new information, the particle wa taking up as a topic what is already mutually known.

Tori wa tonde i masu.

( The bird is flying.)

Hoshi wa tottemo kirei desu.

( The stars are very beautiful.)

Watashi no oji wa Toukyou ni sunde i masu.

( My uncle lives in Tokyo. )

Compare the following sentences.

Toukyou ni wa watashi no oji ga sunde i masu.

( In Tokyo, my uncle lives there.)

Watashi no oji wa Toukyou ni sunde i masu.

( My uncle lives in Tokyo.)

The first sentence means something like "Talking of Tokyo, my uncle lives there." It is used when Tokyo has already been mentioned and a new piece of information is given in relation to it, the clause "watashi no oji ga sunde i masu" as a whole represents new information. In the second sentence, however, only the predicate part "Toukyou ni sune i masu" is new information.

5.2.3 Used in Adjectival Clauses

Fuyu wa hoshi ga kirei desu.

( In winter, the stars are very beautiful. )

Hoshi ga kireina yoru wa totemo samui desu.

( Nights when the stars are beautiful are very cold. )

Watashi no oba wa me ga aoi desu.

( As for my aunt, the eyes are blue.
My aunt has blue eyes.)

Me ga aoi josei wa watashi no oba desu.

( The lady of whom the eyes are blue is my aunt.
The lady with blue eyes is my aunt.)

Toukyou wa watashi no oji ga sunde i masu.

( Talking of Tokyo, my uncle lives there. )

Watashi no oji ga sunde iru Toukyou wa nihon no shuto desu.

( Tokyo, where my uncle lives, is the capital of Japan.

Words:
fuyu ( winter ); kirei ( pretty, beautiful); kireina ( pretty, beautiful [attributive form]); yoru ( night, evening ); samui ( cold ); oba ( aunt ); me ( eye ); aoi ( blue ); josei ( woman [polite word]); sunde iru ( live, be living [adjectival form]); nihon no ( of Japan ); shuto ( capital ).

No relatives

In the first and the third examples, such clauses as "hoshi ga kirei desu" and "me ga aoi desu" serve as adjectival ones in predicative use.
   In the second and the fourth, the same clause, in their attributive use, will look more like attributive clauses.   There is no relative pronouns or adverbs, in place of which are used adjectival forms of verbs or attributive forms of adjectives.

5.3 The particle o indicates the object of a verb.

Watashi wa koohii o nomi masu.

( I drink coffee.)

Jon wa hon o yomi masu.

( John reads books.)

Words:
hon (book); yomi masu ( read [polite form]).

The particle o is replaced by wa when the object is taken up as the topic.

Jon wa koohii o nomi masu ka.

( Does John drink coffee?)

Iie koohii wa nomi masen.

( No, he doesn't drink coffee.)

Gyuunyuu wa yomi masu ga koohii wa nomi masen.

( He drinks milk, but not coffee.)

Words:
ka (particle to make questions); iie (no; I don't agree with you.); nomi masen ( negative form of nomi masu ); gyuunyuu ( milk ); ga ( buta [conjunctive particle])

Some verbs, unlike their counterparts in English, do not take objects.

Watashi wa Jon ni ai mashita.

( I met John.)

Watashi wa Jon ni tazune mashita.

( I asked John.)

Words:
ni ( to, in, at [particle]); ai mashita ( met [past form of ai masu]); tazune mashita ( asked [past form of tazune masu]).

Some intransitive verbs do take "objects".

Nouns, with o suffixed to them, may indicate places where certain actions are made.

Tori wa sora o tobi masu.

( Birds fly in the sky.)

Watashitachi wa sono toori aruki mashita.

( We walked along that street.)

Words:
tori ( bird ); sora ( sky ); tobi masu ( fly [polite form] ); sono ( that ); toori ( street ); aruki mashita ( walked [past form of aruki masu])

5.6.ni, de and e

The particle ni indicates the place where someone or something exists, like the English prepositions in, at, and on, but not the place where any action is made.

It also indicates the place to which someone or something moves.

Jon wa Toukyou ni i masu.

( John is in Tokyo.)

John wa hoteru ni tomatte i masu.

( John is staying at a hotel.)

Sono hoteru wa ano shima ni ari masu.

( The hotel is on that island.)

Watashi wa kyou ano shima ni iki masu.

( I will go to that island today.)

Watashi wa Jon ni tegami o kaki mashita.

( I wrote to John.)

Words:
i masu ( be, be staying [polite form]); hoteru ( hotel ); tomatte i masu ( be putting up ); sono ( that ); ano ( that ); shima ( island ); ari masu ( be, exist [polite form] ); kyou ( today ); iki masu ( go [polite form] ); tegami ( letter ); kaki mashita ( wrote [past form of kaki masu]).

The particle de indicates the place where certain actions are made.

Jon wa Toukyou de hataraite i masu.

( John is working in Tokyo.)

John wa hoteru de choushoku o totte i masu.

( John is taking breakfast at the hotel.)

Watashi wa kyou ano shima de Jon ni ai masu.

( I will see John on that island.)

Words:
hataraite i masu ( work, be working [polite form]); choushoku ( breakfast ); totte i masu ( be taking [polite form]); ai masu ( meet, see [polite form]).

The particle e indicates the place to which someone or something moves.

It is interchangeable with ni, unless it is followed by another particle no to form an adjectival phrase. You cannot replace the e in the third and the fourth sentences below.

Watashi wa kyou ano shima e iki masu.

( I will go to that island today.)

Watashi wa Jon e tegami o kaki mashita.

( I wrote to John.)

Kore wa ano shima e no fune desu.

( This is a boat going to that island.)

Kore wa Jon e no tegami desu.

( This is a letter to John.)

5.7. ka

dareka,dokoka,nanika, ikutsuka

5.8. ne and yo


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Chapter 6. Verbs

Cardinal forms of verbs, which you find among headwords of dictionaries, all end with -u.
Verbs are divided into five types according to the way they are conjugated.

  1. kuru ( to come )
  2. suru ( to do ) and compound verbs that end with suru.
  3. aru ( to exist )
  4. all verbs which end with -iru or -eru, except a few which belong to Type 5.
  5. all verbs which end with -u, except those belong to Types 1 to 4.

Notes:
1.  There is another kuru, which means to draw near or wind ( rope, cord, string, line, etc.) or turn (pages). It is a Type 5 verb. Being archaic, it is often replaced by taguru for drawing near or mekuru for turning pages.
2.  Kanzuru (to perceive) belongs to Type 2, but in colloquialism it has been replaced by kanjiru, which belongs to Type 4.
3.  There is another suru, which means to strike ( a match ), pick ( a pocket ) and lose ( money in betting ). It is a Type 5 verb.
4.  Aru is a Type 5 verb, except that the negative form is irregular.
5.   Iru, which means to stay or exist, and eru, which means to obtain, belong to Type 3, while the iru, which means to need, and the eru, which means to select, belong to Type 5.
6.  There is another iru, which belongs to Type 3. It means to shoot (an arrow).

The table below shows how verbs are conjugated to take certain roles or go along with certain auxiliaries or particles. The parenthesized parts are respectively -nai (auxiliary to make negative forms), -masu ( auxiliary to make polite forms ), -ba ( particle to make suppositional forms ), -u ( auxiliary to make intentional forms ).

cardinal

negative

polite

suppositional

imperative

intentional

1.

kuru

ko(nai)

ki(masu)

kure(ba)

koi

koyo(u)

2.

suru

shi(nai)

shi(masu)

sure(ba)

shiro

shiyo(u)

3.

aru

nai

ari(masu)

are(ba)

are

aro(u)

4i.

-iru

-i(nai)

-i(masu)

-ire(ba)

-iro

-iyo(u)

4e.

-eru

-e(nai)

-e(masu)

-ere(ba)

-ero

-eyo(u)

5.

-u

-a(nai) or
-wa(nai)

-i(masu)

-e(ba)

-e

-o(u)

Notes:
1.  Note that all the five vowels appear in the endings of Type 5 verbs.
2.  The negative form of those Type 5 verbs whose stems end with a vowel appears as -wanai. For example, the negative form of omou (to think) is omowanai. These verbs used to have -f at the end of their stems, which they have either changed to -w, assimilated to other consonants, or just lost, as time went by.

  omowanai < omofanai < omofu (to think) + nai
  omotta (past form) < omofta < omofitari < omofu + tari
  omoeba < omofeba < omofu + ba


Cardinal forms have no tense of their own.

Cardinal forms are something like infinitives of the imperfect aspect, except when they are used as predicate verbs of the main clauses, in which case they represent the present or the future tense.

eiga o miru

( to see a movie)

Jon wa mainichi eiga o miru.

( John sees a movie every day. )

Jon wa ashita eiga o miru.

( John will see a movie tomorrow. )

Jon wa mainichi eiga o miru to ii mashita.

( John said that he saw a movie every day.)

Jon wa ashita eiga o miru to ii mashita.

( John said that he would see a movie tomorrow.)

Note:
The sequense of tenses does not happen in the Japanese language.

Words:
eiga (movie); miru ( see, look, watch ); to ( particle of quotation, which corresponds to that); ii mashita (polite past form of iu); iu (say).

As predicate verbs of the main clauses, they are commonly used in newspapers, novels, or personal journals, while in casual and non-polite conversation they are usually accompanied by certain particles.

Wareware ga shinjitsu o kaku.

( We will write the truth. [by newspapers])

Ore ga hontou no koto o kaku (yo).

( I'll write the truth. [ by men ])

Atashi ga hontou no koto o kaku (wa).

( I'll write the truth. [by women] )

Words:
wareware ( we [formal, bookish, proud, imposing] ); shinjitsu ( truth [formal, bookish]; hontou no koto ( truth [collofquial]); kaku ( to write ); ore ( I [only used by men and boys, non-polite, can be impolite]); atashi ( I [only used by women and girls [ casual, non-polite]); yo ( particle to imply that the speaker takes it for granted that the other will agree ); wa ( particle of statement [only used by women and girls]).

Cardinal forms, accompanied by the particle to or ka, can form quotations or indirect questions

Jon wa hontou no koto o kaku to ii mashita.

( John said that he would write the truth.)

Watashi wa John ni hontou no koto o kaku ka tazune mashita.

( I asked John if he would write the truth.)

In order to make indirect questions, ka is very often followed by dou ka ( something like or not) or dou ka to.

Watashi wa John ni hontou no koto o kaku ka dou ka tazune mashita.

( I asked John if he would write the truth.)

Watashi wa John ni hontou no koto o kaku ka dou ka to tazune mashita.

( I asked John if he would write the truth.)

Words:
to ( the particle of quotation ); ii mashita ( said [past form of ii masu]); tazune mashita ( asked [past form of tazune masu]).

Cardinal forms are also used in adjectival clauses.

In ancient Japanese, cardinal and adjectival forms used to be different, but now they have merged into one and the same. So far as adjectival forms of verbs are concerned, therefore, the word order is very important.

hon o yomu

( to read books )

yomu hon

( books to read, books someone reads )

hito wa yomu

( People read.)

yomu hito

( people who read )

Jon ga kaku kiji wa omoshiroi desu.

( Articles John writes are interesting.)

Watashi wa Toukyou ni aru kaisha de hataraite i masu.

( I work for a company that is situated in Tokyo.)

Watashi ga hataraite iru kaisha wa Toukyou ni ari masu.

( The company for which I work is in Tokyo.)

Words:
kaku ( write [ adjectival form]); kiji ( [newspaper] article ); omoshiroi ( interesting, amusing ); desu ( auxiliary of statement ); aru ( to exist [cardinal form, adjectival form]); ari masu ( exist, be situated [polite form]); hataraite iru (working [adjectival form]); hataraite i masu ( be working [polite form]); iru ( to stay [cardinal or adjectival form]); i masu ( stay, be [polite form]); nihon (Japan); shuto (capital city).

Cardinal negative forms

  1. shinai ( not to do )
  2. konai ( not to come )
  3. nai ( not to exist )
  4. -inai, -enai
  5. -anai

Cardinal negative forms are used in the same way as cardinal forms, that is to say for statements, quotations, indirect questions, and adjectival clauses.

Cardinal perfect forms

The cardinal perfect form of Japanese is commonly called the past form, because it often represents the past tense and there is no other form to represent the past.

The cardinal perfect form derives from the ancient perfect form, which was obtained by applying tari, an auxiliary of the perfect, to any verb. As time went on, the tari, changing to ta, came to represent not only the perfect but also the past tense, replacing ki, the auxiliary of the past. It has also undergone some change in pronunciation as it has been used with certain verbs, which are labeled in this book as Type 3 and Type 5 verbs.

yonda < yomdari < yomtari < yomi tari < yomu (to read) + tari
satta < sattari < sartari < sari tari < saru (to leave) + tari

Cardinal perfect forms are obtained by replacing -masu of polite forms with -ta, except with Type 3 aru and most of the Type 5 verbs.

  verb type

cardinal

polite form

past form

  Type 1

kuru (to come)

kimasu

kita

  Type 2

suru (to do)

shimasu

shita

  Type 3

aru (to exist)

arimasu

atta

  Type 4

-iru
-eru

-imasu
-emasu

-ita
-eta

Cardinal perfect forms of Type 5 verbs

stem ending with

cardinal

polite form

past form

  -s

kesu (to erase)

keshimasu

keshita

  -k    except   iku

naku (to cry)

nakimasu

naita

  -g

oyogu (to swim)

oyogimasu

oyoida

-b, -m, -n

tobu (to fly)
yomu (to fly)
shinu (to die)

tobimasu
yomimasu
shinimasu

tonda
yonda
shinda

-ts, -r, -vowel

  and   iku

utsu (to hit)
hashiru (to run)
warau (to laugh)
iku (to go)

uchimasu
hashirimasu
waraimasu
ikimasu

utta
hashitta
waratta
itta

Notes:
1.  Type 5 verbs with their stems ending with -s are regular. Their past forms are obtained just by replacing -masu of polite forms with -ta.
2.  Those with -k or -g at the end of their stems lose those consonants when -masu is replaced with -ta or -da, respectively. Iku (to go) is an exception, and becomes itta, not *iita.
3.  Those with -b, -m, -n at the end of their stems change those consonants to -n and lose the following vowel i when -masu is replaced with -da.
4.  Those with -ts, -r, or -vowel ( namely, no consonants ) at the end of their stems lose those consonants and the following vowel i when -masu is replaced with -tta.

Cardinal perfect forms are used in the same way as cardinal forms, that is to say for statements, quotations, indirect questions, and adjectival clauses.

Note that the perfect forms, though often called the past form because its usage in the past tense is prominent among others, is in origin and essence the perfect.

Examples:

eiga o mita

( to have seen a movie)

Jon wa kinou eiga o mita.

( John saw a movie yesterday. )

Jon wa maenohi ni eiga o mita to ii mashita.

( John said that he had seen a movie the day before. )

Sono eiga o mita hito wa mina kangeki shi mashita.

( The people who saw the movie were all moved.)

Watashi wa onaka ga suita wa.

( I am hungry.)

Eiga o mita ra sugu shokuji o shiyou.

( Let's have a meal as soon as we have seen the movie.)

Notes:
1.  As seen in the third and the last example, the past form stands for the perfect aspect. Note again that there is no sequence of tenses in the Japanese language.
2.  In the last example but one, onaka ga suita, which comes from onaka ga suku (to get hungry), literally means have gotten hungry.

Words:
eiga ( movie, film ); mita ( < miru: to see, look, watch ); maenohi ni ( on the previous day ); mashita ( past form of masu ); sono ( that ); hito ( people, person ); mina ( all ); kangeki suru ( to be moved ); onaka ga suku ( to get hungry ); wa ( particle of statement, used by women ); ra sugu ( as soon as ); shokuji ( meal ); shiyou ( let's do ):

The perfect form shows that an action has just begun.

You also use the cardinal perfect form when you mention an action just begun the moment you notice it.

Basu ga kita!

( Here comes the bus!  or  The bus is coming! )

Shabetta!

( The baby is speaking!
  [the moment you hear a baby speak] )

Aruita!

( The baby is walking!
  [the moment you see a baby begin to walk] )

Ugoita!

( Now it's moving!
  [the moment something heavy you've been pushing has finally begun to move] )

Oyu ga waita!

( The water is boiling!
  [the moment you notice the water is boiling] )

te-forms

The te-form is the adverbial perfect form of verbs.

Practically, it may be called the adverbial form of the cardinal perfect form, though strictly speaking it was the cardinal perfect form that was made from the te-form, for the ancient perfect form with tari at its end had been made from the te-form plus ari, the ancient form of aru ( to exist or stand in a certain state ).

kita ( to have come ) < kitari < kite ari ( kite being the te-form of kuru )

Te-forms are obtained by replacing the last vowel -a of perfect forms with -e.

verb type

cardinal form

perfect form

te-form

  Type 1

kuru (to come)

kita

kite

  Type 2

suru (to do)

shita

shite

  Type 3

aru (to exist)

atta

atte

  Type 4

-iru
-eru

-ita
-eta

-ite
-ete

  Type 5

naku (to cry)
oyogu (to swim)
tobu (to fly)
warau (to laugh)
iku (to go), etc.

naita
oyoida
tonda
waratta
itta, etc.

naite
oyoide
tonde
waratte
itte, etc.

Te-forms are used in many ways.

The following usages are important among others.

1.  Like the conjunction and, te-forms connect two clauses. They describe a certain action to be performed before another. They can be said to form adverbial clauses, which are equivalent to participial constructions in English.

Watashi wa kaze o hiite gakkou o yasumi mashita.

( I caught cold and absented myself from school.
  Having caught cold, I was absent from school. )

Watashi wa Toukyou e itte tomodachi ni ai masu.

( I'll go to Tokyo and see a friend.
  Having gone to Tokyo, I'll see a friend. )

Te-forms are also used in a future-tense context, like the English perfect present tense or perfect participles, which are used to form adverbial clauses or phrases. Note that te-forms are adverbial perfect forms of verbs.

Te-forms also describe methods, instruments, and many other things.

Watashi wa basu ni notte gakkou e iki masu.

( I go to school by bus.
< I take a bus and go to school. )

Jon wa sumi o tsukatte sono e o kaki mashita.

( John drew that picture using charcoal.
< John used charcoal and drew that picture. )

Jon wa kimono o kite sono paatii ni iki mashita.

( John went to the party wearing a kimono.
< John put on a kimono and went to the party. )

2.  Te-forms of transitive verbs, used with aru ( to exist or to stand in a certain state ), tell that the object, or occasionally the subject, of an action stands in a state resulting from the action performed.

This te-aru construction is very often represented in English by the present perfect tense, but emphasis is not on the action performed but on the state resulting from it.

Memo ga kaite ari masu.

( There is a memo written.  or
   I have written a memo.
  < A memo stands written.)

Karee ga tsukutte ari masu.

( There is curry and rice ready to eat.  or
   I have cooked curry and rice for you.
  < Curry stands made. )

Hizuke ga keshite ari masu.

( I find the date has been erased.  or
   I find someone has erased the date.
  < The date stands erased. )

The particle ga shows that the word preceding it, which is the object of a particular action, is the subject of the verb aru. Emphasis is on the fact of something existing or not existing rather than on the action itself or the subject of the action. Therefore, the above sentences are almost equivalent to the following.

   There is a memo.
   There is curry and rice.
   There is no date.

These sentences as a whole present new pieces of information. For example, you could use the first sentence, when you just find a memo on a desk on entering an empty office. ( You would be talking to someone. Masu-forms are too polite to use in talking to yourself. ) Or you could use it when you are about to go out, say, for a class reunion and want to remind your husband of how to microwave the TV dinner.

If you replace the particle ga with the particle o, which marks the object of an action, you will nevertheless present the whole sentence as a new piece of information, but more emphasis is placed on the subject of the action, which is often understood.

Memo o kaite ari masu.

( I have written a memo for you.)

Karee o tsukutte ari masu.

( I have cooked curry and rice for you. )

Hizuke o keshite ari masu.

( The date has been erased.  or
   I have erased the date.)

In these sentences, you may regard the subject of the action also as the subject of the verb aru. The first sentence may well mean that you stand in the state of mind where, with a memo written, both you and the other person can rest assured that everything will go all right.

Study another example:
Jon wa shukudai o shite ari masu. Dakara soto ni asobi ni iku koto ga deki masu.
( John has done his homework, so he can go out to play.)

If you use the particle wa instead, you will have picked up as the topic of the sentence, the memo, the curry, the date, etc., which you have already talked about or you take it for granted the other person should know about. Sometimes the particle wa implies comparison, that some particular thing is so and so, while something else is not.

Memo wa kaite ari masu.

( I have written the memo as I told you.)

Karee wa tsukutte ari masu.

( I have cooked some curry and rice, but.... )

Hizuke wa keshite ari masu.

( The date has been erased.  or
   I have erased the date. Don't worry about it. )

Compare the following sentences:

E ga kabe ni kakete ari masu.

( There is a picture hung on the wall. )

E o kabe ni kakete ari masu.

( The wall is hung with a picture.  or
   I have decorated the wall with a picture. )

E wa kabe ni kakete ari masu.

( The picture has been hung on the wall.  or
   I have hung the picture on the wall. )

Note:
1. More than one picture may be hung on the wall. Plurality is often done without.
2. The first sentence can mean the same as the second, but not vice versa.
3. For the first sentence, it would be more natural to put the phrase kabe ni at the head of the sentece or just omit it.
4. For the second sentence, it would be more natural to put the phrase kabe ni at the head of the sentence, with or without the particle of topic wa. In answering such a question as "How do you have the wall?" or "Will you describe the wall?" you will begin with "Kabe ni wa" or just say "E o ( or ga ) kakete ari masu."

3.  Te-forms, used with iru ( to stay or stand in a certain state ), describe a state resulting from a certain action performed.

This te-iru construction is represented in English by (1) the present perfect tense, (2) adjectives or adverbs used with the present tense of be, (3) the present tense, or (4) the present progressive tense.

Compare the following pairs of sentences:

Jon wa gakkou ni iki mashita.

( John has gone to school.  or  John went to school. )

Jon wa gakkou ni itte i masu.

( John has gone to school.  or  John is at school. )

Jon wa shini mashita.

( John has died.  or  John died. )

Jon wa shinde i masu.

( John is dead. )

Watashi wa sono koto o shiri mashita.

( I have learned of the matter.  or  I learned of the matter. )

Watashi wa sono koto o shitte i masu.

( I know of the matter. )

Watashi wa suwari mashita.

( I have sat down.  or  I sat down. )

Watashi wa suwatte i masu.

( I am sitting.)

Densha wa eki ni tomari mashita.

( The train has stopped at a station.  or
  The train stopped at a station. )

Densha wa eki ni tomatte i masu.

( The train is standing at a station. )

Most Japanese verbs describe action or changes. Most of the English verbs that describe states, such as to have, know, live, remember, resemble, etc., are represented in Japanese by the te-iru construction.

Note again that the te-form is the perfect adverbial form of verbs. Like the cardinal perfect form or the ta-form, it means that a certain action has been performed. However, it does not necessarily mean that the action has been completed and finished.
  It is true that with some verbs, such as shinu or tomaru, their te-forms mean those actions have been completed and finished; after something tomatta, for example, the action of stopping will not be performed any longer. With other verbs, however, actions performed will not be completed and finished but begun and continued. With these verbs, the te-iru construction usually describes actions in process.

Mearii wa aruite i masu.

( Mary is walking. )

Mearii wa terebi o mite i masu.

( Mary is watching TV. )

Jon wa oyoide i masu.

( John is swimming. )

Jon wa hon o yonde i masu.

( John is reading a book. )

Some verbs, used in this te-iru construction, can describe either actions in process, actions completed and finished or states resulting from them, depending on contexts, adverbs of time, etc.

Reizouko ga ugoite i masu.

( The fridge is moving.)

Reizouko ga ugoite i masu.

( The fridge has moved. )

Mearii wa kimono o kite i masu.

( Mary is putting on a kimono. )

Mearii wa kimono o kite i masu.

( Mary is wearing a kimono. )

Jon wa ima shousetsu o kaite i masu.

( John is writing a novel. )

Jon wa sudeni gosatsu shousetu o kaite i masu.

( John has already written five novels. or
  John is already the author of five novels. )

Note:
1. The first sentence is said when you watch a refrigerator moving during an earthquake, for example, the second when you have noticed after the earthquake that a reprigerator has moved.
2. The Japanese verb "kiru" means to put on. The third sentence is said when Mary is in a dressing room and in the process of changing clothes, the fourth when she has finished putting it on and is walking in it to attend a New Year's party, for example.
3. Transitive verbs used in this construction usually correspond to the English present progressive tense, but the sixth example, used with the adverb sudeni and gosatsu, means that he is in a state resulting from having finished writing five novels, namely, that he is an author who has written five books.

Note:
Polite forms are used in the predicates of the above examples, such as i masu instead of iru, iki mashita instead of itta, etc. The polite form and the cardinal form make no difference but in politeness.
    Readers learning to speak Japanese will find the polite form easier to use and more useful in daily conversation. The cardinal form, which you are supposed to use in speaking to your close friends or family members, is a little harder to master and should be learned at a more advanced stage.

The perfect aspect in the past or future tense
Used with ita, the perfect form of iru, or with certain adverbs of time, this construction can be made to stand for the past perfect or the future perfect tense in English, but those tenses are not treated here.

3.1.  Represented in English by the present perfect tense of verbs.

Jon wa shigoto ni itte i masu.

( John has gone to work. )

Jon wa mou shuppatsushite i masu.

( John has already started. )

Densha wa mou tsuite i masu.

( The train has already arrived. )

Watashi wa ima madeni Jon ni sankai atte i masu.

( I have met John three times so far. )

Jon wa jissatsu ijou no shousetsu o kaite i masu.

( John has written more than ten novels. )

Note that this construction describes not so much an action having been performed as a state resulting from it. The expression Jon wa kite iru, therefore, corresponds more to John is come or John is here than John has come. The last example above means not so much John's having written books, as his being a writer.

Verbs used in the same way are as follows:

iku (go)

kuru (come)

dekakeru (go out)

kaeru (get back)

tsuku (arrive)

hairu (enter)

deru (get out)

shinu (die)

shuppatsusuru (start)

modoru (return)

agaru (go up)

sagaru (go down)

saku (bloom)

shibomu (wither)

naru (become)

dekiru (come into being)

tomaru (stop)

chikazuku (go near)

kowareru (break)

tsukareru (get tired)

kawaku (get dry)

nureru (get wet)

futoru (get fat)

yaseru (get lean)

aku (open)

shimaru (close)

ochiru (fall)

noboru (rise)

hajimaru (begin)

owaru (end)

neru (go to bed)

okiru (get up)

shizumu (sink)

hajimeru (begin, v.t.)

oeru (finish, v.t.)

,etc.

The te-iru construction of these verbs can also be, and often is more properly, represented by adjectives or adverbs used with the present tense of be, as explained in the following section.

It is very interesting to note that almost all the verbs in the above list are intransitive. It will be even more intriguing to notice that in French most of the intransitive verbs corresponding to them use the auxiliary corresponding to iru, or the English be, in making the present perfect tense.

Il est mort. ( literally, He is died. ) = He has died. or He is dead.

It may also be interesting to note that in Irish English the present perfect is represented by be after V+ing, which is equivalent to the te-iru construction, in that the te-form, adverbial perfect form of verbs, corresponds to after V+ing and iru to be.

I am after meeting John. = I have met John.

Very few transitive verbs are used in this construction to make the present perfect tense. For example:   Jon wa shigoto o hajimete imasu.   ( John has begun his work.)

Used with transitive verbs, this construction usually corresponds to the English progressive present tense, unless it is accompanied by a certain context to show the action has been completed and finished.

Jon wa hon o kaite imasu.

( John is writing a book. )

Jon wa sudeni hon o kaite imasu.

( John has already written a book. )

3.2.  Represented in English by adjectives or adverbs used with the present tense of be.

Jon wa dekakete i masu.

( John is out.
    < John has gone out. )

Jon wa mou kite i masu.

( John is here already.
    < John has come already. )

Kono inu wa shinde i masu.

( This dog is dead.
    < This dog has died. )

Watashi wa tsukarete i masu.

( I am tired.
    < I have become tired. )

Compare the following pairs of sentences:

Jon wa gakkou ni iki mashita.

( John has gone to school. )

Jon wa gakkou ni itte i masu.

( John is at school. or
  John is not here, but supposedly at school. )

Jon wa mou ki mashita.

( John has come already. )

Jon wa mou kite i masu.

( John is here already. )

Kono inu wa shini mashita.

( This dog has died. )

Kono inu wa shinde i masu.

( This dog is dead. )

3.3.  Corresponding to the present tense in English.

Watashi wa kono kurabu ni haitte i masu.

( I belong to this club. )

Jon wa chichioya ni nite i masu.

( John resembles his father. )

Watashi wa Toukyou ni sunde i masu.

( I live in Tokyo. )

Sono zou wa kouen ni tatte i masu.

( The statue stands in the park. )

Watashi wa Jon no juusho o shitte i masu.

( I know John's address. )

Watashi wa kuruma o motte i masu.

( I have a car. )

Watashi wa sore o oboete i masu.

( I remember it. )

Note that Japanese verbs used in the above sentences are not quite the same as the counterparts used in the translation. The Japanese verbs represent more an action or change than a state, which their English counterparts represent.
    In English, actions and states are often represented by different verbs. In Japanese, however, all verbs represent actions or changes, as a rule, and some of them may also represent states, while others don't until they are used in the te-iru construction.
    For example, the verb shiru means to learn or to get to know, and seldom means to know unless used in the te-iru construction.

Compare the following pairs of sentences:

Jon wa sono kurabu ni hairi mashita.

( John has joined the club. )

Jon wa sono kurabu ni haitte i masu.

( John belongs to the club. )

Jon wa sono jijitsu o shiri mashita.

( John has learned the fact. )

Jon wa sono jijitsu o shitte i masu.

( John knows the fact. )

Watashi wa jibun no serifu o oboe mashita.

( I have memorized my lines. )

Watashi wa jibun no serifu o oboete i masu.

( I remember my lines. )

Watashi wa kaze o hiki mashita.

( I have caught cold. )

Watashi wa kaze o hiite i masu.

( I have a cold. )

3.4.  Corresponding to the present progressive tense in English.

Watashi wa ima wa Toukyou ni sunde i masu.

( I'm living in Tokyo for the time being. )

Jon wa ima oyoide i masu.

( John is swimming now. )

Watashi wa tatte i masu.

( I am standing. )

Densha wa tomatte i masu.

( The train is standing.
    < The train has stopped. )

Jon wa ima shinbun o yonde i masu.

( John is reading a newspaper now. )

Some actions, like dying, are no sooner performed than they are completed and finished, while others are not completed and finished on being performed, but are begun and continued. For example, the action of reading is performed, beginning with the first word of a passage, and usually not finished there but continued. This is how the te-iru construction of some verbs is represented in English by the progressive present tense.

tomatte iru
Suppose you are in a train which is standing at a station and see an electric sign over the door which says, "The train is stopping at a so-and-so station," you may well be puzzled. If you are at home with the Japanese language, however, you will be amused to know that it just means "Densha wa nani nani eki ni tomatte i masu."
    Since the te-form plus iru construction so often appears to stand for the progressive present tense in English, some people wrongly interpret tomatte iru as be stopping and shinde iru as be dying.    
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The English progressive present tense represents two cases: in one, it describes an action in progress, and in the other it shows that someone is on his way to an action.

    We are reading Hamlet now.
    We are reading Hamlet in the next semester.

It may be debatable whether be stopping or be dying goes to the one or the other of the categories: one might argue that either belongs to the former category because in order to stop one must slow down, so that the action of stopping includes slowing down. I think that either be stopping or be dying goes to the latter category. "The train is stopping" means "the train is on its way to stop" or just "the train is going to stop."

    In any way, the te-iru construction stands for neither of the two cases represented by the English progressive tense. With te-forms representing the perfect aspect, this construction describes not an action in process, still less an action yet to be performed, but a state resulting from the action performed, which just happens to be best translated in the form of the progressive in English.

Jon wa suwatte i masu.

( John is sitting.
    < John has sat down. )

Densha wa tomatte i masu.

( The train is standing.
    < The train has stopped. )

Watashi wa ima hon o kaite i masu.

( I am writing a book now.
    < I have engaged myself in writing a book. )

Jon wa hon o yonde i masu.

( John is reading a book.
    < John has begun to read a book. )

Note:
Used in certain contexts, the te-iru construction of transitive verbs can correspond to the present perfect tense in English.

Jon wa hon o kaite imasu.

( John is writing a book. )

Jon wa sudeni hon o kaite imasu.

( John has already written a book. )

The verbs which, used in the te-iru construction, turn out to correspond to the progressive tense in English, are mostly transitive.

Intransitive verbs so used are as follows:

aruku (walk)

hashiru (run)

oyogu (swim)

tobu (fly)

tatsu (stand)

suwaru (sit)

neru (lie, sleep)

naru (ring)

waku (boil)

sawagu (make noise)

mogaku (struggle)

,etc.

4.  Te-forms of any verb, used with iru ( to stay or stand in a certain state ), can describe an action performed repeatedly or habitually.


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Chapter 7. Adjectives

Adjectives are used where in English verbs are used.
The adjective hoshii correspond to "want", but its subject is not the person who wants something but the object which is wanted.

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Chapter 8. Auxiliary Verbs


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Chapter 9. Honorific


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Chapter 10. Pronouns


are, sore, kore

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Chapter 11. Plurals


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Chapter 12. Yes & No


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To be continued



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