Adjectives in Japanese: An introduction

Describing everything under the sun has never sounded so… educational.

What are Japanese Adjectives?

When learning how to make proper Japanese sentences, we must know the different parts of a sentence. For today’s blog, we will focus on one of the main parts of good sentence structure. Japanese adjectives (形容詞: “Keiyoushi”) are no different to English adjectives in terms of function. Similarly, they are words used to describe the general state, and even quantity of nouns or objects. Not to be confused with adverbs, adjectives do not describe verbs EVER.

A few common examples of English adjectives are “cute”, “handsome”, “tall” and “heavy”. For Japanese adjectives, however, we can classify them into 2 main types. We have the na-keiyoushi(na- adjectives) and the i-keiyoushi(i – adjectives). We will discuss them further into this blog.

When do we use Japanese Adjectives?

Adjectives are mainly used when you would like to elaborate and describe what something looks like, smells like, feels like, sounds like..anything that can be felt by your senses and your feelings. Although adjectives seem to overlooked compared to nouns and verbs, they are actually quite important and spice up a sentence. Look at it this way, if (god forbid) your pet gets lost, the best way to inform people and find your pet is to describe what your pet looks like and how it interacts with people. Without adjectives, life would be pretty dull, literally.

Where can we find them in a sentence?

As Japanese language students, making conversation in Japanese is almost always a sure sign of progress. Using adjectives correctly will definitely increase your fluency. Much similarly to adjectives in English, Japanese adjectives have the function of describing or talking about a noun. Because of this, adjectives are usually found before or after a noun, depending on the sentence structure. A few examples can be found below.

Na-Keiyoushi

Na-keiyoushi or Na-adjectives, are very easy to learn because it has the same conjugation rules as nouns. One of the main differences they have is how instead of は or が, we use な after this adjective, hence getting it’s name “na-keiyoushi”. A few examples can be found below. Be careful with a few adjectives though. Not all adjectives ending with an い is an i-keiyoushi(i-adjective), it can be a na-keiyoushi! We’ll put an asterisk on a few of the examples below!

Learn Japanese – い-Adjective “The meal is delicious” 

(Noun) wa/ga + (Na adjective) desu.

かれは元気です。
Kare wa genki desu.
He is lively/energetic/healthy.

(Na adjective) na + (Noun) desu.

元気な人です。
Genki na hito desu.
He/she’s a lively/energetic/healthy person.
EnglishRomajiJapanese
Beautiful/cleanKirei*きれい*
FamousYuumei*ゆうめい*
QuietShizukaしずか
KindShinsetsuしんせつ
Healthy/livelyGenkiげんき

The different forms/tenses

As the title says, we will talk about the different forms and tenses of adjectives. We have the present tense which is the state of a word, in this case, an adjective, in the present or current time or something that is habitually performed (desu form) and past tense which talks about previous state, since we are talking about adjectives. We will also be giving examples of positive and negative forms of adjectives.

かんたん (Easy)
Kantan

Positive

EnglishRomajiJapanese
This test is easy.Kono shiken wa kantan desu.この試験はかんたんです。
This test was easy.Kono shiken wa kantan deshita.この試験はかんたんでした。
Isn’t this test easy?Kantan na shiken desu ne?かんたんな試験ですね?

Negative

EnglishRomajiJapanese
This test is not easy.Kono shiken wa kantan de wa arimasen desu.この試験はかんたんではありませんです。
This test was not easy.Kono shiken wa kantan de wa arimasen deshita.この試験はかんたんではありませんでした。

へん (Hen)
Strange

Positive

EnglishRomajiJapanese
The taste is strange.Aji wa hen desu.味はへんです。
The taste was strangeAji wa hen deshita.味はへんでした。
A strange taste.Hen na aji desu.へんな味です。

Negative

EnglishRomajiJapanese
The taste is not strange.Aji wa hen de wa arimasen desu.味はへんではありませんです。
The taste was not strange.Aji wa hen de wa arimasen deshita.味は変ではありませんでした。

*きらい (Kirai)
Don’t like/ Hate

Positive casual

EnglishRomajiJapanese
I hate spicy food.Karai tabemono wa kirai desu.辛い食べ物はきらいです。
I hated spicy food.Karai tabemono wa kirai deshita.辛い食べ物はきらいでした。
The type of food I hate is spicy foodKirai na tabomono wa karai tabemono desu.きらいな食べ物は辛い食べ物です。

Negative casual

EnglishRomajiJapanese
I do not hate spicy food.Karai tabemono wa kirai de wa nai desu.辛い食べ物はきらいではないです。
I did not hate spicy food.Karai tabemono wa kirai de wa nakatta.辛い食べ物はきらいではなかった。

しずか (Shizuka)
Silent/Quiet

Positive casual

EnglishRomajiJapanese
Ben is quiet.Ben san wa shizuka desu.ベンさんはしずかです。
Ben was quiet.Ben san wa shizuka deshita.ベンさんはしずかでした。
Ben is a quiet person.Ben san wa shizuka na hito desu.べんさんはしずかな人です。

Negative casual

EnglishRomajiJapanese
Ben is not quiet.Ben san wa shizuka de wa nai desu.ベンさんはしずかではないです。
Ben was not quiet.Ben san wa shizuka de wa nakatta.ベンさんはしずかではなかった。

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