The spiky bush, an aggressive rat, a delicious wine, an Japanese adjective is what you use to describe an object. Very useful for really expressing and describing the appearance and behaviour of things.

A dictionary would tell you:

“Adjectives are words that describe the qualities or states of being of nouns: enormous, doglike, silly, yellow, fun, fast. They can also describe the quantity of nouns: many, few, millions, eleven.”

Adjectives in Japanese are really useful for describing things and also really easy to use!

Describing things in Japanese with adjectives

Today we are going to look at the different types of Japanese adjective in Japanese as well as looking at the past form too.

First we must learn the 2 types of adjectives, “I” adjective and “Na” adjectives.

Japanese I Adjectives

いI adjectives are adjectives that end in the sound I い

Here is a list of some common I adjectives:

大きいおおきいookiibig, large
背が高いせがたかいse ga takaitall
背が低いせがひくいse ga hikuishort

We will come on to how to use these adjective later, let’s first look at the next type of adjective.

Japanese NA Adjectives

Now we need to learn the second type of adjective, “Na” adjectives. Here are some examples:


So, why do they call these things “na” adjectives, well basically … they don’t end in “i”

So why do they call them “Na” adjectives? Well, this comes when we start to describe nouns.

Using Japanese adjectives in a sentence

Let’s now start describing some nouns like big dog, small boy and easy question.

With the “I” adjectives it is extremely simple, we just put the adjective in front of the noun.

Ookii hon Big Book 大きい本 おおきいほん 
Chiisai ki Small Tree  小さい木 ちいさいき 
Muzukashii shitsumon Difficult Question 難しい質問 むずかしいしつもん 

As you can see it’s really easy to utilize these adjectives, you simply but them before the noun and don’t change anything.

Now with the Na adjectives this is where the “Na” comes in. All you need to do is use “Na な” to join the adjective to the noun.

Here are some examples.

Kantan na hon Easy Book 簡単な本 かんたんなほん 
Shizuka na heya Quiet room しずかなへや 静かな部屋 

As you can see all you do is add the “Na” after the adjective and before the thing you are describing.

There are however a few exceptions to the rule such as “Kirei” “きれい” Even though this ends with an I い it is actually a na adjective. There are a few cases like this but not too many so watch out, you will soon get used to these few exceptions.


Past tense Japanese adjectives

Now we’ve looked at using both na and I adjectives in the present tense, we will now try to conjugate them to the past tense.

Let’s start with I adjectives. All you do here is take off the final い I and かった Katta.

big, largeおおきいWas bigおおきかった
shortちいさいWas shortちいさかった
expensiveたかいWas expensiveたかかった
cheapやすいWas cheapやすかった
goodよいWas goodよかった
badわるいWas  badわるかった
tallせがたかいWas tallせがたかかった
shortせがひくいWas hikuiせがひくかった
beautifulうつくしいWas beautifulうつくしかった
uglyみにくいWas uglyみにくかった

With the Na adjectives all you need to do is add deshita or datta after the noun.

simpleかんたん Was simpleかんたんでした
complicatedふくざつWas complicatedふくざつだった
quietしずかWas quietしずかでした
troublesomeめいわくWas troublesomeめいわくでした

So there we go guys, you can now add adjectives to nouns in Japanese as well as use them stand alone.. Well done you!

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