The Past Is the Past: Japanese Adjectives in the Past Tense :Hey there, all of you future Japanese masters! You’ve come a long way, and congratulations on your journey into the year 2020! 

By now, you are familiar with a few Japanese adjectives. Therefore, for this lesson, we’re taking it one step further! Today, we’re going to learn how to conjugate adjectives into the past tense in order to talk about previous states of being!

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The Past Is the Past: Japanese Adjectives in the Past Tense

Here we go!

TOP 15 BASIC Japanese i-adjectives You must know first in Japanese | Japanese language lesson

Japanese Adjective Review

Before we begin, let’s review some common adjectives in the present tense. In Japanese, there are two types of adjectives: iadjectives and na-adjectives. I-adjectives end in the hiragana character い (i), and naadjectives end in な (na). The first table below is a list of i-adjectives, and the second is for naadjectives.

I-ADJECTIVES

JapaneseRomajiEnglish
美しいutsukushiibeautiful
忙しいisogashiibusy
早いhayaiearly/fast
新しいatarashiinew
短いmijikaishort

NA-ADJECTIVES

JapaneseRomajiEnglish
危険(な)kiken (na)dangerous
嫌い(な)kirai (na)hated/disliked
ひま(な)hima (na)free (not busy)
大切(な)taisetsu (na)important
元気(な)genki (na)healthy/energetic/in good spirits

Now that we’ve familiarized ourselves with a few common i- and na-adjectives, let’s create a few sentences!

今年の花は美しい! 
Kotoshi no hana wa utsukushii!
The flowers this year are beautiful!
あの崖は危険です!
Ano gake wa kiken desu!
That cliff is dangerous!
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I-Adjectives in the Past Tense

In order to conjugate an i-adjective into the past tense, you simply remove the last character い and replace it with かった (katta). 

If you want to make the sentence formal, you add です (desu) to the end of かった.

The table below shows how to conjugate i-adjectives into the past tense. The word in parenthesis is only added if you want to make the sentence formal. 

I-ADJECTIVES (PAST TENSE)

JapaneseRomajiEnglish
美し  ➝ 美しかった(です)utsukushii  ➝ utsukushikatta (desu)beautiful  ➝ was beautiful
忙し  ➝ 忙しかった(です)isogashii  ➝ isogashikatta (desu)busy  ➝ was busy
  ➝ 早かった(です)hayai  ➝ hayakatta (desu)early/fast  ➝ was early/fast
新し  ➝ 新しかった(です)atarashii  ➝ atarashikatta (desu)new  ➝ was new
  ➝ 短かった(です)mijikai  ➝ mijikakatta (desu)short  ➝ was short

Now that we know how to conjugate iadjectives into the past tense, let’s create some sentences! The sentences with です attached to the end are formal and those without are casual.

Example sentences (iadjectives):

春の花は美しかったです。
Haru no hana wa utsukushikatta desu.
The flowers in spring were beautiful.
私は先週忙しかった。
Watashi wa senshuu isogashikatta.
I was busy last week.
彼はマラソンで早かったです。
Kare wa marason de hayakatta desu.
He was fast at the marathon.
彼女のブラウスは新しかった。
Kanojo no burausu wa atarashikatta.
Her blouse was new.
健さんは若い時、足が短かったです。
Ken-san wa wakai toki, ashi ga mijikakatta desu.
When Ken was young, his legs were short.

Na-Adjectives in the Past Tense

In order to conjugate naadjectives into the past tense, you simply leave out the な and add either だった (datta) for casual sentences, or でした (deshita) for formal sentences.

The table below shows how to conjugate na-adjectives into the past tense. The word before the slash (だった) is used for casual occasions, and the word after the slash (でした) is used for formal occasions.  

NA-ADJECTIVES (PAST TENSE)

JapaneseRomajiEnglish
危険  ➝ 危険だった/でしたkiken  ➝ kiken datta / deshitadangerous  ➝ was dangerous
嫌い  ➝ 嫌いだった/でしたkirai  ➝ kirai datta / deshitahated/disliked  ➝ was hated/disliked
ひま  ➝ ひまだった/でしたhima  ➝ hima datta / deshitafree (not busy)  ➝ was free (not busy)
大切  ➝ 大切だった/でしたtaisetsu  ➝ taisetsu datta / deshitaimportant  ➝ was important
元気  ➝ 元気だった/でしたgenki  ➝ genki datta / deshitahealthy/energetic/in good spirits  ➝ was healthy/energetic/in good spirits

Now that we know how to conjugate naadjectives into the past tense, let’s create some sample sentences! 

Example sentences (naadjectives in the past tense):

昨日雪で道路が危険でした。
Kinou yuki de douro ga kiken deshita.
Yesterday, due to the snow, the roads were dangerous.
私は子供の時、ブロッコリーが嫌いだった。
Watashi wa kodomo no toki, burokkorii ga kirai datta.
When I was a child, I hated broccoli.
高校生の時は沢山ひまでした。
Koukousei no toki wa takusan hima deshita.
In my high school days, I had lots of free time.
彼は少年の時、自転車が大切だった。
Kare wa shounen no toki, jitensha ga taisetsu datta.
When he was a boy, his bicycle was important to him.
お祖母さんは40年前元気でした。
Obaasan wa yon-juu nen mae genki deshita.
My grandmother was energetic 40 years ago.

In summary

In Japanese, there are two types of adjectivesi-adjectives and na-adjectives. Both of them can easily be changed into the past tense.

With i-adjectives, you simply remove the い at the end of the word and replace it with かった. If you want to make the sentence formal, you add です after かった. Take a look at the differences in the table below.

WAS BEAUTIFUL

CasualFormal
美しかったutsukushikatta美しかったですutsukushikatta desu

With na-adjectives, you leave out the な and add だった instead. For formal sentences, you use でした instead of だった. The differences are below. 

WAS BEAUTIFUL

CasualFormal
危険だったkiken datta危険でしたkiken deshita

Now that you have a new grammar point under your belt, it’s time to get out there and practice! Talk with your Japanese speaking partner about the way things used to be in your pasts. Make sure to utilize both i-adjectives and naadjectives so that you get used to the differences between the two.

Remember, it’s impossible to master a new language if you don’t practice! And if you practice every day, your skills will sharpen even quicker! Therefore, let’s make it a goal in 2020 to practice Japanese every day! 

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