What is an Japanese Adjectives ?

“Japanese 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.”

The Ultimate Guide to Japanese Adjectives

Adjectives in Japanese are really useful for describing things and also really easy to use! First we must learn the 2 types of adjectives, “I” adjective and “Na” adjectives.

Examples of some common Japanese adjectives

JapaneseRomajiMeaning
大きい ookii big, large
小さい chiisai short
高い takai expensive
安い yasui cheap
良い yoi good
悪い warui bad
背が高い se ga takai tall
背が低い se ga hikui short
美しい utsukushii beautiful
醜い minikui ugly

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Japanese NA Adjectives

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

簡単かんたんkantansimple
複雑ふくざつfukuzatsucomplicated
静香しずかshizukaquite
迷惑めいわくmeiwakutroublesome

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

Japanese Adjectives : i-keiyoushi

In the previous blog, we discussed how na-keiyoushi have the same conjugations as a noun except how it uses na instead of wa or ga. For i-keiyoushi, or ii adjectives, these are adjectives that always end in the hiragana character “い”. Do not get these confused with a few na-keiyoushi words that end in “i” (ei. Kirei, Yuumei, etc).

EnglishRomajiJapanese
KindYasashiiやさしい
ExpensiveTakaiたかい
NewAtarashiiあたらしい
BadWaruiわるい
DifficultMuzukashiiむずかしい

Examples of I adjectives

ふるい (old) Furui

Positive

EnglishRomajiJapanese
That laptop is old.Sono pasokon wa furui desu.そのパソコンは古いです。
That laptop was very old.Sono pasokon wa totemo furu katta desu.そのパソコンはとても古かったです
Very old laptopMeccha furui pasokon desuめっちゃ古いパソコンです

Negative

EnglishRomajiJapanese
That laptop is not old.Sono pasokon wa furu ku arimasen.そのパソコンは古くありません。
That laptop was not old.Sono pasokon wa furu ku arimasen deshita.そのパソコンは古くありませんでした。

おいしい (tasty/delicious) Oishii

Positive

EnglishRomajiJapanese
That pizza is delicious.Sono piza wa oishii desu.そのピザは美味しいです。
That pizza was delicious.Sono piza wa oishi katta desu.そのピザは美味しかったです。
Very delicious pizzaMeccha oishii piza desuめっちゃ美味しいピザです。

Negative

EnglishRomajiJapanese
That pizza is not delicious.Sono piza wa oishi ku arimasen.そのピザは美味しくありません。
That pizza was not delicious.Sono piza wa oishi ku arimasen deshita.そのピザは美味しくありませんでした。

臭い(stinky) Kusai

Positive casual

EnglishRomajiJapanese
My dog is stinky.Watashi no inu wa kusai.私の犬は臭い。
My dog was stinky.Watashi no inu wa kusa katta.私の犬は臭かった。
Stinky dogKusai inu臭い犬

Negative casual

EnglishRomajiJapanese
My dog is not stinky.Watashi no inu wa kusa ku nai.私の犬は臭くない。
My dog was not stinky.Watashi no inu wa kusa ku na katta.私の犬は臭くなかった。

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The only irregular adjective of Japan

As we have discussed before, there are two main categories of Japanese adjectives. We talked about na-keiyoushi and i-keiyoushi and their different forms and conjugations and although they are the main categories, there is one word in the Japanese language where these rules absolutely DO NOT apply. The word we are talking about is actually quite common and can be considered as quite an “easy” word to learn. The problem with that is how it might confuse beginner students because of how even though it is a commonly used word, normal rules for na and i keiyoushi do not apply to it.

This is word means “good”. It was originally spelled and used as よい(良い)but eventually became いい with time. Technically, it is considered as an i-keiyoushi but confusingly, i-adjective rules do not apply to it. We will discuss it through the table below so be sure to study it!

Positive form

EnglishRomajiJapanese
GoodYoi desu良いです
Good (casual)Yoi良い
Was goodYokatta desu良かったです
Was good (casual)Yokatta良かった

Negative form

EnglishRomajiJapanese
Not goodYoku arimasen良くありません
Not good (casual)Yoku nai良くない
Was not goodYoku arimasen deshita良くありませんでした
Was not  good (casual)Yoku na katta良くなかった

There we have it, you can now add adjectives to nouns in Japanese. Well done you!

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