The Pursuit of Happiness: Turning Adjectives into Nouns by Using さ :Hey there, all of you future Japanese masters! Today, we have a special lesson for you. We’re going to begin taking those short basic sentence patterns you’ve learned and expanding them into longer, more in-depth sentences! One way of doing this is learning how to turn i-adjectives into nouns and making them the subject of the sentence (e.g. talking about the deliciousness or greatness of something). So, without further ado, let’s move on to today’s lesson!

TOP 15 BASIC Japanese i-adjectives You must know first in Japanese | Japanese language lesson
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Noun/Adjective Review

Before we begin, let’s talk a little bit about nouns and adjectives. As you know, a noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. For example, 少年 (shounen, boy), 店 (mise, shop), 鉛筆 (enpitsu, pencil), 愛 (ai, love), etc. Nouns often serve as the subject of a sentence.

Adjectives are words that describe nouns. Iadjectives in Japanese refer to the adjectives that end in the hiragana character い (i)—as opposed to naadjectives, which end in な (na). Let’s review some simple iadjectives to refresh your memory.


Now that we’ve reviewed some i-adjectives, let’s construct some simple sentences!

Anna wa ii hito desu ne.
Anna is a good person.
Ano mise wa sekkyaku ga warui desu.
That shop has bad customer service.
Watashi wa atarashii kuruma wo kaimashita.
I bought a new car.
Kare wa furui gitaa wo urimashita.
He sold his old guitar.
Kanojo wa omoshiroi terebi bangumi wo mite imasu.
She is watching a funny TV show.
Kingyo wa tsumaranai petto desu.
Goldfish are boring pets.
Nihon no fasshon wa kawaii to omoimasu.
I think Japanese fashion is cute.
Ano danyuu wa kakkoii desu ne!
That actor is really hot!

Turning I-Adjectives into Nouns

When we want to describe “how new,” “how attractice,” “how cute,” etc. something is, we have the option to turn the adjective into a noun. In order to do this, we take the iadjective and remove the い (i) at the end and replace it with the suffix さ (sa). This is similar to adding “-ness” to the end of an adjective in English (e.g. “happiness” or “sadness”). Let’s look at a few examples below by taking the same i-adjectives from above and turning them into nouns! 

[NOTICE: The word ii is a special case. It cannot be turned into a noun without first being changed into its dictionary form 良い (yoi). The same goes for kakkoii because the word is a combination of the two words 格好 (kakkou, appearance) and いい (ii).] 

いい  ➝ 良  ➝ 良さIi  ➝  yoi  ➝  yosagood  ➝ goodness
  ➝ 悪さwarui  ➝  warusabad  ➝ badness
新し  ➝ 新しさatarashii   atarashisanew  ➝ newness
  ➝ 古さfurui  ➝  furusaold  ➝ oldness
面白  ➝ 面白さomoshiroi  ➝  omoshirosainteresting ➝ interestingness 
つまらな  ➝ つまらなさtsumaranai  ➝  tsumaranasaboring  ➝ boringness
可愛  ➝ 可愛さkawaii    kawaisacute  ➝ cuteness
かっこいい  ➝ かっこよ  ➝ かっこよさkakkoii  ➝  kakkoyoi  ➝  kakkoyosahandsome  ➝ handsomeness

Now that we have learned how to turn i-adjectives into nouns, let’s put them into sentences to see how they work!

Anata wa kono kuruma wo unten shitara, yosa ga yoku wakarimasu yo.
If you drive this car, you will see how good it is.
(Lit: “If you drive this car, you will understand its goodness.”)
Watashi wa ano resutoran no warusa ga shinjiraremasen.
I can’t believe how bad that restaurant is.
Takahashi-san ni wa kaimono wo shitara mono no atarashisa ga ki ni shite imasen.
Mr. Takahashi doesn’t care how new things are when shopping.
Ano tatemono no furusa wa dame desu ne.
The age (oldness) of that building is unacceptable.
Kankyaku wa eiga no omoshirosa ga dai-suki deshita.
The audience loved how funny the movie was.
Ichinichijuu nani mo shinai tsumaranasa wa kirai desu.
I hate how boring it is not doing anything all day.
Nihonjin wa ano aidoru no kawaisa ni yoku akogarete imasu.
Japanese people really admire how cute that idol is.
Josei wa Janiizu menbaa no kakkoyosa ga sekaiichi da to omotte imasu.
Girls think that Johnny’s (male idol group) members are the most attractive in the world.
(Lit: “Girls think that the attractiveness of Johnny’s members is the best in the world.”)

In summary, iadjectives can be turned into nouns simply by removing the い (i) at the end of the word and replacing it with さ (sa). Knowing how to turn i-adjectives into nouns is yet another stepping stone in the path to expanding your sentences and mastering the ins and outs of Japanese.

Now that you’ve learned how to turn i-adjectives into nouns, it’s time to get out there and practice! Remember, learning something new is meaningless if you don’t get out there and practice what you’ve learned. So, get out there already and practice, practice, practice!

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