Welcome to Lesson 9
Japanese Adjectives & Mono Vs. Koto

Japanese adjectives – critical for speaking with flair and indispensable when it comes to describing situations.

In lesson 4 we studied "i" ending adjectives that modify or come before nouns. We studied stuff like "kawaii ona no ko desu" meaning a cute girl. 

Note that in Lesson 4, when "i" ending adjectives get connected to nouns, you connect them directly i.e., muzukashi nihongo. So "muzukashii" connects directly to 'nihongo' without anything in-between.

But there’s another class of adjectives we need to look at if you really want to get a handle on Japanese adjectives. This second type as you might have guessed doesn’t end with a double "i". It also doesn’t connect directly to a noun. It must be used with the particle "na" before it is joined to another noun. So we’ll call this new group of adjectives 'na' adjectives from now on. There's a test at the end of the page. Check it out.

Here’s How Japanese Adjectives are Constructed…

kirei + na + onna no hito = a pretty woman

In this example "kirei" means “pretty”. "Na" is a particle of connection. And 'ona no hito' means 'woman' in Japanese. So that’s the word order when you want to describe something with “na” adjectives. Basically you’re saying an X kind of Y. Or a pretty kind of woman. Note that "kirei" also has the meaning of clean.

So can you take out the “na” and still have it be correct? No. You shouldn’t say "kirea ona no hito." Will you be understood? Probably – but let’s get it right the first time.

Now let’s introduce some more “na” Japanese adjectives so we can build out your vocabulary a little more.

Here Goes...

iya na unpleasent, disagreeable
benri na convenient, handy
zannen na regrettable, a pity
dame na bad or no good or broken
daijobu na all right, safe
fuben na inconvenient
jobu na sturdy
raku na comfortable, easy
genki na cheerful, high spirited
iron na various
daiji na valuable, important
rippa na splendid, great
zankoku na cruel
*chisa na small
*ooki na big

Ok. Now we have our list built. So now let’s introduce some useful nouns that you can pair up with these adjectives to make sentences and describe things.

Take a Look at These Combinations with Mono and Koto...

dame na koto a thing that's no good

jobu na mono a sturdy thing

Those of you who love shopping at Amazon might like these extra resources on Japanese adjectives. Complete with usage and conjugations.

A Word of Caution...

A special note about “mono” and "koto." Although in the English translation, both are used to mean "thing," its use in Japanese is very different. "Koto" refers to an intangible thing like a fact, an act, circumstance or situation. “Mono” refers to physical objects.

So if you’re talking about some physical object being yours, you don’t say: "kono eiwa jiten benri na koto desu." but rather you would say "kono eiwa jiten benri na mono desu," Meaning: this English/Japanese dictionary is handy.

More Sentence Finalizers: Desho

In Lesson 3,  we studied "desu." It was explained that "desu" follows nouns and adjectives and makes the sentence more polite. It occurs in all kinds of noun and adjective sentences like: 1). “enpitsu desu,” (it’s a pencil,) "Suzuki desu" (he’s Mr. Suzuki) and "aka desu" (It’s red.)

We also touched on the fact that "desu" acts to create distance between people and is often used with those who are older than you, or those who outrank you.

Using sentence finalizer "Desu" is a good start but if you want to speak more naturally, you’ll definitely need to use the sentence finalizer "desho" with Japanese adjectives. Just like "desu," it comes after nouns and Japanese adjectives. But desho means something close to : It's probably x or might be x. "Desho" is more indirect than "desu."

takai desho It's probably expensive.

dame desho It's probably no good / broken.

Japanese Adjectives in a Negative Pattern...

yasukunai desho It's probably not cheap.

raku na shigoto ja nai desho It might not be easy work.

And Some Examples in Question Form ...

In question form, with rising intonation in your voice, "desho" means something close to: "isn't it" or "aren't they."

oishii desho? It's delicious, isn't it?

go-sen-en desho? It's 5000 yen, isn't it.

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Learn Japanese
Okay, it's time to test um... No. um... REVIEW what we learned in this lesson. Can you say these sentences in Japanese? Let’s find out! Note: Some patterns from prior lessons are incorporated but the bulk of this review is focused on new material.

1. It’s a handy English / Japanese dictionary.
2. He’s a cruel person.
3. Is she a peppy child?
4. This location is inconvenient.
5. That (way over there) apartment is big.
6. It’s a valuable ring isn’t it?
7. An unpleasant situation.
8. It’s small, isn’t?
9.This (physical) object is no good /broken.
10. It’s a convenient college. (Meaning easy to get to.)

Lesson 9 Test Answers

Learn Japanese Online Lesson Index

Return to teaching English in Japan From Japanese Adjectives

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