Lesson 3
Japanese Nouns in Simple Sentences and Question Forms

In this section on Japanese nouns, we'll begin with basic b-verb construction. (You got to begin somewhere right?) Nouns are critical for the most basic elements of conversation.

If you don't have down the basics, it'll be hard to understand more complex grammar and usage structures. Believe me they'll get harder:) There is a test at the end of the page. Try it out!

   watashi wa gakusei desu     I am a student.
   kanojo wa sensei desu    She is a teacher.
   kare was iishya san desu     He is a doctor.
   sore wa keisanki desu     It is a calculator.
   karerawa tomocachi desu    They are friends.
   sore wa chaiiro desu     It is brown.

Things to Note About Plurals:

In Japanese you don't find particles like a, an, the. And plural uses aren't nearly as commonly used as in English. So for example, in English we would commonly say something like: "Please hand me those books." In Japanese it would never be said that way. Meaning it would not be said as "ano hontachi o watashite kudasai". Tachi is used to form the plural of the sentence.

Study Baby Study! The Particle Study Baby Study! The Particle "wa"

       The Particle "Wa" 

"wa" is used to talk about something within limits. So in the sentence "Watashi wa gakusei desu" the person is saying that I (at least) am a student. (And there are others who are students too). So "wa" is best understood as "at least" or "as for me..." Regarding the use of "wa" you're not necessarily talking about anything outside your range of knowledge. Resist the temptation to simply use "wa" as a subject or topic marker. Japanese teachers of  English will often say  that "wa" simply is a marker that indicates the subject of the sentence. It is clearly not.
"Wa" is also pronounced with the noun that comes before it so you shouldn't pause between "watashi" and "wa".

Another Example...

Watashi wa nihonjin desu (As for me) I am Japanese.

The Sentence Finalizer "desu"

"Desu" is often translated as the b-verb is, am or are. But "desu" really doesn't have any meaning by itself. It is simply attached to nouns to create a sense of politeness or distance in speech. Japanese will use 'desu' with their superiors or people they don't know.

"Good friends" or a husband and wife wouldn't use "desu" when speaking to each other because of the closeness of their relationship. When pronouncing "desu" the "u" is silent so it sounds like "des".

Question Forms With "desu ka"

In English, we must change word order to make a question: "You are a boy" becomes a question by changing order of "you" and "are" i.e. Are you a boy?

Japanese is much simpler, to form a question, simply put "ka" after desu. So in other words "ka" is a verbal question mark. By simply adding "ka", without changing word order, we're able to make a question. Now that's convenience with a capital C !


Sore wa neko desu It's a cat.


Sore wa neko desu ka Is it a cat?
Sore wa jogi desu ka Is it a ruler?

Just like "wa" which follows "watashi" without pause, "ka" follows "desu" without pause.

We lightly touched on particles in this lesson and there are more on the site but if you groove on Amazon, you might want to grab a few of their more highly rated books on particles.

Vocabulary Pumper - Colors


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Let's Try to Translate the Following:

Do you understand this lesson on nouns? The only way to know is to test yourself! See if you can translate the following sentences into Japanese. (A word in parenthesis indicates that it can be left out depending on context. So "desu" can be omitted depending on your relationship to the person you're talking to. Try translating the following:

1. She is a student.
2. Is she Japanese?
3. He is a doctor.
4. It is purple.
5. Is it brown?
6. It is a cat.
7. I am a student.
8. They are friends.
9. It is a calculator.
10. Is she a teacher?
11. Lastly regarding Japanese grammar, are plural forms commonly used like they are in English?
12). What is the function of the particle "wa"?

Lesson 3 Test Answers

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Return to Teaching English in Japan From Nouns Lesson

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