Adjectives 2017-08-21T16:09:49+00:00

Let’s Learn Japanese Adjectives

Japanese Adjectives have the same function as English adjectives.  They describe the state of things and people (strong, cheap, cold, etc).

When an adjective modifies a noun, we need to follow different rules for different types of adjectives.  Before we get into such rules, let’s separate adjectives into the three different types.

i-Adjectives all end with (i).  For example – takai.  They need to be conjugated a special way for the negative and past tense, but we will get into that later.

na-Adjectives all end with (na) before they modify a noun.  Unlike the i-Adjectives, we have to add the na on our own.  For example, taisetsu is a na-Adjective and becomes taisetsu na when we use it to modify a noun.

color-Adjectives are also called no-Adjectives, and treated the same as na-adjectives.  It’s a special category I will cover at the end of this lesson.

Here is a list of common i-Adjectives and na-Adjectives.  As you can see, some na-Adjectives are disguised as i-Adjectives.  Let’s call them “sneaky” na-Adjectives.  You will have to memorize their true identities.   Don’t worry – there isn’t many!  
i Adjectives   na Adjectives
ひろい
hiroi

(wide, spacious)
せまい
semai
(narrow)
すき
suki

(like)
 だいすき
daisuki

(really like)
あつい
atsui
(hot, thick)
さむい
samui

(cold)
ゆうめい
yuumei

(famous)
ひつよう
hitsuyou

(necessary)
おもい
omoi
(heavy)
かるい
karui

(light weight)
きれい
kirei
(beautiful)
まっすぐ
massugu
(straight)
おそい
osoi
(slow, late)
はやい
hayai
(fast, early)
ていねい
teinei

(politely)
まじめ
majime

(serious)
あかるい
akarui

(bright)
くらい
kurai

(dark)
むり
muri

(impossible, unreasonable)
きらい
kirai

(dislike)
たかい
takai

(high, expensive)
やすい
yasui

(cheap)
りっぱ
rippa

(splendid)
ねっしん
nesshin

(eagerly)
とおい
tooi

(far)
ちかい
chikai

(near)
しずか
shizuka

(quiet)
とくべつ
tokubetsu

(special)
つよい
tsuyoi

(strong)
よわい
yowai
(weak)
ひま
hima

(to have free time)
てきとう
tekitou

(appropriate)
あたたかい
atatakai

(warm)
すずしい
suzushii
(cool)
にぎやか
nigiyaka

(lively)
けっこう
kekkou

(quite)
たのしい
tanoshii

(fun)
つまらない
tsumaranai

(boring)
べんり
benri

(convenient, useful)
いろいろ
iroiro

(various)
あたらしい
atarashii

(new)
ふるい
furui

(old)
しんぱい
shinpai

(concern)
じゆう
jiyuu
(free)
おおきい
ookii

(big)
ちいさい
chiisai

(small)
いっしょうけんめい
isshoukenmei

(with all one’s might)
じょうぶ
joubu

(robust, strong)
よい / いい
yoi / ii

(good)
わるい
warui
(bad)
だいじょうぶ
daijoubu

(fine, OK)
げんき
genki

(healthy)
ふとい
futoi
(fat)
ほそい
hosoi

(slim)
たいへん
taihen

(extremely)
いや
iya

(not likeable)
ながい
nagai
(long)
みじかい
mijikai
(short in length)
らく
raku

(comfortable, easy)
たいせつ
taisetsu

(precious)
きれい
kirei
(clean, beautiful)
きたない
kitanai

(dirty)
じょうず
jyouzu

(skilled)
へた
heta

(unskilled)
あまい
amai

(sweet)
からい
karai

(spicy)
ざんねん
zannen

(sadly)
きけん
kiken

(very dangerous)
おいしい
oishii

(delicious)
まずい
mazui
(bad tasting)
じゅうぶん
jyuubun

(enough)
やさしい
yasashii

(gentle, easy)
むずかしい
muzukashii
(difficult)
かたい
katai

(hard)
やわらき
yawarakai

(soft)
* Some of the “sneaky na-adjectives” posing as i-adjectives can be exposed by looking at the Hiragana rather than Romaji spelling (eg. すき does not end with ).  They can’t fool us! 
きつい
kitsui
(tight)
ゆるい
yurui
(loose)
まるい
marui
(circular)
ひくい
hikui

(low)
 
あぶない
abunai
(dangerous)
かなしい
kanashii
(sad)
かわいい
kawaii
(cute)
いそがしい
isogashii

(busy)
いたい
itai
(painful)
おもしろい
omoshiroi

(interesting, funny)
わかい
wakai

(young)
つめたい
tsumetai

(cold to the touch)
ほしい
hoshii

(want)
うすい
usui
(thin)

 

 Japanese i-Adjectives


When an i-Adjective modifies a noun in the negative or past tense, we need to replace the い (i):

  Positive Negative
Present い (i) くない (kunai)
Past かった (katta) くなかった (kunakatta)

 

Let’s apply these to our i-Adjective, takai:

  Positive Negative
Present たか
takai
たかくない
takakunai
Past たかかった
takakatta
たかくなかった
takakunakatta

 

Finally, let’s build some sentences using our conjugated i-Adjective:

  Positive Negative
Present これはたかいシャツです
kore wa
takai shatsu desu.
(this is an expensive shirt.)
これはたかくないシャツです
kore wa takakunai shatsu desu.
(this isn’t an expensive shirt.)
Past これはたかかったシャツです
kore wa takakatta shatsu desu.
(this was an expensive shirt.)
これはたかくなかったシャツです
kore wa takakunakatta shatsu desu.
(this wasn’t an expensive shirt.)

 

Japanese NA-Adjectives

If the adjective does not end in (i), then it’s probably a na-Adjective.   We call them na-Adjectives because we attach “na” between the adjective and noun.  For example, if we want to attach kiken (dangerous) to road (michi), it will look like this:

kiken na michi
(dangerous road)

It is important to note that we are only required to change add な (na) like this if it is modifying a noun.  For non-modifying adjectives (when the adjective comes after the noun), nothing changes:

kono michi wa kiken desu.

(this road is dangerous)

This next na-Adjective is placed before the noun, modifying it.  Remember, we must add “na“:

koko wa shizuka na tokoro desu.

(This isquiet place.)

 

Japanese color-Adjectives

Color adjectives can be split into Primary colors (i-Adjectives) and Non-Primary Colors (no-Adjectives):

Non-primary colors are no-Adjectives,  but they are treated exactly the same way as na-Adjectives.  We are required to use “no” to connect the adjective with the noun.

chairo no inu
(brown dog)

Primary colors are i-Adjectives and are treated as such.  We are familiar with i-Adjectives now so this should be easy.  Primary color i-Adjectives are also flexible.  We can use “no” to connect the adjective with the noun but we are not required to do so.

aka no ringo
(red apple)
OR akai ringo
(red apple)

This table will organize the differences between how we use primary colors (i-Adjectives) and secondary colors (na-Adjectives).

color Adjective Adjective type
red akai / aka no (i-adjective)
blue aoi / ao no (i-adjective)
yellow kiiroi / kiiro no (i-adjective)
black kuroi / kuro no (i-adjective)
white shiroi / shiro no (i-adjective)
green midori no (no-adjective)
purple murasaki no (no-adjective)
brown chairoi / chairo no (no-adjective)
orange orenji no (no-adjective)
pink pinku no (no-adjective)
grey haiiro no / gurē no
(no-adjective)