Japanese Grammar

JLPT N5 Grammar Points

Progressive Lessons: Particles & Structure


Beginners can start here.  I will show you all of the Japanese sounds that you will need to know including vowels and consonants.

How to use WA and DESU

“WA” and “DESU” are Japanese grammar components that we use to build very basic sentences.  Don’t try to translate them to English just yet.  Think of these words as big balls of glue that we are going to use to attach meaningful words to.  In Hiragana, these “balls of glue” are spelled as は (“WA”) and です (“DESU”).

The Grammar Particle の

So what is a “grammar particle”, anyway?  Well, you have already learned one grammar particle from the last lesson, and that was は (WA).  The Grammar particle NO (の) in this lesson is used to indicate possession, similar to the way we use apostrophe “S” after someone’s name followed by an object (“Tom’s ball”).  The particle NO (の) can also be used to indicate a position of something.

The Demonstrative KSAD Pattern

In this grammar lesson, I will show you how to say things like “this”, “that” and “which” in Japanese.  We will accomplish this by using a special series: ko (こ), so (そ), a (あ), do (ど).  We often refer to this as the “KSAD pattern” when we talk about Japanese grammar.  To learn more about the KSAD pattern and how we use it as a valuable learning tool, begin this grammar lesson!

The Japanese Grammar Particle を

The Japanese grammar particle WO (を) comes after a direct object in a sentence.  The direct object is any person or thing receiving the action of a verb.  For example, “Timmy fed the dog”.  The dog is the direct object, and “fed” is the verb.  In English, we don’t need to show this relationship between an action and noun, but in Japanese it is required.  I will show you how to use the particle WO (を) to glue the direct object to the verb.


The Japanese Grammar Particle に

In this lesson, we will learn about the Japanese particle NI (に).  It is a lot like the word “to” in English.  This particle has many uses and we will go over each one with you in detail in this next grammar lesson.

Adding Nouns Together with も, と and や

We will learn how to add Japanese nouns together with 3 new grammar particles.  Mo (も), と(to), and や (ya) all have slightly different purposes in a sentence but they are all very easy to learn.  Read this grammar lesson to find out more!

The Japanese Grammar Particle で

The goal of this lesson is to learn about the Japanese grammar particle で (de). It’s a lot like the word “in”, “at” or “by” in English.  It can also mean “because”.

Please: ください and おねがいします

Kudasai and Onegaishimasu are two ways we can say “Please” in Japanese.  I will cover them both here, their uses and the differences between them.

Existence: あります and います

Arimasu and imasu are verbs we use to express existence of non-living things (arimasu) and living things (imasu).  They are both similar to “there is”.  This grammar lesson will take a closer look at these verbs and find out what’s going on!

The Difference between は and が

Learning the differences between WA and GA (は and が) can be challenging to a student, but this lesson will break it down into simple parts.  This a good lesson to bookmark as a reference since you will probably come back here more than once.

Adding か and も to Interrogatives

You have already studied interrogative words such as “nani” (なんい) and “dare” (だれ).  Next we will be creating brand new expressions simply by adding か (ka) or も (mo) to those same words.  Using this simple modification, we can create new words similar to “something”, “someone”.

になる and にする – What’s the Difference?

Now you will be able to add になる (ni naru) and にする (ni suru) to your grammar arsenal.  They mean “becoming” and “deciding”.  We will also learn about the difference between a transitive and intransitive verb.

Cause and Reason: から

から (kara) is a grammatical conjunction that is similar to “because”, “since” or “in order to”.  In this grammar lesson, we will take a closer look with a few examples.

To and From: から

から (kara) is similar to “from”.  まで (made) is similar to “until”, “(up) to”, or “as far as”.まで (made) and から (kara) are often used in the same sentence.  Build your grammar up with these two very useful words.

Asking Permission with もいいですか

もいいですか (mo ii desu ka) is a polite way to ask permission.  It should always come after the te-form of a verb.  It is very similar to “Can I” or “May I” in English.

Denying Permission: てはいけません

てはいけません (te wa ikemasen) is a way to say “you can’t do that”.   This Japanese grammar function should always come after the te-form of the “forbidden” verb.

After Doing Something: て から

から (kara) can be attached to the te-form of a verb, becoming ~てから (~te kara).  This is similar to “after doing (verb)…”

Changing States or Not: もう and まだ

We will go over the differences between もう (mou) and まだ (mada) in this next grammar lesson. もう (mou) is similar to “already” or “no longer” in English.  It implies a change of state. まだ (mada) is similar to “still” or “not yet”, implying that a situation remains unchanged.

Just だけ

だけ (dake) means only or just and can be used with many words to imply that there is nothing else.  We use this Japanese word exactly the same way as we use “only” in English, so it is very easy to learn.

Probability with でしょう and だろう

でしょう and だろう are grammar functions to express that something will probably happen or seems like it will happen.  In formal Japanese, でしょう (deshou) replaces です (desu).   In casual Japanese conversation, だろう (darou) replaces だ (da).

Suggestions and advice using ほうがいい

がいい (hou ga ii) is used for giving suggestions or advice.  In English, it is similar to “it’s better to” or “you should”.

Comparing two things with より and ほうが

より (yori) is used with  ほうが (hou-ga) to compare nouns, adjectives and even verbs.  

Conjunctions: けれども, けど and が

けれども (keredomo) and が (ga) are formal and can be used in the middle of a sentence.  In English, we use the word “but” in a similar manner.  けど (kedo) is a more casual version of けれども.

Before: まえに

まえに (mae ni) means “before” and “in front of”.  To express that something happens before something else, we should use the dictionary form of a verb followed by まえに (mae ni).  If we want to express a physical location of an object, we only need to remember that の should be placed after the noun.

After: あとで

あとで (ATO DE) means “after”.  To express that something happens after something else, we should use the past (ta-form) of a verb followed by あとで(ATO DE).  If we want to express a physical location of an object, we only need to remember that の should be placed after the noun.

Too much: すぎる

Placing すぎる (sugiru) after the stem of a verb or adjective is a way to express that something is excessive.

To be good at: がじょうず

Placing がじょうず (ga jouzu) after a verb or noun is a way to express that someone is good at something.

To be bad at: がへた

Placing がへた (ga heta) after a verb or noun is a way to express that someone is bad at something.  

To want to do something: たい

Placing ~たい after a verb stem expresses desire.  It is similar to saying that you “want to do” something.

Past Experiences: ことがある

To talk about a past experience, we can use the past form a verb (also known as ta-form) followed by ことがある (koto ga aru).  This is a way to express that you “have done something before”.

Plans and intentions: つもり

To express your plans or intentions, you can use つもり (tsumori).  It’s similar to saying “I plan to…” or “I intend to…”

The most: いちばん

To say that something outranks others as number 1, use いちばん (ichiban).

Japanese Adjectives

Japanese Adjectives have the same function as English adjectives.  They describe the state of things and people (strong, cheap, cold, etc).  Like verbs, we need to conjugate them differently depending on the form, tense and whether it is affirmative or negative.

Conjugations: Verbs and Adjectives

Verbs in the Plain Form

In this lesson, you are going to learn Japanese verbs in their “plain form”.  The plain form of a verb is exactly what you would find if you opened up a Japanese dictionary right now.  It is the naked version of a word without any “modification” to past tense or negative form.

Verbs in the Polite Form

Now that you have learned the plain form of a verb, you are now ready to learn what we call “verb conjugation”.  You will learn how to transform the plain form of a verb into the “polite form” with a simple change in the ending of the word.  You will need to learn this so that you can communicate in a formal setting.

The Polite Form of verbs in the Past Tense

Changing from the present tense to the past tense is pretty simple with formal conversation.  When you are done this lesson, you will be able to formally express that an action occurred in the past (eg. “I traveled to Japan”).  Practice the flashcards I have included with this lesson until you are comfortable with moving on.

The Negative Polite Form of verbs

Now I will show you how to formally express that an action is not happening, or didn’t happen.  For example, you will learn how to express that you are “not studying” or that you “didn’t study”.

The Casual Form of verbs in the Past Tense

We introduced you to the casual form in the first lesson, which we also referred to as the “plain form”.  That built your foundation for learning the Polite Form.  Now we are going to start conjugating the casual form with different tenses, and it will be a little bit more challenging.  Using the methods I have already shown you though, this will be easy!

Negative Verbs in the Casual Form

This lesson will teach you how to casually express that an action is not happening, or didn’t happen.  For example, you will learn how to express that you are “not studying” or that you “didn’t study”.  This lesson includes all both past and non-past tenses.

The Te-form

A verb in the て-form (te-form) ends in て or で and is used for making requests, connecting verbs together, and many other useful constructions.

JLPT N4 Grammar Points

Progressive Lessons: Particles & Structure

Not very much: あまり + ~ない

Not at all: ぜんぜん + ~ない

When: とき

It seems like: そうです and そうだ

Try to: てみる and てみます

It should be: はずだ and はずです

How to: かた

While: ながら