Japanese Grammar - Particles, Verbs and Adjectives

 Studying Japanese grammar is an important step to learning the language and we would like to make it as easy as possible.  Below you will find our entire grammar guide along with recorded audio.  I have split the grammar into two sections - Progressive Studies and Ongoing Studies.  

The Progressive Studies were made to be followed in order, although you don't have to.  This will introduce all of the basic particles and structure of Japanese grammar.  It was designed with progression in mind so that you will only come across material that I have already covered.

The Ongoing Studies should be revisited on a regular basis.  This section is focused on Japanese verbs and adjectives.  Unlike the progressive section, there is much less order required to understand what's going on.  The forms and tenses can be learned and practiced as you need them.

So which ones should you study first then?  My suggestion is to go through the progressive studies and apply the ongoing lessons as you need them.  Of course there is no rule though -- there are many different routes to fluency and this is only my attempt to guide you in the most efficient way.

Progressive Studies: Particles & Structure


Beginners should 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").  When you are finished studying this grammar lesson, you will be able to build your own sentences in Japanese with these words!

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.  For example, we will learn how to say "on the desk" in Japanese.

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 grammar 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".

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.

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.


Ongoing Studies: 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.  Imagine it as a pizza without anything on it - such a sad analogy, I know!  I'm hungry too.  In later chapters I will show you the toppings, which include negative form and past tenses (for example, "I didn't walk").  For now though, we are going to keep it simple by sticking to default mode, which is present/future tense and positive form (for example, "I walk").  Sounds easy, right?  I'll start by showing you the two major differences between Japanese verbs and English verbs and we will slowly progress from there.  I even have some flashcards for you to practice!

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.  Most textbooks will start you out this way, actually.  The advantage you have is that you already have the plain form figured out from the last section (right?.... right?).  It's very easy to take that next step into formal Japanese and I'll show you how!

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.

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.