Finally, a new chapter! Sorry it took so long, but I’m lazy. :( This time I’ll introduce Japanese adjectives. Adjective is pretty simple in Japanese so this chapter will hopefully be clear and not as confusing as kanji…
Please make sure you’e read the previous chapters first before continuing as I won’t be explaining the things that I’ve already covered before, such as basic sentence structure and kanji, again.
Suzumiya-sama is the image girl for this chapter.
Lacus will be the image girl for the next chapter.
Japanese adjectives are divided into two main groups: the -i adjectives (い形容詞) and the -na adjectives (な形容詞).
In general -i adjectives are native to spoken Japanese that predates kanji (see Chapter III for more on the origins of kanji), while -na adjectives are mostly foreign loan words with Chinese being the majority.
Just like verbs, adjectives in Japanese also have their “dictionary form”, which is the form they appear as in dictionaries and when referred to as a stand alone word.
-i adjectives can be easily identified by the trailing い (thus their name) that appears in their dictionary form, such as 嬉しい (ureshii), 怖い (kowai) and 懐かしい (natsukashii).
Similar to the trailing hiragana for verbs, the trailing い can be modified to indicate different tenses while the rest of the word is retained. For example, past tense of kowai is kowakatta.
When used to modify a noun, you simply add the -i adjective to the front of the noun. For example, かわいい猫ちゃん (kawaii neko-chan) and 怖い怪獣 (kowai kaijuu).
-na adjectives are usually not easily identifiable in their dictionary form because they look just like nouns. When used to modify nouns, they are usually followed by the particle な, thus they are called -na adjectives. I say usually because depending on the tense, na may be replaced by other grammar structures.
Example of -na adjectives include 馬鹿 (baka), ルーズ (ru-zu), 快適 (kaiteki) and 憂鬱 (yuuutsu).
By themselves, -na adjectives look exactly like nouns. Take a look at the following sentences.
ro-maji: ano hito wa keisatsu desu
english: That guy is a police officer.
ro-maji: ano hito wa yuuutsu desu
english: That guy is melancholic.
憂鬱 (yuuutsu) is a -na adjective while 警察 (keisatsu) is a noun, but you can’t tell that from the above example without knowing the meaning of both words. And in fact, 憂鬱 can also be used as a noun:
ro-maji: suzumiya haruhi no yuuutsu
english: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Thus depending on whether it’s being used as an adjective or a noun, 憂鬱 can mean either “melancholic/gloomy” or “melancholy/gloom”. In a sense, both usages are treated as the same word and it’s up to the context to determine whether the word is being used as an adjective or a noun. This ambiguity is similar to the way the word is used in Chinese which both 憂鬱 and 警察 originated from. Most -na adjectives can be used as nouns in this manner.
The only time where you can be 100% certain that something is a -na adjective (assuming you don’t know the meaning of the word) is in a sentence such as this:
ro-maji: kanojo no yuuutsu na hyoujou ni moeru
english: I am moé for her melancholic expression.
When the particle na is used, you can be certain that the word before it is a -na adjective, because nouns modify other nouns using the particle no and not na, such as 私の猫 (watashi no neko) or 暁の車 (akatsuki no kuruma).
So yeah, it’s mostly up to your vocabulary to help you identify -na adjectives because they look just like nouns. But the good thing is that they are so similar that -na adjectives generally follow the same grammar rules as nouns, so it’s not always a problem if you can’t tell whether a word is a -na adjective or not because the rules will apply anyway. Usually.
I think if you’ve watched enough anime, you should know that in negative sentences, the trailing “desu” or “da” (meaning “to be”) that is normally there is instead replaced with “jyaarimasen” or “jyanai“.
ro-maji: kanojo wa uchuujin desu
english: She is an alien.
ro-maji: kanojo wa uchuujin jyaarimasen
english: She is NOT an alien.
Note that “desu” and “jyaarimasen” are polite forms of “da” and “jyanai“. It’s part of keigo (which includes polite form, honorific form and humble form). More on that in another chapter. Also note that “jya” is a contraction of “dewa” with the former being used exclusively for spoken Japanese.
Anyway, because -na adjectives are just like nouns, the negative form of -na adjectives is the same as that of nouns.
ro-maji: watashi wa yuuutsu jyanai
english: I am not melancholic.
However, -i adjectives follow a different set of rules… “kawaii jyanai” is NOT the negative form of “kawaii“. The correct way to do it is to take off the trailing i and replace it with kunai or kuarimasen (again, just a matter of politeness here).
ro-maji: kono keshiki wa warukunai
english: This scenery is not bad.
In the example above, 悪い becomes 悪くない.
Basically everything that’s been said above still applies.
For -na adjectives it’s quite straightfoward as usual:
憂鬱です → 憂鬱でした
yuuutsu desu → yuuutsu deshita
憂鬱だ → 憂鬱だった
yuuutsu da → yuuutsu datta
It’s just the same as nouns. And the difference between is just politeness level, “desu” and “deshita” being more polite than “da” and “datta“.
For -i adjectives, you have to take off i and replace it with katta.
かわいい → かわいかった
kawaii → kawaikatta
かわいいです → かわいかったです
kawaii desu → kawaikatta desu
Note that a trailing です can be added to -i adjectives to make them polite, but unlike with -na adjective and nouns, です does not indicate the tense of an -i adjective. Both kawaikatta and kawaikatta desu are past tense. There is no such thing as kawaikatta deshita.
For converting negative to negative past (for both -i adjectives and -na adjectives), you can think of the ない at the end as an -i adjective and change it into past tense in the same way.
憂鬱ではない → 憂鬱ではなかった
yuuutsu dewanai → yuuutsu dewanakatta
かわいくない → かわいくなかった
kawaikunai → kawaikunakatta
And you can just add でした for the polite negative form that ends with ありません.
憂鬱ではありません → 憂鬱ではありませんでした
yuuutsu dewaarimasen → yuuutsu dewaarimasen deshita
かわいくありません → かわいくありませんでした
kawaikuarimasen → kawaikuarimasen deshita
I’m too lazy to explain, so here’s a list of examples on how to convert from normal to polite forms. As above, 憂鬱 (yuuutsu) will be used as the -na adjective examples and かわいい (kawaii) for the -i adjective examples.
憂鬱だ → 憂鬱です
憂鬱ではない → 憂鬱ではありません
憂鬱じゃない → 憂鬱じゃありません
憂鬱だった → 憂鬱でした
憂鬱ではなった → 憂鬱ではありませんでした ／ 憂鬱ではなったです
憂鬱じゃなった → 憂鬱じゃありませんでした ／ 憂鬱じゃなったです
かわいい → かわいいです
かわいくない → かわいくありません
かわいかった → かわいかったです
かわいくなかった → かわいくありませんでした ／ かわいくなかったです
I’ll explain politeness levels in greater detail in a future chapter.
jyanai vs. -kunai
I mentioned just now that “kawaii jyanai” is not the negative form of “kawaii“. But you still hear people say “kawaii jyanai” sometimes, why?
Well the difference is that “kawaii jyanai” is ALWAYS a rhetorical question, i.e. “Isn’t it cute?”, whereas “kawaikunai” is USUALLY a statement, i.e. “It’s not cute.”
It is not possible to use “kawaii jyanai” as a statement and therein lies the difference.
Just a little note.
Most adjectives can be used as adverbs. For -i adjectives, replace い with く when modifying verbs instead of nouns. Take 寂しい (sabishii) for example.
ro-maji: kanojo wa sabishiku hohoenda
english: She smiled lonelily.
And yes, lonelily is really the adverb of lonely. In this case, 寂しい (lonely) is changed into 寂しく (lonelily) so as to modify the verb 微笑む (to smile).
For -na adjectives, use the particle に instead of な when modifying verbs. Let’s use 静か (shizuka) as an example.
ro-maji: kanojo wa bushitsu de shizuka ni SF noberu wo yondeiru
english: She’s quietly reading a sci-fi novel in the clubroom.
It’s quite simple really.
You turn adjectives into nouns by using the -sa suffix.
大きい (big) → 大きさ (bigness; size)
小さい (small) → 小ささ (smallness; size)
長い (long) → 長さ (“longness”; length)
短い (short) → 短さ (shortness; length)
高い (high) → 高さ (highness; height)
低い (low) → 低さ (lowness; height)
And no, “longness” is NOT a word. D:
Some -na adjectives use the -sa suffix too, but generally it is not needed because they can be used as nouns anyway.
The interesting thing is that the nominalization of adjectives with opposite meanings usually give you the same thing. For example, both 長さ (nagasa) and 短さ (mijikasa) are used to mean “length”. You need to look at the context to determine which one to use.
ro-maji: kono ke-ki no ookisa wa choudo desu
english: The size of this cake is just right.
ro-maji: kono ke-ki no chiisasa wa choudo desu
english: The size of this cake is just right.
The two sentences above translate to the same thing, but they have different implications. The first sentence is saying that the “bigness” of the cake is just right, or the cake is big enough (maybe the speaker is really hungry). The second sentence is saying that the “smallness” of the cake is just right, or the cake is small enough (to eat in one bite, maybe?).
In general though, the “bigger” or “longer” adjective in the pair is used as the generic nominalized form.
That is to say, 大きさ (ookisa) is used to describe size more often than 小ささ (chiisasa), 長さ (nagasa) over 短さ (mijikasa) and 高さ (takasa) over 低さ (hikusa) etc.
The -ki suffix
Long, long ago, using -i adjectives with nouns was not a simple matter of just dumping the adjective in front as it is. People had to convert it to the -ki form first! The horror! Okay, so it’s really just a matter of replacing -i with -ki…
ro-maji: aoki seijou naru sekai no tame ni
english: For a blue and pure world!
So yeah, the -ki form is really nothing special, just slightly archaic. It also sounds cooler. BTW, a cookie for anyone who knows where the above line is from.
When you use two adjectives to describe an object, you need to first join the adjectives together. If the first adjective is an -i adjective, you need to replace i with kute. If the first adjective is a -na adjective, you need to add de.
ro-maji: kanojo wa kirei de kawaii ko desu
english: She is a beautiful and cute girl.
ro-maji: kanojo wa kawaikute kirei na ko desu
english: She is a cute and beautiful girl.
Note that the tense is determined by the trailing adjective. Whatever tense that it is in applies to the first adjective too.
Also, you cannot use this grammar pattern for adjectives that contradict each other, even if they are not direct opposites. For example, you cannot say “beautiful and greedy” because one is considered a positive attribute while the other is considered a negative attribute.
On an interesting note, there are a few adjectives that can be either -i or -na.
小さい (chiisai) ＝ 小さな (chiisa na)
大きい (ookii) ＝ 大きな (ooki na)
可笑しい (okashii) ＝ 可笑しな (okashi na)
The meaning is exactly the same. The -i version is more common, but -na sounds better in a lot of cases because it produces a more distinctive sound and is therefore often used in song lyrics.
In the fifth chapter, we talked about:
- -i and -na adjectives
- negative, past and negative past
- polite forms of adjectives
- misc. info
The next chapter, when and if it comes, will either be on verbs (again) or politeness levels. Depends on my mood, my horoscope, the alignment of the planets and the next chapter of Suzuka.