Japanese Adjectives -
Free Japanese Lessons: 5

Japanese adjectives or 形容詞 (keiyoushi) are basically used as predicates and noun modifiers. They are divided into 2 groups: い-adjectives (i-adjectives) and な-adjectives (na-adjectives).

い-adjectives are adjectives ending with い while な-adjectives are mostly adjectives that end without い.

But there are exceptions of な-adjectives which end with い. I will come back to that later. Or you can click here to check these exceptions.

When Used as Predicates

When Japanese adjectives are used as predicates, the simplest format is:

Nounい-adjective です
Noun wa i-adjective desu
Meaning: Noun is i-adjective

Nounな-adjective です
Noun wa na-adjective desu
Meaning: Noun is na-adjective

Note that です at the end of the sentence shows that the speaker is polite to the listener. So let us use some examples to express the above sentence format:

  • たなかさんはやさしいです。
    tanaka san wa yasashii desu
    Meaning: Mr Tanaka is kind.
  • すうがくはかんたんです。
    suugaku wa kantan desu
    Meaning: Mathematics is easy.

Negative Form of Japanese Adjectives

To change an い-adjective to its negative form, remove the "い" at the end of the adjective and replace it with "くない":

い-adj(~)です → い-adj(~くない)です

Another way to express the negative form of an adjective is to replace the "い" with "くありません":

い-adj(~)です → い-adj(~くありません)

As "~くありません" itself is already in polite form, the "です" at the end of the sentence is not required. Applying negative form to the previous い-adjective example:

  • たなかさんはやさしくないです。(tanaka san wa yasashi kunai desu)
  • たなかさんはやさしくありません。 (tanaka san wa yasashi kuarimasen)
  • Meaning: Mr Tanaka is not kind.

To change a な-adjective to negative form, replace the "です" with "ではありません" at the end of the sentence:

な-adjです → な-adjではありません

Applying negative form to the previous な-adjective example:

  • すうがくはかんたんではありません。
    suugaku wa kantan dewa arimasen
  • Meaning: Mathematics is not easy.

When Used as Noun Modifiers

Japanese adjectives are also used as noun modifiers. To modify a noun in a sentence, simply place an adjective before the noun to modify it.

However, for な-adjectives, you need to add an additional "な" before the noun:

Topic は い-adjective Noun です
Topic wa i-adjective Noun desu
Meaning: Topic is an i-adjective Noun

Topic は な-adjective な Noun です
Topic wa na-adjective na Noun desu
Meaning: Topic is a na-adjective Noun

Using the same examples:

  • たなかさんはやさしいひとです。
    tanaka san wa yasashii hito desu
    Meaning: Mr Tanaka is a kind person.
  • すうがくはかんたんかもくです。
    suugaku wa kantan na kamoku desu
    Meaning: Mathematics is an easy subject.

Most of the time beginners tend to forget to add the "な" when making a noun modifier sentence. So please take some effort to remember this.

In summary, you can form sentences with Japanese adjectives using either ways such as:

  • このえんぴつはながいです。
    kono enpitsu wa nagai desu
    Meaning: This pencil is long.
  • これはながいえんぴつです。
    kore wa nagai enpitsu desu
    Meaning: This is a long pencil.
  • このまちはしずかです。
    kono machi wa shizuka desu
    Meaning: This town is quiet.
  • これはしずかまちです。
    kore wa shizuka na machi desu
    Meaning: This is a quiet town.

な-Adjectives Ended with "い"

I have mentioned that there are exceptions where some な-adjectives can end with "い". Unfortunately, there is no standard rule by which to know which of these belong to the な-adjective group.

But as your vocabulary expands with your progress, you will be able to identify them generally.

For the moment, I will show you 3 な-adjectives that end with "い":

  1. きれい (kirei) - beautiful
  2. ゆうめい (yuumei) - famous
  3. きらい (kirai) - dislike or the least favorite

Therefore, when used as noun modifier, don't forget to add a "な" before the noun:

  1. きれいひと (kirei na hito) - beautiful person
  2. ゆうめいばしょ (yuumei na basho) - famous place
  3. きらいたべもの (kirai na tabemono) - least favorite food

Not to forget the negative forms for these 3 な-adjectives:

  1. きれいではありません (kirei dewa arimasen) - not beautiful
  2. ゆうめいではありません (yuumei dewa arimasen) - not famous
  3. きらいではありません (kirai dewa arimasen) - don't dislike

One Exception of い-Adjectives

There is one い-adjective that you need to take note of when changing it to its negative form. For いい (ii) which means good, the negative form is くない (yokunai), not くない.

As you can see, there are many exceptions, not only in Japanese adjectives, but in the language as a whole. You will get to see more of them as you progress. Just pay attention, and you will be fine.

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