昨日 Sakubi: Yesterday's Grammar Guide

It's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.

Don't get stuck here. Always keep moving forward. Let's learn japanese.

Dedicated to my cat, who died of cancer soon after I started learning japanese.


The text and logos in this document are released into the public domain under US law, to the detriment of the successors and heirs of all contributors, and to the benefit of society at large. February-October 2017

Also under any version of the CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) license.

Knowledge isn't property.

Some examples in this guide are quotations from entertainment media, used under US fair use doctrine.


Copy and redistribute this guide at will. If there's an error in this guide, fix it. That's what freedom's all about.

If there's something important and basic that this guide does not cover, please complain about it on the daily japanese threads on 4chan's /jp/ board or /int/ board. However, Sakubi hasn't been actively maintained since late 2017. No major changes will be made to the version on this site. Someone else will need to adopt the guide on a different site for any more major changes to be made. If they do, I'll link to it.

If you want to force "Reader" modes to be enabled on certain browsers, go to the full URL of this page. Keep in mind that "Reader" modes can break formatting.

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What you need

This guide assumes that you know the hiragana and katakana and that you're studying basic japanese vocabulary. The most efficient way to learn the kana (hiragana+katakana) is to drill it through brute force. You can use DJT Kana for this. You can also learn by exposure. I did both.

This guide assumes that you know what writing systems japanese uses, and that you know what japanese text looks like, and what Kanji are.

This guide assumes that you're learning vocabulary outside this guide. I can't teach you enough words to be useful without getting in the way of the grammar.

If you need more guidance for things other than grammar, try the DJT Guide.

Check this: How does this character render? If it's missing the vertical line on the left side, your browser is using chinese fonts for japanese. You may need to install japanese fonts or change some system language settings.

How to use this guide and Learn Japanese

Basically, this guide is a primer. This guide takes a very specific stance: The only way to acquire language features and become fluent is to consume them in a real context. This guide doesn't try to drill you, and that's a good thing.

When you read this guide, don't try to memorize it. It won't work.

You shouldn't spend a week on each lesson. In fact, I think one new lesson a day is far too slow, even if you're also reviewing old lessons.

Every single main lesson in this guide covers basic grammar. You should read the entire thing as quickly as possible. It's important to get stuff in your head sooner rather than later. It gives it time to grow, subconsciously, and even if you didn't feel like you learned it the first time, it makes it easier to remember it for good next time. Just don't get stuck reviewing it forever.

After you get far enough in this guide, you should start trying to read.

Trying to read on a regular basis, even if you can't do it for more than five minutes, tells you exactly what your weak points are, and gives you a sense of progress. This guide exposes you to grammar to let you parse things, but you need to consume real japanese to turn that exposure into acquisition.

The most efficient way to learn vocabulary is to start picking up words from media you enjoy, then memorize them with flashcards. This is called mining. Anki is the recommended flashcard program because it uses Spaced Repetition, which shows you stuff less often the better you know it. You can use frequency lists or shared decks prepared by other people if you don't want to mine.

If you want to speak japanese, you must consume audible spoken japanese, otherwise you'll sound unnatural. It doesn't matter if it's anime or news or living in japan, you just have to consume it in the spoken unwritten form. This can come after you learn how to read, but you should passively expose yourself to it (with anything: VNs, music, anime, etc) as early as possible, otherwise it'll take a long time for your brain to pick up on nuanced sound differences, like how japanese people need to be trained before they can tell apart L and R.


All I can say is don't sweat it. Try to find a way to use this guide in a nice low stress way. Don't angst out about something being hard. Some things just take time.

If you still don't know what to do, or you came back here confused:

Do not memorize this guide. It won't work. It might even be bad for you.

Video link: The Biggest Mistake People Make in Language Learning; Steve Kaufmann - lingosteve

Still stuck? Give a look to Tae Kim's Guide to Japanese Grammar, the original gangsta online, permissive, not-like-a-textbook japanese grammar guide. Reading explanations about the same thing in different places can make it easier to understand.

Table of Contents



Part 1: Getting Started

Part 2: Rest

Part 3: The Gauntlet


At this point, you should begin reading, looking ahead to future lessons to see what the guide has to say about unfamiliar grammar. The remainder of this guide is half guidance, half reference.

Part 4: Communicating

Part 5: Getting a point across

Part 6: Putting things together

Part 7: Relatively speaking

The End


Part 1: Getting Started (intermissions)

Part 2: Rest (intermissions)

Part 3: The Gauntlet (intermissions)


This guide will cover most of the grammar needed to read basic japanese. We're not going to go into too much detail, and we won't cover much vocabulary. Some words are basically grammar, though. Also, there are no exercises.

  1. Skill building, as in reading a grammar explanation and answering questions about it, doesn't work when it comes to learning a new language.
  2. A lot of people are poisoned by modern education and will basically kill their brains if there's anything to "work" on.
  3. Grammar guides are a terrible place to learn vocabulary.

If you want to pass a test, like the JLPT, this guide isn't meant for you. You should be fine if you use it, but it will betray your expectations constantly.

Not even the best linguists in the entire world can explain simple ideas like "gonna" with any less than an impenetrable book-length essay. That's not a matter of philosophy, it's a matter of explaining what things really mean, or how they work. Simple incomplete explanations are good, but have holes in them. This guide tries to walk the line and warn you about things it can't explain, but it's really hard, and this guide might mess up sometimes.

This grammar guide does its best to give you some basic exposure to japanese grammar. It can't teach you it. It can only expose you to it. Your job is to turn that exposure into acquisition. The exposure is just a foot in the door.

And, by all means, if something is too hard, skip it. You're not trying to memorize something so you can pass a test. You're not trying to memorize something so you can identify it with 100% precision when you're reading.

You're trying to get something into your head. If you can't, that's fine, you'll pick it up naturally later.

Don't look back.


Part 1: Getting Started

Everyone has to start somewhere. If you're not a kid, it's a lot easier to get started if you compare to what you already know. Let's do that for a while. It's not as good as reading japanese, but it'll help a lot.

(This guide assumes you know the kana, you're learning vocabulary, and you have a mouseover dictionary like Rikaisama (for Firefox) or Yomichan (for Chrome/Opera). If you don't, go fix that.)

Lesson 1: State of being with だ and です

Japanese has two basic "is" words. The grammar term for "is" words is "copula". Copulas have a dedicated term because they're special.

The two copulas in japanese are だ and です. です is more polite than だ. Despite both being copulas, they can't always be used in the same patterns.

Unlike english, the state-of-being word goes after the word that you're using to describe something, rather than before it.

It's a pen.

It is a cat.

The difference between だ and です is sometimes translated as a difference in whether a contraction is used, but this is not what's happening in japanese.

Later on, we'll see です get used in places that english wouldn't allow "is". It can act like a filler word instead of a copula.

Japanese has two basic tenses: the simple tense and the simple past tense. Dictionaries list verbs by their simple tense. We're only using the word "simple" to say that nothing else is added to the verb.

The simple past form of だ is だった. The simple past form of です is でした.

It was me!

That was so.

The simple tense is usually called the present tense or the non-past tense. It's important to remember that it can be used in a lot of situations. Present tense and non-past tense are reasonable names, but don't treat names like rules, sometimes names are confusing. We'll be using these names interchangeably.

The simple tense and simple past tense usually line up with english's present and past tenses, but they're not used in all the same places. Just remember that english and japanese use tense in different ways.

In japanese, ordinary statements about the future use the simple tense most of the time. This is where the name "non-past" comes from.

The simple past tense is usually just called the past tense. Sometimes it can also be used for things that already completed like "has become", even if they're hypothetical and haven't happened yet.

Intermission: Vowels

Intermissions are useful, but if they stress you out, you shouldn't read them.

Japanese only has five vowels. The quality of the vowels sometimes changes slightly depending on the sounds near them, but not enough to make new vowels.

Unlike english, japanese has a very regular orthography (how writing corresponds to sounds). The japanese vowels are, for our intents and purposes, always pronounced the same way, except for when they're not pronounced at all. More on that later.

Resources about the japanese vowel sounds are widespread on the internet. Explaining sounds through text is a fool's errand.

Lesson 2: Nouns, pronouns

Japanese has nouns and pronouns, just like english. Pronouns are less special than they are in english, and act like normal nouns most of the time.

Japanese does not have a plural form. Nouns and verbs don't have to agree for plurality, person, or gender. Japanese can explicitly refer to a group by attaching certain suffixes to nouns, but none of them are a true plural, they all convey extra information that plurals don't.

Japanese has tons of personal pronouns (me, you, them) that english doesn't, but the demonstrative pronoun system (this, that, these, those) is much less irregular. Also, japanese pronouns never change form for case like english ones do (he vs him), though you can put suffixes on them.

Don't bother memorizing these word lists. Learn words outside of this guide.

私・わたし me (normal, slightly formal when men use it)
あたし me (casual, feminine)
俺・おれ me (casual, masculine)
僕・ぼく me (casual or polite, masculine)
彼・かれ him
彼女・かのじょ her / lady
あなた you

達 is a suffix. This suffix can be applied to pronouns and nouns. This suffix refers to the group the noun/pronoun is in.

私達・わたしたち Us
ジム達・じむたち Jim and company
ペン達・ぺんたち The pen and stuff

達 is normally for living things, and the usage with "pen" above is considered colloquial, or at least informal. It just shows up enough to mention.

Japanese has compound words. They work the same way as in english.

町・まち town, district
中・なか inside, middle
町中・まちなか downtown, in town, the middle of town

Japanese has prefixes and suffixes just like english. This is different than compound words. Prefixes and suffixes can't stand on their own.

研究・けんきゅう research
研究者・けんきゅうしゃ researcher

者, pronounced しゃ here, is a suffix. It can act like a piece of a compound word, but can't stand on its own as its own word. When 者 appears on its own in a sentence, it's a different word, and not pronounced as しゃ. Thanks, kanji.

昨日, meaning "yesterday", is normally read as きのう, not さくび. But since it's this guide's name, it can have a reading different than the normal word spelled the same way. Watch out for reading variation when you start reading, or you'll be super confused.

Intermission: Long vowels and gemination

Intermissions are optional.

In japanese, "long vowel" doesn't mean what it means when you're talking about english. Japanese long vowels literally last longer.

Japanese also has something called "gemination". Gemination means that the speaker briefly stops on a consonant. In japanese, this adds the same amount of time as using a long vowel. Practice the following to get a hang of the idea:


The letter t isn't pronounced twice in the third example. There's a point in time when the mouth stops making the first "a" sound and is in the position of the "t" sound, but the air is blocked. It's not released until the "ta".

Long e is sometimes spelled as ei えい. Not all instances of えい are a long e. But all instances of えい that are a long e can also be pronounced as literally え followed by い. It can sound stiff, but it's still correct. To illustrate:

えい (not a long e): Only pronounced as えい
えい (is a long e): Can be pronounced えい or ええ

Long o is sometimes spelled as ou おう. Not all instances of おう are a long o. Unlike えい, sequences of おう can only be pronounced a certain way, depending on whether it's a long o or not. おう is used this way because it reduces how many words have the same spelling.

おう (not a long o): Only pronounced おう
おう (is a long o): Only pronounced おお

お and う are so close that the distinction between おう and おお might be hard to hear or articulate in casual speech, but the distinction is always intended.

Most instances of おう that are not long o sounds are verb endings. But there's one verb ending where this is not the case: the volitional, taught later.

Lesson 3: Particles and grammatical case

Japanese has "particles". Particles are similar to prepositions. They mark an entire phrase as having some logical relationship to something else. Japanese particles come after the phrase they're modifying instead of before it.

English uses word order when you need to know what job each noun has in a sentence: subject, verb, object. This can get flipped around in other patterns and in poetry, but word order is english's main thing here.

These jobs are called grammatical "cases", and each job is a particular "case".

Japanese uses particles to indicate these jobs. There's a default word order, and you can drop particles, but particles are the norm.

Remember: these translations are only for demonstration, and the japanese sentences are not necessarily natural-sounding. The sentences and translations are only here for illustration, not instruction.

じむが ねこを たべた
Jim ate cat.

Here, が marks "Jim" as the subject. を marks ねこ as the direct object. The subject of a verb like "eat" is the person doing the eating.

Japanese throws a wrench into the picture by having something we call a "topic marker", は, which literally just says "this is what I'm talking about". Most grammar resources compare は to が. They do this because sometimes it's unnatural to use が, and you have to use は instead, or leave the subject unstated. But は is more general than being an alternative to が.

ネコはイヌが食べた The cat, a dog ate it.
イヌはネコを食べた The dog ate a cat.

One way to differentiate は and が here is thinking of が as a focus marker. This "focus" is in addition to が's behavior as a subject marker, not instead of it.

ジムがネコを食べた Jim is the one that ate the cat.

English uses articles and swip-swappy sentence patterns for this kind of focus.

Cats eat fish (cats in general)
The cat eats fish (the cat we were talking about)

A cat eats fish (about a particular arbitrary cat)
The cat eats fish (about a relevant cat)
Cats are what eat fish (cats in particular)

Japanese is a "subject-object-verb" (SOV) language. That is, normal statements have subject, object, and verb in that order. English is SVO. Both languages allow moving the parts around, but doing so changes where the emphasis goes.

If you need more information on は, view "Unit 8: Particle wa" of "Visualizing Japanese Grammar".

Intermission: Devoicing

Intermissions are optional.

In certain places, the vowels "u" and "i" can be "devoiced", meaning that they're not pronounced at all. です and でした are examples. It's still acceptable to pronounce the vowels in these cases, but you'll sound weird.


Don't bother learning any more about devoicing until you're much better at japanese. It'll make it harder to notice irregular devoicing patterns that people don't bother teaching.

Lesson 4: の means の: possession and attributes; bonus: honorifics

の is a particle. It's a possessive marker and an attributive marker. "Attributive" here means that something is an attribute of something else, like an attribute in a video game, like the "flame" in "flame sword". The relationship is always straightforward.

私のネコ My cat
君の Yours.
ネコの先 Ahead of the cat
男の子 Boy (metaphorically, male child)

If you get lost, the easiest way to remember の is: It's like "of", but applies backwards.

夜の人 Person of the night

Sometimes "of" gets confusing, and you have to remember the idea "attribute".

夜の海 The night sea
海の夜 Night on the sea (NOT "night of the sea")

の is literally the single most common word in all of japanese, so make sure you remember it well!

My child's cats are many. (My kid has a lot of cats.)

Let's take a moment to learn about honorifics. If you're consumed any translated japanese media, there's a good chance you already understand this.

When referring to another person by name, their name usually takes a suffix like さん, くん, さま, or ちゃん. This is not an exhaustive list of honorifics, and they have a lot of context-specific nuances that would take a long time to memorize. Just keep in mind their function.

Just like the honorific titles Mister, Miss, Master, Sir, and Lord in english, japanese honorifics indicate the attitude the speaker is taking towards that person, and/or towards their relationship with that person. It's much less normal to use the honorific alone in japanese than english, so they act more like suffixes than independent extra words.

Referring to someone by name without any honorific at all might be familiar or intimate, or assuming of your interpersonal relationship with them. This is extra true if you use their given name instead of their family name.

Intermission: Spelling irregularities

Intermissions are optional.

Japanese has a small number of spelling irregularities. These irregularities make written japanese easier to read, not harder.

Particles: When the particles は, を, and へ are spoken, they're pronounced as "wa", "o", and "e", not as "ha", "wo", or "he". Actually, "wo" is still correct, and you see it all the time in singing, but it sounds silly in normal speech.

Words: The word 言う いう, meaning "say", is pronounced ゆう when in the simple tense (dictionary form).

Japanese has a "pitch accent" system, where words have a specific change in pitch (or none) that distinguishes them. This is not the same thing as stress or tone.

Pitch accent is not represented when japanese is written in kana.

Pitch accent is actually very important if you want to speak, so you're going to have to find a resource for that if you want one.

Japanese isn't "robotic", "monotone", or "flat". Japanese has prosody, just like english. Every language has prosody. Prosody is the natural "musicalness" of language.

Lesson 5: Moving things with に, へ, and から

These particles mainly deal with location. から indicates the starting point of an action, and へ and に indicate the ending point of an action.

から is the same general "from" you see in english, even when it's abstract.

[He] sent me home a letter from school.

The english translation doesn't even have any marking on three of the nouns. Particles make things easier, at least for a language learner.

The subject was dropped in the japanese version of this sentence. The subject can be dropped in japanese if it's understood. This is just like how english uses pronouns. If you don't drop something that's obvious enough to drop, it emphasizes it.

へ translates well as "to" or "toward" in most situations, including abstract ones.

東京へ行く Going to Tokyo / Headed for Tokyo

に can mark an indirect object or a location.

An indirect object is something relevant to or affected by a verb, but not part of the verb's core meaning. This overlaps with へ a little, but へ cares more about motion and towardsness, and に cares more about the noun itself.

学校に来た Came to school.

Location is easy.

学校に暮らす I live in school.

The idea of "indirect object" used by に can show up in places that would look like direct objects in english.

研究者になる Becomes a researcher.
ここに来た He came here.

In this way, に becomes a general "first option" for things that look like direct objects but cannot take を for the equivalent verb in japanese. There are other particles that also do this job, which we will cover later. For certain meanings, you can only use a given particle, not an arbitrary one.

These particles can be used in other ways, but we're not ready for that yet.

This is a good time to remember that particles attach to phrases, not words. This applies to every particle we've learned so far.

私の家から来た Came from my house

Intermission: Consonant irregularity

Intermissions are optional.

The italic text in this intermission will indicate values in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

The consonant g is sometimes pronounced ng, even at the beginning of words. In modern times, this is a matter of accent, not variation between dialects. It feels prestigious, not slangy, but it's being phased out.

The syllable ん is always pronounced as m before "p" and "b", always pronounced as ng (ŋ) before "k" and "g", and always pronounced like ng (ɴ) at the end of an utterance. Basically, it merges with whatever comes after it, just like how the "input" is usually pronounced "imput", and "inking" as "ingking".

Most japanese syllables use the consonants regularly. Only a couple don't.

Within the basic kana, only the kana ふ, つ, し, and ち have irregular consonant sounds. They are, in effect, "fu" (ɸu), "tsu", "shi" (ɕi), and "chi" (t͡ɕi), in order.

When they're voiced, three of the four irregular basic kana, づ, じ, and ぢ, change qualities slightly. So does ず.

In standard japanese, ず and づ are in free variation. Either one can be pronounced as dzu or zu.

The same is true with じ and ぢ pronounced as ji (ʑi) (as in the second consonant in "vision") or dji (d͡ʑi) (as in the first consonant in "James").

ず・づ and じ・ぢ being treated the same way is a feature of the standard accent. Other accents can merge the four of them together even more, or not merge them at all.

When し, ち, じ, and ぢ start diphthongs, like ちゃ, ぢゃ, しゃ, and じゃ, the "i/y" sound in the middle is dropped. For example, ちゃ is always pronounced as "cha" (t͡ɕa), never as "chya" (t͡ɕja). Normal diphthongs like きゃ are pronounced the normal way, like "kya" (kja).

Lesson 6: What is a verb? Nothing but a miserable pile of conjugations!

Unlike english, japanese has several categories of regular verbs. In other words, unlike english, japanese says that all of its verb categories are regular. Even though you might say that "ashen" and "eaten" are irregular in english, japanese doesn't follow the same logic.

Right now, japanese has two categories of regular verbs. It used to have categories of categories, but there's only two categories right now. The two categories are one-form verbs and five-form verbs, which conjugate differently.

Here's an example, using a ます form that we'll learn properly in Lesson 12. Don't bother memorizing this table.

見る/見ます, "one-form" verb.
切る/切ります, "five-form" verb, ending in る.
買う/買います, "five-form" verb, ending in う.
死ぬ/死にます, "five form" verb, ending in ぬ.

One-form verbs always end in る, and just drop the る when they conjugate. The stuff leading up to that る is the verb's basic identity, and isn't changed. The verb itself, aside from conjugation, has only "one form".

Five form verbs can end in one of several syllables. In the present tense, this syllable always ends in a "u" vowel, and different conjugations can change it to any of the other four vowels in japanese, or slur it. This means that it can have any of five different vowels at the end. In other words, five forms.

Five-form verbs in the dictionary form can end in one of several different syllables, but it always ends in the vowel "u".

切る 殺す 死ぬ 選ぶ 読む 問う 動く 急ぐ 持つ

One-form verbs in the dictionary form always end in る. But the part before the る always ends in a phonetic "e" or "i". The dictionary form just attaches る to the one-form verb's one and only base, the part of the one-form verb that never changes.

Japanese verb conjugation likes to pile words together, and you end up with things like 見られたくなかった. Over the next few lessons, we start learning the logic behind these long piles of conjugations. This makes them easier to break down.

This lesson is just establishing the basics needed to understand what we're going to look at.

Intermission: "Synthetic" language

Intermissions are optional.

Japanese is synthetic. The linguistics term "synthetic" means that a language likes to synthesize (!) words out of small parts. Generally speaking. Above all, "synthetic" does not mean a manufactured, synthesized language itself.

Japanese is a synthetic language, due to it piling verb conjugations on top of eachother like 見られたくなかった. Piling things together like this is called "agglutinative". When you make complicated meanings with single pieces that have several implications, that's called "fusional". Japanese is not fusional.

The opposites of synthetic are "analytic" and "isolating". Chinese is both analytic and isolating. English is considered an analytic language because it loves function words and has relatively few productive inflections, but less isolating because it loves derivational affixes.

The exact definitions of "analytic" and "isolating" tend to be fuzzy, because extremely analytic or extremely isolating languages tend to be both, not just one or the other. Modern linguists think that categories like these, in the vague sense, aren't that useful at categorizing all the languages, just the ones that grammar people liked looking at.

Lesson 7: Negated verbs and using い-adjectives

When you turn a one-form verb into a negative verb, it cuts off the る at the end of the simple tense and adds ない.

For five-form verbs, you turn the ending "u" into an "a", with one exception.

These examples are for illustration. You should not memorize them, just understand them for now and move on.

1-form: Drop る, add ない
5-form: Replace "u" with "a", then add ない
食べない not eating / to not eat

For five-form verbs ending in う, the negative uses わない, not あない. This is that one exception.

Japanese has two types of adjectives. Don't worry, it's not the same deal as the two categories of verbs. い-adjectives act like verbs. な-adjectives act like nouns. We'll cover な-adjectives later.

Here's an example of an い-adjective in practice.

赤い火 Red fire

The reason い-adjectives "act like verbs" is because you don't use だ with them.

火が赤いThe fire is red.

"is" is only present in the translation. In fact, attaching だ here would be ungrammatical. Do not attach だ to い-adjectives.

火が赤い (ungrammatical gargling)

Attaching です is okay, but です doesn't indicate state of being here, it just adds politeness. This is the first major way that だ and です are different. When it's not attached to a noun, です is just a politeness marker.

火が赤いです The fire is red.

There are more constructions that end up putting a だ or です right at the end of い-adjectives, but they don't indicate state of being like attaching だ or です to a noun does.

Like verbs, you can conjugate い-adjectives. Replace い with かった or くない.

火が赤かった The fire was red.
火が赤くない The fire is not red.

ない is an い-adjective and you can conjugate it like one.

見なかった Did not see.

Adjectives are turned into abstract nouns with さ. There are more ways to do this, but さ is by far the most common.

大きさ Size (largeness) (from 大きい)

Intermission: What's subarashiki about poetry anyway?

Intermissions are optional.

In classical japanese, the attributive form of い-adjectives ended in き, not い, and き is therefore an adnominal form. You'll run into this form all the time since it's still intelligible to native speakers, so it's no use hiding it.

Japanese stories like to use literary language features once in a while, just like english. Just as a novel might misuse "wherefore", so too will a japanese novel misuse <confusing literary term X>. While this doesn't apply to the き ending of い-adjectives, it does apply to things too advanced to be covered here, for sure.

All the same, you're going to have to acquire the misused versions of literary terms in order to understand them when writers misuse them. That's part of the experience of the language, how <feature X> is used, not just what it's "supposed" to mean.

Uneducated attempts to sound archaic are definitely not 素晴らしき, but the low-grade tone of voice you can get out of just the right use of old grammar, or the jokes you can make when characters know different parts of it, those are definitely 素晴らしき.

Classical japanese actually has a couple different categories that evolved into modern い-adjectives, but you don't have to worry about that.

Lesson 8: The verb strikes back: the past tense

You form the past tense of a verb by attaching た or だ to the right "stem". Stems are basically the shortest verb forms you can write. You attach the right stuff to the end of the right stem when you want to make complex conjugations.

We're introducing stems now because the past tense of five-form verbs uses irregular stems.

90% of the time, you only use three stems. Here's an example:

殺す 死ぬ
殺さ 死な
殺し 死に/死ん

Here's an example of these stems in use:

"he kills"
"he doesn't kill"
"he killed"

That's right. Basic stuff like tense and negation uses only three stems. There are more stems, but they show up less often. We'll cover them later.

With that out of the way, we can introduce the past tense properly. We've seen the past tense forms of だ and です already, which are だった and でした. We also saw 殺した in the stem example above.

You'd be right to assume that the た is what makes it the past tense. The hard part, and the reason for the delay, is that the stem for the past tense of five-form verbs isn't as regular as the stem for the negative form. It depends on the exact original syllable ending. Here are all possibilities:


Don't memorize this table. There's a rule for this, it's just irregular. Replace the "u" vowel with an "i" vowel, so you get like 切り, 死に, etc. Then attach the た, but slur it. The slurring is what makes it irregular. In particular, notice 死んだ and 急いだ.

Japanese speakers don't go through this process whenever they conjugate something. This process is like trivia to them. The "slurring" is a historic thing, and the slurred version is just what the form is now. At the very least, if you do a little reading and listening in japanese, you will be able to recognize the past tense at a glance. Exposure is more powerful than memorization.

The past tense of one-form verbs is easy. Replace the る with a た.

見る 見た
食べる 食べた

We will learn another use of this stem, one where it's not slurred with five-form verbs, in Lesson 12.

Conjugation is more complicated than this, but take this one step at a time.

(問う, 請う, and 恋う have irregular past conjugations among う-final five-form verbs. They might not be particularly common verbs, but they use a う stem for the past tense instead of the lengthened consonant. This is an example of the slurring being irregular.)

Intermission: About jargon

Intermissions are optional.

First of all, a disclaimer: 問うた might not be used that often anymore. I was told 問いかけた is the normal way of saying it in speech, a phrasal verb. All the same, it's not hard to find 問うた.

The two categories of regular verbs have several english names, but only one japanese name each: 一段 and 五段. In english, they're called consonant or vowel stem verbs, ichidan or godan verbs, or "ru" and "u" verbs.

"ru" and "u" is the worst distinction. There are 五段 verbs that end in る.

"Consonant" vs "vowel" implies that the reader already understands how japanese conjugation works. It also implies that's the actual difference between the two categories, when in reality, there could be any number of consonant or vowel categories.

"One-form" and "five-form" what you get when you translate 一段 and 五段 in a way that makes sense in plain english. Translated formally, you get "monograde" and "pentagrade" (less common), and you see these words in scholarly writing. You find "monograde", "bigrade", and "quadrigrade" in writing about historical japanese.

Lesson 9: The て particle, the て form, and the imperative

Don't worry if this lesson seems hard. We're just covering fundamentals, you're not expected to internalize the ideas here yet.

There's a verb form that ends in て. This verb form is used in three main ways: to connect statements to eachother, to connect verbs to eachother, and as a simple command. We split this in two: the "て particle" and the "て form".

The て "form" is made by replacing the past tense's た with て. Keep in mind that this isn't some kind of secondary past tense.

殺して 切って 買って 死んで 食べて

The main use of the て form is the pattern XてY. This pattern uses Y to modify the meaning of X, and Y usually isn't literal.

The following two examples use てあげる and てもらう. We learn these for real near the end of this guide. They're kind of advanced, and you shouldn't try to understand them yet, just the XてY construction.

殺してあげる I'm going to kill you.

In this example, the verb あげる attaches to the て "form" of 殺す. Normally, あげる means "raise something", but because it's used in this pattern, it means "give". The speaker is "giving" the action 殺す to someone else, probably you.

助けてもらう roughly "is gratefully saved" or "receives help"
save (te form) + receive

Here, the "receive" word, もらう, modifies 助ける's て form. This doesn't just emphasize how grateful they are for being saved. 助ける normally takes the savior as the subject, but the phrase 助けてもらう takes the survivor as the subject. The XてY pattern isn't just attaching the verb Y to an earlier statement, it makes a whole new verb phrase, with different grammar.

The て "form" of い-adjectives is Xい -> Xいで, so ない -> ないで. い-adjectives don't like the て "form" that much. You usually only see the て form of い-adjectives if the adjective is part of a verb conjugation, like ない.

Please don't eat.

Here, 食べないで is the て "form" of 食べない, and ください is a "please" word that's attached to it.

The て "form" can make a simple command by using it alone. You can think of this like an implied ください for now.

食べて、少年 Eat, boy.
見て! Look!
食べないで Please don't eat.

Now, the "て particle". For verbs, the て "particle" and "form" are identical. For い-adjectives, you replace the い with くて.

食べなくて 赤くて

The main use of the て "particle" is to string statements together in a single sentence.

物分りがよくて助かる It'd help a lot to have a good understanding.
彼女の目を見て、僕は告げる。 Looking her in the eyes, I say it.

In the first example, the statement 物分りがよくて is followed by the statement 助かる. 助かる is not modifying よくて. Instead, the first statement is setting up the context for the second statement.

The second example just strings the statements together the same way the translation does.

Sometimes the て "particle" lets a verb act as a topic. In this way, the て "particle" can look like a noun. It's not really a noun, it just looks like one in situations like this. (To students of grammar: this is not a gerund, it just translates to a gerund here.)

食べてはいい It's good to eat.
起きなくては いけない It's no good not to get up. ("Not getting up is no good.")

The て particle of ない, なくて, usually carries a "didn't X, so Y" nuance. But this is just a nuance. There's no literal indication of cause and effect here. It's just one of the possible nuances of なくて and some other uses of the て particle.

早く起きなくて 仕事に遅れた I didn't get up early, and I was late for work. (reason)

This brings us to the fourth common verb stem, the imperative (commanding) form. This is a "true" imperative form, rather than the "simple command" made by using the て "form" alone. Basically, the imperative form usually sounds rude.

The imperative of one-form verbs is ろ, and the imperative of five-form verbs replaces the u with an e.

Look as I die

殺せ Kill them!

There's an alternative imperative for one-form verbs, but you can ignore it until you're adept. Just remember that it exists.

食べよ Eat!

Intermission: What even is an infinitive?

Intermissions are useful, but if they stress you out, you shouldn't read them. Especially this one.

In the grammar taught in schools, english speakers are usually taught that verbs like "to go" are infinitives, without being given a good explanation about what that means or why they're called that.

In the study of latin, verb forms could be categorized based on whether they contained information about subject, and these categories were obvious, because latin verbs have to agree with their subject's gender, just like they can with number/person in english (I go, you go, he goes).

However, some verb forms in latin contain literally no information about the subject. Such verbs are called "non-finite", because they didn't "finish up" (see: FINIte) the information necessary to make a real statement with the verb. Infinitive is the most non-finite a verb can be.

This concept is hard to explain when you move away from "fusional" languages like latin, because you stop containing so much extra information in the verb forms, and you even end up with subtle overlap between infinitives and gerunds.

There's light on the other end of the tunnel. The main use of infinitives in english is to link verbs with words that do have a "finite"ness to them.

"I want to go now."
"It's not that he's going to be late, he just doesn't know what to do".

Here, "to go", "to be late", and "to do" are (respectively) clearly attached to "want", "going", and "what". The rule isn't as simple as "stick two verbs together", and the same is true with japanese's て "form" and the stem the て "form" attaches to.

However, because japanese is a topic-prominent language and has no fusion, the concept of "finite"ness is even harder to understand against it than english. Linguisticians are working hard at problems like this and have a lot of really good ideas, but they're unintelligible to normal language learners.

Because of this, as well as the fact that linking an abstract verb to a less abstract verb is not their only use, the て "form" and its stem won't be called infinitives in this guide. But the comparison to infinitives is glossed over almost everywhere, so I thought I should point it out for the two of you that actually understand infinitives.

Lesson 10: Being more with で, では, and じゃ

Normally, で marks the "circumstance" or "means" behind an action. Circumstance can be a location.

Is made out of swords

Killed (others) with a katana

Came by bus

Working at school

で comes from contracting にて. You see にて in old fashioned writing.

で can also be used like it's the て "particle" of だ. It's not actually the て "particle" of だ, but it's close enough for japanese grammar to say it is.

He's really a dog and I'm flustered.
(I'm flustered that he's really a dog.)

This brings us to では. では is a compound particle. The は here is the topic marker, but では's meaning isn't defined as the sum of its parts. では marks the circumstance or condition of another state.

Ice cream is sold at the park.

This extends to state of being.

I am not a student.

The conversational version of the above uses じゃ, a contraction of では.

I'm not a student.

Because it's not contracted, ではない is a low grade formal negative assertion. In fact, じゃない is basically the negative version of だ. The etymology of だ has で in it, but we'll learn that etymology later.

Some dialects have different normal spoken copulas than だ. Examples are や and じゃ. This じゃ is a contraction of something other than では. では is not a copula.

'ts a pen. (it's a pen.)

Intermission: Japanese japanese grammar is bad, too, actually

Intermissions are optional.

In japanese school grammar, で is considered the て "particle" of だ. (Well, they don't distinguish the て form and て particle, but same difference.) This is because of the way it can act like a conjunction. Make sure not to confuse the words "conjugation" and "conjunction".

It's confusing when you learn the etymology of だ, because you end up with a system where で and だ are derived from eachother with に caught in the crossfire.

I became twintails.

(Garbled dysfluent otaku noises)

The easiest way to think of things is that they lead back to に and て, not だ. But it's important to remember that japanese school grammar still considers で to be the て "particle" of だ, because it's allowed to act like it is.

This is one of the reasons I presented the て "particle" and て "form" as different things.

Some instances of にて might actually be a fossilized proto-japanese copula, not a combination of the に and て particles, but it basically merged with the case particle sequence にて at some point, and both interpretations are valid. This "fossilized proto-japanese copula" is basically treated as the reason why で is allowed to "act like the て particle of だ" sometimes.

Lesson 11: Getting detailed with relative clauses and な-adjectives

In grammar, a "clause" is a phrase that contains a single statement. "It's already over" is a clause. The "I'm late" in "I'm sorry I'm late" is a clause. Compound sentences, like "I'm late because the traffic was bad", contain multiple clauses.

Relative clauses are statements that are somehow embedded inside another statement. We're going to cover relative clauses that modify nouns. Relative clauses that modify nouns act like "the house I used to live in".

To make a verb modify a noun directly, you just attach the verb to the front of the noun. This means that japanese verbs basically act like adjectives. Adjectives can also be used in relative clauses, even with a subject.

Person that eats

People that give to me

The simple tense of だ can't make a relative clause, but its past tense can.

(ungrammatical frothing)

Food that I liked

In rare circumstances, that rule can be broken, but it's a real rule, not a fake one. Don't make relative clauses with just だ.

In relative clauses, の is allowed to mark the subject instead of が, even if you leave out the noun that the relative clause is modifying.

君の来た場所 The place you came
全く光のない Totally without light ("where light totally is not")

Now let's look at な-adjectives, named after the な that comes after them.

Stupid kid

Dearly beloved person

な-adjectives act like nouns if you don't attach the な.

I like you.
(You are liked.)

な acts like a suffix for な-adjectives that makes a relative clause. な can even be used this way on a lot of normal nouns, not just な-adjectives. But な-adjectives are special, and dictionaries have different categories for nouns and な-adjectives. Some な-adjectives aren't "normal" nouns. It's weird if you use them as a noun in the wrong place.

の-adjectives are nouns that are special because they turn into full-blown adjectives when の is attached, instead of turning into a general attribute or a possessive. This is different than な-adjectives which are always special.

English-language books. (NOT "books of english")

(To students of grammar: this use of の is a full blown genitive case. The normal use of の with nouns for attribution and possession is similar to the genitive, but distinct, especially because japanese has の-adjectives.)

Intermission: The dreaded parse and auxiliary verbs

Intermissions are optional.

When relative clauses come together in a sufficiently complex way, "parsing", or selecting the right relationship between words, gets increasingly complex. In all languages, the correct parse is selected with a combination of common sense and how common the possible patterns are.

Here's a popular meme about this exact phenomenon.


The cat that ate a fish and the cat had a red head.

The cat that ate a fish and the fish had a red head.

The cat whose head ate a red fish.

The head is a cat that ate a red fish.

The head is a red cat that ate a fish.

Coming up in the next lesson, an auxiliary verb is a verb that attaches to another verb and gives meaning to that verb instead of having its own meaning.

Normal verbs like いる sometimes act as auxiliary verbs. Japanese japanese grammar distinguishes between auxiliary verbs that can either act normally or as auxiliaries, and auxiliary verbs that must only act as auxiliaries. So いる is sometimes called a "subsidiary" verb instead of auxiliary, even in english. In this guide we'll call them auxiliary when they're used that way, instead of treating "auxiliary verb" like a part of speech.

Lesson 12: Irregular verbs and basic formality

Now that we've covered the most common verb stems, we can cover the irregular verbs. Japanese only has two blatant irregular verbs, but they're very common. Their conjugations are completely irregular.

する, meaning "do"
来る くる, meaning "come"

する した しない せよ
くる きた こない こい

The irregular imperatives are so irregular that casual spoken japanese sometimes uses completely different imperatives altogether. They're not formally correct, but you'll run into them anyway.


Many more verbs have one or two irregular conjugations, but する and くる take the cake and are the most important to know about for reading.

Let's cover basic formality while we're at it. Basic polite verbs use an auxiliary verb, ます, attached to a stem. For one-form verbs, ます attaches to the One True Base. For five-form verbs, change the u to an i, then attach ます.

食べます (Someone) eats/will eat.
行きますよ I'm heading out!
切ります Cuts [something] (polite)

Warning: don't attach ます to です, it doesn't work.

In lesson 8, we mentioned that the five-form past tense comes from this "i" stem. That version is "reduced". Let's review.

死んだ shi n da
死にます shi ni ma su
殺した koro sh ta
殺します koro shi ma su

Notice that the "i" is not pronounced in 殺した. You can pronounce it, but it'll sound weird. 死んだ removes the "i" completely, even in spelling. Also, the ん in 死んだ causes the た to become "voiced", た to だ, the same thing that turned にて into で.

Here's a comparison between the past tense and ます form of each type of five-form verb. Don't memorize this.


And these are the basic conjugations of ます.

死にます 死にました 死にません 死にませんでした

ません doesn't have a past tense of its own. To use the past tense with ません, you attach でした, the past tense of です.

Intermission: Keigo and some archaic speech

Intermissions are optional.

Keigo is a prescribed way of using japanese that encodes information about respect, humility, and politeness. Some of the politeness mechanisms of normal japanese (like ます and です) overlap with keigo, but keigo goes beyond that.

Keigo makes strict distinctions between politeness, respectfulness, and humility, and also adds mechanisms for "word beautification". We'll cover the normal ways to do some of this later on, but keigo is a level above what the normal language does.

In keigo, certain phrases act as alternatives to normal words, and they have different levels of respectfulness, humility, politeness, beauty, etc. Because this is prescribed, not all japanese speakers understand it 100%, but everyone's aware of the basics and the fact that it exists.

These phrases basically act like euphemisms for normal words. These phrases are usually longer than what they replace (since longer = more formal), and since they're basically euphemisms, they're kind of nonliteral/indirect. If you know that keigo exists, you'll be less confused when you run into them.

Here's an example of the keigo versions of the word する "do":

なさる (respectful) いたす (humble) します (polite)

Keigo cares about your social status compared to other people, which is why there's several categories and why it's prescribed.

Keigo is basically a register of speech. Just like someone living in a slum would be totally out of touch with the way the language used in a cathedral, someone who learned japanese playing video games would be mostly out of touch if they ended up in a business meeting. Of course, a game will probably use keigo, but not in the right ways for you to acquire it.

On the subject of registers of speech, you will occasionally run into things like よりて where よって normally goes, using the unreduced version of the stem described in Lesson 12, but this is basically exclusive to intentionally archaic writing.

Part 2: Rest

Let's relax and do easier stuff before we head out into the real world. Before we start fighting monsters. Before The Gauntlet.

Lesson 13: Questions with か and の, featuring のだ

Questions in japanese are usually formed with tone of voice, or with か, or with の. This covers yes/no questions. We'll cover "wh"-questions later.

When a writer has a character ask a question with just tone of voice, they usually use a ?, but otherwise, the ? is not needed. Japanese doesn't have the same writing rules as english.

熱い? Is it hot?

When a question is formed with か, the か just goes at the end of the sentence. If the sentence ended with だ (the copula), the だ is removed. There's no special reason for this rule, in fact it can be ignored in archaic writing, it just makes the language simpler.

お前は警察か Are you with the police?
熱いか Is it hot?
知るか? Do you know?

To frame a question politely, you can use ですか or ますか. ますか is only used with verbs, and it's just the question marker か stuck to a polite verb. ですか attaches to the question you want to ask as a whole, even if it ended with a verb or い-adjective.

彼は学生ですか。 Is he a student?
古いですか Is it old?
来るですか Is it coming?
食べますか Won't you eat?

Sometimes か forms things that look like rhetorical questions, since they're not really looking for an answer. But they're not actually rhetorical, because they're not trying to make a point. Every language does this.

あら、そうか。 Oh, is that so.

I'm not saying that か can't be used for rhetorical questions. It can. It's just that this kind of question isn't necessarily rhetorical.

の acts just like か, except that for nouns, you replace だ with な instead of deleting だ. This is the same な from な-adjectives.

普通なの Is it normal?
食べないの? Won't you eat?
どうしたの What's wrong?

Answering a の-questions usually uses a のだ-statement or a の-statement. This kind of statement can also stand alone, as a kind of non-comprehensive reason or explanation of something. のだ can be pronounced んだ.

食べたくないのよ I don't really want to eat. (That's why I'm not eating.)
遅いんだ I'm late. (I gotta hurry.)
何してるのだ What are you doing?
何をしてんだ What're you doing?

のだ isn't used when the speaker is merely making a statement. Also, のだ is sometimes a question, but it's rare, and it's always obvious when it is.

Intermission: Two notes on の and のだ

Intermissions are useful, but if they stress you out, you shouldn't read them.

When の stands alone at the end of a の-statement, it sounds feminine or cute.

のだ is the etymology of の-statements and の-questions.

Lesson 14: Why, cruel world? なぜ なんで どうして

なぜ, なんで, and どうして mean "why". They can also be used the same way as "how". "Tone of voice" questions with these words don't need a ?.

Generally, the longer something is, the more polite it is, but in very formal situations you can use the short things again. This works here, too. どうして is the most polite, なんで is neutral, and なぜ is the most simple.

なんで来ません So, why won't he come?
どうして遅いの? Why is it late?
なぜだろう I wonder why. (not sarcastic)

These words are used in different places by different people in different registers of speech. Sometimes one is more frequent than another in a certain phrase, but there's no real pattern. なぜ can sound rude in conversation.

Intermission: Notes on なぜ なんで どうして

Intermissions are optional.

The なん in なんで corresponds to 何 なに, a word meaning "what".

どうして looks a lot like どうした from an example in the last lesson. That's because it is. どうして is the て "form" of the phrase, and た is the past tense of it.

Lesson 15: Getting more with も and と

も is an inclusion marker. You can think of it like "too" or "also" for now.

When も marks something marked by は, が, or を, that particle is dropped.

私も行く I'll go, too (in addition to other people)
魚も食べたい I want to eat fish too (in addition to something else)
今日も元気だな You're lively today too, huh. (in addition to another day)

も can be used with negative statements. Normally, it includes the given noun in the set of things that the negative statement is true for. But sometimes it does weird things because negation changes how logical inclusion/exclusion works. We'll cover this in more detail much later, but keep it in mind.

僕も食べない I won't eat, either. (in addition to other people)

と also "includes", but it doesn't "include" on the grammatical level も does.

と normally makes a list of things.

ジムとサトシは来ない Jim and Satoshi won't come.

と sometimes marks a kind of indirect object. Then it acts like "with". This is not the same "with" that で means when it marks "circumstance/means".

私はヤンと勉強しない I don't study with Yan.

Intermission: Single piece of trivia on と

Intermissions are optional.

The manga よつばと! stylizes its title as "YOTSUBA&!", with an ampersand.

Lesson 16: Existence with いる and ある, finding である and っす

The verbs いる and ある express existence. The difference between the two isn't politeness, it's "animatedness". An animal or person takes いる, but a table or sandwich takes ある. Something like a patrol car, which exists to move but isn't alive, can use one or the other depending on context.

家には猫がいる In the house there lives a cat.
店がある There are stores.

The above is only a general guideline. Certain uses are interchangeable, but using the wrong existence verb in the wrong phrase will sound unnatural. Picking the unnatural one usually indicates a nuance.

なぜこんなに店がいる Why are there shops like this?

The above is a real phrase that someone wrote, and the choice of いる instead of ある changes the flavor of their frustration. ある would be normal here.

Sometimes, when people want to explain that they have something, they use ある or いる. ある and いる don't mean "have", it's just a wording difference.

デスクがある There's a desk / I have a desk
私の家には猫がいる I have a cat.

いる conjugates as a one-form verb.

ある conjugates as a five-form verb, but its negative conjugation is irregular.

ある ない あった あります ありません

店がない There is no store.

Now that we know ある, we can bring up the etymology of だ, which is である. である is a very formal "to be" word derived from にてあり. Unlike だ and です, である can be used with relative clauses attached to nouns.

You might remember that we used ではない to derive the negative of だ, じゃない. ではない is basically である's negative.

である であった ではない

(Warning: であった is identical to 出会った written in kana, another verb's past tense.)

Usually, the topic particle は is inserted between で and ない here. However, you do sometimes run into でない, especially in entertainment media.

Finally, we come to っす, a slurred version of です used in casual speech. It's less formal than です, but serves the same grammatical roles. There's a stereotype of it being used by girls and young women.

いいです -> いいっす
犬ですか -> 犬っすか

っす is also sometimes used to contract ございます, a keigo version of ある. Again, removing the formality from it, but keeping the politeness.

おはようございます -> おはようっす -> おっす (yes, really)

Intermission: Notes on いる, ある, である, and っす

Intermissions are optional.

要る いる "need" is a different word than いる "exist" and conjugates differently.

ある used to have "real" negative forms (あらず, あらぬ), but they have been entirely replaced with ない. This is the same process that gave us go -> went in english.

Note that some dialects of japanese sometimes use あらへん as a negative of ある, and you will definitely run into あらへん in entertainment media. へん can substitute for ない in general in these dialects.

ある's imperative is あれ, but it's not really used that often, and it conflicts with an unrelated word we haven't introduced yet.

である is appropriate for ceremonies, archaic things, and pretentious things. If someone starts rolling off tons of である, they're not being formal, they're being histrionic. であります is even better.

The etymology of です itself is not known, but the two leading ideas (at the time of writing) are that it's a contraction of でございます or であります.

Lesson 17: Enduring the pain of ている and てある

This brings us to ている and てある, which use いる/ある as auxiliary verbs.

ている indicates an enduring action/state. For most verbs, this means progressive or continuous (enduring action), but for others, it means the complete state of the action remains (enduring state). The second kind of verb is usually "intransitive", meaning that they cannot normally accept a direct object, like 死ぬ "die".

食べている I'm eating. (enduring action)
死んでいる He's dead. (enduring state)

The い in ている can be dropped. This is normal but not formal.

食べてる I'm eating.

てある is about something being in an enduring state resulting from an action. It's important to remember that てある expresses a state, not an action.

ケーキ作ってあるよ The cake's done! (Someone has made the cake.)

てある takes the direct object and treats it as a subject. This means that the verb's normal "logical object" is usually marked with が or は or unmarked, like the cake in the example above. But because japanese is linguistically weird, sometimes を is used, too. You can think of using を here like taking the entire phrase "<thing>を作る" and conjugating that phrase with てある.

Finally, it expresses a state, not an action, so てある is not "the passive". Japanese has a real passive that we'll cover soon.

Normally, intransitive verbs plus ている act alike transitive verbs plus てある, aside from using the logical subject instead of the logical object. This is what "enduring state" means for ている.

ている only shows up for い-adjectives when the い-adjective is the end of a verb phrase, like 食べないでいる. This is the て "form" of the verb phrase 食べない. You can't do this with い-adjectives on their own.

Something like なくている is nonsensical because the くて form of い-adjectives is always a conjunction, never a way to string words together. Remember not to confuse the words "conjugation" and "conjunction".

Intermission: Notes on ている and てある

Intermissions are optional.

Progressive ている can also be something that happens on a regular basis, not just at the moment. Like "I go to a highschool".

を with てある is the first of many brainfucky constructions that really mess with western conceptions of subject, object, etc. No grammar instruction will help you understand more than if you did a little reading. Read, read, and read more.

The closest thing to てある for い-adjectives is くある, which is only used in constructions that want to work on the adjective like a verb like 悪くあります, and is wrong or unnatural on its own like in 悪くある. A couple adverb-based constructions like 多くある overlap with this くある, but they're different. You will definitely run into things like 悪くあります, but this is a way of making polite verbal statements with adjectives, not expressing an enduring state.

Lesson 18: Demonstrating: これ, それ, あれ, どれ, and friends

These words are called demonstratives. Demonstratives are words that mean things like "this", "that", etc.

Japanese is different than english on this front in two ways. First, its demonstratives are much more regular, and second, it has demonstratives point at three "locations" instead of two.

これ this thing
それ that thing (near you / over there)
あれ that thing (over there / over yonder) (distant)
どれ which thing コレはいいですか Is this good?

The above four words are "demonstrative pronouns". There's two pronouns that translate into english as "that", but they reference different places. それ is for things that are near the "second person" instead of just away from the "first person". あれ is for things that aren't close to either person.

Again, aside from "that" being split into two categories, they're very similar to english. Physical distance is just a useful reference about how they're different, not a deciding factor about how they're used.

The demonstrative "determiners" just use good old の. A determiner determines a particular thing or group of things.

この this X
その that X
あの that X (distant)
どの which X

このバカが...! This idiot...!

There are also "sorts", locations, etc. The あ series is a little irregular, but the か and さ series are regular.

ここ here (this place)
こちら/こっち this way (towards here)
こんな this sort of X
こう like this
そう like that
あそこ over there (distant)
ああ like that (distant)

There are a couple demonstrative personal pronouns as well, but the meanings of the most common ones look a little irregular. These are the common ones.

こいつ this guy
そいつ that guy
あいつ that guy (distant)
あなた you (yep, this is a demonstrative)

Literal physical distance is not the determining factor for which personal pronoun is used in a given situation, common use is.

どいつ exists but it's mostly only used in grammatical constructions.

Intermission: Notes on demonstratives

Intermissions are optional.

The "like so" determiners are parallel to よう, but よう isn't part of a demonstrative category. It means just some particular "kind".

There's an irregular demonstrative determiner, かの. かの is used for things that are known to the first and second person, but are distant in a very abstract way. かの is essentially unused outside of very formal or literary uses. Also, the pronoun for "he", かれ, used to be かの's demonstrative pronoun. かの is very literary and you're only likely to encounter it used for literary effect.

Part 3: The Gauntlet

Some things you just have to get out of the way before you can go on.

Even if they're annoying.

Lesson 19: Passive られる・あれる and so-called "transitive pairs"

Passive verbs exist to turn the logical object of a verb into the grammatical subject. Unlike てある, passives describe the action, rather than making a statement about an enduring state left by that action.

Five-form and one-form verbs form the passive in different ways. Five-form verbs take the negative stem and replace ない with れる, the passive suffix. One-form verbs take the one and only base and add ら, *then* add れる. Basically, for regular verbs, you replace the last u with an a and add れる, unlike negatives where one-form verbs drop the る entirely instead of just the u.


殺された人間の死体 The dead bodies of people who were killed.
魚が食べられた The fish got eaten.

The person who logically performs an action is called the "agent". If you want to state the agent of a passive verb, you usually use に, but for certain phrases, から is also acceptable. This calls back to に being a general fallback for the secondary arguments of a verb.

魚が猫に食べられた The fish was eaten by a cat.

In grammar study, there's a concept of verbal "transitivity", which basically just has to do with whether the verb accepts a normal direct object or not. We already learned that "intransitive" verbs describe a state if you attach ている.

彼を教えた I taught him. (transitive)
彼が死ぬ He dies. (intransitive)

"Transitive pairs" are pairs of japanese verbs that represent the same action, but one is transitive, and the other is not. Unlike passives, intransitive verbs in a "transitive pair" don't usually accept marking an agent with に.

上げる to raise something
上がる for something to rise

見る to see
見える for something to be seen/visible

Intermission: Notes on the passive

Intermissions are useful, but if they stress you out, you shouldn't read them.

Sometimes から is used for the agent of a passive verb. This shows a difference in nuance. から is sometimes unacceptable.

Keigo loves passives. You're on your own here.

Adjectives are inherently intransitive and stateful. This even applies to ones that look logically transitive, like 好き.

English has a couple transitive pairs, like raise/rise and lay/lie, but modern spoken english is trying to merge these together, since modern spoken english doesn't care that much about transitivity anymore (I blew up the car vs The car blew up). This merge is not happening in japanese.

Lesson 20: Potential れる・える and できる

The potential form exists so that people can say that something "can be done". For five-form verbs, the u is replaced with an e, then added る. So "u" -> "eru". For one-form verbs, it's identical to the passive. Do you hate one-form verbs yet?

食べれる (!)

To explain what's going on here, I have to dump some really annoying information on you, so sorry not sorry. Don't worry if your eyes gloss over trying to read it, that's normal. Just read it and move on.

The long form for one-form verbs, 食べられる is the "correct" way to make a potential one-form verb. However, the short form, 食べれる, shows up all the time colloquially, and has done so for a long time, both because it's more regular with five-form verbs and because the long form is obviously ambiguous.

Unfortunately, if context doesn't make it obvious, gut feeling is the only way to know whether a given appearance of one-form られる is passive or potential or both.

In addition to the one-form's ambiguity problem, every passive form can mean the potential sometimes. It's up to you to figure out whether a given use of the passive means a passive, a passive-potential, or just a potential.

A million eyes gloss over in annoyance.

ありえる is irregular and is always potential.

Now we can talk about 出来る できる, a one-form verb that means "made" or "completed". It does double duty as する's potential.

出来る 出来ない 出来た 出来ます

昨日は勉強できなかった Yesterday I couldn't study.

できません I can't.
(In english, "can not" and "cannot" are assertive in speech. できません isn't, so the contraction is appropriate despite ます) 私は日本語出来ない (unintelligible dysfluent gagging)

Intermission: Notes on the potential

Intermissions are optional.

Traditional japanese grammar says that the passive and potential are blurry in general, even for five-form verbs, but it's only a matter of time before they're not. A doubled-up form, as in 食べれられる, is already in very common colloquial use. I've been told it's feminine.

In any case, if you see one of the five-form potentials or the one-form short potential, you can be 99.9999% sure it doesn't mean the passive.

The short potential is sometimes homophonous with an existing strictly "passive" intransitive verb that comes from the same root transitive word, like 切れる. In these cases, you just have to stay frosty.

The five-form verbs' potential form might come from the stem used with the polite (ます) form, plus 得る える, a verb that normally means "get" but here means "is possible". The -ie sequence would contract to -e, except for ありえる.

As a side note, the five-form -eru potentials predate the one-form short potential, which is probably why they're more accepted.

Lesson 21: Wanting with おう/よう, たい, and ほしい

In this section, we're learning three of the ways that japanese expresses desire.

The "volitional" form, おう/よう, says that you want to or will do something, or invites volition in other people like "let's X". It's also used in compound constructions about volitional action. The volitional form of five-form verbs is -ou, and the volitional form of one-form verbs is よう. It's pronounced with a "long o", not お plus う.

行こう Let's head out.
行こうか How about we go?
食べようと思う I think I'll eat.

With copulas, it usually "invites an idea", like conjecture or possibility.

いいでしょう It's good, don't you think? (おう form of です)
犬だろうと、猫だろうと、なんでも問題ありません Perhaps dogs, perhaps cats; whatever way, there's no problem. (おう form of だ, contraction of であろう)

The second way to express desire is たい. たい is an い-adjective that attaches the same way as ます. Like てある, たい turns the phrase intransitive.

死にたい I want to die.
アイスが食べたい I want to eat icecream.
(metaphorically "icecream is wanted to be eaten")

Despite making the verb become intransitive, spoken japanese can use を with たい. This is sometimes considered incorrect, but it doesn't feel wrong. The one that logically wants to do the action can't be marked with を.

昨日は君がタイヤキを食べたいと思う I thought yesterday you wanted taiyaki.
(metaphorically "yesterday, you were wanting to eat taiyaki")

たい can go at the end of entire phrases that retain their full internal structure. This applies to a lot of other verb forms too, like てある, but たい is hard enough that this should be pointed out directly.

The final way of wanting is 欲しい ほしい, an い-adjective meaning "wanted".

アイスがほしい I want ice cream (metaphorically "ice cream is wanted")

ほしい is also used as an auxiliary adjective (just like an auxiliary verb) meaning that you want something to happen. If you include the agent that you want to do the thing, you usually mark it with に.

あなたに英語を教えてほしい I want you to teach me english.

てほしい can also be used like the below example. This isn't the only situation where が can be used with てほしい.

Well then, understand what I want you to do now?

Be careful to make sure that the が is actually marking the first person in cases like that. In the following example, が marks the subject of a relative clause, not the subject of the main verb with ほしい on it.

I want you to convey what you saw on your end. (crappy translation)

Supposedly, が can mark the agent of the desired action in more situations than this, but I haven't found any examples.

Intermission: Notes on wanting

Intermissions are optional.

The volitional form おう/よう comes from a sound change from "au" (as in the sound a, followed by the sound u) to "ou" (as in a long o). The original form was e.g. 見やう and 死なう, but remember that classical japanese verbal conjugation is very different than what it is today.

As such, the お in the five-form base used to actually be an あ, meaning that the five-form verbs were four-form verbs. You see "yodan" in some english grammar writing about japanese because of this. But they have been called "godan", five-form, for a very long time. Normal japanese people are not taught the term yodan anymore.

About たい. 見たい みたい mean "seems", not just "wants to look". No matter what grammar you're looking at, some expressions work outside the normal rules. It's vital for you to think about what things mean in context, not just what their parts imply. In the case of みたい, the "seems" meaning is usually in kana and follows a verb, but not every exception is predictable like みたい.

死んだみたい Looks like he died

Lesson 22: One way of saying "if" with ば

Verbs have a ば form that turns them into a condition. The conjugation turns the u at the end of a verb into an e, then adds ば. Basically, for five-form verbs, you replace the u with an e, and for one-form verbs, you add れ after the one and only base.

見れば死ぬ If I look I'll die.
殺せばいいかなぁ I suppose it would be fine if I killed him.

ば implies that the condition is sufficient for and implies its result, a logical "if". This can even be used for certain requests, like "If you're late, just call and I'll handle everything".

ば doesn't imply that the condition will happen, so it won't be used in things like "When you come around, come see me". We'll see other conjunctions that're appropriate for that later.

Intermission: The Gauntlet

Intermissions are optional.

This is the last intermission. You've almost made it through the gauntlet. After the next lesson, you're through. Keep it up.

For a piece of trivia, ば comes from the topic marker, は. The h- syllables used to be pronounced with a p, which is why their voiced versions use a b. The topic marker is an edge case where a p evolved into a w instead of an h.

Lesson 23: Verbs review

We've finally run into all of the basic stems of the five-form verbs, so this is a good time to review what we've learned. Please don't try to memorize this. Knowing that these ideas exist is enough. If your eyes gloss over, relax. If you can't do it, move on.

The names given on the left are plain english representations of the japanese names. Where needed, the japanese names have alternative translations. If a form/base/stem is referred to in the rest of the guide, I'll use the plain english name, not the japanese name.

死な "none such" form ("as if it has not yet happened" 未然形)
死の tentative form
死に verb-sticky form (連用形)
死ん verb-sticky form (連用形) (reduced)
死ぬ terminal form (終止形)
死ね "some such" form ("as if it were so" 已然形 / "hypothetical" 仮定形)
死ね imperative form (命令形)

If you count, you'll identify that the base stem "shi-n" (which ends on a consonant) inflects to each of the five japanese vowels. This is what "five-form" means.

Four-form, or 四段 "yodan", shows up regularly in english writing on japanese grammar, but japanese natives literally aren't even taught the word anymore.

One-form verbs look like so:

食べ "none such" form ("as if it has not yet happened" 未然形)
食べ tentative form *
食べ verb-sticky form (連用形)
食べる terminal form (終止形)
食べれ "some such" form ("as if it were so" 已然形 / "hypothetical" 仮定形)
食べろ imperative form (命令形)

* The よ isn't part of this base. 食べよ alone is an alternative imperative.

As you can see, there's a lot more irregularity here, but the verb's base kana stem never changes, hence the name one-form. The one and only base.

This is the set of classical bases, aside from modernization: including the reduced verb-sticky form and the tentative, and excluding the attributive.

The "none such" form is used for negatives, passives, and some condition expressions. It's also the etymology of the tentative form.

The tentative form is the base of the volitional/hortative ~おう/よう forms.

The terminal form is, for normal dictionary verbs, the plain "non-past" tense.

The verb-sticky form is used for most of the complex verb conjugations in japanese, including the ます form, past, て form, たい form, etc.

The "some such" form is used in some conditions and is sometimes considered the base of the short potentials.

The imperative form is an imperative form. It forms rough commands.

Traditional japanese grammar analyzes the long potential form of one-form verbs as られる itself attached to the base stem, not れる attached to a ら. There's no difference between the two interpretations.

The only reason for the one-form verbs to have a 未然形 form, in addition to the identical verb-sticky form, is so that grammarians don't need to give one-form verbs their own rule for the negative. Yes, it's silly.

Hidden Intermission

Intermissions are optional.

The redundancy of the classical stems, and the fact that they don't cover everything about modern japanese conjugation without additional rules, is why the classical categorization is not used much anymore, except as a reference. The names it introduced are still used though.

Alexander Vovin, a salient academic linguist, considers the 未然形 form to be a figment of structuralizing classical japanese grammar. I think he's on to something, which is the reason I translated it as the "none such" form. The best part is "none such" is valid translation of 未然 if you think hard enough.

The only reason I named the 已然形/仮定形 form "some such" instead of "hypothetical" is because the stems on their own don't do much in modern japanese, and I wanted to avoid implying that it acts hypothetical on its own. In modern japanese, the "none such" and "some such" forms are basically incomplete and expect something to be attached to them.

There are other reasons to be careful with classical japanese grammar.

Japanese school grammar cares a lot about the classical bases, and they have their place in the modern interpretation of classical grammar, but they're not all useful anymore.

I should emphasize that the 未然形 has real uses of its own in classical japanese. The contention comes from conflating all -a forms of (back then) 四段 verbs with the 未然形 category name, which is named such because of a particular use of it. Modern linguistics treats categories as things that happen when you use words, or as features of "universal grammar", and applying categories too widely causes a lot of problems when grammar people try talking to eachother. The 未然形 category is a legitimate description of a real grammatical feature of classical japanese, but the name doesn't fit all uses of the stem.


At this point, you should begin reading, skimming later lessons to see what the guide has to say about the unfamiliar grammar you encounter. The remainder of this guide is half guidance, half reference. Because it's half reference, I'm going to use jargon more often. Be ready for it.

Language learning takes time, even if you put in a lot of effort. You have to apply yourself, but you won't see big results until you do it for a long enough time. Think about what that means. The very first time you start reading, everything is going to feel really weird and you're not going to "get it". That's okay. It'd be weird if you didn't react that way. But reading (or using other forms of input) is the only way to make that weird feeling go away.

And this goes for every little part of reading, with new words, grammar patterns, ways that japanese people communicate, and figures of speech all feeling weird and alien at first and not making sense until you're exposed to them enough, even if you study them a lot without really using what you've started learning. That's why you've gotta start reading. You have to start the process of making your brain familiar with it in the ways that we don't understand yet.

Here's another way to think about it. Let me take a moment to preach. This guide can't teach you japanese. Nobody can teach you japanese. The only way to learn japanese is to understand messages that are written or said in japanese. Why is the focus on "understanding messages" in particular? Two reasons:

One: If something is way out of your depth, you won't learn anything from it. If you don't understand what's being said, you won't learn anything new about the vocabulary and grammar used in it.

Two: It's totally possible to consume something and understand its individual parts but have no idea what it "means". You can break 食べてきました down into its individual parts, and that helps you see the syntax, but unless you understand what it's saying, not just how it's said, you won't acquire anything from the message. Understanding the content or meaning of the message itself is a precondition to learning from it.

A lot of people start learning a language and focus a lot on picking apart messages one word or phrase at a time, like it's a puzzle. This can make things seem less confusing, but if you insist on doing it all the time, you'll miss the big picture and fail to comprehend a lot of messages.

This is made worse when you think that your grammar guide teaches you everything nonliteral that you need to know. In reality, guides can't teach you all the high level stuff unless you're some kind of linguistics savant. Even if you know everything your guide explicitly teaches you, the guide will always leave out important background information about why things work how they do, things that would make other basic grammar way easier to understand.

Once you figure out "Huh, 食べてきました seems to be used in <situation X> a lot", that's when it's time to break it down and try to see what individual parts contribute, comparing them to similar phrases you already know. If you always start with the individual parts, you'll miss the general idea, and fail to associate the phrase with the situation.

That association is what lets your brain acquire the phrase and get a fluent handle on it. Noticing what things mean when they're used is the thing that you need to do if you want to learn japanese. No textbook, not even the best one, and no grammar guide, not even this one, can give you that. It's all up to you.

Don't think. Feel.

Video link: Stephen Krashen on Second Language Acquisition at Pagoda Academy in Busan Part 1

Part 4: Communicating

No matter how stubborn the questgiver, rat tails will solve anything. RPG cliches tell us so. Even heroes need to make conversation. At least understand.

Lesson 24: "Quoting" with って and と and という/っていう/つう taking note of だって

There are two basic types of relative clause. The first is the kind that modifies a noun, which we already learned about. The second is the embedded clause, which uses a clause without attaching it to a noun, like the second half of "He said that the war would end soon".

って and と, which act like "quotation" markers, mark embedded clauses.

いいと思う I think it's fine.
元気と言った He said he felt fine.
見えると聞いた I heard that it's visible.

There are restrictions on the forms that verbs are allowed to take at the end of an embedded clause, except for actual literal quotations. Japanese lets grammar leak between outer and inner clauses in different ways than english does.

って is essentially a colloquial version of と.

駄目って言った She said it was no good.
何だって? What did you say?

って can also be an emphasizing particle, or just isolate information.

猫って嫌い! I hate cats!
日本語難しいって "Japanese is hard".

Now we're going to tackle という/ていう/つう, a construction that uses と/って.

The expression と言う という is used to construct a relative clause in ways that would be awkward otherwise. Not all instances of という are this expression, but normally, if it's written in just hiragana, it's the expression.

研究者という人間 The people that are researchers
休みたいという訳で Because I want to take a break

It can also just be used for emphasis.

今日という日 The day that is today

っていう is basically という but with って. つう is a contraction of it.

だって is a conjunction or particle (depending on who you ask) made from compounding だ and って, and has the nuance of a rebuttal. This doesn't work the same way as adding って to a clause that already ends in だ, which is also possible.

Even if it's me, I can't lose!

I mean, today's the festival.

This is only one of the uses of だって. We'll cover the other uses later.

Lesson 25: Adverbs with と-adverbs, に-adverbs, and い-adjectives even

Adverbs are words that modify the nature of an event. In english, the "liberally" in "Please add sugar liberally" is an adverb. In japanese, adverbs don't inflect like adjectives and verbs do, though you can inflect them before turning them into adverbs.

Japanese has "true" adverbs that can be used with no special marking at all, in addition to other kinds of adverbs.

全く光のない Entirely without light
全然駄目だ It's no use at all

と-adverbs are words that take と when used as an adverb.

自然と殺す Kill naturally/spontaneously/by nature
次々と出てきます They're coming out one after the other.

に-adverbs are words that take に when used as an adverb. In fact, except for a few fixed phrases, almost all に-adverbs are nouns of some sort, usually な-adjectives. This is where に turns into an adverbial marker for nouns. A bunch of expressions that are considered grammar features are just nouns with relative clauses on the left side and an adverbial に on the right side.

自由に研究する Study freely
特別にいいです It's particularly good

い-adjectives can be used as adverbs by replacing the い with a く.

早く起きる Get up early

Adverbs sometimes take する to construct an action about the adverb. This is similar to how the negative form of い-adjectives (e.g. 赤くない) puts く before ない.

広々としている It's spacious.
確りして Hang in there / Stay frosty / Get a hold of yourself

(To students of grammar: the use of に as an "adverbial" marker for nouns might have a different etymology than the use of に as an oblique case marker. It might correspond to the defective Old Japanese copula n- *ni/no2/nite.)

Lesson 26: Sentence ending particles with ね, な, よ, ぜ, ぞ, わ, さ

These are particles that go at the end of statements to show how the speaker feels. The descriptions below are not literal. That is, the given explanation isn't the reason a speaker would actually use the particle. They're just a way to represent the underlying tone. You gotta acquire them yourself.

ね feels as though the speaker wants the listener to agree. When ね comes at the beginning of a sentence, it serves to get attention.

いい天気だね It's good weather, ey?
ね、来るの? Hey, are you coming?

な indicates emphasis. Note that there's a different sentence-ender that can conflict with this one, and in such places, this one is usually written with the vowel elongated somehow, and the other normally.

いいなぁ That's good, huh.

よ feels as though the speaker expects other people to know what the speaker knows, or that the speaker wants to share their care.

いいよ It's fine.
彼が犬だよ He's a dog! (not surprised)

ぞ indicates assertion, but it's not necessarily impolite. It feels slightly non-feminine.

誰もいないぞ Nobody's here, man.
行くぞ! A'ight, let's head out! (speaking about himself, to himself)

ぜ is like ぞ but feels more lighthearted. In fact, it can turn otherwise assertive statements into suggestions.

いいだぜ! It's nice!

Note that adding ぜ to だ makes だぜ act like a compound sentence ending particle, which is the only reason だ is allowed to attach to いい here. This can happen when using other particles with だ, too, not just ぜ.

わ is an exclamation. It usually feels as though the speaker is confident in what they're saying, but not forceful. In stories, it's usually feminine, but sometimes it acts like a "gender enhancer" instead, even for dudeish soldiers.

元気ですわよ! I'm feeling good!

さ tries to induce optimism, or it hopes the listener will take it easy. さ can also introduce a sentence, just like ね.

犬がいないさ There's no dogs here, see?
早く起きなくてさ I didn't get up early, and, well.
さぁ、見てみる Well, let's see.

Finally, looking back at だぜ, we can finally say that the reason です is allowed to attach to い-adjectives is because です itself acts like a sentence-ending particle.

(To students of grammar: these are "modal particles".)

Lesson 27: Asking kindly with なさい, ください; prohibition with な

なさい asks someone to do something as a matter of course. It feels as though the asker expects the listener to do the action, but it's still a kind request.

聞きなさい Please listen.
食べなさい Please eat.

ください asks someone to do something for you, or for your benefit. It comes from 下る くだる a verb basically meaning "give", and it's sometimes spelled with 下 even when actual giving is not what's going on.

死んでください Please die.
アイスください Ice cream, please.

ください can be used with negative verbs, but when it is, the form is made with ないで instead of なくて. This is the same as how you can't say なくている. In situations like this, ないで acts like the て "form" of ない, and なくて doesn't.

死なないでください! Please don't die!

Finally, we get to using な to indicate prohibition, which attaches to the end of a statement, one without ます and without the past tense. This is the sentence-ender that overlaps with the version of な that does emphasis.

来るな! Stay away! (Don't come!)

Reality check: なさい can be abbreviated to just な. This is never in conflict with な as in emphasis or prohibition, because it always attaches to the verb-sticky form, not to a statement.

聞きな Listen up.

Lesson 28: Question nouns: なに, だれ, どれ, いつ

These are called interrogatives. They're used in order to ask wh-questions. These words can't be used as relative clause markers like english does in "The person who was fine with it". They also show up as parts of larger grammatical words.

何 なに "what"

Whatcha doin'?

誰 だれ "who"

Who's there!


Who is it?

どれ basically "which"

I wonder which one would be good.

いつ "when" (not "while" or "at the time that")

When's good?

How long have you been here?
(metaphorically, "Since when were you here?")

Japanese is a "wh-in-situ" language, which just means that it doesn't need to move interrogatives around in wh-questions like english does.

Lesson 29: か and も as modifying question nouns (note なんと なんて なんか)

When か isn't marking a question, it can turn interrogatives into generic nouns.

なにか something
だれか someone
どれか "somewhich" (metaphorically; as in one of the options)
いつか sometime (sometimes "in due time"/"eventually", like in english)

なにかあった? Did something happen? (NOT "what happened?")

When も isn't marking grammatical inclusion, it can turn interrogatives into "in/exclusive" nouns. This is more complicated, and aside from だれも they can only be used with negatively "oriented" phrases. (* orientedness: see footnote)

なにも anything/nothing
だれも everyone/anyone/noone
どれも any of them/none of them
いつも anytime/never


どれか and どれも are noticeably less common than the others due to the logical nature of どれ.

The fact that だれも can be used for "everyone" in positive statements is irregular, and every other interrogative has its own irregular "every X", but I can't be bothered to cover them.

There's an obvious logical distinction between "every particular thing" and "any one particular thing". By attaching でも, you give it "any" in the sense of "any one particular thing", and it can be used with positive statements.

私が誰でも助ける I'll save anyone.

With that out of the way, let's look at なんか, which comes from なにか. In practice, なんか is one of the most common filler words in japanese, and is frequently used in places where translations should use "sorta", "like", etc. なんか can still mean "something", but this filler use is too important to ignore.

なんか変! That's like, weird!

On the topic of なに-based grammatical terms, なんて is frequently used to express belittlement or scorn. なんて isn't always negative, it's a matter of nuance. なんと is used the same way but does not have the negative nuance.

なんて優しい。 How sweet.
なんと優しい。 How kind. (not sarcastic)

For more information on negative "orientation", which has to do with how logical inclusion/exclusion works outside of simple statements, see Optional Lesson 1 on "Polarity". All languages do this.

Lesson 30: Saying yes and no with うん, ううん, はい, いいえ, ええ, and いや

The exact situations where different yes/no words are used are pretty much entirely dependent on convention. As such, the rules are too complicated to teach. But I can give a rundown of the common yes/no words anyway.

うん - Yep (casual)
ううん - Nope (casual)

うん and ううん have completely different tones of voice when spoken.

はい - Yes (general use)
いいえ - No (polite)

ええ - Yeah (informal, kind)
いや - No (rough)

Warning: ええ can be an unrelated filler word that feels like the speaker has something to elaborate on or deny, or that they're confused.

In addition to "no", 嫌 いや is also a な-adjective used for unlikeable things.

嫌だ! いやだ! No!
嫌なことしないでください Please don't do something bad.

いや can also be said as や. This usually isn't done if it'd be confusing.

Lesson 31: Generic nouns and nominalization with 事, 物, ところ, and の

事 こと and 物 もの both mean "thing". 事 is generally used for intangibles like actions or states, and 物 is generally used for tangibles like objects.

私のこと知らないの? D'ya not know about me?
可愛いもの好き I like cute things.

所 ところ is a word that means "place", and is used in similar patterns, including ones about intangible places like places in time or progress, and facets/aspects of an entity. Singling out an abstract point in time is extremely flexible, and can imply things like completion, change in state, etc.

彼女は珍しいところもある There's some unusual points to her, too.
同情したところで、過去はもう―― Even if I had felt the same, the past is already... ("By the point I felt the same, ...")

All three of these generic nouns can turn entire phrases into nouns. This lets japanese use phrases like things without using embedded clauses. This is basically a special simplified case of the relative clauses we learned about in lesson 11.

There's no dying for such a thing.
(Metaphorically, "There is not to die for the purpose of such a thing")

Recent nights

Well, some kind of incident happened.

Both of these uses extend to の for some reason.

The red one is fine.

When should I use it?
(Metaphorically, "When is using good?")

This use of の is the reason の is used in のだ.

Optional Lesson 1: Polarity

This is a very hard lesson. This lesson is completely optional.

This topic is very hard to explain because it's so intuitive, and happens at a level so far away from language itself.

Because this optional lesson is so hard, you might want to try learning polarity in an easier way instead. Try watching this video from The Ling Space first. It might be all you need.

Video link: Why Can't "Any" Go Just Anywhere? NPIs; The Ling Space

First of all, it's important to note that polarity isn't a grammatical category or a type of word, like "tense" or "verb" are. Instead, polarity is something that the human mind does, that it enforces on language, and in the process, makes complicated logical constructions less contextual.

Because it's almost entirely subconscious, you don't notice it, so when polarity is explained in an abstract way, it's confusing. But polarity is an easy grammatical process. It's just hard to talk about because it operates, basically, at a level before words.

The simplest form of polarity is when words can only be used with negative phrases. "Rejecting" positive phrases is basically why it's called polarity.

"I'm not cooking yet."

It's not normal to say "I'm cooking yet". You might be able to in certain situations, but not neutral ones.

The hard form of polarity has to do with logical entailment, and can show up in entirely "positive" phrases. The simplest triggers of backwards polarity in positive phrases are "any" and "every". This is why some uses of も act funny. Questions can do this same thing. This is why か doesn't always make questions.

"Has anyone left yet?"

Another example of a word that dislikes neutral positive phrases is "ever".

"I hate everyone I've ever met."
"I haven't ever said that."
"Has he ever come?"

It would be unnatural to say "I have ever come" in a neutral situation.

The only way to explain this kind of polarity is to accept that the "direction" of "logical entailment" is what triggers different polarities, not negativity. One way to think about this is to think which way implications point when you negate things.

"I've had potato chips before" implies "I've had snacks before"
"I haven't had potato chips before" doesn't imply "I haven't had snacks before"

In fact, the implication isn't just destroyed, it's outright reversed.

"I've had snacks before" doesn't imply "I've had potato chips before"
"I haven't had snacks before" implies "I haven't had potato chips before"

Specific things imply general things. Specific things entail general things.

Polarity happens because some words only make sense when the "direction" of "entailment" is pointing a certain direction for what they're modifying.

"I haven't had snacks" is general in the sense that it leaves a lot open in the future, but it doesn't leave a lot open in the past. "haven't" implies that the past is fixed, the statement must be true in the past. But the future is still "general" because it's uncertain.

When you add "yet", it takes the statement and makes super sure that it's not implying anything about the future. It takes "uncertainty" about the future and turns it into "objective uncertainty" about the future. "Objective uncertainty" is more specific than "uncertainty".

With "I've had snacks", the future is already set in stone. You can't go to a future where the statement starts being false. There's no room for "yet" here, since "yet" operates on uncertain futures.

The only way for it to make sense is if the logic starts from "yet", like "I have yet to have snacks", which takes an uncertain future and puts a positive statement on it, and means basically the same as "I haven't had snacks yet".

When there isn't enough polarity at play, logical entailment can make things ambiguous. Polarity makes ambiguous combinations of entailment less common.

When you use words like this, you just know. You already know how to use them, where they can be used, how they work. In your head, it's not this complex.

At the very least, this is a good example why grammar can't really be taught.

Part 5: Getting a point across

What can you do? A sword isn't enough to solve all the problems you run into. That bridge troll isn't taking money and food out of malice. He keeps the bridge from collapsing. You've gotta communicate so he knows why you can't pay.

(By the way, starting now, some examples won't have translations.)

Lesson 32: Just with だけ, のみ, ただ, ばかり, しか

だけ, のみ, ただ, and ばかり are variations of "just" or "only". しか is similar, but it has negative polarity.

だけ means "just so", in terms of amount. It acts like a particle.

俺だけ行く I'm the only one going (Metaphorically: "Only I will go")
俺だけじゃないよ "It's not just me though."

のみ is like a less colloquial だけ that shows up in different grammar patterns.

ただの人間が存在するのみです There are only mere humans.

ただ is related to the idea of "just so", but it focuses on emphasis. Except for specific constructions (like ただの), taking a true sentence and adding ただ will result in another true sentence; this is not true of だけ or のみ.

僕はただ子供だよ I'm just a kid.

One construction where ただ is not just about emphasis is ただ一つ, where 一つ

ただ一つ問題がある There's just one problem.

たった is basically a variant of ただ.

ばかり is yet another "only" word. Like だけ and のみ, it changes what the sentence means. It can also be pronounced ばっか or ばっかり. ばかり focuses on everything falling into this statement, whereas だけ and のみ focus on things falling outside of this statement being false. ばかり is sometimes translated like "He always X" or "The only thing left to do now is X". ばかり cannot be used in negative environments.

犬ばかりだ It's nothing but dogs.

ばかり can also mean "just" in the time sense, usually with the past tense.


しか is used with negative statements to say that the negative statement is true of everything except for what is tagged with しか, like "but".

僕しかいない Nobody but me is here.

Be careful, though, because しか can occur in grammar fossils like いつしか where it isn't a "but/except" word at all.

彼はいつしか行ってしまった He ended up leaving before anyone noticed.

Sometimes (but rarely), しか is used outside of complete statements.

「みんな来たの?」 「うん、彼しか」 "Did everyone come?" "Yeah, except him."

Warning: the above example is completely contrived.

The difference between しか and だけ in negatively-polarized statements is basically the reason that polarity exists.

僕しかいない Except for me, people are not here. (I'm the only one here.)
僕だけいない Just me, I am not here. (I'm the only one not here.)

しか can be substituted with っきゃ.

Lesson 33: Still, already, and yet with もう まだ また

With positive statements, もう expresses "already". With negative statements, it works together with the negation to express "not anymore".

Basically, もう means that there's a change of state from the statement being false or irrelevant to the statement being true: "already" and "not anymore".

もうそんな時間ね That kind of time already, huh?
もう食べた I already ate.
もう食べない I won't eat anymore.
もういいよ Metaphorically: "It's good already."
もう! Metaphorically: "Enough!"

In statements about the near future, もう can mean "soon" instead. This usually goes along with an adverb expressing soonness, but sometimes it's just implied.

Another use of もう expresses "more" of an amount. This has a different accent but it's usually considered the same word.

もう一回! One more time!
もうちょっと A bit more

まだ expresses the idea of "still" or "yet" as in the opposite of もう. It's used when a state stays the same.

まだ食べるの? You still eating?
まだ負けないな! I'm not beaten yet!
まだまだ "Not yet!"

もう is used for "yet" in positive questions, since もう concerns a change, and まだ concerns staying the same. もう can still mean "already" in questions, though.

もう書きましたか? Did you write it yet?
もう眠いの? Are you already sleepy?

また expresses the idea of "again". Try not to confuse this with まだ.

また来た He came again.
また来ないな Looks like he's not coming, again.
また来なかった Didn't come again.

The last three examples are slightly ambiguous, both in japanese and english.

Lesson 34: Not wanting with まい and permission with いい, ますか/ませんか

"Negative volition" means basically "determined not to X". There are several ways to express this in japanese. Most of them are phrased literally and you can figure them out with a dictionary, but まい deserves direct explanation.

まい is kind of a modern writing thing. Being modern means it shows in speech.

まい normally acts like some kind of auxiliary noun. However, for one-form verbs, it can also act as an auxiliary verb, attaching to the inherent base.


For する and くる, you sometimes see すまい and こまい. しまい also happens.

まいとする expresses "try not to do X".

食べまいとする Trying not to eat

Negative volition can also invite ideas, just like positive volition (compare だろう, でしょう, etc). This is one of the more common uses of まい in speech.

そんなわけでもあるまい Such a thing is out of the question.

いい just means "good" or "fine" and isn't a grammatical term in itself, but it's used directly in patterns about permission.


When people use よかった they're normally expressing gladness, not goodness. よかった shouldn't be used for permission.

When negation is involved, "permission" statements with いい often walk the line between permission and request, just like excessively polite english. The くて form of い-adjectives can be used here, but acts like an entity, not as a linker, like how it's an entity in なくては.

食べないでいいよ (fine not to eat)
食べなくていいよ (fine if you don't eat)

Sometimes, ますか and ませんか are a way of inviting permission politely, rather than asking a negative question. Think of this the same way as how ていい is used for permission even though it doesn't say "permission" anywhere.

食べますか Won't you eat?
舐めてませんか? ねえ? Won't you try it? How about it?
お仕事お休みできませんか……? Is it impossible to take the day off...?

Lesson 35: More questions with っけ/け, かい, じゃない, and じゃん

っけ/け is used to ask positive "confirmation" questions, as well as questions about something the speaker forgot about.

なんだっけ? "What was it again?"
どこに置いたっけ "Oh, where'd I put it?"

っけ/け is almost never used with non-nouns except in the past tense. When it is, other stuff is usually put in between.


In kansai and some other dialects け is a rough-sounding alternative か.

かい is a "friendly" question marker, especially for masculine speakers. Outside of familiar conversation, it's usually rude. It's か + い, and this い can show up attached to other stuff as well, like だ.

お元気かい? You doin' well?

じゃない is used to ask confirmation questions. Yes, when attached to nouns, it's identical to normal "is not". No, there's no way around it.

いいじゃない It's fine, isn't it?

じゃん is a contraction of じゃない, but only used for confirmation questions.

Lesson 36: Making lists with や and とか and と and か

While english makes lists by separating words separated by pauses, with the nature of the list indicated by filler words or conjunctions ("like", "and", "or the likes", etc), japanese usually tags each item individually, with the tag expressing the nature of the list.

Tagging items individually is grammatically simpler in japanese. The final instance of an individual tag is usually dropped with the simpler tags.

や makes a non-exhaustive list, and doesn't strictly require each item, but the idea of them as a class of things is maintained.

スプーンやフォークで食べること To eat with spoons or forks (or the likes).

と was covered as a side-note before, but here we'll cover it explicitly and compare it to や. と makes a "generic" list. It's not necessarily exhaustive, but still counts each item individually.

リンゴと魚とタイヤキを食べた Ate taiyaki, fish, and apples.

とか makes a "vague" list. It's vague, and therefore non-exhaustive, but each item is its own; the items aren't treated as a class of things.

スプーンとかフォークで食べること To eat with a spoon or fork (or something).

か can be used in a similar way, but lists alternatives.

In fact, とか is the combination of と and か, both as listing particles. と makes a generic list of individual things, か makes a list of alternatives, and とか makes a general list of individual alternatives.

The above explanations are not literal. Japanese people don't think "I'm going to make a class of things and use や to list examples of it". Because the markers don't have 1:1 matches in english, the explanation has to be abstract. Please remember that japanese is just another language, and native speakers go through similar mental processes to what you do in your own native language.

Lesson 37: Getting self-conscious with より and counting with つ

より is used to compare two things in a direct way, like the "than" in "I'm smarter than you". When you use より, you do not need to use a "more" word, unlike how english needs to say "more X than Y" or "Xer than Y".

He's stronger than anyone, dude.

より is also used in constructions about relative position (in space or time), and acts like "from" or "compared to" rather than "than" in these situations.

東京より北 North of Tokyo
新世界より From the New World

When you want to qualify an object as having a specific number/count, you don't just glue the number together with the object like you do in english ("five men"). In japanese, only "counter words" can accept numbers directly. This serves a similar role to english phrases like "four heads of cow".

The most common counter word is つ.

一つ ひとつ
二つ ふたり
三つ みっつ
四つ よっつ
五つ いつつ
六つ むっつ
七つ ななつ
八つ やっつ
九つ ここのつ
十  とお (not a counter)

The above numbers come from the native japonic number system. Japanese has a second number system which it adopted from china, which begins with "ichi, ni, san ...", etc. Both systems are used everywhere, but aren't interchangeable. Some counters use only japonic numbers, some use only the numbers from china, and some use a specific mix of both, differing for different values.

Here's an example of counters in use:

もう一つ質問 Still one question
たった1つの風呂 Just one bath
でも1つ間違ってるぞ But you got one thing wrong!

In japanese, "countable words" are a closed set, made up entirely of these counters. In english, almost every word is countable. For example, "money" is an uncountable word. You can't say "I have a hundred money".

(To students of grammar: つ was a genitive marker in very olden times)

Lesson 38: なる and でできる, bonus causative せる, and reviewing the passive

Japanese has phrasal verbs, just like english. Phrasal verbs are basically verb-based phrases that have their own definitions, like "turn into".

なる is a verb meaning something like "become" or "ending up being". In addition to just "become", it can be used for all sorts of indirect states, like a team ending up being its members, or a rumor turning out to be true.

俺、ツインテールになります I will become twintails.

Despite being described as になる, it actually takes an adverb as the argument of なる, not just nouns marked with に. に basically acts as an adverbial marker for nouns. The phrase we're looking at here is <adverb>なる, not になる. There are even phrases with the string になる that aren't necessarily <adverb>なる, like のためになる.

The く form of い-adjectives is adverbial. Compare くなる to くない:

強くなれば If I become strong
強くなければ If I am not strong

Note that ければ on i-adjectives can be spoken as けりゃ or きゃ: 強くなきゃ.

When になります is being used in the particular type of polite speech used by service job workers, it has a nuance based on になる, but doesn't literally mean the same thing. Blame keigo.

出来る できる is a verb about being "made", complete, or even "made out of". It also replaces the missing potential form of する.

The phrase でできる means "be made out of":

This body was made out of infinite swords.

でできる usually, but not always, takes the form でできている when used like this. Also, できる doesn't require the で before it for it to talk about being made out of something, just like なる and becoming.

せる is a "causative" verb form. It means the action of making or letting someone do something. Yes, it's used for both, and that's why it has a vague name like causative.

For five-form verbs, せる attaches to the "none such" form. For one-form verbs, さ is inserted between せる and the verb's one and only base.

終わらせる・死なせる・食べさせる To make/let someone/something end/die/eat

Causation is the logical opposite of a passive. The relationship between the subject and verb changes in the opposite direction. When you use the passive and causative together, your subject is the one doing the core action again, but because of the causative and passive, the meaning is no longer the same.

書かせる To make ___ write (not the one doing the writing)
書かれる To be written (not the one doing the writing)
書かせられる To be made to write (the one doing the writing)

Reality check: a short form of the causative verb exists in the spoken language, and isn't considered wrong there. Replace せる with す. Supposedly, this doesn't apply to one-form verbs or す verbs, but don't hold your breath.


Causative-passive still applies, as if the す were a five-form verb ending.


Lesson 39: Reflexes with 自分

In english, you don't say "Jim broke Jim's watch" when there's just one Jim. You say "Jim broke his watch", or sometimes "Jim broke his own watch". You don't say "Jim hurt Jim", or "Jim hurt him", you say "Jim hurt himself".

"His own" and "himself" have the property of being "reflexive". You already know how it works, "reflexive" is just the jargon used for it. When you need to do something reflexive in japanese, 自分 fulfills this behavior.

自分の体を食べた It eats its own flesh
自分で遊ぶ Plays by himself
お前、自分で… You, on your own...

自分 is also used in some dialects (and systems of slang) as a general personal pronoun, usually for the first person, but sometimes the second. It can be used like that in normal speech too, since it's a vague way to talk about someone.

Optional Lesson 2: Bonus auxiliaries: 見る, とする, と思う, と決める

Many ordinary verbs have additional uses as "auxiliary" verbs, verbs attached to the end of the verb-sticky form or て form of another verb. Instead of meaning what they normally mean, they're used to express things that japanese doesn't have dedicated verbal conjugations for.

Most of these are very easy to pick up from reading, except for how complicated とする is. とする has enough to say about it that I consider it advanced grammar, which is the only reason it's buried away in this optional lesson rather than being put in the later course lesson on "aspect".

見る, in the construction てみる, as in 食べてみる, indicates that the action is "tried", or being done "to see what happens". This can overlap with the normal meaning of みる, but not always.

読んで見る I'll read it and see (what it's like).
食べてみる I'll try to eat it.

In the next three auxiliaries, the と is the embedded clause marker. This might help you understand how that use of と works.

とする has three main uses. The first means that someone supposes/assumes something, used with statements. Think of it like "pretend that/act as though". This is easiest to see as an invitation, but can be part of a longer sentence about someone else's presumptions too.

それが犬だとする Let's say that's the dog.
来たとする Assume it came.

The second is として, with a general vague "operating as X" meaning. This is directly related to the first use, think of it like "thinking of Y as an X", but it doesn't work the same way psychologically.

研究者として As a researcher

The third use means that something undergoes an "experiential" state, basically used with "mimetic" words like つるつる "slick".

つるっとする It goes "slurp"

と思う has two main uses.

Normally, と思う means that the speaker thinks something.

来たと思った I thought that it came.

When と思う is used with a volitional phrase, it can mean the speaker thinks that they should do something.

食べようと思う I think I should eat.

When the speaker wants to talk about someone else supposing that they should do something, they have to use the ている form of と思う.

彼は勉強しようと思っている He thinks he might as well study.

Part 6: Putting things together

Beware the Jabberwock, my son. A heated discussion bears only ill fruit. Dragons are proud, so letting them make you do something silly like get rat tails might humor them, but Jabberwocks compromise with noone. The only way to stop a Jabberwock is to tangle it in its own verbal gospel. Tear it apart.

Lesson 40: Being more negative: なくて, ないで, and ず and ずに

We briefly covered なくて and ないで before in the context of ください. Let's cover them properly.

なくて is the て "particle". When it acts as a conjunction (and not a topic), なくて usually implies that a negative statement is the reason for another statement. It doesn't always imply a reason, though.

早く起きなくて 仕事に遅れた

ないで can be a conjunction too. Unlike なくて, it doesn't carry the "reason" nuance. Sometimes it has the nuance that Y happens without X happening, but this is something you shouldn't worry about it till you're adept at japanese.

話せないで殺す He kills without talking.

Covered earlier, ないで is also used for conjugations like ないでください.

This calls back to the made-up distinction I made between the て "particle" and "form" early on in this guide. The て particle is "just" a conjunction, and connects two events. The て form, however, is a conjunction or a linking form. For verbs, they are identical, but for adjectives like ない, the two possible forms have a strict distinction, and they are not equivalent.

One way of seeing the difference between なくて and ないで is that なくて implies that, at some point in time, something specifically doesn't happen. In grammar terms, なくて is never truly an infinitive. This is the reason that なくて cannot link verbs like in ないでいる or ないでください.

Remember, て "form" vs "particle" is an abstraction. It's only meant to help you remember how なくて and ないで are different. Native japanese speakers don't literally think about なくて and ないで in this way. They have a deep and unspeakable intuition that can't be explained, no matter how hard anyone tries. When you consume enough japanese input, you'll gain the same intuition.

ず is an archaic negative suffix. It goes in place of ない, except for する where the form is せずに. It can be conjugated, but you won't see it conjugated anywhere in modern japanese, because it's fossilized and acts like a conjunction instead of something you can conjugate.

ず is essentially only used as a conjunction meaning "without _ing". This overlaps with ないで, but there are differences in nuance.

ずに is how ず is normally used in modern japanese, but it can go either way.

一言も話さずに終わった Ended it without saying a single thing.

Lesson 41: If and when with と たら なら

と is used to link two events where one is a natural consequence of the other, in a strongly sequential way.

飲み続けると危ない薬 Medicine that's dangerous if you keep taking it.

たら is used to link two events where one sequentially comes after the other, but without literally stating that there's a direct causation between the two.

たら attaches to the reduced verb-sticky form.

I'll go home if it's boring just talking to me.
(note: the doubled て comes from ている -> てる -> てて)

Because it doesn't state direct causation, it's very appropriate for questions that depend on something hypothetical.

来たらどうですか How about you come over?

(Side note: たらどうですか is sometimes treated like its own construction.)

なら is used when the speaker supposes the first statement is true, and that it implies that the second statement is true. There's basically no restriction on sequence or causation here, only the nature of the truth of the statements. In fact, the second statement can "happen" before the conditional statement does, which other condition constructions can't do.

Normally, なら only attaches to nouns. When you use なら with verbs and い-adjectives, it's normal to attach の as a nominalizer (see Lesson 31). However, putting の between the verb/い-adjective and なら is optional.

Using の can give the nuance that the condition is a instance of the statement, like being sick. Dropping の can give the nuance that the condition is a general thing that might not be true right now, like when it rains.

The meaning of なら does not change because of adding the の. The difference in nuance comes from the verb or い-adjective being nominalized, not の coming before なら. The exact meaning of the statement does not change much.

行くのなら If you're going
行くなら If you go

Sometimes なら is said as ならば. In fact, ならば is where なら comes from. This ば is the one we already know.

(To students of grammar: ならば comes from にあり (see also: にてあり/である) -> なり -> ならば. Not from なる (become). なら is the 未然形 of なり. In fact, this is one of the reasons I didn't call the 未然形 form "imperfective": it's a misnomer. And "irrealis" overreaches. "None such" is at worst meaningless.)

Lesson 42: Concurrence with ながら あいだ うちに つつ

ながら states that two events are concurrently true. In the loose sense, they take place concurrently.

The left-hand event before ながら must be secondary to the event after ながら. The distinction is only intuitive, and affects what kinds of uses of ながら are acceptable. This sort of secondariness doesn't necessarily translate into english putting the left-hand event after a "while", it's just a tendency.

ながら attaches to the verb-sticky form of a verb.

読みながら眠ってしまう Ends up falling asleep while reading
ラテを飲みながら考える Thinks while drinking a latte.

ながら can not be used when the events have different subjects. In that case, あいだ/あいだに is used.

間/あいだ says that two events cover the same span of time. This places constraints on what sorts of statements it accepts. 間 itself acts like a noun.

食べる間、考える Thinking the whole time while eating

間に says that the event after 間に starts and ends within the span of time when the event before 間に is happening.

うちに says that an event happens while the statement before うちに is true, but generally instead of strictly. The statement before うちに is subject to various restrictions.

Let's return while it's not raining (nuance: before it rains)

つつ, as in XつつY, is a formal-sounding "while" conjunction. Unlike many of the above, it just states that the events are concurrent, not which started when. Like ながら, the subject of both events must be the same.

Because つつ is formal, it is not normal to use it for everyday activities like "I am currently preparing breakfast". You can think of it like it implies that the events are special or occasional.

In general, つつ is an auxiliary conjunction that states that the left-hand event is in progress, and XつつY is just a use of it. In the pattern つつある, it states that the event is progressive, like one of the meanings of ている.

Lesson 43: Adversatives with が けど けれど しかし ても and でも

Unrelated to the subject marker が, the conjunction が states that, while the former statement is true, the latter statement is also true. With が, both statements are independent clauses.

そうですが、もう終わりだ That's true, but it's already over.

が attaches to what comes before it like a particle or suffix. が does not attach to the sentence that comes after it like the english "but".

が is sometimes not used as a strict adversity between the two statements, but to connect two related sentences smoothly. Like how I just used "but". Spoken english does the same thing with "but", but sometimes to a confusing degree.

けど is similar to が except the first statement is a subordinate clause. This primarily affects how the syntax works. For example, with が, the two clauses usually have similar levels of formality, but with けど, this is not the case.

高いですけど買おう The price is high but let's buy it.

けど is more weakly bounded than が, so it can be used in confusing ways.

いいけど "It's good, but..." or "It's good, though."

けど is the most informal version of けれども. There's also けども and けれど.

しかし is an interjection. It sounds formal.

しかし知らなかった However, I didn't know.

ても is a combination of the て particle/form of a verb and も. It works as a conjunction stating that the statement after it is true despite the statement before it. This is like an adversative, but it's not always one.

死んでも死なない I don't die even if I die.

Reality check: you might see い-adjectives take the ても form like なかっても instead of なくても, especially on the internet, but it's abnormal grammar and I can't tell you anything about what the difference implies.

でも is an adversative interjection, or a conjunction that attaches to nouns. This overlaps with a different use of でも that we'll cover soon, so be careful.

でも、そんなことないです But it's not like that.
無理でも大空に羽ばたけ! Fly into the sky, even if it's impossible!

だが, だけど, それでも etc are similar interjections made by compounding stuff.

Lesson 44: Entailment with から そして ので で

から, not just a case particle, is also a conjunction where the thing after から is "because of" the thing before から. This is called entailment.

いいから止まれ It's fine, so stop.

から is only an interjection in compounds such as だから and ですから. Keep in mind that だから and ですから can occur naturally when から is a conjunction too.

犬だから怖い It's scary because it's a dog.

そして is an interjection that essentially means "therefore". It has a tone similar to "therefore" too, maybe polite rather than formal.

そして起きなかった Therefore he didn't wake up.

ので acts like から. However, ので is allowed in fewer situations than から. ので wants both statements to be real statements, not invitation or conjecture. This narrows down the ways you can interpret the statement in.

実家に帰ったので Because I returned to where I grew up.

ので for nouns is なので, not だので. ので and のだ are related, which is why のだ has the nuance "the reason for something". The more you know.

ので is more "objective" and has less emphasis than other adversatives, which means that it's sometimes used to link two statements that just so happen to have a cause/effect relationship.

で can be used as a conjunction similar to "so". The meaning here is more of a feeling and less of a literal meaning. で is deep in the "academic papers" feeling if it's formal, but it can also be used in rough spoken japanese.

で、おまえは誰だ So just who are you?

This で is the て "particle" of だ. It's the で in the conjunction でも, where も changes it from marking entailment to being adversative.

Words like これ and それ can be combined with conjunctive particles like で (but not limited to で) to narrow down where the entailment is coming from.

それで、ツインテールになる? You'll become twintails, then?

Things like それから also exist and have their own nuances.

Lesson 45: Linking conjunctions のに ように ために せいで だって し

のに is related to ので, but it works in the opposite direction: "even though". Like ので, this is more "objective" than other adversatives. のに also loves being attached to the end of sentences, but remember, it's a conjunction.

ええ~、俺の話なのに Oh? Despite my story?

A second use of のに makes an entire phrase be an adverb, modifying the second phrase. You can remember this use of のに by thinking that it adds の to the first phrase on its own, then adds に, whereas the previous use of のに is a compound. What comes before のに here is always an informal non-past expression. Its most common use is "in order to" as in "in the process of".

黙らせるのには些細な威圧でいい A little "coercion" is fine in silencing people.

The は is not always there.

The two uses of のに can be ambiguous, but context always fills in the gaps.

ように essentially means "so as to", as in "walk so as to keep your back hidden". This walks a fine line between "for the purpose of" and "in such a way as", and ように even has the nuance of walking the line between the two.

離れすぎないように歩く Walking in a way to not separate too much

ように has a second use, but it isn't as bad as のに. The second use here just means "in such a way as X". Note that I didn't write "in such a way that X".

当然のように女物だ It's feminine, as it would be. (liberal translation of 女物)

Be careful not to confuse this with the volitional よう plus に.

ために literally uses the noun ため "purpose" plus に to make a conjunction. The example uses a その, but the purpose can be anything attributive.

そのために仲間を殺せ。 For that purpose kill your comrades.

せい is a noun meaning "fault" used to indicate cause/blame/reason. It usually implies that the effect is undesirable in some way.

私のせいだ! It's my fault!
あの鳥が変なことを言うせいだ It's because that bird is saying weird things.

せい earns its place here because of せいで, which acts like a conjunction meaning "because of". Like ために, せいで doesn't need a statement as its left-hand argument (e.g. 私のせいで), and doesn't express logical entailment.

し is used to link two statements with a feeling of emphasis. Note that this is not the grammar being used in things like 話し (verb) or なし (adjective).

Eating all our meals together and even going to bed together.
("together" in the translation comes from context not shown in this excerpt)

Lesson 46: Aspect with てしまう, ていく, てくる, ておく, ておる

"Aspect" is how a statement interacts with time in ways other than "when the statement happened". Aspect comes into play when you want to say something has "already" happened, or "is fated to" happen, and so on, without adverbs.

Several things we already covered, like ている and てある, are about aspect.

てしまう indicates that something is "complete", "done completely". It's also used when things "end up" in such a "complete" state, like after mistakes. A good way to remember this is to think about "it's done" and "now I've done it".

てしまう can also be ちまう or ちゃう in speech (even voiced, like 死んじゃう). ちゃ~ isn't always てしま~. For example, なくちゃダメ is なくてはダメ.

When ていく doesn't just mean "go and", it means that something is ongoing and will "keep going" at least into the near future. ていく can be spoken as てく.

When てくる doesn't just mean "come and", it means that something was ongoing and has continued into the immediate present, and might go further.

ておく means to do something as a preparation. ておく can be said as とく

ておる is a humble/formal variant of ている. おる and いる have a similar relationship. ておる can be spoken as とる.

Aspectual things happen relative to whatever the "reference" time is. This "reference" time is usually just the tense of statement, but things like narration and quotation mess with how tense and time interact.

Lesson 47: The normalization of でも and だって

だって is similar to でも. Review Lesson 24 if needed. The feeling here is to go against something, or quote something, or give something a reason, which basically means it has a general explanatory tone. There's an unspeakable intuition here.

だって、ほんとに可愛いのに But like, even though it really is cute.

Sometimes だって acts like a particle. It means something similar to でも in these situations, though context can make it mean "also".

子供だって出来る Even a kid can do it.

だって is colloquial.

When you attach でも directly to a noun, strange things can happen. This でも has a different nuance than the conjunction.

Even a dog is fine.

When an interrogative like 何 is buried inside a phrase conjugated to ても, it ends up acting like the above. In fact, this calls back to when we learned about でも turning interrogatives into "any X" words. Polarity is responsible.

何食べても美味しそう Whatever I eat it seems to taste good.
何でも食べる I eat anything.

Because of polarity, でも as in "even" plays strangely with negatives.

Sometimes, like in volitional or imperative statements, でも can mark something vague that can be substituted. "Even" is a useful part of the intuition here, but it doesn't literally translate well to english. This is the use of でも that you have to be careful about when you consider the "even" meaning.

Would you like to drink tea or the likes?
Would you like to drink some tea?

To review the many basic uses of ても/でも:

死んでも死なない I don't die even if I die.
いぬでもいいです Even a dog is fine.
何食べても美味しそう Whatever I eat it seems to taste good.
お茶でも飲みませんか Would you like to drink tea or the likes?

Remember, these are all different and overlap with だって at least a little.

Optional Lesson 3: Formal logical conjunctions または, あるいは, 及び, and more

These conjunctions have their own section because they're very easy to learn by exposure when you read. They're basically words of their own. That said, please skip this lesson until you need it. Optional lessons are optional.

Every term in this lesson is usually a written construction, though they can be spoken. Also, the は at the end of a couple of these is the topic marker.

または (又は) separates mutually exclusive options. Normally, it only separates two items, but said items can be lists themselves. Note that または has complex syntax restrictions on what it can attach to.

Comes, otherwise communicates

A dog or a cat

もしくは (若しくは) is another logical conjunction meaning "or". Unlike または, it isn't specifically mutually exclusive. It just presents two alternatives.

Die, or pass away

あるいは (或いは) is another alternative-presenting conjunction, but this time it has another common use. In addition to acting like "or", it can also act like an interjection that just emphasize the possibility of something.

及び is a logical "and". It doesn't just note that both of the items apply to the statement, it notes that they apply together. In this way, it's similar to と (but stricter) when と is used as a logical "and". 及び is formal. Unlike と, 及び can operate on more kinds of objects.

並びに works much like 及び. 並びに can only be used with one set of two items. However, 並びに and 及び can be used together to control the order in which items are combined together.

ものの (物の) has the same general meaning as the conjunction が, but has different restrictions on when it's used. For example, ものの cannot be followed up with a question or a volitional/invitational statement.

Part 7: Relatively speaking

Tomorrow, the world is in danger. For the sake of time, for the sake of a new today, you have to stop someone from going back to the world of yesterday.

Lesson 48: Expectation with わけ, はず, べき, べし, ものだ, かもしれない

わけ is a noun meaning "reason" (as in "why"). At the end of a statement, it says a reason for something was identified through deduction/judgment.

Use one: the speaker knows something that's relevant, and they're making a statement to put emphasis on the fact that it's true and relevant right now. According to that fact or reason, something else is to be expected.

Basically, it's a matter of fact that we're food.
(There's a reason to know that we're food)

You can imagine that they're in trouble or there's something wrong with them.

Use two: one thing leads to another, based on fact. When negated, you can think of it as a way to refute an expectation that didn't follow good reasoning.

That reason alone is why the children of magical lineages are suited to magic.

There's no reason for classes to be decided based on age.

はず expresses that the speaker expects something to factually be true or come true. The english "should" expresses both this and "subjective" expectation, i.e. that it would be bad otherwise, so it's not a 1:1 match. はず also implies that the expectation is based on reasoning and is not pure conjecture.

高かったはずだ It must've been expensive.
優しいはずだ She should be kind. (I'm pretty sure she's kind)

べき states that the speaker expects a certain action or state, because otherwise it would be bad, irresponsible, etc.

When in the past tense like べきだった (or similar), it says that an action or state "was" or "would have been" right, usually the latter.

べし is an archaic version of べき. You're unlikely to run into it, but you never know with fiction.

ものだ can also express "should" with the nuance that it's a general "should" that applies to a lot of people, not just a specific person or a group. This only applies when it's being used for mood reasons, just like のだ. You should also watch out for ものを, another confusing use of もの.

かもしれない is a compound sentence-ending particle. It attaches the same way as か alone does. It expresses that the speaker thinks the statement is a possibility. Sometimes people attach this to things they know are true for politeness's sake.

悪質ではあるかもしれないけど―― Though it may be volatile...

Lesson 49: Approximately ころ, くらい, たり, and limits with まで, ほど, すぎる

ころ is a noun that basically means "approximate time". You run into Xのころに a lot. This can either be a conjunction "around the time of X", or a noun "the general time when X" with the に particle attached.

When it acts as a suffix, ころ is voiced, becoming ごろ. ごろ attaches to a noun that takes a "specific point in time" (not a length of time) and makes it be vague and approximate. In any case, it shouldn't be used with nonspecific spans of time that are already vague.

くらい・ぐらい takes a span and makes it approximate. 三か月ぐらい basically means "for around three months". くらい can also be used to compare things like より, and says that they're about the same.

たり is used to list statements in an inexhaustive and nonspecific way, much like the listing particle や. It attaches the same way as the past tense, so it can come out as だり, and sometimes it's treated like <past>+り.

まで essentially means "up to" or "until". Unlike "until" (like "until friday"), まで does not explicitly exclude what it marks.

Monday through friday (including monday and friday)

まで can be used with verb phrases, but it can only be attached to informal, tenseless statements. In other words, they have to be plain and not past tense.

Reality check: までに is a compound particle meaning "at some time before" rather than "to the point through".

ほど essentially means "as" in terms of a comparison. For some left-hand arguments of ほど, the statement being compared has to be negative. In such comparisons, ほど acts as a limit on how well the statement applies.

君ほど強くない Not as strong as you

In positive statements where ほど attaches to an "amount", it's approximate.

半分ほど食べた I ate around half.

Compounds like それほど act as their own thing and have different semantics than their parts combined. それほど means something like "that much".

過ぎる すぎる is a verb and means "exceed" or "surpass". As an auxiliary verb, すぎる means "too much" or an excess, and attaches to the verb-sticky form.

食べすぎる Eating too much
優しすぎる Too kind

Lesson 50: Doing the time with 後, 前/先, 時 (note さっき)

後・あと is a noun that means "after". X後で is a conjunction saying that something happens after X, and not necessarily immediately.

前・まえ is an antonym of 後 and means "before". 前 can both mean before in the spatial sense (i.e. in front of you) and in the time sense (i.e. the past). This is unintuitive because of the notion of "putting the past behind you", but if you remember that "People in front of you in line are Before Your Presence and Do Things Before You", you'll do fine.

The conjunction X前に means something happens before X does, not necessarily immediately. X前に can also just be a noun acting as the argument of a verb, in which case it means "in front of" in the spatial sense.

前 and 先 are almost synonyms.

先 is a noun meaning "before", "ahead", or "front end". Generally, when 先 is spatial, it means the front ("head") of something, or the direction it's headed, not the location immediately in front of it.

先 has two contradictory temporal uses.

Temporal use one means that something is ahead of something else, right now. A teacher is ahead of a student in life. It could also be something that happened just a moment ago.

Temporal use two means that something lies ahead, in the future. A career lies ahead of a student.

These uses seem contradictory, but they have the same fundamental idea. The contradiction only happens when you give the word "before" in some situations and "ahead" in others. English does the same thing and it's just as confusing.

This is a convenient way to remember that 先 doesn't arbitrarily change between being a word for temporal past and future. Instead, it depends on the situation or phrase, just like the english word "ahead".

The conjunction X先に works almost exactly the same way as X前に.

さっき is a version of 先 that is exclusively used as a "moment ago" time noun.

時 is a noun that means "time", but if you give it a relative clause, it can act like a conjunction.

Tell me when you want to connect again, 'kay?

Lesson 51: Likeness with らしい ぽい そう など

らしい is an auxiliary adjective that attaches to nouns or verbs/adjectives and says that something factually "seems so" based on circumstance. らしい is appropriate for things that would translate to "seems X", rather than "Xish".

ぽい (almost always っぽい) says that something subjectively "seems so" based on appearance or properties and translates well as "Xish" or "X-like".

We've seen そう before in a couple example sentences with the pattern "そうだ", where we translated it as "is so", where "so" meant "like that". That's a literal use of そう as a noun. There are two grammatical constructions that use そう that have a different meaning than just "like that".

Use one is "seeming", where そう attaches directly to a verb or adjective's stem, including な-adjectives (where the stem just lacks the な・だ). This is sometimes used like "seems like I will X" with non-volitional future actions. Notably, A Frequency Dictionary of Japanese interprets that as "about to X".

Seems edible

Use two is "hearsay", much like らしい, except that it attaches to statements rather than individual words. If you want, you can think of this as "it seems that ___" until it clicks in your head.

Finally, など basically means "etc", "and so on", or "and the like". Sometimes it's the final grammatical word in a list, especially vague or non-exhaustive ones, and it can turn exhaustive, concrete types of lists into non-exhaustive ones, without changing the nuance.

謝罪など、全く無用の事です Apologies and such, very much useless things.

Lesson 52: Being done for someone with やる あげる もらう くれる

As a normal verb, やる is highly contextual, and you might as well treat it like its meaning depends on the structure it's in. It's a "do" word, but it's more general than する, and it has different connotations.

As an auxiliary verb, やる expresses that the action was in some way undesirable to someone involved, like doing something at their expense.

I ate the cake (at someone's expense)

I shouted at him (even though he wouldn't want it)

あげる is a "give" word. In the structure てあげる, it means that someone did the action "for the sake of" someone else. But there's a catch: When it's the core of the independent statement itself, and not hidden away inside a relative clause or modified in such a way, it never refers to an action done for the sake of the speaker (nor for the sake of someone the speaker is speaking for).

There's no good term for this, but a new one that might gain some traction is "private predicate". If the speaker (or someone they're speaking for) is the person receiving the good will of the action, and the action isn't embedded or relative, the speaker can't use てあげる. A native japanese speaker will refuse, on a grammatical level, to think that the speaker is the receiver.

This is a way of avoiding ambiguity when talking about giving and receiving with dropped subjects. But even with an explicit subject, you can't use the speaker as the receiver of てあげる. You need to use くれる instead.

もらう is similar to あげる, but means "getting" instead of "giving".

もらう almost acts like a passive. The receiver of the action is marked as the subject and not the indirect object. This is what it means when I say it refers to "getting" and not "giving". もらう is also the opposite of あげる in that the speaker cannot be the giver of the action.

The speaker will not be marked as the indirect object of a もらう or あげる statement that the speaker is making, even though the speaker has different roles in both kinds of statements.

あげる is sometimes used when the giver and receiver are both third parties. Then the speaker is implying that they empathize with whoever was giving.

もらう means the receiver is the speaker or someone they empathize with.

くれる is a "give" word, but it works like the opposite of あげる. The speaker (or their party) must be the one receiving the action, and cannot be marked as the giver. When the speaker is the giver, あげる has to be used.

When the giver or receiver is not stated explicitly, you need to understand the rules above in order to understand who's playing what role. That's the only reason I bothered to explain what's going on. If it's hard to understand, skip it, try to learn it through exposure, and maybe come back here later.

Some linguists consider this a special case of subject-verb agreement. If you come from a language with pervasive subject-verb agreement, that might be a more intuitive way to think about this for you. But I don't know how well the idea fits, so if you want to think about this like agreement, be careful, I don't know what to warn you about.

Lesson 53: Wrongness with だめ, いけない, ならない, featuring "must", and bonus, some contractions

だめ is a word that means something like "no good", "useless", or "no use". It can be used to say that a statement would be bad, after turning the statement into a noun or a conjunction.

ならない and いけない similar to だめ, but they're strong enough to say that something is prohibited.

ならない and いけない are relatively common, because they're used in a very common double negative construction that means "must".


There are several variations on this. They boil down to "not to X" "wrong".


Different ways of forming it have different flavors, levels of strength, and implications about why or in what way it must be done.

ならない is slightly stronger than いけない. ならない has the connotation of mental things that make something undoable, and いけない has the connotation of something being prohibited, but this distinction is in no way objective, and doesn't represent how japanese natives think about it.

On the topic of there being a million ways to say something, there are some contractions that you have to watch out for if you don't have a lot of experience reading. Here are a few. Contractions that were explicitly explained elsewhere in this guide, they aren't listed. Always be careful about contractions in speech and dialogue.


Lesson 54: "Oh well" and "I can't help it" with "It can't be helped"

There's two basic forms of this expression, differing in whether they use よう・様 or かた・方.


Both of them are literally し(する) + よう・かた (way to X) + [が]ない.

The literal meaning of ~よう・かたがない is "there's no way to X". しよう・かたがない can use this meaning, too, in the right context.

書きようがない No way to write

But as a set phrase, しようがない and friends are their own thing, and take on the meaning "oh well", "I can't help it", "there's no two ways about it", etc. English has a bunch of phrases for this kind of idea with different nuances.

This sort of expression shows up in every human language, but the way it's worded in japanese has been exoticized, thanks to shitty translations repeatedly using "it can't be helped".

While grammatically correct, and a valid phrase, and one that people might use in natural english, overusing "it can't be helped" in translations has basically made しようがない have a mythical status as something that has an untranslatable meaning. It's not untranslatable. Especially because many uses of しようがない just mean "there's no way to do X". Not all of them are "oh well".

There's something very important to learn here. Your dictionary is not an authority on what something does mean, only an authority on what something might mean. Just because しようがない has the translation "it can't be helped" in a dictionary, it doesn't mean that you must interpret it that way. What you feel like it means is more important than what your dictionary says.

Optional Lesson 4: Under the rug: A mess of particles and auxiliaries

These common important intermediate words aren't present in this guide. They're not present in any of the main lessons because they don't stick well into them, and because they're not particularly annoying.

Most of these are listing particles or emphatic particles that are hard to forget and easy to get a feel for. Let's sweep them under the rug.

なり can be a list marker that marks examples of possible options.

きり・っきり is a particle with two meanings.

In the pattern <noun>きり, it acts like an "only" marker.

In the pattern <statement>っきり, it basically means "ever since <statement>".

Some set phrases like 思いっきり, すっきり, てっきり, and はっきり contain the kana っきり, but aren't using the meaning described above.

やら is another particle with two meanings.

It can be used at the end of a statement to make an introspective question. This isn't just a modal particle, it can also be used in the middle of a statement, just like か.

It can also be used to list possibilities/examples, like か for alternatives.

こそ is an emphatic particle that acts a lot like stressing the word in english. In other words, it literally emphasizes whatever it attaches to. You can also think of it like "for sure" until it clicks in your head.

さえ is an emphatic particle that means "even an X", or "only an X", depending on the phrase and its polarity. まで can also be used this way, but not in negative/conditional phrases, and thus never means "only an X".

すら is a slightly literary emphatic particle very similar to さえ. すら can replace さえ when さえ means "even an X".

These sorts of "even an X" emphasis overlap with some uses of も and , which is why でも and だって were so hard to explain.

すぐ is an adverbial noun that means "immediately", either in a temporal way or in a spatial way. You can construct both "right in front of" and "right away" with it. すぐに basically means "soon".

ずつ is a particle that means "each" or "at a time". It emphasizes that the pace of something is steady, rather than just having an average rate.

がる is an auxiliary verb that means that someone other than the speaker (remember the "private predicate") shows signs of something. たがる is a combination of たい and がる, meaning someone looks like they want to do something.

がち is an auxiliary verb that means that someone or something has a tendency. The tendency is usually undesirable from an outside view.

No use going back to yesterday, because you were a different person then.

All things must end. The time loop has been broken. Saving the world of tomorrow. Giving our future back. And so, too, must there be no yesterday.

The End

作日 Sakubi: Raised in a day ― The Day It Was Made

There's no yesterday. No past self we once were.

There's nowhere to get stuck. No such thing as looking back.

We are who we are. We do what we do. We learn japanese.

See you tomorrow.


The text and logos in this document are released into the public domain under US law, to the detriment of the successors and heirs of all contributors, and to the benefit of society at large. February-October 2017

Also under any version of the CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) license.

Knowledge isn't property.

Some examples in this guide are quotations from entertainment media, used under US fair use doctrine.


With thanks to the resources and people that taught me:

Notes about some of the above:

Vovin was once a proponent of Altaic, which is crackpottery disguised as linguistics. Vovin is a fantastic academic and his turnaround and conversion to "real linguistics" was basically as epic as anything in academic linguistics gets, but keep in mind that a lot of his old work is based on faulty premises.

A Reference Grammar of Japanese contains a lot of useful references, but all jargon and categories in it should be taken with a grain of salt. It was compiled at a time when the specific domains of linguistics necessary to compile a reference grammar were restructuring their categorizations.

A History of the Japanese Language is highly incomplete, even beyond the fact that history is so hard, there's a lot of known information it doesn't cover.

A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar has several translation errors in its examples and doesn't always subscribe to real linguistics terms, but its notes are good.

Yan and the Japanese People is nearly impossible to acquire legally today.

Steve's videos are the only Nihongonomori videos worth watching.

Tae Kim isn't a linguist, even though he's right that most textbooks are awful. Many of his explanations try so hard to avoid being technical that they end up confusing or misleading, like his "focus particle" explanation, and the way he deals with grammatical aspect (てくる and ていく in particular).

Imabi's guide was originally written in dense "academic" english and used to be unnecessarily hard to read. However, as of mid 2017, the beginner's material is finally being rewritten, so there's no reason to avoid it anymore if you need more informative explanations. The intermediate and advanced parts are still littered with hard writing, but they contain information that's very hard to find in other free resources.

Other resources

It's true that everyone learns the same way when it comes to mastery, fluency, exposure, and real world experience, but it's not true that everyone learns the same way when it comes to deliberate study. Sakubi is deliberate study, and it might not be right for everyone. If Sakubi doesn't start working after two weeks, try one of these resources.

Just make sure you don't kill yourself trying to master them. Mastery only comes from real world experience, and in the case of language learning, that means reading and listening.

Free/Online Grammar Guides and Resources
Physical Grammar Guides

If you live in an underdeveloped country where these resources are not available legally on the first-sale market, some of them are widely pirated. Don't use grammar guides for JLPT levels (N1, N2, etc), they are poison if tests are not your only goal.

Grammar Videos

Video resources are extremely good for people who don't have a high level of functional literacy in their native language's written form. Sakubi is written in a way that tries to ease in the "written english" feeling slowly over time, but that's not good enough for everyone, especially not for people who only know english in its spoken form and as a secondary language.


> 2018/07/23: Add dedication. Fix example sentence typos. Fixed たる to be がる in last optional lesson at some point between the last update and the current update.
> 2018/04/15: The first example was still broken. Reworded thing about sakubi being dead. Refer directly to Tae Kim's Guide to Japanese Grammar in the help intro.
> 2018/03/23: Ixrec's guide is dead. Removed it and changed some other wording in the alternative resource listings. Removed the "zoomed" page, just have javascript css links. Explain that guide is no longer actively maintained, as of several months ago. Fixed the formatting of the very first example in the guide, it was missing linebreaks.
> 2017/12/04: Fixed a writing mistake in the lesson on the imperative form (said "two-form" instead of "five-form"). Added two paragraphs to the Section Two introductory break.
> 2017/10/20: Minor formatting changes to make the site work better on bad mobile browsers.
> 2017/10/18: Add a logo. Center the title stuff appropriately. If this is too big, complain about it on the thread. Explain that sakubi isn't the normal reading of 昨日 in the section on nouns. Explain honorifics in the previously short Lesson 4. Rest in peace the "so, too, must be there no ..." wording, which seems to be dialectal english.
> 2017/10/11: Minor wording improvements, fix some stray punctuation. Fix supplementary verb to be subsidiary verb, don't know how that happened.
> 2017/09/18: Typos.
> 2017/09/01: Fix typo in optional lesson 2 and formatting consistency.
> 2017/08/23: Imabi's beginner content is finally being rewritten. Tone down warnings against it.
> 2017/08/08: Typos
> 2017/07/18: Typos. Make the intermission explanation shorter for most intermissions.
> 2017/07/11: Elaborate on なら.
> 2017/07/05: Improve some wording in Lesson 50 and fix a typo in Lesson 47.
> 2017/07/04: Overhauled Lesson 9 on the て form and particle. Fixed typos in the japanese in Lessons 9 and 33. Define grammatical "case" in Lesson 3 since it's in the lesson title.
> 2017/07/02: Overhauled the way the past tense is introduced. This changes lessons 6, 7, 8, 9, and 12, and moves some stuff in other lessons. These lessons got screwed up at some point, probably before making the HTML version. I might have introduced new problems in the process of fixing them. If so, please complain about it.
> 2017/07/01: Wording improvements to make a couple sentences easier to read. Moved a jarring warning from Lesson 6 to Lesson 8 and its associated disclaimer to the following intermission. Warn about んだ as in のだ vs the past tense in Lesson 6.
> 2017/06/30: Add a one-form verb to an example and warn not to use です and ます together in Lesson 12. Fix accidental reference to the ren'youkei form an intermission. Note subject-verb agreement in Lesson 52. Introduce some contractions in Lesson 53.
> 2017/06/28: Change wording in と trivia intermission. If you run into something that feels like a washed-up crank or a pretentious student wrote it, please complain about it. It's hard to keep my writing from being poisoned by weird academic/formal word uses, and every mistake matters. Added VJG to Grammar Videos under other resources. Fixed a typo in Lesson 23.
> 2017/06/27: Fix wording mistake in Lesson 9.
> 2017/06/26: Add ますか/ませんか as in permission to Lesson 34. Add かもしれない as in possibility to Lesson 48. Add など as in etc/the likes of to Lesson 51. Explain ところ in more detail in Lesson 31. Warn about よかった in Lesson 34. Warn about たがる in Optional Lesson 4.
> 2017/06/25: Edited lessons 21 through 32.
> 2017/06/22: Fixed minor formatting mistakes. Amended confusing wording and information in the first 21 lessons. Added embedded videos to Introduction, Optional Lesson 1, and the preface to Section Two. Added list of other resources. Added changelog.
> 2017/06/14: Fixed formatting and wording mistakes.
> 2017/06/11: Fixed errors in japanese and wording mistakes.
> 2017/06/10: First HTML version. Guide has already been edited start to finish three times.