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Last of the basic Japanese

In this lesson we:



Expressions used around the house

So far we've looked at some general expressions, and expressions of gratitude, so I think it's time we took the subject a bit closer to home, literally, and look at expressions that you use in and around the house.


Always a good expression to know, this expression is usualy translated as "good morning", but it the good tradition of expressions of course it doesn't literally mean this. All it says is "it is early". The interesting thing is that because of this meaning you can technically use it in the afternoon too; say you have a job that requires you to start working around 1pm every day, and just to be a good employee you make sure to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early every day (something you would do in Japan anyway. Never be on time, be early). Meeting up with everyone else who's technically early you use this expression as a greeting.


Said when going to bed, as well as when someone goes to bed even when you're not. For instance, if you intend to play games a bit longer than your roommate, he or she can go "well I'm turning in, お休みなさい" and you would reply with お休みなさい. Some people try to get creative and want to translate "sweet dreams" or the likes into Japanese - this is not recommended. The "protocol" really is just お休みなさい from the person going to bed, and お休みなさい from the person who will stay up but is wishing them a good night's rest. The expression already implies it by being an expression, you do not need to come up with a literal translation, it would just sound odd.


One of the most commonly heard expressions is this expression, followed by the next one. Literally, this word is the combination of the verb "go" and the verb "come" and means "go and come", implying "[someone] will go and come back". This has become a commong expression said when leaving the house for school or work or any other place that you will be going to, but will eventually get back from (in the nearby future). This expression is obviously used by the people who are doing the leaving, the people that are left behind instead use ...


Which means, literally, "go and come back" in humble form. The い in the middle of the word is often dropped, to form the more colloquial いってらっしゃい that you may have encountered (a lot) in anime, j-drama or Japanese films.


Of course, there is an expression that is used when you return from whatever business you were on, and this is that one. This is the (now accepted as standard) short form of the longer expression ただいまより帰りました which means "[I] have returned only just now", where the ただいま part is the "on just now" bit.

Unsurprisingly, the いま in this expression is 今 (which we know means "now"), and the ただ can be written as either 只 or 唯 in its meaning of "just", "only" or "solely". Even though ただいま is accepted as standing for ただいまより帰りました it can also be taken more literal, and is used as a reply to commands to go do something, translating roughly to the English "right away".


The usual reply to ただいま, the literal translation is a tad quaint ("be back"), but the expression translation is just "welcome home". The "home" bit is fairly important, because 帰る means "come home" (or more accurately come back to some place that is regarded as place of stay), whereas just "come back" is the verb 戻る.


This expression is quite interesting, because literally it means "please be raised". The interesting bit comes from the fact that this makes perfect sense when you realise that in traditional Japanese houses, the entrace was lower than the main floor, and in order to actually get onto the main floor of the house, you'd have to take off your shoes and "step up into" the house, rather than just stepping through the doorway.

This expression basically grants access to someone's house, but even if you have been granted explicit permission to enter, you will still want to say...


which literally means "[I] will intrude". Basically it acknowledges that your presence is probably a disturbence to the household, and this expression somewhat apologises for this beforehand. You use it as you enter someone's house.


If no one seems to be home, but you need to enter a house, you basically yell this out loud in the hopes that someone will pop up anyway. Literally it requests your rudeness to be forgiven, but it translates to yelling "helllooooo?" or "anybody home??" in English. You might use this when you're in a small store but there does not appear to be a tennant, or when you're out in the country side and you need to use someone's phone but they don't appear to be home.

This expression is also used when a phone talk is over, and you wish to hang up on someone. Rather than saying goodbye, you instead use this to apologise for terminanting the conversation. Of course, it helps if you also know how to pick up the phone, but this is a simple and well-known expression:


I don't know where I first heard the myth that people say this because it shows that they're not some malicious because they reputedly cannot say "みし"... This is fairly obviously nonsense, もしもし comes from し, which is just the repeated 連用形 for the honorific verb す, "say".

The most obvious use of this expression is when picking up the phone, but you can also use it to try to get someone's attention when it seems they're miles away, daydreamining it up and not hearing a word you're saying


Said when about to dig in to a meal. Literally it means "[I] humbly help myself to this".


Said when done eating. Literally this means "[it] was a feast", but this meaning has been lost a bit... except when you say it to the person who cooked the meal, who might then reply with:


In the grand tradition of Japanese downplaying your skill, this expression says "it's [just something] crude/simple". You won't hear this expression a lot (if ever!) but for completeness sake I'm keeping it in.

The honorific prefix

So what's up with the お and ご before words? And why do both show up as 御 in a dictionary?

Well, basically 御 is the honorific prefix, which is stuck before words to make them, err, honorific. Like all kanji the pronunciation differs depending on what the kanji is combined with so there are two main pronunciations, ご and お, where the pronunciation is ご when it is prefixed to words with a chinese reading, and お when prefixed to words with a japanese reading.

But wait, it gets better! Or worse, depending on your view, 御 actually has seven "readings", some of which original, some of which evolved through colloquial perversion really. 御 started out as a three readings, namely み, ご and ぎょ.

み was originally used to indicate something was related to highness or reverence, usually meaning words concerning royalty, gods, buddha, etc. み can sometimes still be identified in modern Japanese, especially in words relating to the emperor.

Then in the nara period (which is pretty long ago), was prefixed to み making it seem more honorific and forming おおみ, which then got bastardised (which is not always a bad thing) into おほん (pronounced おおん - as mentioned before classical Japanese didn't have the whole "pronounced the way it's written" cleanliness that modern Japanese does), which in turn became おん. Eventually even this got bastardised with the ん dropping off leaving us with お, which is still in use today for words that use Japanese readings.

Finally, ご and ぎょ were readings for when the prefix was used in combination with a Chinese or Chinese reading word, and of these two ご is still used today.



With these particles we'll have basically covered all the really basic particles in Japanese the list of particles from lesson 1, 2 and 3 should be enough to get you by. Of course, this is not really the aim of the lessons, we want to learn Japanese, not just enough Japanese to get by, but for now you can at least rest easy knowing you closed a small chapter when you're done with lesson 3, particle-wise at least.

  • も - similarity, emphasis
  • から - from (point of origin)
  • まで - till (point of termination)
  • け(れ)ど(も) - contrastive
  • よ - emphasis
  • ね/な - rhetorics

This particle signifies what I can only really describe as "additionality", which shows up in two distinct way. The first is as the familiar similarity marker, replacing は or が in a sentence, indicating that the preceding text is similar to either something previously mentioned, or to something that will follow later in the sentence. An example of the first would be the following small conversation:


A: I bought a book today.
B: I also bought a book today

This use of も basically sets up the clause as "additional" to a previous clause. The second use, using も twice in a sentence without prior context, is used in sentences such as the following:

日本語: 年寄ました。
English: Both young and old people have come.

Here the two parts "young people" and "old people" are listed as being in addition to each other, rather than some pre-established context.

Another role that stems from the core idea of additionality is も as emphatic contrastive marker. That's a lot of big fancy words, "emphatic" means that it places emphasis on something, and contrastive means that it sets up a contrast. The most obvious form of this is when it is combined with the て form of verbal words (which we will learn how to form later in this lesson), an example of which is the following:

日本語: 頑張ってわないと思います。
English: Even if I were to really go for it, I don't think I could learn this.

Literally the line of course just says "exerting effort も, [whoever] thinks: 'cannot learn'", which is a tad silly as translation, but shows us what the も does: it puts emphasis on the fact that exerting effort is not going to change the current situation in any way, it is contrasting reality to someone's expectation.

The same "functionality" can be seen when も is paired with the interrogative こそあど words (the ど versions of series). If we look at what happens using a little table, it should be fairly easy to see how it works:

interrogative meaning   with も meaning
どこ where   どこも nowhere/everywhere
どれ which one   どれも none/all
とちら which direction   どちらも nowhere/everywhere
どの[...] which [...]   どの[...]も no [...]/all [...]
どんな[...] what kind of [...]   どんな[...]も no kind of [...]/every kind of [...]

Notice that for the last two examples the も comes after the [...] part. This is important to notice, because it shows you that you cannot consider these こそあど pronouns, they really, really need that [...] bit to work, and form a single unsplittable entity with it. It may look like も means "any", but that's not entirely true - we could translate "any [...]" as "whichever [...]" too and this would be fine.

In effect, adding も turns an interrogative こそあど word into its own all or nothing "generic" answer: "which one?" - "all of them", "where to?" - "nowhere", "what kind of orange?" - "all kinds of oranges". Whether it is interpreted as an all or nothing depends on which inflection its operative verbal is placed in:

A: どこもある。
B: どこもない。

A: It's everywhere?
B: It's nowhere?

This magical ambiguity comes from the fact that literally the も is still just additionality, so if the verb is negative, then in addition to not being here, it is not to be found in anything that fits どこ. On the other hand the verb is affirmative then in addition to being here, it can be found in anything that fits どこ.

We will look at も a bit more later on in the lessen when we pair it up with the 連用形 of です, as this combination (で+も, not to be confused with the word でも meaning "but") can also be used with interrogative こそあど to do something similar to what も does on its own.


This particle is quite elegant, provided you appreciate the way the Japanese mindset divides up its universe. から marks a point of origin, but not just for going some place, it makes the origin of *anything*, so you can use it to indicate a starting time ("as of 3 o' clock"), a starting place ("leaving from stockholm"), or even to mark the perspective from which you are reasoning ("this doesn't work because ..."). Usually this means that から gets explained as doing two distinct things, namely marking time/place of origin, and marking reason (which isn't a bad way to explain it, but lacks that little link that shows they're really just the same thing when looked at from a wider perspective that not just looks at the world in a subject/object ordering, but in a time/space/conceptual ordering).

An example of using から to mark a starting time is:

日本語: 九時からです。
English: I will be free after 9 o' clock.

An example of using から to mark a starting point is:

日本語: ヘルシンキからました。
English: We've come from Helsinki.

And an example of using から as marking a starting point for reasining is:

日本語: からジャケットがらない。
English: You won't need a jacket because it's warm.

The idea that this is a "starting point for reasoning" is probably clearer if I rephrase this a little to show how it works: "reasoning from the position that it is warm, you won't need a jacket". This is significantly different from most western modes of reasoning - rather than first stating it is warm and then stating that because of this you don't need a jacket, the Japanese technically only states that you don't need a jacket if you accept the view that it is warm. This is a subtle but crucial difference that constantly pops up in Japanese; rather than claiming something is the case because you think it is, you instead state that you think something is the case and take it from there.

An important note to add is that から can be used in "different" roles in the same sentence:

日本語: スペインからましたからいといます。
English: We've come from Spain, so it feels cold [here].

In this sentence the first から indicates a point of origin for travel, while the second indicates a reasoning.


The counter part to から, まで indicates the end point of something related to time, space or reasoning.

日本語: 九時までです。
English: I will be free until 9 o' clock.

日本語: ヘルシンキまできました。
English: We traveled up to Helsinki [but no further].

日本語: そこまでしますか。
English: You would go that far [ to reach your goal]?

This last sentence shows the use of まで for reasoning, and literally translates to "would you do [something] [that leads to] ending there", which is again somewhat broken English, but illustrates why it works the way it does. You will probably rarely use まで in this way, but again knowing it can be used in this way is better than being puzzled at what someone says when it does get used.

Of course, から and まで can be used in the same sentence to create a "from ... till ..." statement, though these are really only used for time and location:

日本語: 九時から十一時までです。
English: I will be free from 9 o' clock till 11 o' clock.

日本語: ストックホルムからヘルシンキまできました。
English: We traveled up to Helsinki [but no further] from Stockholm.


This is one of those particles that really makes no sense unless you get at least a minimal bit of classical japanese to explain what the hell it does and why it has four forms: けれども, けれど, けども and けど.

Initially, there was just けれども, which was really just the izenkei ending of any classical adjective paired with the classical particle ども used to indicate a concessive, which means that whatever followed it was contrary to what was to be expected given what preceded it (but, although, however, etc).

This [...]けれども replaced the use of just ども as concessive during the Edo and Tokugawa era, and was progressively shortened to けども and けど. The form けれど is only a recent fourth version for this word, and all of them are used to say something that contradicts what one might expect, in a way similar to "however, ...". Unlike "however", け(れ)ど(も) is mid-sentence and is either followed directly by the contrastive clause, or a comma followed by the contrastive clause:

日本語: いですけど知識がかなりある。
English: [he] is young, yet is quite knowledged.

As always the rule "the longer the word, the more formal it is" applies, so けど is considered more informal than けれど or けども, which are in turn less formal than けれども.

The biggest mistake you can make on this particle is to say "this is the Japanese exclamation mark". It isn't anything like it An exclamation mark makes something an exclamation, whereas よ merely adds emphasis to a statement, making it carry more weight. Where an exclamation is something that is typically shouted ("exclamed"), something that is marked with よ can be whispered for all anyone cares, it's the よ that does the emphasis, not the tonality or intensity of the speech.

There is typically no good way to translate this particle, and translating it with an exclamation mark is of course just plain stupid - usually you need to find a good contextual translation for it instead, or simply leave it untranslated. compare the following two sentences:

日本語: もうった。
English: I already told [you].

日本語: もうった
English: I already told [you].

The only difference in these two sentences is that in the second sentence the もう言った is emphasised, a bit like someone just raising the tone of their voice a little on the word "told" in "I already told you" for added emphasis. In Japanese you use よ at the end of a sentence for this emphasis.

There are a few more colloquial particles that do this too, such as ぜ and ぞ, but you'll probably pick up on those quick enough if you're in a setting where they get used. You may also hear さ used where you would expect よ, but unlike ぜ and ぞ this is a different kind of particle, which is used to to emphasise that what is being said is information, and is used to pull a listener (back) into the conversation. This is very different from just emphasising something like you would by using よ. In effect, さ is a bit like adding "you know?" to something in English; some people tend to use this as a translation for よ as well, but sadly this just means they misunderstood what よ is used for, if you do need to translate よ, you're better off italicising or underlining the important word(s) in a sentence instead of trying to use a translation for よ itself.

ね(え) / な(あ)

The last two particles in this last section on basic Japanese particles, ね and な, and their drawn out versions (ねえ, ねぇ, ねー or なあ, なぁ, なー) are used to make statements rhetorical. Compare the following examples:

日本語: 霜川さんがもうた。
English: Shimokawa already arrived.

日本語: 霜川さんがもうたか。
English: Did Shimokawa arrive yet?.

日本語: 霜川さんがもう
English: Shimokawa already arrived huh?.

日本語: 霜川さんがもう
English: Shimokawa already arrived huh?.

The "huh" part is pretty intentional, because literary rhetorics sounds horrible when you use it in an actually conversation (how often would you say "shimokawa already arrived, didn't he?"), instead you'd use "huh" or "eh" or something to get that rhetorical effect going. The difference between ね and な is basically level of reservation. In a situation where you would use reserved speech, you would use ね, whereas in a situation where you feel entirely comfortable and you feel a colloquial style of speech is appropriate, you'd use な.

Using the drawn out versions as opposed to the normal short versions adds emphasis to the rhetorical aspect; while a question ending in ね or な might still require an answer even though it's a tad rhetoric, a question ending in ねえ or なあ is really just someone talking to the air, without anyone really being expected to answer it ( but if you want you always could of course).

Interestingly, you can combine か with ね or な to form a "doubt":

日本語: 霜川さんがもうたか
English: I wonder if Shimokawa arrived yet.

Remember that か is not a question mark, but a question marker, so what happens here is actually not that mysterious. The statement "shimokawasan arrived already" is made uncertain using か, turning it into "shimokawasan arrived already or not", after which the ね makes this a rhetorical statement, rather than a question which would literally come down to: "hmm, shimokawasan arrived already or not...". Obviously this is not a question at all, and Japanese phrases in かね or かな should not be considered questions - they're just rhetorical statements.


Verb Grammar - The Verb Conjunctive Form

In this section we'll be discussing the て form. First things first: you already know how to form this, because you know how to make the plain past tense. Do the exact same thing as for past tense but use て instead of た and you're there (yes, that includes the contractions for 五段 verbs):

So what do we use the て form for? Essentially the て form is used to join multiple verb actions as a single verb act, turning for instances "eat" and "walk" into "walk, eating" or "eat, walking". Just like in many western languages, both verbs can still be specified, like "walking slowly, eating an ice cream", but where in for instance English the specification doesn't disturb the two verbs directly following each other, in Japanese you can get the further specification smack dab in the middle of the two verbs:

日本語: んできた。
English: Rocks came flying.

日本語: ごはんを学校きます。
English: I will eat breakfast and go to school

In the first example we see two verbs "joined up" with a て form, linking up "fly" and "come" into what we can be translated at "come flying". In the second sentence, this joining up is actually still happening, but words have been "stuck between" the verb in て form and the second verb, implicitly forming a sequence of events: When asked what the verb action is in this sentence, a Japanese person would say that it's べてく, because even though words have been placed between the verb in て form and the second verb, they still form "one" verb action of "eating and (then) going"

You can link up more than just two verbs in this way, for instance "walk", "eat" and "sing":

日本語: 公園っていた。
English: I walked in the park singing and eating.

Theoretically this stringing together of verbs can be done endless, but of course practically you're going to at some point stop making sense because it's just too many verbs in a sequence. An important thing to note in the previous example is that only the last verb in the string has some kind of inflection indicating tense and the likes - for obvious reasons, this means that a verb in て form does not have any real inflection form itself, but depends on the inflection of the last verb in the sequence. If the last verb in the sequence is in plain present form, then all the verbs in て form linked up to it are considered to be in plain present form. Similarly, If the last verb is in polite negative, then all the verbs linked up to it are considered polite negative.

This form is not just available for verbs, but also for verbal adjectives, where it is also added to the 連用形, but without any contractions, so it just becomes [stem]+くて rather than the 五段 verb [stem] + いで. When using adjectives in this way, they do exactly the same as verbs: they form a single entity that can be used as "huge" adjective block for something:

日本語: しくさくいました。
English: I bought a new, white, small, cheap bag.

Here we see four adjectives stringed into a single adjective statement, and again only the last in the string has an inflected form, which applies to all the adjectives in て form stuck before it. But raises an interesting question: ない is an adjective, can we put that in て form?

We can indeed, and in fact it has two て forms; なくて like you'd expect, and for some completely crazy reason, it pretends to also be a 五段 verb and has a second て form that is ないで. This is very useful to know, because now we suddenly know how to say that we bought a new, not white, small, cheap bag:

日本語: しくなくてさくいました。
English: I bought a new, not white, small, cheap bag.

Actually, for adjectives there is a more colloquial way to do all this, and that's to just ignore "proper" form and just string adjectives together in their normal 連体形 form:

日本語: しいさないました。
English: I bought a new, white, small, cheap bag.

日本語: しいくないでさないました。
English: I bought a new, not white, small, cheap bag.

You may notice I used 小さな instead of 小さい in this colloquial version, the reason for this mostly that it sounds better that way. The difference is that 小さな is noun adjective form, whereas 小さい is verbal adjective form. This is not something you can do with all adjectives, only some exist as this kind of noun/verbal adjective pair, but we shall look into this matter in more detail in the noun adjective section a bit later on in the lesson.

Because ない can be placed in て form, we can also use it to place verbs in a sequence in negative form:

日本語: 公園わなくいた。
日本語: 公園わないでいた。
English: I walked in the park eating and not singing.

So what is the difference between なくて and ないで? Interestingly that depends on which theory you believe for the formation of ないで. Practically the difference is "ないで sounds less formal than なくて" so whenever you want to be formal you use the longer version, but the theory on what ないで is made up of causes a bit of confusion. Some people think it's actually ない paired with the instrumental particle で. Others think it's ないです with です in its 連用形, which is also で... ironically when you compare what the two do, there really isn't much of a difference so to be honest it just doesn't matter - Just use ないで unless you feel a reason to be more formal than usual.

The て form + も

As promissed, we still need to look at what happens if we combine a て form with も, and as mentioned already, this creates an emphatic constrast:

日本語: てもらなくていません。
English: Even if it's cheap, I don't need it so I won't buy it.

日本語: ってもわないよ。
English: Even if we run, we won't make it on time.

Literally these sentences say "even cheap, not needing not buying" and "even running, won't be on time". The も in both cases really just denotes additionality, marking the verbal in て form before it as being additional to what is already the case, followed by something that constrasts what you would expect. "Even if in addition to what it is now, it turns out to be cheap as well, I don't need it so I won't buy it" and "Even if in addition to what we're doing now, we run, we won't make it in time". Of course you wouldn't translate it this way, but this is the central idea behind the particle も.

The ~ても form is also used to ask permission, or waive away an expectation, depending on whether the verbal in て form is an affirmative or negative:

日本語: ってもいいですか。
English: May I sit [down]?

日本語: らなくてもいいですよ。
English: You don't have to sit down.

The て form + から

Sometimes using the て form can lead to confusion when the speaker means to imply a sequence of two or more verbs, but the listener interprets what is beind said as combined single verb action instead:

日本語: 映画館ってかをべませんか。
English: Shall we go to the cinema and eat something?

This is actually quite ambiguous and could mean either that the plan is to go to the cinema, and then afterwards go for some food, or that the plan is to go to the cinema and while there, eat something. This can cause quite a bit of confusion, but luckily you can also explicitly mean the last by adding in the helpful particle から that we saw earlier:

日本語: 映画館ってからかをべませんか。
English: Shall we go eat something after going to the cinema?

The use of kara here "forces" the phrase to be read as "after going to the cinema, shall we eat something", solving the problem of what the speaker means. However, because this construction exists, it also means that if you do leave off the から, people are quite likely to mistunderstand you if you intended to imply a sequence of events rather than a combined event.

Also quite important, do not make the mistake of saying the following instead:

日本語: 映画館ったからかをべませんか。

This phrase actually translates to "because we went to the cinema, shall we go get something to eat?" which is something completely different. Remember that the past tense is already "done" as verb form so when paired with から, because it is not a time or a place, it is interpreted as a reason - using て + から instead, because the verb form is not yet "done" is interpreted as indicating the unspecified time of when this *would* be done instead

Be careful!

The て form + は

A final て form + particle combination is the て form paired with the context marking は. Combined they form a conditional, describing a situation about which the followin words make some kind of comment:

日本語: 勉強ては音楽きません。
English: When I study, I do not listen to music.

The situation is skeched by 勉強する, "study", in て form and indicated as being a situation about which we say something (so we force it to be a context) with は. A fairly straight-forward use of は. This pattern is more interesting when using negative て forms, when は is usually followed by a word that indicates something is bad, commonly the negative form of いける ("be good enough[for some purpose]") or なる ("become"), or the noun 駄目 ("no good"):

日本語: 勉強しなくてはいけません。
English: You should study.

Literally we have a double negative going on here: "not studying will not do", which translates to an imperative comment, "should not" or "must not". In lesson 5 we will look at how to form "should" and "must" which also uses a double negative, but one that is more confusion at first glance, so for now only a promise that you will learn the opposite form, without the actual explanation.

Colloquially ては can be contracted to form ちゃ (and では to form じゃ), so you could for instance hear something like いっちゃだめ which would be short for いってはだめ. This is also the reason ではない and ではありません can be used as じゃない and じゃありません.


Special て form verb suffixes

There are a few verbs which, when combined with verbs in て form, change the overall meaning of the combination form just the combined event to something more specific. These verbs are いる / ある, みる, おく, しまう, いく / くる and (even though it's technically a verb related to giving and receving, because it is so damn frequently used) さる in the form さい.

~ている / ~てある

These two forms cover the progressive verb act, the resultant state, and the habitual act, for different verb classes. For transitive verbs, the ~ている form can mean either a habitual act, or a progressive, while ~てある means a resultant state. For intransitive verbs, the ~ている form covers all three, and ~てある is not used:

  ~ている ~てある
transitive - habitual
- progressive
- resultant state
intransitive - habitual
- progressive
- resultant state

Some examples to show these roles, first off a transitive verb in ている form, expressing a habitual act:

日本語: 石田さんが 眼鏡をかけている
English: Ishidan (habitually) wears glasses.

And a transitive verb in ている form, expressing a progressive verb act:

日本語: 石田さんが 眼鏡をかけている
English: Ishidan is wearing glasses.

This sounds like cheating, but the sentence can just mean these two things. How do you know which one is the right interpretation? As always, context.

And finally an intransitive verb in ている form expressing a resultant state:

日本語: 谷崎さんが結婚ています。
English: Mrs. Tanizaki is married.

The reason this is called a resultant state is because 結婚する means "get married", and describes the either going to marry, or the actual event of marrying (remember that the present and near-future form are the same thing in Japanese). So, this resultant form expresses that at some point in the past the act of 結婚する took place, and the result of which is what is the case now.

We can also create a resultant state for transitive verbs using ある, but doing so creates a different interpretation:

日本語: てある
English: The window is open.

The difference in interpretation lies with the fact that we joined up a transitive verb ける and ある. The first is always performed by someone, while the second only says something about the way things are, so we have a resultant state about which we only say that it's just the state something is in, but secretly we know that this must have been caused by someone, because only someones perform transitive verb actions. So this means the translation including hidden meaning is "The window is open [because someone opened it]". This is very different from:

日本語: ている
English: The window is open.

In this sentence we combined the intransitive verb for opening, く, in て form with いる (covering that last possible form) which only says the window is open, without any additional implications that someone might have done this. So this means we better change the table a little to give us the following:

  ~ている ~てある
transitive - habitual
- progressive
- caused resultant state
intransitive - habitual
- progressive
- pure resultant state

As a final note on this special て form, the い in ~ている may be dropped in colloquial use, leading to verbs using ~てる instead of ~ている. This is perfectly fine use, and usually you will want to do this, as keeping the い in is considered somewhat formal (again the whole "the longer something is ..." rule).


This combination comes from the verb る, which means look or see. When used as ~てみる (always in kana) it means to do ~ for the purpose of seeing what it's like, or to see what happens. For instance:

日本語: この漢字んで。
English: Reading this kanji.

日本語: この漢字んでみて
English: Try reading this kanji.

This sentence ends on a て form, which is a soft command/request explained just a few entries down in the section on ~てください. The first sentence without てみる just tells the person to read the kanji, but by changing it to ~てみる it becomes a statement that tells the listener to "just try to" read the kanji.

日本語: 昨日刺身てみました
English: I gave eating sashimi a try yesterday.

This statement tells use that rather than simply eating sashimi, this person never had sashimi before, or was somehow in a position where eating sashimi is something that needs experimenting (like after getting food poisoning from sashimi and swearing it off for a while). Note though that using てみる in no way implies what the result of the trying is - unlike in for instance English, where saying "I tried eating sashimi yesterday" might be interpreted as not having gone down really well because you'd say "I had some sashimi yesterday" if all was well instead, in Japanese there is no such connotation whatsoever.


This combination comes from the verb く, which means to put something somewhere. When used in combination of a て form (written in hiragana in this use), it seems this can mean two things, but as we shall see they're just the same thing.

The "first" meaning is doing something now with the intention of having it stay that way at some later time. For instance, if you want to make sure you're not missing a cool TV show you could turn on the TV before the show actually starts, so you won't miss it when it does start. In Japanese this "doing before you strictly speaking have to" uses ておく:

日本語: テレビをておきました
English: I turned on the TV (now, rather than later, so that I can count on it to be turned on when I need it to be).

This bit in parentheses is pivotal. When you "く" something, you can assume that - all things being equal - it will still be there next time you check, and it is this aspect that is kept in ~ておく. The "second" meaning is just another aspect of this:

日本語: ておけよ。
English: You [better] remember [this]

This is the verb える, "remember", in ておく form, which means "remember, and keep it remembered", which is just a concise way of saying "remember, in such a way as to when next time we check, you still have it remembered", which is conceptualy the exact same as putting something somewhere (in this case, thoughts) and expecting it to still be there next time you check.

Note that colloquially ~ておく can be shortened to ~とく.


しまう itself means to finish, wrap up, complete and all that jazz, but when used as ~しまう it connotes a negative aspect, translating to "inadvertently having finished/having done ...".

日本語: したケーキもべた。
English: I also ate all the left over cakes.

日本語: したケーキもてしまった
English: I inadvertenly also ate all the left over cakes...

You use this construction when you want to add a feeling of "I wish I hadn't"-ness to what you'te saying.

~てくる / ~ていく

The normal 来る and 行く mean "come" and "go" respectively, and when used (in hiragana) with て forms they indicate that the verb in て form is gradually taking place, either coming into focus or going out of focus. For instance, the sun could be coming out and starting to warm up the day, and you could describe this with:

日本語: てきた
English: The sun's [gradually] come up.

Or you could be looking at a mountain you're driving towards in the distance, gradually coming into focus as you get closer:

日本語: てくる
English: I can see the mountain more and more.

And of course conversely:

日本語: んでいく
English: The sun [gradually] setting.

日本語: えなくなっていった
English: The mountain [gradually] disappeared from sight.

this last phrase uses the て form for えなくなる, which is the adverbial form えない ("not able to see") with the verb なる ("become"). This adverbial form of adjectives (remember that ない is an adjective!) will be discussed in the phrase section later on.

As a final note on this pair, くる and いく can carry a "good" and "bad" connotation respectively, following the logic that things that come your way often mean pleasant things (the sun coming up, your destination coming into view, things coming to fruition, etc), while things that move away from you often means unpleasant things (goals becoming unreachable, people moving away, etc).


The last special て form we'll look at is the polite request. Any verb in て form can be suffixed with さい (in either hiragana or kanji form) to form a polite request. Interestingly, because て comes from the classical verb つ, which has て for both its 連用形 as well as 命令形, leaving off さい is already a commanding form that is softer than a verb's normal 命令形:

  連体形 命令形 て form polite request
look ろ / 見よ さい
eat べる べろ / 食べよ べて べてさい
drink んで んでてさい
wait って ってさい

We see that for 一段 verbs the commanding form can actually be two forms, namely [stem] + ろ or [stem] + よ. Which you use kind of depends where in Japan you are: in the northern parts of Japan you are more likely to hear ろ used, while in the southern parts of Japan you are more likely to hear よ used

It is important that I add that the 命令形 in this table does *not* refer to the grammatical base, but means the full verb form. Problematically these are the same words, so it's easy to confuse the grammatical base name with the full verb from, all the more so because for 一段 verbs there is a difference between the grammatical base (which is just the stem) and the full verb form (stem + ろ orよ) while for 五段 verbs the grammatical form and full verb form are the same thin (stem + え-row syllable).

In terms of "commandingness", the plain 命令形 is very commanding and just means "look", "eat", "drink" and "wait" for these four example verbs. The て form is more between a command and a request, and is similar in commandingness as the English "oh could you wait?" is. The て form paired with さい is a non-commanding request (even though technically さい is the 命令形 for the verb さる) and is similar to the English "please [look/eat/drink/wait/randomverbhere]".


Verb Grammar - Getting The Most Out Of Your 連用形

That was a lot of information, but before we close off the subject of verb grammar I want to look at the plain 連用形 just a bit more, to show you what else it can be used for. This section won't be as long as the previous one, but it will highlight three important things that you can use the 連用形 of verbs and verbal adjectives for.

Joining sentences

One of the uses of the 連用形 is to join up several sentences as subphrases into a large continuous (which is what 連用 means) sentence, similar to how in English for instance you would join up two sentences by putting a comma between them and if necessary changing the phrasing on the first sentence just a tiny bit. If we look at an example you might get an idea of how this works:

日本語: く。
English: Flowers bloom.

English: Birds are chirping..

日本語: た。
English: Spring has come.

We can combine these into a single sentence:

日本語: た。
English: Flowers bloom, birds are chirping; spring has come.

This kind of joining of sentences sounds more "classy" (to abuse the word) than using て chaining, and because it is just a continuative (連用) form, there is no implied sequence or single verb action, just three separate things which can be combined into a single sentence, while keeping the subphrases all pretty much "on their own".

You can find this form used abundently in literature, as well as in formal conversation

Noun forms

Another nice thing about the 連用形 is that any verb or verbal adjective can become a noun when placed in 連用形. However, rather than for instance "frame" (as in "frame a picture") becoming the noun frame (ie, the picture frame) it becomes a noun for the act of framing something, "a framing", in effect. The closest in Englis is the kind of noun that you use when you're soing something and when someone asks what you're doing saying "I'm just having a ...", where you use the present tense of a verb as if it's a noun (having a read, having a lie down, etc)

  連体形 連用形 meaning as noun
walk walk ("a walking")
talk talk ("a talking")
wait wait ("a waiting")
paint "a painting" (the activity!)

Many of these noun forms have made their way into the Japanese language as "proper" nouns, so be careful when you noun-o-fy a verb on the fly, becuase it might be that it's already an accepted noun that has a different meaning from what you intend to use it for simply through years and years of use.

Verbal compounds

Because the 連用形 is a continuative form we can also use it to form compound words. You might know this in English from for instance the word "teapot" which is actually the words "tea" and "pot" simply slapped together. In Japanese this is a really common thing and you can form compounds out of almost anything, provided you stick to the "rules".

For verbals that rule is "you need to put the verbal in 連用形 form before you slap it onto something". Let's look at what this means if we want to combine verbs with nouns:

る, "put on", in 連用形 + , "thing" = , "thing you put on", a kimono

Sometimes these compounds seem to not make a great deal of sense, such as the following:

ける, "be alive", in 連用形 + , "flower" = 生け, which doesn't mean "living thing", but flower arrangement.

In this last example we also see that has become voiced, for seemingly no reason. The bad news is: there really is no reason at all for why it does this. Many Japanese compound words don't have a voicing of the pronunciation of the second bit in the compound, but some do, and quite curiously there are no rules, not even sort-of guidelines, as to when this might happen.

A special noun that can be used here is the noun , which means something like "conceptual thing", which can be a thought, or a situation, or anything else that you might call a thing but is intangible.

  連体形 連用形+ meaning as compound noun
walk the notion of walking
talk the notion of talking
wait the notion of waiting
paint the notion of painting

The swiss army knives of the Japanese language: and

Many, many verbs in 連用形 form can combine with the nouns and , to form conceptualisations. While the power of these two nouns will be treated in more detail in a later lesson, it really helps to point out what they mean now, so that you can bask in the radiance that is their usefulness early on.

Both nouns turn a verb in 連用形 form into a thing, but the type of thing they make are intrinsically different. turns the verb's action into a physical thing, something you can see or touch or smell or eat, similar to how apples and fish and paintings are things. On the other hand, turns the verb action into a purely conceptual thing, like how "thinking" and "walking" are things, but they're not actually physical objects like apples or a fish or paintings.

Do not confuse 連用形 + 事 with the 連体形 + . The first creates constructions that express a noun based on the verb, such as 見事, "something splendid", 笑い事, "A laughing matter", 遊び事, "recreation" whereas the second construction creates nouns that mean "the act of performing [verb]" which is something very different indeed. We will look at these two words in more detail in a later lesson

We can also create verb/verb compounds, such as:

ぶ, "fly", in 連用形 + す, "go out" = 飛び出す or 飛出す, "come flying out", "come leaping out"

A possible problem with these compounds is that the 送り仮名 (the kana used to indicate inflection, in this case the 連用形 inflection) may be omitted in writing, while still being used in the pronunciation. Especially when first introduced to this concept, it might seem like the kanji in a compound verb has actually changed reading, when in fact only the written form has been "relaxed" (whether this is a good thing or a bad thing I will leave to you).

You might be wondering whether we can do this with verbal adjectives too, to which the answer is "yes, but we must use the stem, rather than the 連用形", after which we can create adjecitve/noun compounds (such as ぺん, red (writing) pen, from the adjective い meaning red and the noun ぺん meaning pen), or adjective/adjective compounds such as 青白い meaning "pale" or "ill colour", from the adjective い meaning blue, and the adjective い meaning white (again with a completely illogical voicing on the second word in the compound).

Forming adverbs

This is something particular to verbal adjectives, but an important thing: verbal adjectives can be made adverbial by putting them in their 連用形. This difference is not too obvious in English, where we can say "this is a fast car" and "this is because it can drive fast" with the word "fast" being used as adjective in the first, and as adverb in the second sentence, but in Japanese this difference is quite visible:

日本語: このいです。
English: This car is fast.

日本語: ります。
English: It goes fast.

In the first sentence, we see a verbal adjective used normally, modifying a noun, but in the second sentence the adjective, placed in 連用形 now modified a verb instead.

Hidden bonus particles: ながら and がてら

There's one last thing I want to discuss in this 連用形 section, and that's indicating that some verb action is taking place during some other verb action, since so far we've seen how to just list one verb action, and how to put them in series, but we haven't learnt how to put them in a parallel occurence form.

There are two particles that followed the 連用形 that accomplish this goal, namely ながら and がてら.

Using ながら indicates that one verb act is taking place during another verb act, such as in for instance:

日本語: テレビをながらをたべる。
English: I eat dinner while watching TV.

Here the act of eating dinner occurs during the act of watching television. However, using ながら also tells us that the two verb acts are linked in terms of duration. One might for instance at some point be done watching dinner, but then the situation changes from "eating while watching TV" to just "watching TV".

If instead you want to say that, while doing something, you also do something else that is in no way related to the first act in duration, such as picking up some groceries while sightseeing in a city, or playing a game while at the beach, you use がてら instead:

日本語: がてらいました。
English: I bought some fish while walking around the city.

And that's it, we've been dwelling on verbal grammar for long enough now, time to take a quick look at what nouns and noun adjectives do, look at ways how to indication location, and then call it a day to sit back and digest all this stuff... ^_^


Phrase Grammar I - Nouns and Noun Adjectives

We've been talking about verbs and verbal adjective so much you'd almost forget there are also nouns and noun adjectives. Nouns are frankly not that interesting, they don't inflect, always look the way they do in the dictionary and are generally just words you need if you want to say anything remotely related to anything. They're just nouns.

Noun adjectives on the othe hand are more interesting, because on the surface they look like nouns, but then when you use them adjectively, they suddenly do something unexpected. Take the noun "pretty" or "organised" (interestingly expressed by only one word) きれい. This word is not a verbal adjective even though it ends on い, because this is actually its kanji reading, with its kanji form being 綺麗. As we can clearly see, there is no "loose" い here so we're not dealing with a verbal adjective. However, that doesn't mean we're not dealing with an adjective at all, we can use this word just fine to indicate that someone is pretty, but that's where the diffrence with nouns comes in:

日本語: きれい
English: A pretty person.

Rather than the noun linking の, we see that noun adjectives link up to nouns using な instead.

So what if we want to link up multiple noun adjectives? Noun adjectives don't have a て form so this might seem like a problem, but luckily we can rely on です to help us out. All nouns can be paired with です to form "[it] is ...", and we can do the same with noun adjectives. Now, rather than using a non-existent て form for noun adjectives, we simply use the て form for です, which is で, to link up multiple noun adjectives:

日本語: きれい有名
English: A pretty and famous person.

Here the noun is modified by two noun adjectives, きれい and 有名, of which the first is place in a て form using the help of です, and the second is left the way it is, just like we saw for verbal adjectives: everything but the last adjective is placed in て form. With this knowledge we can also create chains of mixed verbal and noun adjectives, simply by making sure everything but the last adjective is in て form, be it its own て form for verbal adjectives, or the て form from です for noun adjectives.

Forming adverbs

Of course, noun adjectives can be made adverbial too, which involves using に:

日本語: きれいける
English: To cleanly split [something].

While in order to preserve word classes it is easy to say that this is an adverbial に and is special for noun adjectives, this is really just projecting western grammar onto Japanese, this is just the relational object に, from which the role "adverb" happens to flow rather naturally.

Making nouns adjectival

There are also ways to make nouns adverbial, by using suffixes which are noun adverbs, the most widely used of these is adding the suffix , meaning "typical [of]", which turns a noun into a likeness adjective that is similar in feel to the english "-ve" (recursive, from recursion), "-ly" (quickly, from quick) or "-al" (emotional, from emotion) adjectives:

欺瞞deception 欺瞞deceptive
基本basis, fundament 基本basically
過渡transition 過渡transitional


Phrase Grammar II - Location, location, location

So, that leaves one last thing before this lesson is over, and that's learning how to indicate relative locations and relative time in Japanese, something which most people consider quite an important skill.

In japanese, most of the relative locations and times that in English and most other western languages use prepositions (in front of, behind, after, next to, etc) are actually nouns, which lends them to a particularly simple pattern: the noun linking pattern. To say "in front of the store" or "behind the house" all you need to do is form the construction [place]の[relative location noun] and you're done:

日本語: しいおがあるよ。
English: Oh, there is a new store in front of the station.

(The "oh" is not actually in the Japanese sentence, but has been added to the translation to convey the sentiment of よ, as discussed earlier. Since it adds emphasis, we can imagine this to be a statement made in response to someone saying that there is nothing interesting at the station)

So, really all that we need to know is what kind of location nouns exist that we can use.

English preposition Japanese relative noun
in front まえ
behind うしろ 後ろ
opposed, beyond むこう 向こう
after あと
adjacent (similar category) となり
adjacent (different category) よこ
above, over うえ
below, under した
left ひだり
right みぎ
between あいだ
in, inside of なか
deep inside おく
outside of そと

You may notice and , which both mean "adjacent" or "next to", but for respectively things that belong to the same category and things that do not belong to the same category. This might seem odd, but brace yourself for lesson 4 when we look at how important categories of things really are in Japanese - it matters so much it's almost ridiculous. The difference in this case is something like saying "We live next to an elderly widow" and "We're having our bentou (Japanese lunch box) next to the lake".

In Japanese the first sentence would be:

日本語: 年寄り寡婦んでいます。
English: We live next to an elderly widow.

while the second sentence would be:

日本語: でお弁当べてます。
English: We are having our bentou next to the lake.

And with that we have reached the end of lesson 3, and basic Japanese


What did we cover?

Once more we covered a lot of material, but I think it's fair to say we've now reached a milestone in your Japanese study. The first three lessons essentially completely cover basic Japanese. With the information in the first three lesson you can now conjugate verbs and verbal adjectives, and string toghether verbs, nouns and anything in between into sensibel sentences. You even know how to form long sentences by using continuative forms or て forms and you can rattle off a nice set of expressions to top it all off!

So... is this everything? No, not by a long shot. While the first three lessons cover basic Japanese, you still lack essential skills like forming conditionals (if ..., when ...), making assumptions, and most importantly: you don't know how to count. And not to scare you, but the *entire* lesson 4 will be devoted to trying to teach you how to do that. Japanese might be a grammatically fairly straightforward language, but counting in Japanese is so complex that we'll need and entire lesson to get the hang of it, and lots of practice.

For now though, sit back, have a cup of tea, nibble some お茶菓子 and let it all sink down, before rereading the lesson. All work and no play makes for a Stanley Kubrick film, and acting for Kubrick was not very pleasant at all, so go have some fun first, only then reread the lesson and experience all those little "ah yes of course, now I know this" moments.

- Pomax