Basics: Adjectives and Descriptions

The two types of adjectives:

Before learning about adjective usage in sentences, we have to learn the basics about adjectives. Adjectives can be classified into two different types: いAdjectives and なAdjectives.

いAdjectives will always end in an い. The いwill be in hiragana separate from the kanji for the word, with the exception of the word 嫌い (きらい・To Dislike), which is a なAdjective. When conjugating a い adjective, you can just put the word normally before the noun.

新しい本 あたらしいほん (New Book)

なAdjectives are adjectives that are conjugated to a noun by adding the character な in between the word and the noun. If the adjective does not end in a い, it is a な adjective. If it does end in a い, if the い is not an extra hiragana character attached to the kanji (called okurigana), it is a な adjective. The words for like and dislike, which are 好き (すき) and 嫌い (きらい) respectively are also considered な adjective, and are conjugated in the same way.

静かな人 しずかなひと (Quiet Person)
好きな映画 すきなえいが (Movie that I Like)

For い Adjectives:

  • Non-past Affirmative - ~ い
  • Non-past Negative - ~ くない
  • Past Affirmative - ~ かった
  • Past Negative - ~ くなかった

So for an example, take the word 眠い (ねむい), which means “sleepy”

  • Non-past Affirmative -眠い
  • Non-past Negative –眠くない
  • Past Affirmative - 眠かった
  • Past Negative – 眠くなかった

The exception: The non-past affirmative is いいです,the non-past negative becomes よくない, with the past affirmative and past negative becoming よかった and よくなかったrespectively. It’s just one of the exceptions you have to remember.

For なAdjectives:

  • Non-past Affirmative – ~です
  • Non-past Negative - ~ ではありません
  • Past Affirmative - ~ でした
  • Past Negative - ~ ではありませんでした

So for an example, take the word 有名 (ゆうめい), which means “famous”

  • Non-past Affirmative –有名です
  • Non-past Negative –有名ではありません
  • Past Affirmative – 有名でした
  • Past Negative – 有名ではありませんでした

Basic sentence structure, now with adjectives:

If you place the adjective before the noun, the tense of the statement can be changed in several ways.

Sentence Form い adjective example (altering verb) い adjective example (altering adjective)
Non-past Affirmative (Original) 優しい人です やさしいひとです They are a nice person 優しい人です
Non-Past Negative 優しい人ではありません or 優しくない人です 優しくない人です
Past Affirmative 優しい人でした 優しかった人です
Past Negative 優しい人ではありませんでした or 優しくない人でした 優しくなかった人です
Sentence Form な adjective example (altering verb) な adjective example (altering adjective)
Non-past Affirmative (Original) 嫌いな食べ物です きらいなたべものです It is a food that I dislike 嫌いな食べ物です
Non-Past Negative 嫌いな食べ物ではありません or 嫌いじゃない食べ物です 嫌いじゃない食べ物です
Past Affirmative 嫌いな食べ物でした 嫌いだった食べ物です
Past Negative 嫌いな食べ物ではありませんでした or 嫌いじゃない食べ物でした 嫌いじゃなかった食べ物です

On the other hand, if you place the adjective AFTER the noun, the statement can be changed differently.

Sentence Form い adjective example な adjective example
Non-past Affirmative (Original) 映画は面白いです えいがはおもしろいです The movie is interesting 弟は静かです おとうとはしずかです My little brother is quiet
Non-Past Negative 映画は面白くないです 弟は静かじゃないです or 弟は静かではありません
Past Affirmative 映画は面白かったです 弟は静かでした
Past Negative 映画は面白くなかったです 弟は静かじゃなかったです or 弟は静かではありませんでした

For the subject to gain the trait described, we use “なります”
For い adjectives, we remove the い, and add a く+なります。

To become more interesting (面白い・おもしろい=Interesting)
面白くなります (おもしろくなります)

For なadjectives, add a に+なります。

To become more famous(有名・ゆうめい=Famous)

NOTE: This also works for “becoming” a noun. For example, to “become a high schooler,” you would say 高校生になります(こうこうせいになります・I will become a high school student)

Other Topics:

あまり: あまりIs a limiter, and roughly translates to “not very.”

to say that something is “not very fun,” you could say that _はあまり楽しくないです (楽しい・たのしい・Fun)

Listing adjectives: For describing things in detail, you don’t want to say “_はAです”over and over again. If you are going to list multiple adjectives, we change the ending for all of the adjectives EXCEPT for the last one.

If part of the list has a い adjective:
We add くてto the end of the adjective

And if we’re listing a な adjective:
We add でto the end of the word.

NOTE: once again if we want to describe something using a noun (like saying that a person is a high schooler) we can also use this format and add でto the end of the word.  (Such as 高校生で_)

“My dog is small, quiet, and cute”
私の犬は小さくて、静かで、かわいい犬です。 わたし の いぬ は ちいさくて、しずかで、かわいい いぬ です。 (小さい=Small, 静か=Quiet, かわいい=Cute)

What about adverbs:

Adverbs are not that complicated in Japanese. There is a standard form for adverbs in sentence structure.

For い adjectives, we have:

AくVます: An example of this would be the English sentence “They eat loudly.” Since “loud” is うるさいand “to eat” is食ます(たべます) “Eat loudly” would become うるさく食ます

For な adjectives, we have:

A にVます An example of this would be the English sentence “They spoke quietly” Since “quiet” is しずか and “to speak” is 話します(はなします) “Speak quietly” would become しずかに話します