I know how frustrating it can be trying to communicate in a language you’ve only just started learning. Everything you say sounds like baby talk.
I eat pizza. I go to school. I like red.
It is frustrating, but hey you have to start somewhere right? Well I think it is time you learn some adjectives to make your sentences a bit more complete.
First thing to note is that there are two sets of adjectives in the Japanese language. There is the い adjective, an adjective that ends with い, and the な adjective which is best described as the adjectives that do not end in い (there are several exceptions though). Even with its exceptions, the な adjectives are far easier to deal with so lets start with them.
Before we go into a description of how to use and conjugate these adjectives, lets give you a list of common な adjectives to work with.
- Lively, Healthy, Energetic
- Very, Great, Terrible
Now that you have a few adjectives to play with, lets learn how to use them. First you should know that adjectives, like verbs, need to be conjugated in Japanese. There is the base form, a combination form, a negative form, and a negative past form.
The base form is just the word itself. In a lot of ways you can look at な adjectives as nouns. You can add です to the end to make it polite, or だ to keep it casual. If you want to make the adjective past tense, you simply add でした or だった like you would a noun.
Do you like pizza?
You bet I do!
How are you today?
However, that is just when you are using the adjectives as a response. To combine the adjective with a noun you will need to combine the な adjective with the hiragana な, and then follow that up with the noun.
好きなひと = A person you like
きらいなもの = Something you hate
静かな友達 = しずかなともだち = A quiet friend
大切な手紙 = たいせつなてがみ = An important letter
These are the basic forms, but remember adjectives can be negative in Japanese. To form a negative な adjective you simply add じゃない.
To conjugate the negative form into the past tense is a bit more complicated. You will need to drop the final い and add かった.
好きじゃない becomes 好きじゃなかった meaning I didn’t like.
静かじゃない becomes 静かじゃなかった meaning it wasn’t quiet.
Now that you have the な adjectives down, lets look at the い adjectives. Once again, before we go into a long discussion on conjugation, lets list out some useful い adjectives.
- Hard or Difficult
You may have noticed there is a slight change from the previous chart. Here we include a past tense conjugation. い adjectives are a bit different than な adjectives in the sense that you cannot conjugate these by simply adding でした or だった. Also there is no need to add any hiragana to the word in order to combine the adjective with the verb. You can simply combine the words.
良い人 = Good person
おいしいもの = Something delicious
短い髪(みじかいかみ) = Short hair
Although the い adjectives combine with nouns easier than their counterpart, conjugating い adjectives into the past tense is far more complicated. To do this, drop the final い and add かった.
Does this sound familiar? It should! This is exactly how you form the negative past form of the な adjectives. You can think of ない as an い adjective if that helps.
So 美味しい (おいしい) becomes 美味しかった (おいしかった).
早い (はやい) becomes はやかった (はやかった).
難しい (むずかしい) becomes 難しかった (むずかしかった).
Today’s meal was great!
That dog was fast.
Now for the negatives! To make your い adjectives negative, simply drop the last い from the word and add くない.
So 高い (たかい) becomes 高くない (たかくない).
長い (ながい) becomes 長くない (ながくない).
良い (よい) becomes 良くない (よくない).
That building isn’t tall.
My hair isn’t long.
The last little bit to learn is the い adjective’s past negative form, which is almost exactly like the な adjective’s. Remember earlier when I said that ない can be considered an い adjective? Well when you conjugate the ない into its past form you drop the last い and add かった just like we did with the past tense of the い adjectives.
So, 美味しくない (おいしくない) becomes 美味しくなかった (おいしくなかった)
面白くない (おもしろくない) becomes 面白くなかった (おもしろくなかった)
It is a mouthful, but pretty easy to pick up. If you can master these adjectives and their conjugations, you will be well on your way to making complete sentences that make you sound like an intelligent adult and not a 1 year old who is talking for the first time.