It can be hard to form sentences in Japanese; sometimes because they are formed differently compared to English and sometimes because it can be confusing trying to find the correct particle word (such as am, until, to, go, etc).
Here are some easy sentence structures that you can memorize and fill in using any word that is appropriate to your situation. You can also practice by using words from the Common Words menu.
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Hello / Goodbye
Always start your conversations with ‘Hello’. It is polite and welcoming. If you aren’t in a formal setting (such as an airport or restaurant, where it isn’t needed), you can also add on ‘How are you?’
Hello. How are you?
Kon’nichiwa. Ogenki desuka?
I’m fine, thank you.
Kon’nichiwa is generally reserved for saying hello in the afternoon. In the morning, you can say;
There are a few simple ways to say goodbye in Japanese. Some are more casual than others. Some you would only say at certain points during the day. For instance;
When you will not see the person again that day:
When you will see the person again that day:
See you later.
Ja amata ne.
The Basic Sentence | A is B using the は (wa) particle
The following sentence can be used for multiple scenarios and is easy to remember. You can use it to describe a person, tell someone an age, occupation or name, or you can also use the following structure to describe objects. は (wa) is referred to as a topic marking particle. It comes right after the topic of sentences. は on the Hirigana chart is pronounced ha, but when using it as a topic marker it is pronounced wa.
[subject] は [adjective/noun] です。
[subject] wa [adjective/noun] desu.
[John-san] は [tall] です。
[John-san] wa [segatakai] desu
[This] は [tiger] です。
[Kore] wa [tora] desu.
This is a tiger.
This structure is also handy when introducing yourself;
[I] は [John-san] です。
[Watashi] wa [John-san] desu.
I am John.
See, once it’s been explained it is fairly simple to get the hang of it! Try out some scenarios for yourself and see what you can come up with.
You learnt in the previous structure that you can simply say, “I am John”. This is widely accepted as the basic introduction, especially for a non-native speaker or for someone who speaks very little Japanese. If you want to take it a step further, and really impress, I suggest that you say the following when introducing yourself;
Hajimemashite. Watashi no namae wa [John-san] desu. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
How do you do? My name is John. Please be kind to me.
It is not common in Australia to finish our first greeting with “Please be kind to me”. This, in Japan, is only said the first time you meet someone. It is considered polite and very formal.
Like / Dislike | using the が (ga) particle
In this structure, the particle you should use is が (ga). Like is suki (好き) and dislike (‘don’t like’) is amari suki ja nai (あまり好きじゃない).
The structure, using ‘cat’ as an example:
[subject] が 好き です。
[neko] ga suki desu。
I like cats.
[subject] が あまり 好きじゃない。
[neko] ga amari suki ja nai。
I don’t like cats.
Usually you do not need to specify who it is you are talking about (in this case, yourself), as it is fairly obvious between you and the person you are talking to. If you want to be more specific, you can combine the the は (wa) particle sentence structure with this one. When you are talking about somebody else, you can do the same thing.
[私] は [猫] が 好き です。
[Watashi] wa [neko] ga suki desu.
I like cats.
Referring to someone else:
[John-san] は [猫] が 好き です。
[John-san] wa [neko] ga suki desu.
John likes cats.
Me too! / as well as~ | using the も (mo) particle
The particle も (mo) means also or too. You can use this structure to tell your conversational partner that you share the same opinion (“Me too!”) or you can use も to explain that you enjoy or like an object, as well as another object.
私も (Watashi mo) means “Me too!”
To make it more formal, simply add desu on the end:
[Watashi] mo desu!
When someone expresses their like, you can agree with them more specifically. By substituting the particle も (mo) in place of は (wa), it gives the meaning of ‘too’ or ‘also’. Here is an example using ‘cat’ as part of the structure:
私 は [cat] が 好き です。
Watashi wa [neko] ga suki desu。
I like cats.
私 も [cat] が 好き です。
Watashi mo [neko] ga suki desu。
I like cats too.
If you want to say that you like cats and something else (such as dogs) then you would also use も to signify this. The following structure is used to show that you like both equally, you do not have preference for one over another. Notice that there is no が particle used.
私は [cat] も [dog] も 好きです。
Watashi wa [neko] mo [inu] mo suki desu.
I like both cats and dogs.
Other examples using も:
[あなた] も [オーストラリア人] ですか。
[Anata] mo [Osutoraria jin] desu ka?
Are you Australian too?
[cat] が 好きです。[dog] も 好きです。
[Neko] ga suki desu. [Inu] mo suki desu.
I like cats. I also like dogs.
Asking a question | using the か (ka) particle
Asking questions in Japanese is a simple task. Simply form your sentence, and add か(ka) at the end. か is the verbal form of a question mark. You can add it to most sentence structures to turn your statement into a question.
[subject] は [adjective] です か。
[John-san] wa [segatakai] desu ka.
Is John tall?
[subject] は [object] が 好き です か。
[John-san] wa [neko] ga suki desu ka.
Does John like cats?
What, Where, Who, Why?
The following sentence structures are virtually the same for asking these questions, but I have grouped them together because of their relevance to each other. I have listed a couple of examples for each.
Please note that ‘nani’ is sometimes shortened to ‘nan’ in the use of certain sentence structures.
[それ] は [なん] です か。
[sore] wa [nan] desu ka?
What is that?
[お名前] は [なん] です か。
[onamae] wa [nan] desu ka?
What is your name?
When you are confused, or asking someone to repeat themselves (although it’s more acceptable to say “Excuse me?”), you can simply say “Nani?” questioningly.
[John-san] は [どこ] ですか。
[John-san] wa [doko] desu ka?
Where is John?
[東京] は [どこ] ですか。
[Tokyo] wa [doko] desu ka?
Where is Tokyo?
[それ] は [誰] です か。
[sore] wa [dare] desu ka?
Who is that?
[あなたの兄弟] は [誰] です か。
[Anata no kyōdai] wa [dare] desu ka?
Who is your brother?
In the case of ‘Why’, there aren’t many structures you would need to use. For example, you do not need to say, “Why did he do that?”, you can simply ask, “Why?” (なぜ)
A more formal version (generally for asking people who you are not well known to you);
[naze] desu ka?
Or you can use:
For what reason?
Yes / No
Some of the first things you understand when learning Japanese is “Hello / Goodbye” and “Yes / No”. So it is well known that yes is はい (hai) and no is いいえ (iie). Sometimes saying them by themselves when answering a question can be considered rude. It can be better to use the following:
No, it isn’t.
Hai, sou desu.
Yes, it is so.
This answer is best used when answering a question along the lines of “Is this [peach flavoured]?” or “Is this [hot]?” Otherwise an enthusiastic Hai! is considered fine to answer any yes question. In casual situations, you can answer un for yes and uun for no. These are said almost like elongated grunting noises. You will notice this used a lot in Anime.
I’m lost / I don’t understand / Help
If you are only a beginner in the Japanese language, there is a high chance you will come across some hiccups while on holiday. The Japanese are very understanding in these circumstances, but it’s handy to know these phrases just in case.
Michi ni mayoi mashita.
I don’t understand.
I need help.
For more sentence structures and lessons in Japanese grammar, visit Puni Puni Japan! Puni Puni is a completely FREE website, with live tutors, aiming to get to you speaking Japanese as soon as possible! To visit: http://www.punipunijapan.com/
Would you like me to include any other sentence structures? Do you have any questions about the current sentences structures?
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