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Japanese Lessons: Part 4

Posted January 6th, 2012 at 01:25 PM by Esper
Tags japanese

Lesson 1: hiragana
Lesson 2: katakana
Lesson 3: more kana

Changing directions a bit. This lesson will deal with grammar and introduce the easiest sentence structure you'll see in Japanese. And here it is:

X は Y です
[X wa Y desu.]

That is the most basic way you can say: "X is Y." Before going further with what you can put in for X and Y there's something important. You see the three kana there, yes? The last two, です [desu], you've probably heard before. The first one is the kana は [ha], but right now it's serving as what's called a topic marker (getting to that later) and when it does that you pronounce it as [wa]. When it's not a topic marker it's a normal [ha]. Please don't use わ [wa] for your topic markers, even though わ is always [wa].

X は Y です。
X わ Y です。 ✘

In this structure X is your topic because it is followed by the topic marker, は. A topic means that it is broadly what you're talking about. です is a verb and it's the equivalent to the English "to be." In English we change the verb depending on the subject of the sentence (I am. They are. She is.), but in Japanese it doesn't change. That means it includes all the different versions: am, is, are.

You'll often see it described with a phrase like "As for X, it is Y." This gives a close enough idea of the actual grammar behind the sentence, but for ease of understanding you can just use "X is Y" in your head if the sentence isn't any more complicated than "X は Y です"

Since X is the subject it's going to have to be a noun ("the car"), a noun phrase ("the old car"), or something grammatically similar. We'll just stick to nouns for the moment. Here are a couple of nouns to learn:
ほん [hon]: book
いぬ [inu]: dog
ねこ [neko]: cat
いす [isu]: chair
テーブル [teiburu]: table
ドア [doa]: door
Y in this sentence is the object. It's what X is. Y can be a noun, an adjective, or whatever else works grammatically as a description for X. Here are some adjectives:
あおい [aoi]: blue
あかい [akai]: red
くろい [kuroi]: black
しろい [shiroi]: white
おおきい [ookii]: big
ちいさい [chiisai]: small
So now you can start plugging words into X and Y to make a sentence.

XY です

ほんあおい です。

We now have the sentence: ほん は あおい です。[hon wa aoi desu.] "The book is blue." If you're wondering where I pulled the word "the" from it's because in Japanese there aren't these things called articles. Articles are words like: the, a, an. They don't exist as separate words like in English. You understand if they are there from context. But that makes it pretty easy when writing/speaking Japanese because you can write both "a book" and "the book" as ほん [hon].


Now it's time to quiz you. I'll give you some sentences and you give the appropriate translations.

1. The door is small.

a. ドア おおきい です
b. ドア ちいさい です
c. ドア おおきい です
d. ドア ちいさい です

2. The cat is white.

a. ねこ あおい です
b. ねこ しろい です
c. ねこ あかい です
d. ねこ くろい です

3. The chair is blue

a. いす あおい です
b. ほん あかい です
c. いぬ あかい です
d. ねこ あおい です

4. テーブル おおきい です

a. The door is big.
b. The chair is big.
c. The table is big.
d. The table is small.

5. いぬあかい です

a. The dog is red.
b. The door is blue.
c. The cat is small.
d. The chair is white.

6. ほん くろい です

a. The chair is blue.
b. The book is blue.
c. The chair is black.
d. The book is black.

Answers:

Spoiler:
1. The door is small.

a. ドア おおきい です
b. ドア ちいさい です
c. ドア おおきい です
d. ドア ちいさい です

2. The cat is white.

a. ねこ あおい です
b. ねこ しろい です
c. ねこ あかい です
d. ねこ くろい です

3. The chair is blue

a. いす あおい です
b. ほん あかい です
c. いぬ あかい です
d. ねこ あおい です

4. テーブルおおきい です

a. The door is big.
b. The chair is big.
c. The table is big.
d. The table is small.

5. いぬ あかい です

a. The dog is red.
b. The door is blue.
c. The cat is small.
d. The chair is white.

6. ほんくろい です

a. The chair is blue.
b. The book is blue.
c. The chair is black.
d. The book is black.
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Comments

  1. Old Comment
    Very good! Looking forward to part five!
    Posted January 9th, 2012 at 06:34 AM by Truality Truality is offline
 

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