Special Expressions with Generic Nouns

We’ve already learned how to use generic nouns in order to modify nouns. Now we will go over some special expression used with generic nouns.

Using 「こと」 to say whether something has happened


  1. こと – event, matter
  2. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  3. 徹夜 【てつ・や】 – staying up all night
  4. 宿題 【しゅく・だい】 – homework
  5. する (exception) – to do
  6. 一人 【ひとり】 – 1 person; alone
  7. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  8. パリ – Paris
  9. お寿司 【お・す・し】- sushi
  10. 食べる 【たべ・る】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  11. 日本 【に・ほん】 – Japan
  12. 映画 【えい・が】 – movie
  13. 観る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) – to watch
  14. ヨーロッパ – Europe
  15. いい (i-adj) – good
  16. そう – (things are) that way
  17. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) – to say
  18. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) – to see
  19. ~度 【~ど】 – counter for number of times

When you combine 「こと」, the generic word for an event with 「ある」, you can talk about whether an event exists or not.


  1. 徹夜して宿題することある
    There are times when I do homework while staying up all night.
  2. 一人行くことありません
    I never go by myself.

Using the past tense of the verb with 「こと」, you can talk about whether an event has ever taken place. This is essentially the only way you can say “have done” in Japanese so this is a very useful expression. You need to use this grammar any time you want to talk about whether someone has ever done something.


  1. パリ行ったことありますか。
    Have you ever gone to Paris?
  2. お寿司食べたことある
    I’ve had sushi before.
  3. 日本映画観たことないの?
    You’ve never seen a Japanese movie?
  4. ヨーロッパ行ったことあったらいいな。
    It would be nice if I ever go to Europe.
  5. そういうのを見たことなかった
    I had never seen anything like that.
  6. 一度行ったことないんです。
    I’ve never gone, not even once.

Using 「ところ」 as an abstract place


  1. 所 【ところ】 – place
  2. 早い 【はや・い】 (i-adj) – fast; early
  3. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) – to come
  4. 映画 【えい・が】 – movie
  5. 今 【いま】 – now
  6. ちょうど – just right; exactly
  7. いい – good
  8. 彼 【かれ】 – he; boyfriend
  9. 優しい 【やさ・しい】 (i-adj) – gentle; kind
  10. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  11. 授業 【じゅ・ぎょう】 – class
  12. 終わる 【お・わる】 (u-verb) – to end
  13. これ – this
  14. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go

ところ」() is usually used to indicate a generic physical location. However, it can also hold a much broader meaning ranging from a characteristic to a place in time.


  1. 早くきて映画ちょうどいいところだよ。
    Come quickly. We’re at the good part of the movie.
  2. 優しいところあるよ。
    His personality has some gentle parts too.
  3. 授業終ったところです。
    Class has ended just now.
  4. これから行くところでした。
    I was just about to go from now.

Using 「もの」 as a casual feminine way to emphasize


  1. 物 【もの】 – object
  2. どうして – why
  3. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) – to come
  4. 授業 【じゅ・ぎょう】 – class
  5. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)

The generic object noun 「もの」 can be used as a casual and feminine way of emphasizing something. This is identical to the explanatory feminine emphasis expressed by the 「の」 particle. Just like the explanatory 「の」 particle, the 「の」 is often changed into 「ん」 resulting in 「もん」. Using 「もん」 sounds very feminine and a little cheeky (in a cute way).


  • どうしてこなかったの?
    Why didn’t (you) come?
  1. 授業あった
    (I) had class. [feminine explanatory]
  2. 授業あったもの
    (I) had class. [feminine explanatory]
  3. 授業あったもん
    (I) had class, so there. [feminine explanatory]

Unintended Actions

This is the first of many useful tools that will become essential in your day-to-day conversations. We will now learn how to express an action that has taken place unintentionally often with unsatisfactory results. This is primarily done by the verb 「しまう」. Let’s look at an example.


  1. 康介 【こう・すけ】 – Kousuke (first name)
  2. 宿題 【しゅく・だい】 – homework
  3. やる (u-verb) – to do
  4. しまう (u-verb) – to do something by accident; to finish completely

Kousuke: Did you do homework?

Alice: Oh no! (I screwed up!)

Using 「しまう」 with other verbs


  1. しまう (u-verb) – to do something by accident; to finish completely
  2. その – that (abbr. of それの)
  3. ケーキ – cake
  4. 全部 【ぜん・ぶ】 – everything
  5. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  6. 毎日 【まい・にち】 – everyday
  7. キロ – kilo
  8. 太る 【ふと・る】 (u-verb) – to become fatter
  9. ちゃんと – properly
  10. 痩せる 【や・せる】 (ru-verb) – to become thin
  11. 結局 【けっ・きょく】 – eventually
  12. 嫌 【いや】 (na-adj) disagreeable; unpleasant
  13. こと – event, matter
  14. する (exception) – to do
  15. ごめん – sorry
  16. 待つ 【ま・つ】 (u-verb) – to wait
  17. 金魚 【きん・ぎょ】 – goldfish
  18. もう – already
  19. 死ぬ 【し・ぬ】 (u-verb) – to die

When 「しまう」 is used in this sense, it is normal to attach it to the te-form of another verb to express an action that is done or happened unintentionally. As is common with this type of grammar, the tense is decided by the tense of 「しまう」.

  1. そのケーキ全部食べてしまった
    Oops, I ate that whole cake.
  2. 毎日ケーキ食べて2キロ太ってしまいました
    I ate cake everyday and I (unintentionally) gained two kilograms.
  3. ちゃんと食べないと、痩せてしまいますよ。
    If you don’t eat properly, you’ll (unintentionally) lose weight you know.
  4. 結局ことさせてしまった
    In the end, I (unintentionally) made [someone] do something distasteful.
  5. ごめん待たせてしまって
    Sorry about (unintentionally) making you wait!
  6. 金魚もう死んでしまった
    The goldfish died already (oops).

Using the casual version of 「~てしまう


  1. しまう (u-verb) – to do something by accident; to finish completely
  2. 金魚 【きん・ぎょ】 – goldfish
  3. もう – already
  4. 死ぬ 【し・ぬ】 (u-verb) – to die
  5. 帰る 【かえ・る】 (u-verb) – to go home
  6. いい (i-adj) – good
  7. 皆 【みんな】 – everybody
  8. どっか – somewhere (abbr. of どこか)
  9. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  10. そろそろ – gradually; soon
  11. 遅い 【おそ・い】 (i-adj) – late
  12. なる (u-verb) – to become
  13. また – again
  14. 遅刻 【ち・こく】 – tardiness
  15. する (exception) – to do
  16. ごめん – sorry
  17. つい – just (now); unintentionally
  18. お前 【お・まえ】 – you (casual)
  19. 呼ぶ 【よ・ぶ】 (u-verb) – to call

In casual speech, the 「~てしまう」 is often substituted by 「~ちゃう」 while 「~でしまう」 is substituted by 「じゃう」. Both 「~ちゃう」 and 「~じゃう」 conjugate just like regular u-verbs.

  1. 金魚もう死んじゃった
    The goldfish died already.
  2. もう帰っちゃっていい
    Is it ok if I went home already?
  3. みんなどっか行っちゃったよ。
    Everybody went off somewhere.
  4. そろそろ遅くなっちゃうよ。
    It’ll gradually become late, you know.

There is yet another very colloquial version of 「~てしまう」 and 「~でしまう」 where it is replaced by 「~ちまう」 and 「~じまう」 respectively. Unlike the cuter 「~ちゃう」 and 「~じゃう」 slang, this version conjures an image of rough and coarse middle-aged man.

  1. また遅刻しちまったよ。
    Darn, I’m late again.
  2. ごめんついお前呼んじまった
    Sorry, I just ended up calling you unconsciously.

Another meaning of 「しまう


  1. しまう (u-verb) – to do something by accident; to finish completely
  2. 宿題 【しゅく・だい】 – homework
  3. やる (u-verb) – to do

You may have noticed that 「しまう」 has another definition meaning “to finish something completely”. You may want to consider this a totally separate verb from the 「しまう」 we have covered so far. Occasionally but not usually, 「しまう」 will have this meaning rather than the unintended action.

  • 宿題やってしまいなさい
    Finish your homework completely.

Honorific and Humble Forms

Japanese can be roughly separated into three levels of politeness: casual, polite, and honorific/humble. So far, we have already gone over the polite forms using 「~です」 and 「~ます」. We will now cover the next level of politeness using honorific and humble forms. You will often hear this type of language in any customer/consumer type situations such as fast food counters, restaurants, etc. For now, the first thing to remember is that the speaker always considers himself/herself to be at the lowest level. So any actions performed by oneself are in humble form while actions performed by anyone else seen from the view of the speaker uses the honorific form.

Set Expressions


  1. する (exception) – to do
  2. なさる – to do (honorific)
  3. 致す 【いた・す】 (u-verb) – to do (humble)
  4. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  5. いらっしゃる – to be; to go; to come (honorific)
  6. おいでになる – to be; to go; to come (honorific)
  7. 参る 【まい・る】 (u-verb) – to go; to come (humble)
  8. いる (ru-verb) – to exist (animate)
  9. おる (ru-verb) – to exist (animate) (humble)
  10. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) – to see
  11. ご覧になる 【ご・らん・になる】 – to see (honorific)
  12. 拝見する 【はい・けん・する】 – to see (humble)
  13. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) – to ask; to listen
  14. 伺う 【うかが・う】 (u-verb) – to ask; to listen (humble)
  15. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) – to say
  16. おっしゃる – to say (honorific)
  17. 申す 【もう・す】 (u-verb) – to say (humble)
  18. 申し上げる 【もう・し・あ・げる】 (u-verb) – to say (humble)
  19. あげる (ru-verb) – to give; to raise
  20. 差し上げる 【さ・し・あ・げる】 (ru-verb) – to give; to raise (humble)
  21. くれる (ru-verb) – to give
  22. 下さる 【くだ・さる】 – to give (honorific)
  23. もらう (u-verb) – to receive
  24. いただく (u-verb) – to receive; to eat; to drink (humble)
  25. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  26. 召し上がる 【め・し・あ・がる】 (u-verb) – to eat; to drink (honorific)
  27. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) – to drink
  28. 知る 【し・る】 (u-verb) – to know
  29. ご存じ 【ご・ぞん・じ】 – knowing (honorific)
  30. 存じる 【ぞん・じる】 (ru-verb) – to know (humble)
  31. ござる – to be (formal)
  32. もう – already
  33. 仕事 【し・ごと】 – job
  34. 何 【なに/なん】 – what
  35. 推薦状 【すい・せん・じょう】 – letter of recommendation
  36. 書く 【か・く】 (u-verb) – to write
  37. どちら – which way
  38. 今日 【きょう】 – today
  39. 私 【わたし】 – me; myself; I
  40. レポート – report
  41. 失礼 【しつ・れい】 – discourtesy

The difficult part of learning honorific and humble language is that there are a number of words that have separate verbs for honorific and humble forms. Anything that does not have its own special expression fall under the general rules of humble and honorific conjugations that we will cover next.

Honorific and Humble Verbs
Plain Honorific Humble
する なさる 致す
行く いらっしゃるおいでになる 参る
来る いらっしゃるおいでになる 参る
いる いらっしゃるおいでになる おる
見る ご覧なる 拝見する
聞く 伺う
言う おっしゃる 申す申し上げる
あげる 差し上げる
くれる 下さる
もらう いただく
食べる 召し上がる いただく
飲む 召し上がる いただく
知っている ご存知(です) 存じる

Honorific verbs with special conjugations

A number of these verbs do not follow the normal masu-conjugation rules and they include: 「なさる」、「いらっしゃる」、「おっしゃる」、「下さる」、 and 「ござる」 (which we will soon cover). For all masu-form tenses of these verbs, instead of the 「る」 becoming a 「り」 as it does with normal u-verbs, it instead becomes an 「い」. All other conjugations besides the masu-form do not change from regular u-verbs.

Plain ます-form Past ます-form Negative ます-form Past-negative ます-form
なさる なさます なさました なさません なさませんでした
いらっしゃる いらっしゃます いらっしゃました いらっしゃません いらっしゃませんでした
おっしゃる おっしゃます おっしゃました おっしゃません おっしゃませんでした
下さる 下さます 下さました 下さません 下さませんでした
ござる ござます ござました ござません ござませんでした

Examples of honorific form

We can now begin to see that 「ください」 is just a special conjugation of 「下さる」 which is the honorific version of 「くれる」. Let’s look at some actual examples. Since these examples are all questions directed directly to someone (second person), they all use the honorific form.

  1. アリスさん、もう召し上がりましたか。
    Alice-san, did (you) eat already?
  2. 仕事なさっているんですか。
    What are you doing at work?
  3. 推薦状書いてくださるんですか。
    You’re going to give me the favor of writing a recommendation letter?
  4. どちらからいらっしゃいましたか。
    Where did you come from?
  5. 今日は、どちらいらっしゃいますか。
    Where are you going today?

Examples of humble form

The following examples are all actions done by the speaker so they all use the humble form.

  1. はキムと申します
    As for me, (people) say Kim. (I am called Kim.)
  2. 書いたレポート見ていただけますか。
    Will I be able to receive the favor of getting my report looked at?
  3. 失礼致します
    Excuse me. (lit: I am doing a discourtesy.)

Other substitutions


  1. こちら – this way
  2. 私 【わたし】 – me, myself, I
  3. 部屋 【へ・や】 – room
  4. ござる – to be (formal)
  5. お手洗い 【お・て・あら・い】 – bathroom
  6. この – this (abbr. of これの)
  7. ビル – building
  8. ~階 【~かい】 – counter for story/floor
  9. いい (i-adj) – good
  10. よろしい (i-adj) – good (formal)
  11. 悪い 【わる・い】 (i-adj) – bad
  12. すいません – sorry (polite)
  13. ごめん – sorry (casual)
  14. ごめんなさい – sorry (polite)
  15. すみません – sorry (polite)
  16. 申し訳ありません 【もう・し・わけ・ありません】 – sorry (formal)
  17. 言い訳 【い・い・わけ】 – excuse
  18. 恐れ入ります 【おそ・れ・い・ります】 – sorry (formal)
  19. 恐縮です 【きょう・しゅく・です】 – sorry (formal)
  20. ~様 【~さま】 – honorific name suffix
  21. ~さん – polite name suffix
  22. お客様 【お・きゃく・さま】 – customer (formal)
  23. 神様 【かみ・さま】 – god (formal)

In addition to these set expressions, there are some words that also have more polite counterparts. Probably the most important is the politer version of 「ある」, which is 「ござる」. This verb can be used for both inanimate and animate objects. It is neither honorific nor humble but it is a step above 「ある」 in politeness. However, unless you want to sound like a samurai, 「ござる」 is always used in the polite form: 「ございます」.

By extension, the politer version of 「です」 is 「でございます」. This is essentially the masu-form conjugation of 「でござる」, which comes from 「である」 literally meaning, “to exist as” (to be covered much later).


  1. こちらは、部屋です
    Over here is my room.
  2. こちらは、部屋ございます
    This way is my room.
  1. お手洗いこのビル二階あります
    The bathroom is on the second floor of this building.
  2. お手洗いこのビル二階ございます
    The bathroom is on the second floor of this building.

Other examples include 「いい」, which is more formally expressed as 「よろしい」. There are also six different ways to say, “I’m sorry” (not counting 「悪いね」 or slight inflection changes like 「すいません」).

Successively politer expressions for apologizing:

  1. ごめん
  2. ごめんなさい
  3. すみません
  4. 申し訳ありません。 (申し訳 is the humble form of 言い訳)
  5. 恐れ入ります
  6. 恐縮です。

In addition, the politest suffix for names is 「」, one level above 「さん」. You won’t be using this suffix too often in actual speech even if you speak to that person in honorific/humble speech. However, expect to use it when writing letters even to people you are somewhat familiar with. Also, service people such as cashiers or waitresses/waiters will normally refer to the customer as 「お客様」. Of course, royalty and deities are always accompanied by 「」 such as 「神様」.

Honorific and Humble Conjugations


  1. お酒 【お・さけ】 – alcohol
  2. お茶 【お・ちゃ】 – tea
  3. お金 【お・かね】 – money
  4. 音読み 【おん・よ・み】 – Chinese reading
  5. 意見 【い・けん】 – opinion
  6. ご飯 【ご・はん】 – rice; meal
  7. 訓読み 【くん・よ・み】 – Japanese reading
  8. 仕事 【し・ごと】 – job
  9. お好み焼き 【お・この・み・や・き】 – okonomiyaki (Japanese-style pancake)
  10. お土産 【お・みやげ】 – souvenir
  11. 返事 【へん・じ】 – reply
  12. 先生 【せん・せい】 – teacher
  13. 見える 【み・える】 (ru-verb) – to be visible
  14. なる (u-verb) – to become
  15. もう – already
  16. 帰る 【かえ・る】 (u-verb) – to go home
  17. 店内 【てん・ない】 – store interior
  18. 召し上がる 【め・し・あ・がる】 (ru-verb) – to eat; to drink (honorific)
  19. 二重敬語 【に・じゅう・けい・ご】 – redundant honorific
  20. 下さる 【くだ・さる】 – to give (honorific)
  21. 少々 【しょう・しょう】 – just a minute; small quantity;
  22. 待つ 【ま・つ】 (u-verb) – to wait
  23. こちら – this way
  24. ご覧下さい 【ご・らん・くだ・さい】 – please look (honorific)
  25. 閉まる 【し・まる】 (u-verb) – to close
  26. ドア – door
  27. 注意 【ちゅう・い】 – caution
  28. よろしい (i-adj) – good (formal)
  29. 願う 【ねが・う】 (u-verb) – to wish; to request
  30. する (exception) – to do
  31. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) – to ask; to listen
  32. こと – event, matter
  33. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  34. すみません – sorry (polite)
  35. 千円 【せん・えん】 – 1,000 yen
  36. 預かる 【あず・かる】 – to look after; to hold on to;
  37. 致す 【いた・す】 (u-verb) – to do (humble)

For all other verbs without set expressions, there are conjugation rules to change them into honorific and humble forms. They both involve a common practice of attaching a polite prefix 「」. In Japanese, there is an practice of attaching an honorific prefix 「」 to certain (not all) nouns to show politeness. In fact, some words like 「お酒」、 「お茶」、or 「お金」 come with this prefix so often that it’s become practically the word itself. In general, 「」 is written in hiragana as either 「ご」 for words read as 音読み (e.g. ご意見ご飯) or 「お」 for words read as 訓読み (e.g. お金、 お仕事). In fact, you may have been using this prefix already without realizing it like 「お好み焼き」 or 「お土産」. There are some exceptions to this rule such as 「お返事」. Luckily since 「」 is rarely written in kanji, identifying the exceptions should not really be a problem.

Honorific Form

The honorific form of verbs that are not among the set honorific expressions given above can be formed in two different ways.

Honorific Conjugation 1: お + stem + に + なる

This kind of makes sense if you think of it as a person becoming the honorific state of a verb. All subsequent conjugations follow the normal rules of conjugating the u-verb 「なる」. To be honest, this type of sentence formulation is rarely used.

  • 先生見えなりますか。
    Have you seen the teacher?

Honorific Conjugation 2: お + stem + です

  1. もう帰りですか。
    You’re going home already?
  2. 店内召し上がりですか。
    Will you be dining in?

Service people want to be extra polite so they will often use this type of “double honorific” conjugation or 二重敬語 (in this case, the honorific 「召し上がる」 combined with the honorific conjugation). Whether it’s necessary or grammatically proper is another story.

Using 「ください」 with honorifics

You can also use 「下さい」 with a honorific verb by replacing 「になる」 with 「ください」. This is useful for when you want to ask somebody to do something but still use a honorific verb.

Yet another often-used expression.

  • 少々待ちください。- Please wait a moment.

Similarly, with 「ご覧なる」, you simply replace 「になる」 with 「ください」.

  • こちらご覧下さい
    Please look this way.

This works for other nouns as well. For example, riding the trains…

  • 閉まるドア注意下さい
    Please be careful of the closing doors.

Humble Form

Humble verbs are formed in the following fashion.

Humble Conjugation: お + stem + する

You’ve probably already heard the first example many times before but now you know exactly where it comes from.

  1. よろしく願いします
    I properly make request.
  2. 先生聞きしたいことありますが。
    Teacher, there’s something I want to ask you.
  3. すみません待たせしました
    Sorry, I made you wait (causative form).
  4. 千円から預かりいたします
    We’ll be holding on [from?] your 1000 yen.

You’ll hear something like example 4 when, for example, you need to get change after paying 1000 yen. Again, the 二重敬語 where 「する」 has been converted to the humble 「致す」 form when it’s already in the お+stem+する humble form. Some Japanese people complain that this makes no sense and that 「から」 should really be 「を」.

Making honorific requests


  1. 下さる 【くだ・さる】 – to give (honorific)
  2. いらっしゃる – to be; to go; to come (honorific)
  3. なさる – to do (honorific)
  4. おっしゃる – to say (honorific)
  5. する (exception) – to do
  6. いらっしゃいませ – please come in (formal)
  7. いらっしゃい – please come in
  8. ありがとうございました – thank you (polite)
  9. また – again
  10. 越す 【こ・す】 – to go over
  11. どうぞ – please
  12. ゆっくり – slowly

We learned how to make polite requests using 「~ください」 in a previous section and we just looked at how to use honorific verbs with requests as well. However, there is yet another way to make requests using honorific verbs. This grammar only applies to the honorific verbs with special 「~ます」 conjugations that we just covered. This includes 「下さる」、「いらっしゃる」、「なさる」、and 「おっしゃる」. I’ve never actually seen this used with 「おっしゃる」, but it is grammatically possible.

Making requests for honorific actions

  • Conjugate the honorific verb to the special masu-conjugation and replace the last 「す」 with 「せ」

    1. 下さ下さいま下さいま
    2. いらっしゃいらっしゃいまいらっしゃいま
  • An abbreviated and less formal version of this is to simply remove the 「ます」 after conjugating to the special masu-form

    1. 下さ下さいます下さい
    2. いらっしゃいらっしゃいますいらっしゃい

Now you finally know where grammar such as 「なさい」 and 「してください」 actually came from. Let’s look at a few quick examples.


You’ll probably hear this one a million times every time you enter some kind of store in Japan.

  • いらっしゃいませ
    Please come in!

However, a middle-aged sushi chef will probably use the abbreviated version.

  • いらっしゃい
    Please come in!

Some more examples…

  1. ありがとうございましたまた越しくださいませ
    Thank you very much. Please come again.
  2. どうぞ、ごゆっくりなさいませ
    Please take your time and relax.

Causative and Passive Verbs

We will now learn the last two major types of verb conjugations: causative and passive forms. These two verb conjugations are traditionally covered together because of the notorious causative-passive combination. We will now go over what all these things are and how they are used.

Causative Verbs


  1. あげる (ru-verb) – to give; to raise
  2. くれる (ru-verb) – to give
  3. 全部 【ぜん・ぶ】 – everything
  4. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  5. 着る 【き・る】 (ru-verb) – to wear
  6. 信じる 【しん・じる】 (ru-verb) – to believe
  7. 寝る 【ね・る】 (ru-verb) – to sleep
  8. 起きる 【お・きる】 (ru-verb) – to wake; to occur
  9. 出る 【で・る】 (ru-verb) – to come out
  10. 掛ける 【か・ける】 (ru-verb) – to hang
  11. 捨てる 【す・てる】 (ru-verb) – to throw away
  12. 調べる 【しら・べる】 (ru-verb) – to investigate
  13. 話す 【はな・す】 (u-verb) – to speak
  14. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) – to ask; to listen
  15. 泳ぐ 【およ・ぐ】 (u-verb) – to swim
  16. 遊ぶ 【あそ・ぶ】 (u-verb) – to play
  17. 待つ 【ま・つ】 (u-verb) – to wait
  18. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) – to drink
  19. 直る 【なお・る】 (u-verb) – to be fixed
  20. 死ぬ 【し・ぬ】 (u-verb) – to die
  21. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) – to buy
  22. する (exception) – to do
  23. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) – to come
  24. 先生 【せん・せい】 – teacher
  25. 学生 【がく・せい】 – student
  26. 宿題 【しゅく・だい】 – homework
  27. たくさん – a lot (amount)
  28. 質問 【しつ・もん】 – question
  29. 今日 【きょう】 – today
  30. 仕事 【し・ごと】 – job
  31. 休む 【やす・む】 (u-verb) – to rest
  32. その – abbreviation of 「それの」
  33. 部長 【ぶ・ちょう】 – section manager
  34. いい (i-adj) – good
  35. 長時間 【ちょう・じ・かん】 – long period of time
  36. 働く 【はたら・く】 (u-verb) – to work
  37. トイレ – bathroom; toilet
  38. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go

Verbs conjugated into the causative form are used to indicate an action that someone makes happen. Like Captain Picard so succinctly puts it, the causative verb means to “make it so”. This verb is usually used in the context of making somebody do something. The really confusing thing about the causative verb is that it can also mean to let someone do something. Or maybe this is a different type of verb with the exact same conjugation rules. Whichever the case may be, a verb in the causative form can mean either making or letting someone do something. The only good news is that when the causative form is used with 「あげる」 and 「くれる」, it almost always means to “let someone do”. Once you get used to it, surprisingly, it becomes quite clear which meaning is being used when.

  1. 全部食べさせた
    Made/Let (someone) eat it all.
  2. 全部食べさせてくれた
    Let (someone) eat it all.
Causative Conjugation Rules
Here are the conjugation rules for the causative form. All causative verbs become ru-verbs. 

  • For ru-verbs: Replace the last 「る」 with 「させる」.
  • For u-verbs: Change the last character as you would for negative verbs but attach 「せる」 instead of 「ない」.
  • Exception Verbs:
    1. する」 becomes 「させる
    2. くる」 becomes 「こさせる」.
Sample ru-verbs
Plain Causative
食べ 食べさせる
信じ 信じさせる
起き 起きさせる
掛け 掛けさせる
捨て 捨てさせる
調べ 調べさせる
Sample u-verbs
Plain Causative
Exception Verbs
Positive Causative
する させる
くる こさせる


Here are some examples using the causative verb. Context will usually tell you which is being meant, but for our purposes we will assume that when the verb is used with 「あげる」 and 「くれる」(ください) it means “to let someone do” while it means, “to make someone do” when used without it.

  1. 先生学生宿題たくさんさせた
    Teacher made students do lots of homework.
  2. 先生質問たくさん聞かせてくれた
    Teacher let (someone) ask lots of questions.
  3. 今日仕事休ませてください
    Please let me rest from work today. (Please let me take the day off today.)
  4. その部長は、よく長時間働かせる
    That manager often makes (people) work long hours.

When asking for permission to let someone do something, it is more common to use the 「~てもいい」 grammar.

  1. トイレ行かせてくれますか。
    Can you let me go to the bathroom? (Sounds like a prisoner, even in English)
  2. トイレ行っていいですか。
    Is it ok to go to the bathroom? (No problem here)

A Shorter Alternative


  1. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  2. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  3. する (exception) – to do
  4. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) – to come
  5. 同じ 【おな・じ】 – same
  6. こと – event, matter
  7. 何回 【なん・かい】 – how many times
  8. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) – to say
  9. お腹 【お・なか】 – stomach
  10. 空く 【あ・く】 (u-verb) – to become empty
  11. 何 【なに/なん】 – what
  12. くれる (ru-verb) – to give

There is a shorter version of the causative conjugation, which I will go over for completeness. However, since this version is mostly used in very rough slang, you are free to skip this section until you’ve had time to get used to the regular form. Also, textbooks usually don’t cover this version of the causative verb.

The key difference in this version is that all verbs become an u-verbs with a 「す」 ending. Therefore, the resulting verb would conjugate just like any other u-verb ending in 「す」 such as 「話す」 or 「指す」. The first part of the conjugation is the same as the original causative form. However, for ru-verbs, instead of attaching 「させる」, you attach 「さす」 and for u-verbs, you attach 「す」 instead of 「せる」. As a result, all the verbs become an u-verb ending in 「す」.

Shortened Causative Form 

  • This form is rarely used so you may just want to stick with the more traditional version of the causative form.
    • For ru-verbs: Replace the last 「る」 with 「さす」.
    • For u-verbs: Change the last character as you would for negative verbs but attach 「す」 instead of 「ない」.
    • Exception Verbs:
      1. する」 becomes 「さす
      2. くる」 becomes 「こさす


  1. 同じこと何回言わす
    Don’t make me say the same thing again and again!
  2. お腹空いているんだから、なんか食べさしてくれよ。
    I’m hungry so let me eat something.

Passive Verbs


  1. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  2. 着る 【き・る】 (ru-verb) – to wear
  3. 信じる 【しん・じる】 (ru-verb) – to believe
  4. 寝る 【ね・る】 (ru-verb) – to sleep
  5. 起きる 【お・きる】 (ru-verb) – to wake; to occur
  6. 出る 【で・る】 (ru-verb) – to come out
  7. 掛ける 【か・ける】 (ru-verb) – to hang
  8. 捨てる 【す・てる】 (ru-verb) – to throw away
  9. 調べる 【しら・べる】 (ru-verb) – to investigate
  10. 話す 【はな・す】 (u-verb) – to speak
  11. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) – to ask; to listen
  12. 泳ぐ 【およ・ぐ】 (u-verb) – to swim
  13. 遊ぶ 【あそ・ぶ】 (u-verb) – to play
  14. 待つ 【ま・つ】 (u-verb) – to wait
  15. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) – to drink
  16. 直る 【なお・る】 (u-verb) – to be fixed
  17. 死ぬ 【し・ぬ】 (u-verb) – to die
  18. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) – to buy
  19. する (exception) – to do
  20. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) – to come
  21. ポリッジ – porridge
  22. 誰 【だれ】 – who
  23. 皆 【みんな】 – everybody
  24. 変 【へん】 (na-adj) – strange
  25. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) – to say
  26. 光 【ひかり】 – light
  27. 速い 【はや・い】 (i-adj) – fast
  28. 超える 【こ・える】 (ru-verb) – to exceed
  29. 不可能 【ふ・か・のう】 – impossible
  30. 思う 【おも・う】 (u-verb) – to think
  31. この – this (abbr. of これの)
  32. 教科書 【きょう・か・しょ】 – textbook
  33. 多い 【おお・い】 (i-adj) – numerous
  34. 人 【ひと】 – person
  35. 読む 【よ・む】 (u-verb) – to read
  36. 外国人 【がい・こく・じん】 – foreigner
  37. 質問 【しつ・もん】 – question
  38. 答える 【こた・える】 (ru-verb) – to answer
  39. パッケージ – package
  40. あらゆる – all
  41. 含む 【ふく・む】 (u-verb) – to include

Passive verbs are verbs that are done to the (passive) subject. Unlike English style of writing which discourages the use of the passive form, passive verbs in Japanese are often used in essays and articles.

Passive Conjugation Rules
All passive verbs become ru-verbs. 

  • For ru-verbs: Replace the last 「る」 with 「られる」
  • For u-verbs: Change the last character as you would for negative verbs but attach 「れる」 instead of 「ない」.
  • Exception Verbs:
    1. する」 becomes 「される
    2. くる」 becomes 「こられる


Sample ru-verbs
Plain Passive
食べ 食べられる
信じ 信じられる
起き 起きられる
掛け 掛けられる
捨て 捨てられる
調べ 調べられる
Sample u-verbs
Plain Passive
Exception Verbs
Positive Passive
する される
くる こられる




  1. ポリッジ誰か食べられた
    The porridge was eaten by somebody!
  2. みんなだと言われます
    I am told by everybody that (I’m) strange.
  3. 速さ超えるのは、不可能だと思われる
    Exceeding the speed of light is thought to be impossible.
  4. この教科書多く読まれている
    This textbook is being read by a large number of people.
  5. 外国人質問聞かれたが、答えられなかった
    I was asked a question by a foreigner but I couldn’t answer.
  6. このパッケージには、あらゆるものが含まれている
    Everything is included in this package.

Using passive form to show politeness


  1. どう – how
  2. する (exception) – to do
  3. 領収証 【りょう・しゅう・しょう】 – receipt
  4. 明日 【あした】 – tomorrow
  5. 会議 【かい・ぎ】 – meeting
  6. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go

While we will go over various types of grammar that express a politeness level above the normal -masu/-desu forms in the next lesson, it is useful to know that using passive form is another more polite way to express an action. In Japanese, a sentence is usually more polite when it is less direct. For example, it is more polite to refer to someone by his or her name and not by the direct pronoun “you”. It is also more polite to ask a negative question than a positive one. (For example, 「しますか?」 vs. 「 しませんか?」) In a similar sense, using the passive form makes the sentence less direct because the subject does not directly perform the action. This makes it sound more polite. Here is the same sentence in increasing degrees of politeness.

  1. どうする? – What will you do? (lit: How do?)
  2. どうします? – Regular polite.
  3. どうされます?- Passive polite.
  4. どうなさいます?- Honorific (to be covered next lesson)
  5. どうなさいますでしょうか?- Honorific + a lesser degree of certainty.

Notice how the same sentence grows longer and longer as you get more and more indirect.


  1. 領収証どうされますか?
    What about your receipt? (lit: How will you do receipt?)
  2. 明日会議行かれるんですか?
    Are you going to tomorrow’s meeting?

Causative-Passive Forms


  1. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  2. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  3. 朝ご飯 【あさ・ご・はん】 – breakfast
  4. 日本 【に・ほん】 – Japan
  5. お酒 【お・さけ】 – alcohol
  6. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) – to drink
  7. こと – event, matter
  8. 多い 【おお・い】 (i-adj) – numerous
  9. あいつ – that guy (derogatory)
  10. ~時間 【~じ・かん】 – counter for span of hour(s)
  11. 待つ 【ま・つ】 (u-verb) – to wait
  12. 親 【おや】 – parent
  13. 宿題 【しゅく・だい】 – homework
  14. する (exception) – to do

The causative-passive form is simply the combination of causative and passive conjugations to mean that the action of making someone do something was done to that person. This would effectively translate into, “[someone] is made to do [something]”. The important thing to remember is the order of conjugation. The verb is first conjugated to the causative and then passive, never the other way around.

Causative-Passive Conjugation Form
The causative-passive verb is formed by first conjugating to the causative form and then by conjugating the result to the passive form.

  1. 食べ食べさせ食べさせられる
  2. かせ行かせられる


  1. 朝ご飯食べたくなかったのに、食べさせられた
    Despite not wanting to eat breakfast, I was made to eat it.
  2. 日本では、お酒飲ませられること多い
    In Japan, the event of being made to drink is numerous.
  3. あいつ二時間待たせられた
    I was made to wait 2 hours by that guy.
  4. 毎日宿題させられる
    I am made to do homework everyday by my parent(s).

A Shorter Alternative


  1. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  2. 立つ 【た・つ】 (u-verb) – to stand
  3. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  4. 話す 【はな・す】 (u-verb) – to speak
  5. 学生 【がく・せい】 – student
  6. 廊下 【ろう・か】 – hall, corridor
  7. 日本 【に・ほん】 – Japan
  8. お酒 【お・さけ】 – alcohol
  9. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) – to drink
  10. こと – event, matter
  11. 多い 【おお・い】 (i-adj) – numerous
  12. あいつ – that guy (derogatory)
  13. ~時間 【~じ・かん】 – counter for span of hour(s)
  14. 待つ 【ま・つ】 (u-verb) – to wait

Going along with the shorter causative alternative, you can also use the same conjugation for the causative-passive form. I won’t cover it in too much detail because the usefulness of this form is rather limited just like the shorter causative form itself. The idea is to simply used the shortened causative form instead of using the regular causative conjugation. The rest is the same as before.

Shortened causative-passive form examples
First conjugate to the shortened causative form. Then conjugate to the passive form.

  1. 行か行かされる
  2. 立た立たされる

This form cannot be used in cases where the shorter causative form ends in 「さす」, in other words, you can’t have a 「さされる」 ending.

Verbs that cannot be used in this form
Examples of verbs you can’t use in this form. 

  1. 食べ食べさす食べさされる
  2. さすさされる


  1. 学生廊下立たされた
    The student was made to stand in the hall.
  2. 日本では、お酒飲まされること多い
    In Japan, the event of being made to drink is numerous.
  3. あいつ二時間待たされた
    I was made to wait 2 hours by that guy.

Chapter Overview

I have decided to call this next section “Special Expressions” only because with the exception of the first few lessons, most of the grammar here applies to more specific areas than the grammar we have covered so far. These special expressions, while individually not vital, are, as a collection, necessary for regular everyday conversations. We are slowly entering the stage where we’ve built the toolbox and we now need to acquire the little tools that will make the toolbox complete. Now that we covered most of the base, it is time to look at all the little itty gritty bits. You are welcome to skip around the lessons, however; the examples will assume that you have gone over all previous sections.

Review and more sentence-ending particles

We are coming to the end of the fourth major section of the guide. Do you feel like your Japanese has improved? We’ve come to the point where we’ve learned enough conjugations to be able to start mixing them together in various useful combinations. Of course this can be a little difficult to do without some practice, which is the reason for this lesson. But first, since we’ve come to the end of yet another section, let’s learn some more sentence-endings particles.

「な」 and 「さ」 sentence-ending particles


  1. あのう/あの – say; well; errr
  2. うん – yes (casual)
  3. この – this (abbr. of これの)
  4. 間 【あいだ】 – space (between); time (between); period
  5. ディズニーランド – Disney Land
  6. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  7. すごい (i-adj) – to a great extent
  8. 込む 【こ・む】 (u-verb) – to become crowded
  9. 何 【なに/なん】 – what
  10. 出来る 【で・き・る】 (ru-verb) – to be able to do
  11. 今 【いま】 – now
  12. 図書館 【と・しょ・かん】 – library
  13. 何で 【なん・で】 – why; how
  14. 日本語 【に・ほん・ご】 – Japanese (language)
  15. たくさん – a lot (amount)
  16. 勉強 【べん・きょう】 – study
  17. する (exception) – to do
  18. まだ – yet
  19. 全然 【ぜん・ぜん】 – not at all (when used with negative)
  20. 分かる 【わ・かる】 (u-verb) – to understand
  21. 大丈夫 【だい・じょう・ぶ】 (na-adj) – ok
  22. なる (u-verb) – to become
  23. いい (i-adj) – good
  24. 今日 【きょう】 – today
  25. 雨 【あめ】 – rain
  26. 降る 【ふ・る】(u-verb) – to precipitate
  27. 大学 【だい・がく】 – college

After the 「よ」 and 「ね」, 「さ」 and 「な」 are the next most commonly used sentence-ending particles.

「さ」, which is basically a very casual form of 「よ」, is similar to the English “like” in that some people throw it in at the end of almost every single phrase. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a very sophisticated manner of speech but just like using “like” all the time, I cannot deny that it is an easy habit to fall into. In that sense, due to its over-use, it has almost lost any specific meaning. You may overhear a conversation like the following:

A: Hey…

B: Yeah.

A: This one time…

B: Yeah.

A: I went to Disney Land and it was really crowded…

B: Uh huh.

A: Couldn’t do anything, you know…

And it goes on like this, sometimes the other person might break in to say something related to the topic.

You can use 「な」 in place of 「ね」 when it sounds too soft and reserved for what you want to say or for the audience you are speaking to. Its rough sound generally applies to the male gender but is not necessarily restricted to only males.

Example 1

Yousuke: You are going to the library now huh? (seeking explanation)

Tomoko: Yeah, why?

Example 2

Bob: I studied Japanese a lot, right? But, I still don’t get it at all.

Alice: No problem. You’ll become able to understand for sure, you know?

Bob: If so, it would be good.

The 「な」 sentence-ending particle is often used with the question marker 「か」 to indicate that the speaker is considering something.

  1. 今日降るかな
    I wonder if it’ll rain today.
  2. いい大学行けるかな
    I wonder if I can go to a good college.

「かい」 and 「だい」 sentence-ending particles


  1. おい – hey
  2. どこ – where
  3. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  4. 呼ぶ 【よ・ぶ】 (u-verb) – to call
  5. いい (i-adj) – good
  6. 一体 【いったい】 – forms an emphatic question (e.g. “why on earth?”)
  7. 何時 【なん・じ】 – what time
  8. 帰る 【かえ・る】 (u-verb) – to go home
  9. つもり – intention, plan
  10. 俺 【おれ】 – me; myself; I (masculine)
  11. 土曜日 【ど・よう・び】 – Saturday
  12. 映画 【えい・が】 – movie
  13. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) – to see
  14. 一緒 【いっ・しょ】 – together

「かい」 and 「だい」 are strongly masculine sentence endings for asking questions. 「かい」 is used for yes/no questions while 「だい」 is used for open-ended questions.


  1. おい、どこに行くんだい
    Hey, where are (you) going?
  2. さきちゃんって呼んでもいいかい
    Can (I) call you Saki-chan?
  3. 一体何時に帰ってくるつもりだったんだい
    What time were (you) planning on coming home exactly?
  4. 俺は土曜日、映画を見に行くけど、一緒に行くかい
    I’m going to see a movie Saturday, go together?

Gender-specific sentence-ending particles

These sentence-ending particles are primarily used just to emphasize something and doesn’t really have a meaning per se. However, they can make your statements sound much stronger and/or very gender-specific. Using 「わ」 is just like 「よ」 except it will make you sound very feminine (this is a different sound from the 「わ」 used in Kansai dialect). 「かしら」 is also a very feminine version of 「かな」, which we just went over. 「ぞ」 and 「ぜ」 are identical to 「よ」 except that it makes you sound “cool” and manly, or at least, that is the intent. These examples may not be very helpful without actually hearing what they sound like.


  1. もう – already
  2. 時間 【じ・かん】 – time
  3. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  4. おい – hey
  5. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  6. これ – this
  7. 終わり 【お・わり】 – end
  8. いい (i-adj) – good
  9. 大学 【だい・がく】 – college
  10. 入る 【はい・る】 (u-verb) – to enter
  1. もう時間ない
    There is no more time.
  2. おい行く
    Hey, we’re going!
  3. これで、もう終わり
    With this, it’s over already.
  4. いい大学入れるかしら
    I wonder if I can enter a good college.

That’s a wrap!


  1. 加賀 【か・が】 – Kaga (last name)
  2. 先生 【せん・せい】 – teacher
  3. ちょっと – a little
  4. 質問 【しつ・もん】 – question
  5. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) – to ask; to listen
  6. いい (i-adj) – good
  7. はい – yes (polite)
  8. 日本語 【に・ほん・ご】 – Japanese (language)
  9. 何 【なに/なん】 – what
  10. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) – to say
  11. そう – (things are) that way
  12. 大体 【だい・たい】 – mostly
  13. こんにちは – good day
  14. 思う 【おも・う】 (u-verb) – to think
  15. ただし – however
  16. 書く 【か・く】 (u-verb) – to write
  17. 時 【とき】 – time
  18. 他 【ほか】 – other
  19. 表現 【ひょう・げん】 – expression
  20. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  21. これ – this
  22. 覚える 【おぼ・える】 (ru-verb) – to memorize
  23. 朝 【あさ】 – morning
  24. おはよう – good morning
  25. でも – but
  26. 上 【うえ】 – above
  27. 人 【ひと】 – person
  28. おはようございます – good morning (polite)
  29. 分かる 【わ・かる】 (u-verb) – to understand
  30. 間違える 【ま・ちが・える】 (ru-verb) – to make a mistake
  31. 勉強 【べん・きょう】 – study
  32. なる (u-verb) – to become
  33. 洋介 【よう・すけ】 – Yousuke (first name)
  34. あのう/あの – say; well; errr
  35. 英語 【えい・ご】 – English (language)
  36. 教える 【おし・える】 (ru-verb) – to teach; to inform
  37. もらう (u-verb) – to receive
  38. もし – if by any chance
  39. 時間 【じ・かん】 – time
  40. うん – yes (casual)
  41. アメリカ – America
  42. 留学 【りゅう・がく】 – study abroad
  43. する (exception) – to do
  44. 去年 【きょ・ねん】 – last year
  45. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  46. お金 【お・かね】 – money
  47. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  48. いつ – when
  49. 欲しい 【ほ・しい】 (i-adj) – wanted; desirable
  50. 来週 【らい・しゅう】 – next week
  51. 木曜日 【もく・よう・び】 – Thursday
  52. ありがとう – thank you
  53. 怠ける 【なま・ける】 (ru-verb) – to neglect, to be lazy about
  54. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) – to come
  55. そんな – that sort of
  56. こと – event, matter

We learned quite a lot of things in this section. Let’s try to put it all together by seeing how different kinds of conjugations are used in different combinations. This is of course by no means an exhaustive list but merely an illustration of how we can use what we learned in various combinations to create a lot of useful expressions.

Example 1

アリス: 加賀先生ちょっと質問聞いていいですか?
言えば = quoted sub-clause + if conditional of 言う

「と言う思います」 = quoted sub-clause + quoted sub-clause
「じゃなくて」 = negative sequence of states


覚えといて」 – 覚える +
abbreviated form of ~ておく + casual ~てください with ください dropped.


Literal translation of Example 1

Alice: Kaga-sensei, is it ok to ask you a question?
Kaga-sensei: Yes, it’s ok.
Alice: If you say what for “hello” in Japanese, is it ok?
Kaga-sensei: Well, mostly, I think people say “konnichiwa”. Only, when you write it, you must write “konnichiha” and not “konnichiwa”.
Alice: Is that so? Are there any other good expressions?
Kaga-sensei: Please memorize this too (in preparation for the future). In the morning, everybody says, “ohayou”. But, please say, “ohayou-gozaimasu” to a higher person.
Alice: Yes, I understood. I’ll do in the manner of not making mistake. It became good study!

Interpretative translation of Example 1

Alice: Kaga-sensei, is it ok to ask you a question?
Kaga-sensei: Sure.
Alice: How do you say “Hello” in Japanese?
Kaga-sensei: Well, most of the time, I think people say “konnichiwa”. Only, when you write it, you must write “konnichiha” and not “konnichiwa”.
Alice: Is that so? Are there any other good expressions?
Kaga-sensei: You should know this too. In the morning, everybody says, “ohayou”. But, please say, “ohayou-gozaimasu” to a higher person.
Alice: Ok, I got it. I’ll try not to make that mistake. That was very informative!

Example 2


教えてもらいたい」 = receiving favor + to want (たい)


してみたいなと思って」 = to try something out (~てみる) + want to (たい) + な sentence-ending particle + quoted subquote + te-form of 思う
行こうした」 = volitional of 行く + to attempt (とする


怠けた来なかったしないで」 = List of actions (~たりする) + negative request of する.


Literal translation of Example 2

Yousuke: Oh! It’s Alice. Hey, is it ok to ask a question?
Alice: What?
Yousuke: I want to receive the favor of you teaching English and if, by any chance, you have time, will you give the favor of teaching?
Alice: Huh? You are going to study English?
Yousuke: Yeah, I was thinking that I want to try studying abroad in America. I tried to make motion toward going last year too but, without money…
Alice: Is that so? It’s good. When do you want me to teach you?
Yousuke: Anytime is good.
Alice: Then what about from next week Thursday?
Yousuke: Yeah, ok. Thanks!
Alice: Don’t do things like shirk on your studies or not come, ok?
Yousuke: I won’t do anything like that!

Interpretative translation of Example 2

Yousuke: Oh! It’s Alice. Hey, can I ask you a question?
Alice: What up?
Yousuke: I want to learn English so if you have time, can you teach me?
Alice: Huh? You’re going to study English?
Yousuke: Yeah, I was thinking about studying abroad in America. I tried going last year too but I didn’t have the money.
Alice: Really? No problem. When do you want me to teach you?
Yousuke: Anytime is fine.
Alice: What about from next week Thursday then?
Yousuke: OK, thanks!
Alice: You’re not going to shirk on your studies or not come or anything right?
Yousuke: I won’t do anything like that!

Casual Patterns and Slang

So far, for every grammar we have covered, we also went over all the casual variations as well. However, even though we have already covered all the casual forms, truly mastering casual speech in Japanese requires far more than just learning the various casual forms. There are countless numbers of ways in which wordings and pronunciations change as well as differences between male and female speech. Understanding slang also requires knowing various vocabulary that is also growing with every new generation. Many adults would be hard-pressed to understand the kind of slang being used by kids today.

While comprehensively covering slang and relevant vocabulary would require a book in and of itself (a book that would soon become out of date), I’ll instead cover some broad patterns and common phenomenon which will at least help you get started in understanding the most common aspects of Japanese slang. There is no particular order in the material presented here and I expect this page to grow continuously as I find different things to cover.

Please note that slang is also heavily influenced by local dialects. Although all the material presented here is valid for the greater Tokyo area, your mileage may vary depending on where you are located.

Basic Principles of Slang

In the world of slang, anything goes and rules that apply to written Japanese are often broken. The most difficult part is that, of course, you can’t just say whatever you want. When you break the rules, you have to break it the correct way. Taking what you learned from textbooks or Japanese classes and applying it to the real world is not so easy because it is impossible to teach all the possible ways things can get jumbled up in the spoken language. Learning how to speak naturally with all the correct idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies in a language is something that requires practice with real people in real-world situations. In this section, we’ll look at some common patterns and themes that will at least help you get an idea of where the majority of slang originates from.

One thing you’ll soon realize when you first start talking to Japanese people in real life is that many sounds are slurred together. This is especially true for males. The fact is voices in instructional material such as language tapes often exaggerate the pronunciation of each letter in order to make aural comprehension easier. In reality, not all the sounds are pronounced as clearly as it should be and things end up sounding different from how it’s written on paper.

There is one major driving factor behind the majority of slang in Japanese. The primary goal of most slang is to make things easier to say. In other words, the goal is to reduce or simplify the movement of your mouth. There are two primary ways in which this is accomplished, 1) By making things shorter or, 2) By slurring the sounds together. We have already seen many examples of the first method such as shortening 「かもしれない」 to 「かも」 or preferring 「と」 to the longer conditional forms. The second method makes things easier to say usually by substituting parts of words with sounds that fit better with the sounds surrounding it or by merging two or more sounds together. For example, the same 「かもしれない」 might be pronounced 「かもしんない」 since 「しん」 requires less movement than 「しれ」.

The fundamental goal of slang is to reduce mouth movement

Let’s see some more examples of words that get shortened or slurred. Try saying both versions to get a feel for how the slang saves space and some calories for your mouth.



  1. ここ – here
  2. つまらない (i-adj) – boring
  3. 私 【わたし】 – me; myself; I
  4. 家 【1) うち; 2) いえ】 – 1) one’s own home; 2) house
  5. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  6. まったく – entirely; indeed; good grief (expression of exasperation)
  7. いつ – when
  8. こんな – this sort of
  9. 所 【ところ】 – place
  10. ぐずぐず – tardily; hesitatingly
  11. する (exception) – to do
  1. ここはつまらないから私の家に行こう。
  2. ここつまんないから、私んち行こう。
  1. まったく、いつまでこんなところで、ぐずぐずするんだよ。
  2. ったく、いつまでこんなとこで、ぐずぐずすんだよ。

You’ll see that a great deal of slang in Japanese stems from this single principle of making things easier to say. It’s very natural because it’s guided by how your mouth moves. With a fair amount of practice, you should be able to naturally pick up shorter, alternative pronunciations and incorporate them into your own speech.

Sentence ordering and particles (or the lack thereof)


  1. それ – that
  2. 何 【なに/なん】 – what
  3. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) – to see
  4. あの – that (over there) (abbr. of あれの)
  5. 人 【ひと】 – person
  6. もう – already
  7. 食べる 【たべ・る】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  8. 昨日【きのう】 – yesterday
  9. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) – to buy
  10. アイス – ice (short for ice cream)

While written Japanese already has fairly loose rules regarding sentence order, casual spoken Japanese takes it one step further. A complete sentence requires a verb at the end of the sentence to complete the thought. However, we’ll see how this rule is bent in casual conversations.

Conversations are sporadic and chaotic in any language and it’s common for people to say the first thing that pops into their head without thinking out the whole proper sentence.

For example, if you wanted to ask what something was, the normal, proper way would be to ask, 「それは何?」 However, if the first thing that popped into your head, “What the?” then it would be more natural to say 「何」 first. However, since 「何はそれ?」 doesn’t make any sense (Is what that?), you can simply break it up into what are essentially two sentence fragments asking “what” first (何?), and then following it up with the explanation of what you were talking about (「それ」 in this case). For the sake of convenience, this is lumped into what looks like one sentence.


  1. それは何?
    What is that?
  2. 何それ?
    What? That. (Two sentences lumped into one)

Sometimes, the first thing that pops into your head might be main verb. But if the main verb has already slipped out of your mouth, you’re now left with the rest of the sentence without a verb to complete the thought. In conversational Japanese, it’s perfectly acceptable to have the verb come first using the same technique we just saw by breaking them into two sentences. The second sentence is incomplete of course, but that kind of thing is common in the speech of any language.

  1. 見た? あの人?
    Did you see? That guy?
  2. もう食べた?昨日買ったアイス。
    You ate it already? The ice cream I bought yesterday.

Using 「じゃん」 instead of 「じゃない」 to confirm


  1. サラリーマン – office worker (salary man)
  2. 残業 【ざん・ぎょう】 – overtime
  3. たくさん – a lot (amount)
  4. する (exception) – to do
  5. まあ – well
  6. いい (i-adj) – good
  7. ほら – look
  8. やはり/やっぱり – as I thought
  9. レポート – report
  10. 書く 【か・く】 (u-verb) – to write
  11. 駄目 【だめ】 – no good
  12. 誰 【だれ】 – who
  13. いる (ru-verb) – to exist (animate)
  14. ここ – here
  15. 着替える 【きが・える】 (ru-verb) – to change clothes
  16. ~君 【~くん】 – name suffix
  17. 知る 【し・る】 (u-verb) – to know
  18. やはり/やっぱり/やっぱ – as I thought
  19. 駅 【えき】 – station
  20. 近い 【ちか・い】 (i-adj) – close, near
  21. カラオケ – karaoke
  22. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  23. うん – yes (casual)
  24. あそこ – over there
  25. すぐ – soon; nearby
  26. 隣 【となり】 – next to

「じゃん」 is an abbreviation of 「じゃない」, the negative conjugation for nouns and na-adjectives. However, this only applies to 「じゃない」 used in the following fashion.

  • サラリーマンだから、残業はたくさんするんじゃない
    Because he’s a salaryman, doesn’t he do a lot of overtime?

The important thing to note about the example above is that 「じゃない」 here is actually confirming the positive. In fact, a closer translation is, “Because he’s a salaryman, he probably does a lot of overtime.” But it’s still a question so there’s a slight nuance that you are seeking confirmation even though you are relatively sure.

「じゃん」 is a shorter slang for expressing the same type of thing except it doesn’t even bother to ask a question to confirm. It’s completely affirmative in tone.

In fact, the closest equivalent to 「じゃん」 is 「じゃない」 used in the following fashion.

  • まあ、いいじゃない。
    Well, it’s probably fine (don’t you think?).

This type of expression is the only case where you can attach 「じゃない」 directly to i-adjectives and verbs. Once you actually hear this expression in real life, you’ll see that it has a distinct pronunciation that is different from simply using the negative. Plus, you have to realize that this type of 「じゃない」 sounds rather mature and feminine, unlike 「じゃん」, which is gender-neutral.

Like the above, specialized use of 「じゃない」, you can also attach 「じゃん」 directly to verbs and i-adjectives as well as the usual nouns and na-adjectives. Because slang is usually created to make things easier, it’s not surprising that the rules for using 「じゃん」 are so lax and easy.


  • Though derived from 「じゃない」, 「じゃん」 is always used to confirm the positive.
  • It can be attached to the end of any sentence regardless of whether it ends in a noun, adjective, verb, or adverb.

Finally, let’s get to the examples. Hopefully, you can see that 「じゃん」 is basically saying something along the lines of, “See, I’m right, aren’t I?”


  1. ほら、やっぱりレポートを書かないとだめじゃん
    See, as I thought, you have to write the report.
  2. 誰もいないからここで着替えてもいいじゃん
    Since there’s nobody, it’s probably fine to change here.

A: Is Takashi here?

B: Dunno.

A: Ah! See, he is here!

There’s also another variation, which attaches the question marker as well. The meaning is mostly the same but it adds more to the questioning, confirming tone.

A: There’s a karaoke place near the station, right?

B: Yeah.

A: It’s right next to there.

Using 「つ」 for 「という」


  1. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) – to say
  2. 何で 【なん・で】 – why; how
  3. お前 【お・まえ】 – you (casual)
  4. ここ – here
  5. いる (ru-verb) – to exist (animate)
  6. 宿題 【しゅく・だい】 – homework
  7. 時間 【じ・かん】 – time
  8. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  9. デート – date
  10. する (exception) – to do
  11. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  12. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) – to ask; to listen
  13. 明日 【あした】 – tomorrow
  14. 試験 【し・けん】 – exam
  15. 勉強 【べん・きょう】 – study
  16. 違う 【ちが・う】 (u-verb) – to be different

As we learned in the defining and describing section, 「いう」 serves many more functions than the equivalent English verb, “to say”. It is used all the time and therefore, it’s not too surprising that a number of variations and slang have developed. Here’s one more that I felt was too “slangy” to cover so early at that point of the guide.

This may sound hard to believe but if you really slur 「という」 together, it becomes something resembling 「つ」. Or least, that’s what somebody thought when he or she began replacing 「という」 with 「つ」 or in some case 「つう」.

Now, in my opinion, 「つ」 is a lot harder to say than 「という」 so using it like a native might take a bit of practice. Rather than making things easier to say, as is usually the case, the real purpose of this substitution is to sound rougher because 「つ」 has a harder, hissing sound. This is ideal for when you’re pissed or for that young and rough image you’ve always wanted. As you might expect, this type of speech is usually used by males or very tough females.


  1. つうか、なんでお前がここにいんのよ!
    Or rather, why are you here?!
  2. 宿題で時間がないつってんのに、みきちゃんとデートしにいったと聞いたよ。
    Although he’s saying he doesn’t have time due to homework, I heard he went on a date with Miki-chan.
  3. 明日は試験だぞ。つっても、勉強はしてないだろうな。
    Yo, tomorrow’s the test. Even if I say that, you probably didn’t study anyway, huh?
  4. だから、違うんだつうの!
    Like I said, you’re wrong!

If you want even more emphasis, you can even add a small 「つ」. This usually means you are really at the brink of your patience.

  • だから、違うんだっつうの!
    Like I said, you’re wrong!

Using 「ってば」 and 「ったら」to show exasperation


  1. もう – already
  2. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  3. あなた – you
  4. いつも – always
  5. 忘れる 【わす・れる】 (ru-verb) – to forget

「ってば」 and 「ったら」 is yet another type of abbreviation for 「という」 similar to 「って」 as discussed in the defining and describing section. In this case, it’s an abbreviation of the conditional form of 「という」, which is 「といえば」 and 「といったら」. By using this abbreviation, you are essentially saying something along the lines of, “If I told you once, I told you a million times!” You can use this expression when you tired of repeating yourself or when you are exasperated with somebody for not listening to you.


  1. もう行くってば
    I told you I’m going already!
  2. あなたったら、いつも忘れるんだから。
    You’re always forgetting.

Using 「なんか」 just about everywhere


  1. 何 【なに/なん】 – what
  2. 食べる 【たべ・る】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  3. 今日 【きょう】 – today
  4. 忙しい 【いそが・しい】 (i-adj) – busy
  5. 風呂 【ふ・ろ】 – bath
  6. 超 【ちょう】 – super
  7. 気持ち 【き・も・ち】 – feeling
  8. いい (i-adj) – good
  9. お母さん【お・かあ・さん】 – mother (polite)
  10. 明日 【あした】 – tomorrow
  11. 戻る 【もど・る】 (u-verb) – to return
  12. 私 【わたし】 – me; myself; I
  13. こと – event, matter
  14. 本当 【ほん・とう】 – real
  15. 好き 【す・き】 (na-adj) – likable; desirable

By now, you’re probably aware that 「何」 can be either read as 「なに」 or 「なん」 depending on what comes after it such as 「何色」(なにいろ) versus 「何人」(なんにん). In the case of 「何か」, while 「なにか」 is the correct reading, it is often contracted to just 「なんか」 in casual speech.

  • なにか食べる?
    Eat something?
  • なんか食べる?
    Eat something?

However, 「なんか」 also has a function similar to the word “like” in English. By “like”, I’m not talking about the actual word but the kind that has no meaning and some people use just about anywhere in the sentence. Similarly, 「なんか」 can also be used as a filler without any actual meaning. For instance, take a look at the example below.

  • 今日は、なんか忙しいみたいよ。
    I guess he’s like busy today.

While 「なんか」 is a shorter version of 「なにか」, only 「なんか」 can be used in this way as a filler.

  • 今日は、なにか忙しいみたいよ。
    (「なにか」 cannot be used as a filler word.)

Let’s take a look at a few more examples.


  1. なんかね。お風呂って超気持ちいいよね!
    Like, baths feel really good, huh?
  2. お母さんが、なんか明日まで戻らないんだってよ。
    Mom said she’s not coming back until like tomorrow.
  3. なんかさ。ボブは、私のことなんか本当に好きかな?
    -Hey like, do you really think that Bob likes somebody like me?

Showing contempt for an action with 「~やがる」


  1. あんな – that sort of
  2. 奴 【やつ】 – guy (derogatory)
  3. 負ける 【ま・ける】 (ru-verb) – to lose
  4. どう – how
  5. する (exception) – to do
  6. やる (u-verb) – to do
  7. 気 【き】 – mood; intent
  8. さっさと – quickly
  9. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) – to come

「やがる」 is a verb suffix used to indicate hatred or contempt for the person doing the action. Unlike the rest of the slang covered here, this extremely strong language is not used in normal, everyday conversations. You will probably never hear this expression outside of movies, comic books, games, and the like. However, it is covered here so that you can understand when it is used in those mediums.

In order to use 「やがる」, you simply attach it to the stem of the verb. After that, 「やがる」 is conjugated just like a regular u-verb.


  1. あんなやつに負けやがって。じゃ、どうすんだよ?
    Losing to a guy like that. Well, what are you going to do?
  2. やる気か?だったらさっさと来やがれ
    You want to fight? If so, then hurry up and come on!

Numbers and Counting

Numbers and counting in Japanese are difficult enough to require its own section. First of all, the number system is in units of four instead of three, which can make converting into English quite difficult. Also, there are things called counters, which are required to count different types of objects, animals, or people. We will learn the most generic and widely used counters to get you started so that you can learn more on your own. To be honest, counters might be the only thing that’ll make you want to quit learning Japanese, it’s that bad. I recommend you digest only a little bit of this section at a time because it’s an awful lot of things to memorize.

The Number System

The Japanese number system is spread into units of four. So a number such as 10,000,000 is actually split up as 1000,0000. However, thanks to the strong influence of the Western world and the standardization of numbers, when numbers are actually written, the split-off is three digits. Here are the first ten numbers.

Kanji and readings for numbers 1 to 10
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
いち さん よん ろく しちなな はち きゅう じゅう

As the chart indicates, 4 can either be 「」 or 「よん」 and 7 can either be 「しち」 or 「なな」. Basically, both are acceptable up to 10. However, past ten, the reading is almost always 「よん」 and 「なな」. In general, 「よん」 and 「なな」 are preferred over 「」 and 「しち」 in most circumstances.

You can simply count from 1 to 99 with just these ten numbers. Japanese is easier than English in this respect because you do not have to memorize separate words such as “twenty” or “fifty”. In Japanese, it’s simply just “two ten” and “five ten”.

  1. 三十一 (さんじゅういち) = 31
  2. 五十四 (ごじゅうよん)= 54
  3. 七十七 (ななじゅうなな)= 77
  4. 二十 (にじゅう) = 20

Notice that numbers are either always written in kanji or numerals because hiragana can get rather long and hard to decipher.

Numbers past 99

Here are the higher numbers:

Numerals 100 1,000 10,000 10^8 10^12
ひらがな ひゃく せん まん おく ちょう

Notice how the numbers jumped four digits from 10^4 to 10^8 between and ? That’s because Japanese is divided into units of four. Once you get past 1万 (10,000), you start all over until you reach 9,999万, then it rotates to 1億 (100,000,000). By the way, is 100 and is 1,000, but anything past that, and you need to attach a 1 so the rest of the units become 一万 (10^4)、一億 (10^8)、一兆 (10^12).

Now you can count up to 9,999,999,999,999,999 just by chaining the numbers same as before. This is where the problems start, however. Try saying 「いちちょう」 、「ろくひゃく」、or 「さんせん」 really quickly, you’ll notice it’s difficult because of the repetition of similar consonant sounds. Therefore, Japanese people have decided to make it easier on themselves by pronouncing them as 「いっちょう」、 「ろっぴゃく」、and 「さんぜん」. Unfortunately, it makes it all the harder for you to remember how to pronounce everything. Here are all the slight sound changes.

Numerals 漢字 ひらがな
300 三百 さんびゃく
600 六百 ろっぴゃく
800 八百 はっぴゃく
3000 三千 さんぜん
8000 八千 はっせん
10^12 一兆 いっちょう
  1. 四万三千七十六 (よんまんさんぜんななじゅうろく)
  2. 七億六百二十四万九千二百二十二 (ななおくろっぴゃくにじゅうよんまんきゅうせんにひゃくにじゅうに)
  3. 五百兆二万一 (ごひゃくちょうにまんいち)

Notice that it is customary to write large numbers only in numerals as even kanji can become difficult to decipher.

Numbers smaller or less than 1


  1. 零 【れい】 – zero
  2. ゼロ – zero
  3. マル – circle; zero
  4. 点 【てん】 – period; point
  5. マイナス – minus

Zero in Japanese is 「」 but 「ゼロ」 or 「マル」 is more common in modern Japanese. There is no special method for reading decimals, you simply say 「」 for the dot and read each individual number after the decimal point. Here’s an example:

  • 0.0021 = ゼロゼロゼロ

For negative numbers, everything is the same as positive numbers except that you say 「マイナス」 first.

  • マイナス二十九 = -29

Counting and Counters

Ah, and now we come to the fun part. In Japanese, when you are simply counting numbers, everything is just as you would expect, 、 and so on. However, if you want to count any type of object, you have to use something called a counter which depends on what type of object you are counting and on top of this, there are various sound changes similar to the ones we saw with 六百, etc.. The counter themselves are usually single kanji characters that often have a special reading just for the counter. First, let’s learn the counters for dates



  1. 平成 【へい・せい】 – Heisei era
  2. 昭和 【しょう・わ】 – Showa era
  3. 和暦 【わ・れき】 – Japanese calendar
  4. 一日 【いち・にち】 – one day

The year is very easy. All you have to do is say the number and add 「」 which is pronounced here as 「ねん」. For example, Year 2003 becomes 2003年 (にせんさんねん). The catch is that there is another calendar which starts over every time a new emperor ascends the throne. The year is preceded by the era, for example the year 2000 is: 平成12年. My birthday, 1981 is 昭和56年 (The Showa era lasted from 1926 to 1989). You may think that you don’t need to know this but if you’re going to be filling out forms in Japan, they often ask you for your birthday or the current date in the Japanese calendar (和暦). So here’s a neat converter you can use to convert to the Japanese calendar.

Saying the months is actually easier than English because all you have to do is write the number (either in numerals or kanji) of the month and add 「」 which is read as 「がつ」. However, you need to pay attention to April (4月), July (7月), and September (9月) which are pronounced 「しがつ」、 「しちがつ」、and 「くがつ」 respectively.

Finally, we get to the days of the month, which is where the headache starts. The first day of the month is 「ついたち」 (一日); different from 「いちにち」 (一日), which means “one day”. Besides this and some other exceptions we’ll soon cover, you can simply say the number and add 「」 which is pronounced here as 「にち」. For example, the 26th becomes 26日にじゅうろくにち). Pretty simple, however, the first 10 days, the 14th, 19th, 20th, 29th have special readings that you must separately memorize. If you like memorizing things, you’ll have a ball here. Notice that the kanji doesn’t change but the reading does.

Days of the month
Day Kanji Reading
What day 何日 なん・にち
1st 一日 ついたち
2nd 二日 ふつ・か
3rd 三日 みっ・か
4th 四日 よっ・か
5th 五日 いつ・か
6th 六日 むい・か
7th 七日 なの・か
8th 八日 よう・か
9th 九日 ここの・か
10th 十日 とお・か
11th 十一日 じゅう・いち・にち
12th 十二日 じゅう・に・にち
13th 十三日 じゅう・さん・にち
14th 十四日 じゅう・よっ・か
15th 十五日 じゅう・ご・にち
16th 十六日 じゅう・ろく・にち
17th 十七日 じゅう・しち・にち
18th 十八日 じゅう・はち・にち
19th 十九日 じゅう・く・にち
20th 二十日 はつ・か
21st 二十一日 に・じゅう・いち・にち
22nd 二十二日 に・じゅう・に・にち
23rd 二十三日 に・じゅう・さん・にち
24th 二十四日 に・じゅう・よっ・か
25th 二十五日 に・じゅう・ご・にち
26th 二十六日 に・じゅう・ろく・にち
27th 二十七日 に・じゅう・しち・にち
28th 二十八日 に・じゅう・はち・にち
29th 二十九日 に・じゅう・く・にち
30th 三十日 さん・じゅう・にち
31st 三十一日 さん・じゅう・いち・にち

In Japan, the full format for dates follows the international date format and looks like: XXXX年YY月ZZ日. For example, today’s date would be: 2003年12月 2日


Now, we’ll learn how to tell time. The hour is given by saying the number and adding 「」 which is pronounced here as 「」. Here is a chart of exceptions to look out for.

英語 4 o’clock 7 o’clock 9 o’clock
漢字 四時 七時 九時
ひらがな よじ しちじ くじ

Notice how the numbers 4, 7, and 9 keep coming up to be a pain in the butt? Well, those and sometimes 1, 6 and 8 are the numbers to watch out for.

The minutes are given by adding 「」 which usually read as 「ふん」 with the following exceptions:

英語 1 min 3 min 4 min 6 min 8 min 10 min
漢字 一分 三分 四分 六分 八分 十分
ひらがな いっぷん さんぷん よんぷん ろっぷん はっぷん じゅっぷん

For higher number, you use the normal pronunciation for the higher digits and rotate around the same readings for 1 to 10. For instance, 24 minutes is 「にじゅうよんぷん」 (二十四分) while 30 minutes is 「さんじゅっぷん」 (三十分). There are also other less common but still correct pronunciations such as 「はちふん」 for 「八分」 and 「じっぷん」 for 「十分」 (this one is almost never used).

All readings for seconds consists of the number plus 「」, which is read as 「びょう」. There are no exceptions for seconds and all the readings are the same.

Some examples of time.

  1. 1時24分(いちじ・にじゅうよんぷん)
  2. 午後4時10分 (ごご・よじ・じゅっぷん)
    4:10 PM
  3. 午前9時16分 (ごぜん・くじ・じゅうろっぷん)
    9:16 AM
  4. 13時16分 (じゅうさんじ・じゅうろっぷん)
  5. 2時18分13秒 (にじ・じゅうはっぷん・じゅうさんびょう)

A Span of Time

Ha! I bet you thought you were done with dates and time, well guess again. This time we will learn counters for counting spans of time, days, months, and years. The basic counter for a span of time is 「」, which is read as 「かん」. You can attach it to the end of hours, days, weeks, and years. Minutes (in general) and seconds do not need this counter and months have a separate counter, which we will cover next.

  1. 二時間四十分 (にじかん・よんじゅっぷん)
    2 hours and 40 minutes
  2. 二十日間 (はつかかん)
    20 days
  3. 十五日間 (じゅうごにちかん)
    15 days
  4. 二年間 (にねんかん)
    two years
  5. 三週間 (さんしゅうかん)
    three weeks
  6. 一日 (いちにち)
    1 day

As mentioned before, a period of one day is 「一日」 (いちにち) which is different from the 1st of the month: 「ついたち」.

Pronunciations to watch out for when counting weeks is one week: 「一週間」 (いっしゅうかん) and 8 weeks: 「八週間」 (はっしゅうかん).

To count the number of months, you simple take a regular number and add 「か」 and 「」 which is pronounced here as 「げつ」 and notがつ」. The 「か」 used in this counter is usually written as a small katakana 「ヶ」 which is confusing because it’s still pronounced as 「か」 and not 「け」. The small 「ヶ」 is actually totally different from the katakana 「ケ」 and is really an abbreviation for the kanji 「箇」, the original kanji for the counter. This small 「ヶ」 is also used in some place names such as 「千駄」 and other counters, such as the counter for location described in the “Other Counters” section below.

In counting months, you should watch out for the following sound changes:



英語 1 month 6 months 10 months
漢字 一ヶ月 六ヶ月 十ヶ月
ひらがな いっかげつ ろっかげつ じゅっかげつ





Just like minutes, the high numbers rotate back using the same sounds for 1 to 10.

  1. 十一ヶ月 (じゅういっかげつ)
    Eleven months
  2. 二十ヶ月 (にじゅっかげつ)
    Twenty months
  3. 三十三ヶ月 (さんじゅうさんかげつ)
    Thirty three months

Other Counters

We’ll cover some of the most common counters so that you’ll be familiar with how counters work. This will hopefully allow you to learn other counters on your own because there are too many to even consider covering them all. The important thing to remember is that using the wrong counter is grammatically incorrect. If you are counting people, you must use the people counter, etc. Sometimes, it is acceptable to use a more generic counter when a less commonly used counter applies. Here are some counters.

日本語 When to Use
To count the number of people
To count long, cylindrical objects such as bottles or chopsticks
To count thin objects such as paper or shirts
To count bound objects usually books
To count small animals like cats or dogs
To count the age of a living creatures such as people
To count small (often round) objects
To count number of times
ヶ所(箇所) To count number of locations
To count any generic object that has a rare or no counter
Counting 1 to 10 (some variations might exist)
1 ひとり いっぽん いちまい いっさつ いっぴき いっさい いっこ いっかい いっかしょ ひとつ
2 ふたり にほん にまい にさつ にひき にさい にこ にかい にかしょ ふたつ
3 さんにん さんぼん さんまい さんさつ さんびき さんさい さんこ さんかい さんかしょ みっつ
4 よにん よんほん よんまい よんさつ よんひき よんさい よんこ よんかい よんかしょ よっつ
5 ごにん ごほん ごまい ごさつ ごひき ごさい ごこ ごかい ごかしょ いつつ
6 ろくにん ろっぽん ろくまい ろくさつ ろっぴき ろくさい ろっこ ろっかい ろっかしょ むっつ
7 しちにん ななほん ななまい ななさつ ななひき ななさい ななこ ななかい ななかしょ ななつ
8 はちにん はちほん はちまい はっさつ はっぴき はっさい はっこ はちかい はっかしょ やっつ
9 きゅうにん きゅうほん きゅうまい きゅうさつ きゅうひき きゅうさい きゅうこ きゅうかい きゅうかしょ ここのつ
10 じゅうにん じゅっぽん じゅうまい じゅっさつ じゅっぴき じゅっさい じゅっこ じゅっかい じゅっかしょ とお

The changed sounds have been highlighted.
You don’t count 0 because there is nothing to count. You can simply use 「ない」 or 「いない」. The chart has hiragana for pronunciation but, as before, it is usually written with either numbers or kanji plus the counter with the single exception of 「とお」 which is simply written as 「」.

For higher numbers, it’s the same as before, you use the normal pronunciation for the higher digits and rotate around the same readings for 1 to 10 except for 「一人」 and 「二人」 which transforms to the normal 「いち」 and 「」 once you get past the first two. So 「一人」 is 「ひとり」 while 「11人」 is 「じゅういちにん」. Also, the generic counter 「~つ」 only applies up to exactly ten items. Past that, you can just use regular plain numbers.

Note: The counter for age is often sometimes written as 「」 for those who don’t have the time to write out the more complex kanji. Plus, age 20 is usually read as 「はたち」 and not 「にじゅっさい」.

Using 「」 to show order

You can attach 「」 (read as 「」) to various counters to indicate the order. The most common example is the 「」 counter. For example, 「一番」 which means “number one” becomes “the first” when you add 「」 (一番目). Similarly, 「一回目」 is the first time, 「二回目」 is the second time, 「四人目」 is the fourth person, and so on.

Making Requests

Politely (and not so politely) making requests

Similar to asking for favors, which we learned in the last lesson, there are also various ways to make requests in Japanese. This is effectively the Japanese way of saying, “please do X”. We’ll first learn the most common way to make requests using a special conjugation of the verb 「くださる」 and the firmer 「なさる」. Finally, we’ll learn the rarely used excessively strong command form for the sake of completeness. You can safely skip the last part unless you’re an avid reader of manga.

「~ください」- a special conjugation of 「くださる


  1. それ – that
  2. くれる (ru-verb) – to give
  3. 漢字 【かん・じ】 – Kanji
  4. 書く 【か・く】 (u-verb) – to write
  5. ここ – here
  6. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) – to come
  7. 日本語 【に・ほん・ご】 – Japanese (language)
  8. 話す 【はな・す】 (u-verb) – to speak
  9. 消しゴム 【け・し・ごむ】 – eraser
  10. 貸す 【か・す】 (u-verb) – lend
  11. 遠い 【とお・い】 (i-adj) – far
  12. 所 【ところ】 – place
  13. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  14. お父さん【お・とう・さん】 – father (polite)
  15. 時計 【と・けい】 – watch; clock
  16. 壊れる 【こわ・れる】 (ru-verb) – to break
  17. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) – to say

ください」 is a special conjugation of 「くださる」, which is the honorific form of 「くれる」. We will learn more about honorific and humble forms in the beginning of the next major section. We are going over 「ください」 here because it has a slight difference in meaning from the normal 「くれる」 and the honorific 「くださる」. 「ください」 is different from 「くれる」 in the following fashion:

  1. それください
    Please give me that.
  2. それくれる
    Can you give me that?

As you can see 「ください」 is a direct request for something while 「くれる」 is used as a question asking for someone to give something. However, it is similar to 「くれる」 in that you can make a request for an action by simply attaching it to the te-form of the verb.

  1. 漢字書いてください
    Please write it in kanji.
  2. ゆっくり話してください
    Please speak slowly.

The rules for negative requests are same as the rules for 「くれる」 as well.

  1. 落書き書かないください
    Please don’t write graffiti.
  2. こここないでください
    Please don’t come here.

In casual speech, it is often common to simply drop the 「ください」 part.

  1. 日本語話して
    Please speak in Japanese.
  2. 消しゴム貸して
    Please lend me the eraser.
  3. 遠い行かない
    Please don’t go to a far place.

For those who want to sound particularly commanding and manly, it is also possible to use 「くれる」 with the 「る」 removed.

  1. 日本語話してくれ
    Speak in Japanese.
  2. 消しゴム貸してくれ
    Lend me the eraser.
  3. 遠い行かないくれ
    Don’t go to a far place.

Because 「ください」 like the masu-form must always come at the end sentence or a relative clause, you cannot use it to directly modify a noun. For example, the following is not possible with 「ください」.

  • お父さんくれた時計壊れた
    The clock that father gave broke.

Of course, since direct quotes is merely repeating something someone said in verbatim, you can put practically anything in a direct quote.

  • それくださいお父さん言った
    Father said, “Please give me that.”

Using 「~ちょうだい」 as a casual request


  1. 頂戴 【ちょうだい】 – receiving (humble)
  2. 致す 【いたす】 (u-verb) – to do (humble)
  3. スプーン – spoon
  4. ここ – here
  5. 名前 【な・まえ】 – name
  6. 書く 【か・く】 (u-verb) – to write

A casual alternative of 「ください」 is 「ちょうだい」. While it can be used by anyone, it has a slightly feminine and childish nuance and is always written in Hiragana. Written in Kanji, it is usually used in a very formal expression such as 「頂戴致します」. Grammatically, it’s used exactly the same way as 「ください」.


  1. スプーンちょうだい
    Please give me the spoon.
  2. ここ名前書いてちょうだい
    Please write your name here.

Using 「~なさい」 to make firm but polite requests


  1. 食べる 【たべ・る】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  2. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) – to drink
  3. する (exception) – to do
  4. いい (i-adj) – good
  5. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) – to ask; to listen
  6. ここ – here
  7. 座る 【すわ・る】 (ru-verb) – to sit
  8. まだ – yet
  9. いっぱい – full
  10. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  11. たくさん – a lot (amount)
  12. それ – that
  13. 思う 【おも・う】 (u-verb) – to think
  14. そう – (things are) that way

なさい」 is a special honorific conjugation of 「する」. It is a soft yet firm way of issuing a command. It is used, for example, when a mother is scolding her child or when a teacher wants a delinquent student to pay attention. Unlike 「ください」, 「なさい」 only applies to positive verbs and uses the stem of the verb instead of the te-form. It also cannot be used by itself but must be attached to another verb.

Using 「なさい」 to make firm but polite requests

  • Conjugate the verb to its stem and attach 「なさい

    1. 食べ食べなさい
    2. 飲みなさい
    3. するなさい


  1. よく聞きなさい
    Listen well!
  2. ここ座りなさい
    Sit here.

You can also drop 「さい」 portion of the 「なさい」 to make a casual version of this grammar.

  1. まだいっぱいあるから、たくさん食べな
    There’s still a lot, so eat a lot.
  2. それいい思うなら、そうよ。
    If you think that’s fine, then go ahead and do it.

The Command Form


  1. くれる (ru-verb) – to give
  2. 死ぬ 【し・ぬ】 (u-verb) – to die
  3. する (exception) – to do
  4. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) – to come
  5. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  6. 着る 【き・る】 (ru-verb) – to wear
  7. 信じる 【しん・じる】 (ru-verb) – to believe
  8. 寝る 【ね・る】 (ru-verb) – to sleep
  9. 起きる 【お・きる】 (ru-verb) – to wake; to occur
  10. 出る 【で・る】 (ru-verb) – to come out
  11. 掛ける 【か・ける】 (ru-verb) – to hang
  12. 捨てる 【す・てる】 (ru-verb) – to throw away
  13. 話す 【はな・す】 (u-verb) – to speak
  14. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) – to ask; to listen
  15. 遊ぶ 【あそ・ぶ】 (u-verb) – to play
  16. 待つ 【ま・つ】 (u-verb) – to wait
  17. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) – to drink
  18. 直る 【なお・る】 (u-verb) – to be fixed
  19. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) – to buy
  20. 好き 【す・き】 (na-adj) – likable
  21. あっち – that way (over there) (abbr of あちら)
  22. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  23. 早い 【はや・い】 (i-adj) – fast; early
  24. 酒 【さけ】 – alcohol
  25. 持つ 【も・つ】 (u-verb) – to hold

We will go over the command form in the interest of covering all the possible verb conjugations. In reality, the command form is rarely used as Japanese people tend to be too polite to use imperatives. Also, this coarse type of speech is rarely, if indeed at all, used by females who tend to use 「なさい」 or an exasperated 「くれる」 when angry or irritated. This form is only really useful for reading or watching fictional works. You may often see or hear 「死ね!」 (“Die!”) in fiction which, of course, you’ll never hear in real life. (I hope!)

Be sure to note that, in addition to the familiar 「する」, 「くる」 exception verbs, 「くれる」 is also an exception for the command form.

Rules for creating command form

  • For ru-verbs: Replace the 「る」 with 「ろ」
  • For u-verbs: Change the last character from an / u / vowel to an / e / vowel
  • Exceptions:
    1. するしろ
    2. くるこい
    3. くれるくれ
Sample ru-verbs
Plain Command
食べ 食べ
信じ 信じ
起き 起き
掛け 掛け
捨て 捨て
Sample u-verbs
Plain Command
Exception Verbs
Plain Command
する しろ
くる こい
くれる くれ


  1. 好きしろ
    Do as you please.
  2. あっち行け
    Go away!
  3. 早く持ってきてくれ
    Hurry up and bring me some alcohol.

Negative Command


  1. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  2. する (exception) – to do
  3. それ – that
  4. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  5. 変 【へん】 (na-adj) – strange
  6. こと – event, matter
  7. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) – to say

The negative command form is very simple: simply attach 「な」 to either ru-verbs or u-verbs. Don’t confuse this with the 「な」 sentence-ending particle we will be learning at the end of this section. The intonation is totally different.

Using the negative command form

  • Attach 「な」 to the verb

    1. 行く → 行く
    2. する → する


  1. それ食べる
    Don’t eat that!
  2. こと言う
    Don’t say such weird things!

This is not to be confused with the shortened version of 「~なさい」 we just learned in the last section. The most obvious difference (besides the clear difference in tone) is that in 「~なさい」, the verb is first converted to the stem while the negative command has no conjugation. For example, for 「する」, 「しな」 would be the short version of 「しなさい」 while 「するな」 would be a negative command.

Giving and Receiving

Japanese people like gifts


  1. お歳暮 【お・せい・ぼ】 – year-end presents
  2. お中元 【お・ちゅう・げん】 – Bon festival gifts
  3. あげる (ru-verb) – to give; to raise
  4. くれる (ru-verb) – to give
  5. もらう (u-verb) – to receive

One thing about Japanese culture is that they’re big on giving gifts. There are many different customs involving giving and receiving gifts (お歳暮お中元、etc.) and when Japanese people go traveling, you can be sure that they’re going to be picking up souvenirs to take back as gifts. Even when attending marriages or funerals, people are expected to give a certain amount of money as a gift to help fund the ceremony. You can see why properly learning how to express the giving and receiving of favors and items is a very important and useful skill. For some reason, the proper use of 「あげる」、「くれる」、and 「もらう」 has always haunted people studying Japanese as being horribly complex and intractable. I hope to prove in this section that it is conceptually quite straightforward and simple.

When to use 「あげる


  1. あげる (ru-verb) – to give; to raise
  2. 私 【わたし】 – me; myself; I
  3. 友達 【とも・だち】 – friend
  4. プレゼント – present
  5. これ – this
  6. 先生 【せん・せい】 – teacher
  7. 車 【くるま】 – car
  8. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) – to buy
  9. 代わり 【か・わり】 – substitute
  10. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  11. 学生 【がく・せい】 – student
  12. 父【ちち】 – father
  13. いい (i-adj) – good
  14. こと – event, matter
  15. 教える 【おし・える】 (ru-verb) – to teach; to inform

あげる」 is the Japanese word for “to give” seen from the speaker’s point of view. You must use this verb when you are giving something or doing something for someone else.


  1. 友達プレゼントあげた
    I gave present to friend.
  2. これ先生あげる
    I’ll give this to teacher.

In order to express the giving of a favor (verb) you must use the ever useful te-form and then attach 「あげる」. This applies to all the other sections in this lesson as well.

  1. 買ってあげるよ。
    I’ll give you the favor of buying a car.
  2. 代わり行ってあげる
    I’ll give you the favor of going in your place.

For third-person, this verb is used when the speaker is looking at it from the giver’s point of view. We’ll see the significance of this when we examine the verb 「くれる」 next.

  1. 学生これ先生あげる
    The student give this to teacher. (looking at it from the student’s point of view)
  2. 友達いいこと教えてあげた
    Friend gave the favor of teaching something good to my dad. (looking at it from the friend’s point of view)

Using 「やる」 to mean 「あげる


  1. 犬 【いぬ】 – dog
  2. 餌 【えさ】 – food for animals
  3. やる (u-verb) – to do

Usually used for pets, animals, and such, you can substitute 「やる」, which normally means “to do”, for 「あげる」. You shouldn’t use this type of 「やる」 for people because it is used when looking down on someone and can be offensive.

  • やった
    Did you give the dog food?

Here, 「やる」 does not mean “to do” but “to give”. You can tell because “doing food to dog” doesn’t make any sense.

When to use 「くれる


  1. くれる (ru-verb) – to give
  2. 友達 【とも・だち】 – friend
  3. 私 【わたし】 – me; myself; I
  4. プレゼント – present
  5. これ – this
  6. 先生 【せん・せい】 – teacher
  7. 車 【くるま】 – car
  8. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) – to buy
  9. 代わり 【か・わり】 – substitute
  10. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  11. 学生 【がく・せい】 – student
  12. 父【ちち】 – father
  13. いい (i-adj) – good
  14. こと – event, matter
  15. 教える 【おし・える】 (ru-verb) – to teach; to inform
  16. あげる (ru-verb) – to give; to raise
  17. 全部 【ぜん・ぶ】 – everything
  18. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat

くれる」 is also a verb meaning “to give” but unlike 「あげる」, it is from the receiver’s point of view. You must use this verb when someone else is giving something or doing something for you (effectively the opposite of 「あげる」).


  1. 友達プレゼントくれた
    Friend gave present to me.
  2. これは、先生くれた
    Teacher gave this to me.
  3. 買ってくれるの?
    You’ll give me the favor of buying a car for me?
  4. 代わり行ってくれる
    Will you give me the favor of going in my place?

Similarly, when used in the third-person, the speaker is speaking from the receiver’s point of view and not the giver.

  1. 先生これ学生くれる
    The teacher give this to student. (looking at it from the student’s point of view)
  2. 友達いいこと教えてくれた
    Friend gave favor of teaching something good to my dad. (looking at it from the dad’s point of view)

The following diagram illustrates the direction of giving from the point of view of the speaker.

Favor Diagram

From the speaker’s point of view, all the giving done to others “go up” to everybody else while the giving done by everybody else “goes down” to the speaker. This is probably related to the fact that there is an identical verb 「上げる」 meaning “to raise” that contains the character for “above” () and that the honorific version of 「くれる」 is 「下さる」 with the character for down (). This restriction allows us to make certain deductions from vague sentences like the following:

  • 先生教えてあげるんですか。
    Teacher, will you be the one to give favor of teaching to… [anybody other than the speaker]?

Because all giving done to the speaker must always use 「くれる」, we know that the teacher must be doing it for someone else and not the speaker. The speaker is also looking at it from the teacher’s point of view as doing a favor for someone else.

  • 先生教えてくれるんですか。
    Teacher, will you be the one to give favor of teaching to… [anybody including the speaker]?

Because the giver is not the speaker, the teacher is either giving to the speaker or anyone else. The speaker is viewing it from the receiver’s point of view as receiving a favor done by the teacher.

Let’s see some mistakes to watch out for.

  • 全部食べてくれました
    くれる」 is being used as giving done by the speaker. (Wrong)
  • 全部食べてあげました
    I gave favor of eating it all. (Correct)
  • 友達プレゼントあげた
    あげる」 is being used as giving to the speaker. (Wrong)
  • 友達プレゼントくれた。- Friend gave present to me. (Correct)

When to use 「もらう


  1. 私 【わたし】 – me; myself; I
  2. 友達 【とも・だち】 – friend
  3. プレゼント – present
  4. もらう (u-verb) – to receive
  5. これ – this
  6. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) – to buy
  7. 宿題 【しゅく・だい】 – homework
  8. チェック – check
  9. する (exception) – to do
  10. 時間 【じ・かん】 – time
  11. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  12. 無理 【む・り】 – impossible
  13. その – that (abbr. of それの)
  14. 時計 【と・けい】 – watch; clock

もらう」 meaning, “to receive” has only one version unlike 「あげるくれる」 so there’s very little to explain. One thing to point out is that since you receive from someone, 「から」 is also appropriate in addition to the 「に」 target particle.


  1. 友達プレゼントもらった
    I received present from friend.
  2. 友達からプレゼントもらった
    I received present from friend.
  3. これ友達買ってもらった
    About this, received the favor of buying it from friend.
  4. 宿題チェックしてもらいたかったけど、時間なくて無理だった。
    I wanted to receive the favor of checking homework but there was no time and it was impossible.

「もらう」 is seen from the perspective of the receiver, so in the case of first-person, others usually don’t receive things from you. However, you might want to use 「からもらう」 when you want to emphasize that fact that the other person received it from you. For instance, if you wanted to say, “Hey, I gave you that!” you would use 「あげる」. However, you would use 「もらう」 if you wanted to say, “Hey, you got that from me!”

  • その時計からもらったのよ。
    (He) received that watch from me.

Asking favors with 「くれる」 or 「もらえる


  1. 千円 【せん・えん】 – 1,000 yen
  2. 貸す 【か・す】 (u-verb) – lend
  3. する (exception) – to do
  4. くれる (ru-verb) – to give
  5. もらう (u-verb) – to receive
  6. あなた – you
  7. 私 【わたし】 – me; myself; I
  8. ちょっと – a little
  9. 静か 【しず・か】 (na-adj) – quiet
  10. 漢字 【かん・じ】 – Kanji
  11. 書く 【か・く】 (u-verb) – to write

You can make requests by using 「くれる」 and the potential form of 「もらう」 (can I receive the favor of…). We’ve already seen an example of this in example 4 of the 「くれる」 section. Because requests are favors done for the speaker, you cannot use 「あげる」 in this situation.


  1. 千円貸してくれる
    Will you give me the favor of lending 1000 yen?
  2. 千円貸してもらえる
    Can I receive the favor of you lending 1000 yen?

Notice that the two sentences essentially mean the same thing. This is because the giver and receiver has been omitted because it is obvious from the context. If we were to write out the full sentence, it would look like this:

  1. あなた千円貸してくれる
    Will you give me the favor of lending 1000 yen?
  2. あなた千円貸してもらえる
    Can I receive the favor of you lending 1000 yen?

It is not normal to explicitly include the subject and target like this when directly addressing someone but is provided here to illustrate the change of subject and target depending on the verb 「くれる」 and 「もらえる」.

You can use the negative to make the request a little softer. You’ll see that this is true in many other types of grammar.

  1. ちょっと静かしてくれない
    Won’t you be a little quieter?
  2. 漢字書いてもらえませんか。
    Can you write this in kanji for me?

Asking someone to not do something


  1. 全部 【ぜん・ぶ】 – everything
  2. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  3. くれる (ru-verb) – to give
  4. 高い 【たか・い】 (i-adj) – high; tall; expensive
  5. 物 【もの】 – object
  6. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) – to buy

In order to request that someone not do something, you simply attach 「で」 to the negative form of the verb and proceed as before.

  1. 全部食べないくれますか。
    Can you not eat it all?
  2. 高い買わないくれる
    Can you not buy expensive thing(s)?