83
votes
3answers
8k views

What's the difference between wa (は) and ga (が)?

When is it correct to use は but not が, and when is it correct to use が but not は? Are there any times when you can use either without changing the meaning of the sentence? How does switching change ...
54
votes
5answers
9k views

Differences among -たら、なら、-んだったら、-えば, etc

Japanese language has a lot of patterns for "if" clauses. What are the differences among the following patterns and how do we choose to use one over the others?: 行ったら 行くなら 行けば 行くんだったら 行くのなら 行くとしたら ...
26
votes
5answers
7k views

Why are katakana preferred over hiragana or kanji sometimes?

I noticed that "dame", which means "not good" or "don't do that", is sometimes written in manga as katakana. I was wondering, is it because katakana is used to express a strong feeling? Sometimes, ...
12
votes
2answers
746 views

How does the の work in 「日本人の知らない日本語」?

I've read that 日本人の知らない日本語 translates to: "Japanese (language) that Japanese (people) don't know". But I don't understand how or what the の does in that sentence. If I'm not mistaken 知らない日本語 could ...
41
votes
1answer
6k views

What is the difference between the nominalizers こと and の?

As Derek mentioned in his postscript, both こと and の are nominalizers that can turn a verb into a noun. ピアノを弾く【ひく】。 I play the piano. ピアノを弾く【ひく】のが好き【すき】です。 I like playing the piano. ...
64
votes
9answers
5k views

What is the こと in sentences such as あなたのことが好きだ?

There were a lot of great answers here. I gave the checkmark to ento's answer because I felt it most completely explained all aspects of this use of こと. But many of the other answers are excellent, so ...
29
votes
3answers
3k views

Difference between -ていく and -てくる

Can someone explain the differences between v-ていく and v-てくる for me. I know that they both express some kind of ongoing action (like a place getting crowded). For example, what's the difference between ...
28
votes
3answers
2k views

When is Vている the continuation of action and when is it the continuation of state?

Last night, when I asked my wife to send an email to me, she said もう送っている which I took to mean that she was "sending the message". (The message had a big attachment so I imagined that it could take a ...
31
votes
7answers
5k views

What is the difference between the negative forms -ず and -ぬ?

-ず and -ぬ are two alternatives to the negative form -ない / -ません. But I noticed that depending on the word, it's either -ず or -ぬ, although it seems like some words can take both suffixes. Some examples ...
18
votes
1answer
2k views

~うございます - keigo い-adjectives

I'm not sure if this is actual keigo, or just a polite form of adjectives. Anyway, there are several that we're all familiar with that are still used today. はやい → おはようございます ありがたい → ...
10
votes
2answers
643 views

Making sense of transitive usage of 行く and 来る - 「を行く」 and 「を来る」

I think it's known that some intransitive verbs can take を particle and be used as transitive verbs such as for example 「私のことを分かってくれない」. While using 分かる transitively would require specific scenarios ...
18
votes
4answers
4k views

Distinguishing certain characters in handwriting and print (Similar-looking Kana and Kanji)

Japanese has some sets of characters which look very similar or even identical. Obviously, context is usually more than enough to distinguish which character is intended, but I'm wondering if there ...
29
votes
2answers
4k views

Why does Japanese have two kinds of adjectives? (-i adjectives and -na adjectives)

Japanese has two kinds of adjectives known by several terms but the ones I know are i-adjectives and na-adjectives - why? I recall that Japanese adjectives are much more like verbs than in English ...
46
votes
10answers
2k views

How should I choose between [知]{し}る and わかる?

Both 知る and わかる get used for "know", "understand", "learn", "find out", and various other concepts. How do you know which to use when? Are there any rules to help you decide? Additionally, both of ...
39
votes
4answers
6k views

Is じゃないです equally correct as じゃありません?

Text books normally teach that the negative of です is じゃありません. However it seems very common to hear native Japanese use じゃないです. Is this slang or somehow less correct than じゃありません? Would it be marked ...
33
votes
2answers
5k views

What are the rules regarding “mute vowels” (“u” after “s” and “i” after “sh”)?

When you first begin to learn Japanese you are taught that Japanese has no stress and each syllable should be pronounced equally. You also learn that certain vowels are not pronounced, or only ...
23
votes
4answers
16k views

What exactly is “なの” (nano)?

I asked a female Japanese friend to translate a sentence for me and it ends in "nano" which I took to be either an alternative question particle to -ne or -ka; or possibly two particles I don't know ...
14
votes
2answers
887 views

Are there general rules on when to use kanji vs. kana?

This post is inspired by Tokyo Nagoya's comment in 出来できる vs ~えます form for “can”, “able to” asking why everyone was writing 出来る in kanji in their responses. As I mentioned in my reply to his comment, ...
14
votes
3answers
743 views

When is it okay to use あります with a living subject?

When learning Japanese everyone's taught いる is for a living thing and ある is for non-living things. However, I recently saw the following sentence ... あと、サッカー選手でもあります。 ... which ends in ある / あります ...
31
votes
5answers
4k views

What is the difference between 〜となる and 〜になる?

Is it a nuance difference? Is it formality? EDIT For example: 請求書のお支払いは現金のみとなりますので、ご了承くださいませ。 請求書のお支払いは現金のみになりますので、ご了承くださいませ。 I just made that example up, but for some reason, my gut ...
19
votes
2answers
2k views

The difference between が and を with the potential form of a verb.

When using the potential form of a verb, I was taught that the particle を becomes が. However, in real life this seems to not always be the case. I've even heard Japanese people use を instead of が ...
30
votes
4answers
2k views

How did “little tsu” become a lengthener?

How did it come about historically that っ preceding a sound would geminate it? Is it really a little つ or are they just near homomorphs?
16
votes
6answers
10k views

Can somebody explain the various words and combinations thereof used for thanking?

To my knowledge there are three words which can be used in thanking and they seem to be usable together in some combinations: どうも (d­ōmo) どうもありがとう (dōmo arigatō) ありがとう (arigatō) ありがとうございます (arigatō ...
24
votes
6answers
1k views

Why are some lyrics' words written in kanji whose usual reading is not how it is sung?

Some song lyrics in the official lyric book that accompanies the CD is sung as another word. Usually, the way it is sung is given as a furigana on the kanji: Written: 君が希望に変わってゆく          ...
13
votes
2answers
1k views

Meaning of ぬ added to 連用形 / masu-stem, as in 風立ちぬ

What does the ぬ at the end of 立ち specify? I can't find a verb that is just 立ちぬ, is this some kind of special form? Can this be done with other verbs as well? 風立ちぬ, for reference, is Miyazaki's new ...
10
votes
2answers
562 views

が and に interchangeability and difference in meaning

Consider these sentences: だれ{が・に}これが出来るか だれ{が・に}日本語が分からないか When both が and に are acceptable, what is their difference in meaning and practical usage?
9
votes
2answers
566 views

この道をまっすぐ行ってください。 Why を and not で?

In a quiz, I got a question where one had to complete with に、を、で or が the following sentence: この道(?)まっすぐ行ってください。 The correct answer being: この道をまっすぐ行ってください。 It always seems more natural to ...
9
votes
2answers
320 views

Proportion and Rate

How do I form a sentence pattern for: The more/less X happens, the more/less Y happens E.g. The more you stir, the faster the salt dissolves. The colder the weather, the more ...
11
votes
2answers
8k views

When should I replace kanji with hiragana?

When should I write 海山 and when should I write うみやま?
11
votes
2answers
405 views

What are some well known exceptions for 居る (いる) and 有る (ある)?

Today I heard 人形がいる, so I googled around because I thought 居る was only for living things, but I found many examples of this usage. Many for 人形がある as well. Are there other exceptions for いる/ある?
14
votes
2answers
473 views

Exceptional compounding forms

There are a number of Japanese words which have distinct compounding forms: -a/-e alternation: 天・雨、酒、上、風、目 — many examples. -u/-i alternation: 神([神]{かむ}[集]{つど}ふ)、月([月]{つく}[読]{よみ}) -o/-i alternation: ...
6
votes
1answer
685 views

What is the meaning of りゃ in this phrase?

I came across this phrase while reading an interview. そういう時はなんて答えりゃいいんだ。 I think it means "At a time like that, such a reply/response is good." But I don't understand the usage of りゃ . I couldn't ...
32
votes
8answers
5k views

Particles: に vs. で

I have progressed pretty far in Japanese, but when I construct Japanese sentences, I still get these two particles mixed up. For example, when talking about being inside something, I don't know when ...
20
votes
3answers
6k views

The many ways to say “and” in Japanese

In English, we just have one word for the conjunction and which works just fine for many categories, but in Japanese, there are separate words: と joins nouns together in a closed list や joins nouns ...
36
votes
7answers
4k views

When going somewhere, is there any difference between e (へ) and ni (に)?

Can you use へ and に interchangeably, as in 北海道へ行く and 北海道に行く? Are there any subtle differences in the use of these two?
20
votes
2answers
3k views

What are the guidelines of omitting particles?

I've recently discovered that certain particles could be omitted from a Japanese sentence (to help make it shorter), and still preserve the original meaning. Unfortunately, most resources about this ...
17
votes
6answers
2k views

How should I select what first-person pronoun to use?

I've always had trouble choosing which first person pronoun to use - 私 (watashi), 僕 (boku), or 俺 (おれ). What kind of factors should I keep in mind when choosing between these? Is it common to vary ...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the meaning of ~んです?

This sentence ending has started to creep up more and more in my current Japanese classes, and I'm still a bit unsure what all it can mean, how to use it, or even when I should think to use it. My ...
24
votes
4answers
10k views

How to choose between “よん” (yon) vs “し” (shi) for “四” (4) and “しち” (shichi) vs “なな” (nana) for “七” (7)?

Two numbers in Japanese have two pronunciation alternatives. 四 / 4 can be pronounced either "よん" (yon) or "し" (shi) 七 / 7 can be pronounced either "しち" (shichi) or "なな" (nana) I know that "し" ...
13
votes
4answers
2k views

Pronunciation of す in です and the end of ます verbs

I've always been curious about the pronunciation of the す in です and at the end of 〜ます verbs. Most commonly the "u" sound is inaudible, but sometimes by some people it's more pronounced, and some ...
9
votes
1answer
494 views

なく vs. なくて and stem form vs. てform as conjunctions

I have been wondering about this, since every time I hand in a 作文 in a Japanese class, I'm corrected on conjunctions. It seems to me that whenever I use a てform as a conjunction, a response comes back ...
23
votes
6answers
928 views

Pluralization in Japanese: usage of -たち and -ら

I know that -たち and -ら pluralize the nouns they come after (or indicate a group that the noun is part of), but most of the time the plural in Japanese is implicit. When is it appropriate or necessary ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

What does どうした mean and how does it differ from 何をした?

I've never really understood how どうした works and hope someone can explain or point me towards further reading. For example, in my textbook, the following question is asked in relation to a short ...
17
votes
2answers
2k views

Passive-transitive-verb vs. Intransitive-verb (他動詞の受け身 vs. 自動詞)

I think I know the answer to this, but it still creeps up in my mind all the time; something I'd like to research more. I want to know technical differences as well as common usage. When do you use ...
9
votes
1answer
1k views

Aren't がる and たがる the same thing?

In my JLPT practise book, it has two different entries, one to explain がる and one to explaining たがる. It offeres these example sentences to differentiate them: うちの子{こ}は新{あたら}しいものを見{み}ると、すぐほしがる。 ...
26
votes
4answers
6k views

What is the difference between “に” and “には”?

The title should be pretty self-explanatory. What meanings does each convey? And in what kinds of circumstances would one be used instead of the other? For example, what are the differences between ...
19
votes
3answers
1k views

Kanji for native Japanese concepts: Kun'yomi spanning multiple morphemes

There are a few words, which are written with Kanji imported from China, but where the intended native Japanese meaning would prefer a different choice of Kanji. My favourite examples are 雷 vs. 神鳴り ...
20
votes
3answers
3k views

Contrasting っぽい、らしい、みたい

For example, the following 3: 女っぽい (おんなっぽい) 女らしい (おんならしい) 女みたい (おんなみたい) In what situations would you use っぽい over らしい? Does っぽい have negative connotations? Are 女らしい and 女みたい interchangeable as in ...
11
votes
4answers
1k views

Does Vて+いる always mean an action already completed?

For the longest time, I thought that a verb ending in て+いる meant that one was currently doing an action, similar to how we use ~ing in English to mean a contuinuing state. So 食{た}べている means "eating". ...
18
votes
2answers
762 views

When writing for general public, is there a general guideline for selecting kanji?

After reading numerous publications, I've spotted a trend or custom on determining whether kanji is or is not used for certain words. The most obvious ones are: こと・事 …が実は犯人だったということがわかる。 ...

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