I'm studying Japanese at University (first year) and the only thing I can't get my head around so far is い adjectives.

I understand how and what factors are needed to conjugate them, but do you only conjugate い adjectives if they are at the end of the sentence working like a verb or do you also have to conjugate them if they are before a noun? I've been told different answers to this so it's a little confusing.

Also, in my Basic Kanji Book which we use to learn Kanji, two examples of ''a new car'' are given in different places - 新しい車 (read as あたらしいくるま) and 新車 (read as しんしゃ). Are there certain conditions needed to decide which one to use?

I know that I'm probably asking simple questions here and I'm probably just being silly by not thinking about this in the right way but I've tried understanding them by studying and searching online but I'm still confused so I would be really grateful if someone could explain where I'm going wrong.

  • 新しい車 should be read あたらしいくるま, shouldn't it?\
    – Angelos
    Feb 4, 2016 at 23:10

1 Answer 1


If an i-adjective is directly modifying a noun then it is written in the dictionary form. No conjugation is necessary, so 新しい車 is correct. btw 車 is pronounced くるま in this case.

新車{しんしゃ}is a noun in its own right. It is not a combination of an adjective modifying a noun.

Adjectives can be altered before modifying the noun. For example you can say おいしそうなケーキ, a cake that looks delicous. In this case you are converting the i-adjective into a na-adjective to modify cake, but that's a little more advanced.

  • Ah thank you! I think I understand now, but in my BKB book it does show the adjectives being conjugated before the noun e.g. 新しかった車 which is what threw me off. We're also studying the na-adjectives but it was just the i-adjectives I didn't understand. Oh and sorry, I read 新しい車 wrong for some silly reason, I realise the 車 is read asくるま now.
    – A.Louise
    Feb 4, 2016 at 23:26
  • 1
    新しい means "new", and 新しかった means "was new", so 新しかった車 means "the car that was new (but isn't new now)". For -na adjectives, the な bit on the end that joins the adjective to the noun is sometimes described as a copula -- like English "is" -- and this can conjugate in a similar way to show the past tense, by changing from な to だった. Consider [新鮮]{しんせん}な[魚]{さかな}, "fresh fish". Here, [新鮮]{しんせん} means "fresh", and [新鮮]{しんせん}だった means "was fresh", so 新鮮だった魚{さかな} means "the fish that was fresh (but isn't fresh now)". Does that help clarify things for you? Feb 5, 2016 at 1:08
  • @A.Louise Note also that just because the sentence is in the past tense that doesn't mean you should conjugate the adjective (when it modifies a noun). "I bought a new car" -> 新しい車を買った。not 新しかった車を買った。 Feb 5, 2016 at 19:32

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .