I have been learning Japanese for a month now, using various online sources and the Genki I textbook. In the textbook, lesson 1 introduces the 「XはYです」sentence structure and although I'm way past this lesson, I always return to this concept because it's simple, yet confusing for me.

The grammatical explanation given to me was "X is Y. As for X, it is Y." Unlike the other sentence structures mentioned in the book, for example noun1のnoun2 (to express possession), there was no indication whether the X and Y variables in 「XはYです」were supposed to be a specific part of speech.

I know I can replace the variables with nouns, for example 私はがくせいです to say "I am a student." And that they are interchangeable, for example がくせいは私です to say "The student is me.

If nouns are interchangeable, can a noun and an adjective be interchangeable as well? For example, 私はかわいいです (I am cute) to かわいいは私です(Cute I am). If not, is there a sentence structure where I can state the adjective first before mentioning the noun?


  • 1
    Note that the です in 私はかわいいです is very different from the です in 私はがくせいです. In the former sentence です is just used to add politeness. In the latter it means 'is'. As with all i-adjectives the meaning 'is' is implicitly contained within かわいい. Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 7:25

1 Answer 1


X は Y です

  • Noun, Noun Phrase ⇒ X
  • Adjective, Noun, Noun Phrase ⇒ Y

かわいい by itself is an adjective, so it can't go into X

×「かわいいは私です」 - This is not OK

If you add の you can make a noun phrase and put that before the noun at Y

○「かわいいのは私です」 - This is OK

You can see more information about how の can be used to make noun phrases (nominalization) at the links below:

http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/nounparticles http://www.imabi.net/l112nominalization.htm

  • What is it called when の is used that way? I've only seen it as a possessive marker between two nouns. Can you give me a link so I can learn about it? Thank you. Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 4:01
  • I edited my answer and added some links that I think will be helpful.
    – sazarando
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 5:07
  • Much appreciated and one more thing, what is 「かわいいのは私です」in English? Does it have the same translation as 私はかわいいです (I am cute)? Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 5:34
  • They are different. As you said「私はかわいいです」means "I am cute" and「 かわいいのは私です 」means "I am the one who is cute".
    – sazarando
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 6:17

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