When multiple adjectives refer to the same noun, the adjective(s) other than the last one are usually written in the て-form:


However writing all adjectives in their い-form is not (necessarily?) incorrect either AFAIK.


Can anyone shed some light as to how they differ in meaning/nuance, and why and when anyone would opt for form ②?


2 Answers 2


大きい重い本 is usually unnatural and you should avoid it in most cases. But there are some exceptions:

  • It may appear in lyrics and poems where rhythm is important.
  • When a comma is inserted between the two adjectives, the first one can be in the dictionary form: 「大きい、重い本」 This may even sound more formal since the te-form can sound a little colloquial/informal depending on the situation.
  • Although uncommon, when the same adjective is repeated for emphasis, you can say, for example, 「遠い遠い昔」 ("long long ago").
  • When the first adjective is part of a relative clause, you can say, for example, 「文字が大きい重い本」 ("a heavy book using large characters").

大きくて重い本 : Big and heavy book

Both adjectives qualify 本 and only 本, whereas:

大きい重い本 : Big (heavy book)

大きい qualifies 重い本 with 重い qualifying 本

  • 1
    Thanks for your answer. You seem to suggest that ① contains a succession of adjectives whereas ② does not? However, in English at least, I believe that "big" in "big heavy book" qualifies "book", not "heavy book". In other words, it seems to me that "big and heavy book" and "big heavy book" are the same, semantically speaking.
    – Will
    Dec 3, 2018 at 23:00
  • I admit that the "succession of adjectives" wasn't the best explanation so I edited. Now grammatically speaking, (in Japanese at least) when two adjectives follow each other with the same form like in this example, the first one qualifies the rest of the clause which acts like a nominal group. So even though that slight nuance isn't really important most of the time, I think it's important to point it out, firstly for picky people, and secondly because it could be a verb instead of the second adjective. For example: 大きい光っている装飾
    – user31974
    Dec 3, 2018 at 23:31
  • Which I admit is very uncommon, but not wrong at all. You just have to understand it as 大きい「光っている装飾」 and it would mean something like "the big shining ornament" (usually said: verb + adjective + noun instead of adjective + verb + noun) @Will
    – user31974
    Dec 3, 2018 at 23:32
  • OK, "the first one qualifies the rest of the clause which acts like a nominal group" sounds plausible. For now though, I'm going to wait a while to see if someone can bring up some kind of "authoritative" source to back that assertion up.
    – Will
    Dec 4, 2018 at 0:29
  • Also, just a little suggestion, but perhaps you could use parentheses for ② to emphasize your interpretation of that otherwise ambiguous looking English: "big (heavy book)" -- then again maybe that's just because I read programming languages all day.
    – Will
    Dec 4, 2018 at 0:32

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