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Consider the phrase:

好きな人

Here "好き" is a na-adjective, and this sentence could translate to:

Well-liked person

Question: Is the 形容動詞 in this phrase:

  1. ...just the word "好き"?
  2. ...the logical clase "好きな"?
  3. ...or the whole thing: "好きな人"?

3 Answers 3

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When you talk about the word, it's 好き. (だろ だっ・で・に だ な なら NA) are the conjugation list of 形容動詞 in modern Japanese (口語). 好きだ is called 基本形, 好き being 語幹 (stem). 好きな is just a 形 of this word--連体形, the form it takes when it is used as a 連体修飾語. I'm guessing it looks more familiar to you because in Japanese pedagogy and learner's grammar it is called "na-adjective" which is admittedly confusing.

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  • Do you know why na-adjectives are referred to as "形容動詞" ("form-contains-movement-part-of-speech", according to its Kanji), when just the words themselves don't contain any "movement" at all, and more noun-like than verb-like. Or is the "movement" the "conjugations" that the nouns can take, including for example adding な?
    – George
    Dec 4, 2022 at 1:52
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    @George That's a very interesting question. This is what I found so far: 「日本語の品詞の一つ。「静かだ」「親切だ」のように,用言の一種で,意味上は形容詞に近く,活用の点では動詞に似たところがあるものを,全体で1語と認め,形容動詞と呼ぶ。」 So they are close to adjectives in meaning but shares conjugative features in common with verbs.
    – Eddie Kal
    Dec 4, 2022 at 3:08
  • @EddieKal I don't think it's safe calling 好きだ 基本. When it comes to 形容動詞 there are quite a lot of questions online asking whether or not 終止形 and 基本形 are the same the term for them. It seems to depend on what you consider since たり and なり are abbreviated in the dictionaries. 終止形 is safer . detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q12174016672
    – Manab
    Dec 4, 2022 at 12:57
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The answer to this question is actually arguably "it depends on who you're talking to".

For English, most grammarians share a pretty consistent view of how the language grammar is described and taught, and everybody learns it the same way. However, with Japanese there are actually a number of different schools of thought regarding how the grammar of the language can be divided up and described, and they look at some aspects of it slightly differently from each other. (It's important to understand that with languages, grammar rules are essentially something made up by humans to try to describe observed usage, so there can be multiple ways to describe the same thing which are equally valid, and really just a matter of perspective.)

In some schools of thought (which are more commonly taught in Japan), the な (or だ, etc, when used in sentence-final position) associated with a な-adjective (形容動詞) is considered to be part of the word, and so these words are effectively conjugated with different endings for different situations, similar to verbs or い-adjectives. (This is why the Japanese term actually has 動詞 in it, because when viewed in this way, they are sorta considered to work similarly to verbs grammatically.)

In other schools of thought (often more common outside of Japan), な-adjectives themselves do not include the な as part of the word, and do not conjugate (more similar to how nouns work), and the な is just considered to be a separate particle (or seen as a form of the copula だ, depending on who you talk to) which is attached to them when forming the sentence.

Both are arguably equally valid ways of looking at things, it just depends which system of describing Japanese grammar you are working with.

It is important to note that there is another category of adjectives which are often confused for 形容動詞 but actually are not, and behave slightly differently. These are 連体詞 (often called "rentaishi adjectives" or "adnominal adjectives" in English). Many of these adjectives also end in な, but the ending な is always considered to be part of the word in both schools of thought.

  • 好き(な) - 形容動詞, whether な is part of the word depends on the school of thought.
  • 大きい - 形容詞, all one word (in all schools).
  • 大きな - 連体詞, all one word (in all schools).
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  • I don't think な is considered a particle by most sources. Linguist @snail wrote an answer on this: "In this analysis, に is considered a separate word rather than an inflectional ending. It still isn't usually considered a 'particle', though. Why not? Because a particle is a function word that doesn't inflect, and だ changes form."
    – Eddie Kal
    Dec 4, 2022 at 22:03
  • I explained what な is in my answer. It's basically the 連体形 of the copula だ.
    – Manab
    Dec 5, 2022 at 16:22
  • I might be wrong but because of the fact that 連用形 makes 形容詞 into adverbs like 悲しい~悲しく. By the same reason, the 連用形 of the old copula なり which is に should turn 形容動詞 into adverbs lile 綺麗~綺麗に. They are both forms of the copula and therefore not particles.
    – Manab
    Dec 5, 2022 at 16:29
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    @Manab you seem to have completely missed the point of my answer. There are several different ways that different people view Japanese grammar (among native linguists, there are at least four major schools, and several minor ones, not counting non-native interpretations). Just because you consider the な/だ used with 形容動詞 to be a form of the copula does not mean that everyone else does (some linguists even assert that Japanese doesn't really have a copula at all), and there is no "objectively right" or "objectively wrong" here. They are just different ways of describing the same thing.
    – Foogod
    Dec 5, 2022 at 19:12
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    @EddieKal in my experience, な is taught to be a "particle" by most sources teaching Japanese to non-native speakers, which is why I called it one here too, because that is something you hear all the time as a foreign language learner. Again, it can be viewed multiple ways: either that な and だ are just different forms of the same word (copula), or that when used pre-nominally, 形容動詞 actually don't use the copula and instead use a separate connective particle (な), similar to how の is used for 名詞. Both are valid perspectives. I updated my answer to include a note about the copula too, though.
    – Foogod
    Dec 5, 2022 at 19:52
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NA adjectives are nouns that have Chinese origin in general and started being used as adjectives. In classical Japanese there were two kinds òf adjectives. Some used to take the copula たり and some なり. The 連体形 of なり is なる. Therefore 静かなる部屋 became 静かな部屋. The old 連体形 of たり, たる is still used nowadays in modern Japanese. Example: 堂々たる態度. 好きだ is the predicative form that comes in the end 終止形. 好きな is the 連体形 because it has the 連体形 of the old copula なり. 好き is the 辞書形/語幹. enter image description here

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