All Questions

161
votes
5answers
27k 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 ...
117
votes
9answers
18k 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 ...
112
votes
6answers
29k 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?: 行くと 行ったら 行くなら 行けば 行くんだったら 行くのなら ...
103
votes
1answer
33k 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. ピアノを弾く【...
84
votes
10answers
8k 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 ...
70
votes
4answers
39k 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 ...
66
votes
4answers
58k views

What are the differences between じ and ぢ, and ず and づ?

The Japanese hiragana and katakana syllabaries can mostly be described as phonetic. But there are two exceptions, the two pairs of syllables modified to be voiced with the dakuten diacritic which ...
63
votes
5answers
98k views

When to use ください (kudasai) or お願いします (onegaishimasu) in requests?

When asking for something I seem to hear sentences end in both ください (kudasai) and お願いします (onegaishimasu). Is there a difference and how do I know when to use which?
62
votes
4answers
176k views

でも (demo) versus けど (kedo) to mean “but”

I learned that you can use でも (demo) at the beginning of a sentence to mean "but," and that you can use けど (kedo) at the end of a sentence to mean "though." However, I don't see a difference between ...
61
votes
3answers
15k views

What does the internet slang “草生えた” mean?

I came across the term 草生えた on the internet. There wasn't much context, but it didn't seem to mean that grass was growing. Is this a slang term? What does it mean? I couldn't find it in any of ...
60
votes
3answers
19k 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 ...
59
votes
8answers
16k 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 ...
59
votes
7answers
16k 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 ...
58
votes
4answers
16k 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 ...
58
votes
1answer
3k views

Why were ゐ and ゑ eliminated?

Sometime in the early 20th century, usage of the now-historical kana ゐ and ゑ (and their katakana equivalents) dropped off, being replaced with い and え in modern Japanese. What exactly happened here ...
58
votes
1answer
26k views

Why are the particles “は” (ha⇒wa), “へ” (he⇒e), and “を” (wo⇒o) not spelled phonetically?

As far as I know only three words (or particles) have irregular, non-phonetic spelling in Japanese: "は" - The topic particle is pronounced "wa" but the kana is otherwise pronounced "ha" "へ" - The ...
57
votes
8answers
16k 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?
55
votes
3answers
6k 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 ...
53
votes
2answers
9k 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 ...
53
votes
4answers
8k views

ことができる versus V~える form

Way back in the day when I was first learning Japanese, I learned that you could add ことができる to a verb to indicate potential. Like so: 食{た}べることができる (I) can eat (something) It became my ...
50
votes
7answers
13k 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, ...
50
votes
6answers
10k 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 tells ...
50
votes
5answers
43k views

Usage of すみません (sumimasen) versus ごめんなさい (gomen'nasai)

There are several situations in which one of these words (phrases?) should be used but there's not usually a 1:1 mapping between any two languages. Get somebody's permission. English: "excuse me", "I ...
48
votes
10answers
9k views

When is the katakana form of wo (ヲ) used?

I'm pretty new to Japanese, and I've been trying to learn hiragana and katakana. I know that in hiragana, wo (を) is used only for as an object particle, and it is always pronounced like o (お). This ...
47
votes
4answers
7k views

Is there any reason a lot of body parts use the Month/Moon radical?

腕、胸、お腹、肘、脇、肩 are all body parts, and their radical is 月. I wonder how that came to be?
47
votes
3answers
10k 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 ...
47
votes
1answer
27k 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 ...
45
votes
4answers
53k 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" (shi) ...
43
votes
7answers
12k views

How important is one's pitch when speaking Japanese?

I'm aware of some words in Japanese that have the same reading but different meaning depending on the pitch of each syllable. The canonical example is はし (hashi), which can mean either chopsticks (...
43
votes
3answers
11k views

What is the meaning of ~んです/~のだ/etc?

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 ...
42
votes
5answers
9k views

Is it proper to thank waitstaff, cashiers, etc. for their service?

In my Japanese class we were taught that one does not need to thank a cashier when they check you out or a server when they bring you your meal, but I always feel awkward remaining silent. Was my ...
41
votes
2answers
12k views

What's the difference between なぜ、どうして and なんで when meaning 'why'?

I've been meaning to ask this for a while. What is the difference between these 3 words. I was taught they all mean "why", but obviously, being different words they convey different nuance and would ...
41
votes
5answers
7k views

i-adjectives used as na-adjectives: is there a difference? (e.g. 大きい versus 大きな)

There are at the very least several i-adjectives can be used as na-adjectives by dropping the final い and adding な in its place. The most common examples of this, as far as I am aware, are 大きい and 小さい,...
40
votes
3answers
4k views

How indistinguishable is blue from green really?

青 ao seems to be used very much interchangeably for both blue and green. Why is that so, and how does 緑 midori play into this?
40
votes
6answers
6k views

What does っす at the end of a sentence mean?

I saw a sentence like "それ使ってるっす" and none of my dictionaries have an entry for just "っす". Is it a verb form, gobi, or something else?
40
votes
4answers
57k 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 ...
39
votes
3answers
4k views

What's the difference between 女性 and 女の人?

As far as I'm aware, both words translate into English as "woman". What's the difference in meaning between 女性 and 女の人?
39
votes
5answers
28k views

Why was both katakana and hiragana created?

Nowadays, katakana tends to be used for gairaigo and onomatopoeia, while hiragana tends to be used for native Japanese words. This is a slight simplification - more information is available here. ...
38
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
38
votes
3answers
8k views

What is the difference between -さ and -み suffixes to make a noun out of an adjective?

For example, both 悲しさ and 悲しみ are glossed as “sadness” in JMdict. What's the difference? According to A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar, 〜み “is more emotive and concrete characterization of some ...
38
votes
4answers
3k 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?
38
votes
4answers
12k views

Usage of たくさん vs. 多い

When do we use たくさん and when do we use 多い? I found both modifiers are used within similar sentences, for example: 人が多かったです 人がたくさんいました I had this impression that 多い is used with countable nouns (...
37
votes
6answers
8k views

Does -ou / -you / -mashou conjugation have a negative form?

Does the -ou / -you / -mashou (the "let's X") form have a negative counterpart? For example, how do I say "let's not X" for the following?: 行こう 食べよう 寝ましょう As far as I can remember, the Japanese ...
37
votes
3answers
5k views

Why was “一匹” used for Godzilla?

I've heard someone say that "一匹" was used at the end of the original Godzilla movie, with Dr. Yamane saying that Godzilla wasn't the last one of "them". Why did he use that, as opposed to "一頭"? Do ...
37
votes
6answers
15k views

Pronouncing が as 'nga'

I'm a beginner and am learning from CD (Pimsleur). There are two native speakers going through the dialogue. One, the man, pronounces が as I would expect - 'ga'. The other (female) pronounces it as '...
37
votes
4answers
8k views

What does -komu (~込む) at the end of a word mean?

There are loads of words in Japanese which end in 込{こ}む, like 吸{す}い込む, 読{よ}み込む, 入{はい}り込む, 打{う}ち込む, 売{う}り込む, 送{おく}り込む, 押{お}し込む. How does adding ~込む change the meaning? What is the meaning that links ...
37
votes
1answer
2k views

How do parents obscure spoken messages in front of their children in Japanese?

Let's say I'm a very young child and I love dessert. After my family goes out today, my dad is going to buy us ice cream; he needs to tell my mom in front of me, without me finding out. In English, he ...
37
votes
4answers
23k views

What is the difference between 大事 (daiji) and 大切 (taisetsu)?

These are two words that seem like they are basically interchangeable at most levels, as they generally are. The difference between them appears to be small, but what is the difference, if one exists? ...
36
votes
2answers
7k views

Why is は pronounced as わ when used as a topic particle?

The particle は is pronounced similarly to わ (unlike the rest of the ハ行 kana) when used as a particle; why is this? What historical shifts went on to cause this irregularity?
36
votes
6answers
3k views

Arabic numbers: half-width or full-width?

Using my computer, I type a lot of numbers in Japanese text, and I am not sure when to use half-width or full-width. Are there rules? Right now I only use half-width, is it fine? Off-topic: Here is ...

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