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192 votes
5 answers
41k 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 ...
  • 6,988
142 votes
6 answers
52k views

Differences among -たら, なら, -と, -んだったら, -ば, etc

The 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 ...
  • 19.3k
136 votes
9 answers
31k 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 ...
  • 23.2k
126 votes
1 answer
59k 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【ひく】ことが好き【すき】...
  • 3,169
105 votes
10 answers
16k 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 ...
  • 23.2k
90 votes
4 answers
82k 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 ...
  • 1,725
86 votes
4 answers
133k 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 ...
  • 14.9k
79 votes
5 answers
141k 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?
  • 14.9k
78 votes
3 answers
12k 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 ...
  • 883
75 votes
3 answers
35k 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 ...
  • 6,988
73 votes
4 answers
33k 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 ...
71 votes
7 answers
30k 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 ...
  • 19.3k
71 votes
4 answers
246k 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 ...
  • 1,691
67 votes
2 answers
14k 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 ...
  • 14.9k
67 votes
3 answers
27k 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 ...
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67 votes
1 answer
38k 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 ...
  • 14.9k
66 votes
4 answers
113k 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) ...
  • 14.9k
65 votes
8 answers
27k 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?
  • 6,988
64 votes
1 answer
5k 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 ...
  • 3,189
62 votes
4 answers
14k 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 ...
  • 24.3k
61 votes
8 answers
29k 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 ...
60 votes
3 answers
20k 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 ...
  • 6,538
58 votes
6 answers
12k 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,...
  • 7,439
57 votes
7 answers
22k 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, ...
56 votes
7 answers
18k 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 me it's ...
  • 3,985
53 votes
4 answers
119k 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 ...
  • 14.9k
53 votes
1 answer
50k 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 ...
  • 14.9k
52 votes
10 answers
17k 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 ...
  • 1,691
52 votes
5 answers
62k 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 ...
  • 14.9k
51 votes
6 answers
16k views

What does っす at the end of a sentence mean?

I saw a sentence like: 「それ使{つか}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?
  • 2,094
51 votes
5 answers
23k 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 ...
's user avatar
51 votes
3 answers
30k 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 ...
  • 6,538
50 votes
4 answers
10k 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?
48 votes
1 answer
21k views

What is the difference between いえ and うち?

I am trying to understand the difference between using いえ and うち. I originally drew the conclusion that うち is used for your own house and いえ for others' houses, but my Japanese teacher said that this ...
  • 3,337
47 votes
5 answers
15k views

If Kanji are necessary to disambiguate homophones, how come it's still used, being that Japanese people seem to know the difference when speaking?

I'm a beginner. People argue for Kanji being that it helps disambiguate homophones in written Japanese, but in spoken Japanese, kanji (or any other visual aid) are not available, yet people seem to ...
  • 619
47 votes
2 answers
6k 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 ...
  • 6,576
45 votes
3 answers
8k 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]{じょせい} and 女の人?
45 votes
4 answers
60k views

What do the shapes △ ◯ ╳ ◻ mean in Japanese? And are there variations in meaning, depending on whether or not the shape is filled?

I am interested in Japanese culture and the symbolism used in Japan, specifically I'd like to know what the △ triangle, ◯ circle, ╳ cross and ◻ square mean to a Japanese person. How are those shapes ...
  • 567
45 votes
1 answer
11k views

ひらく / とじる vs. あける / しめる

The verbs ひらく and あける both mean to open, and とじる and しめる both mean to close. I understand that ひらく and とじる are antonym pairs, as are あける and しめる, but have never been clear on the difference between ...
44 votes
7 answers
15k 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 (...
  • 1,486
44 votes
4 answers
5k views

What is the meaning of 「読むには読んだ」?

I have the following sentence and I can't find any material pointing out the usage of this grammar. 薦められた本を読むには読んだが、よく理解できなかった。 In general, what is the usage of 「VるにはVた」?
  • 1,191
43 votes
4 answers
59k views

What does the little っ (tsu) signify when at the end of a word?

The small っ (tsu) is usually used before a consonant to indicate gemination, less technically known as doubled consonants, which is how they are transliterated in romaji. I have seen it at the end of ...
  • 14.9k
43 votes
4 answers
32k 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? ...
  • 18.1k
42 votes
4 answers
14k 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 ...
  • 6,988
42 votes
3 answers
42k views

Is ending question sentences with の really feminine?

In What differences should I look out for between male vs female speech?, a lot of answers explicitly mention that ending question sentences with の is feminine. However, this makes very little sense ...
42 votes
5 answers
44k 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. ...
42 votes
4 answers
24k 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 (...
  • 19.3k
41 votes
5 answers
16k 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 ...
  • 7,679
41 votes
3 answers
5k 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?
  • 5,635
41 votes
6 answers
27k 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 '...
  • 513

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