Simple Japanese Sentences

Posted on 11. Feb, 2009 by in Grammar

This is going to be a great post for beginners of Japanese.  Today I’m going to show you how to construct simple sentences.  Let’s start with a simple sentece such as, “I am Takeshi”.  To say “I” you would use the word “watashi” (わたし).  For the verb “am” you would use “des” (です).  In Japanese the entire sentence would be, “Watashi wa Takeshi des” (わたしは たけしです).  The “wa” is a particle marking the topic of a sentence.  In this case “watashi” is the topic of the sentence and “wa” is attached indicate this.  So if we were to mimic this grammatical structure in English, it would be: “I-topic marking particle-Takeshi-des”.  Notice how the verb comes last in Japanese.  This contrasts with the English sentence “I am Takeshi” where the noun comes last.

One thing to note is that certain subjects can be dropped in Japanese.  In English, you wouldn’t be able to say “Am Takeshi”.  That would not be a good sentence in English, while in Japanese it’s perfectly fine to just say “Takeshi des” (たけしです).  One more thing to note is that the particle   is pronounced as “wa” instead of “ha”.  Normally  is pronounced as “ha” but for our sentences for today, it’ll be pronounced as “wa”.

Let’s construct a different senctence.  This is a useful phrase to know: “Namae wa nan des ka” (なまえは なん ですか).  It means, “What is your name” in Japanese.  Namae (なまえ) means name.  Nan (なん) = the word “what” and ka () is a particle indicating that a sentence is a question.  In Japanese, it’s not customary to write a question mark.  It’s actually kind of redundant to put a question mark, because the ka () particle already indicates that the sentence is a question.  One thing I’d like you to note is the placement of the interrogative word “nan” (なん).

In English the interrogative word comes in front, at the beginning of a sentence.  For example the question “What is your name” clearly demonstrates that the word “what” is at the beginning of a sentence.  In Japanese, this is not so.  The grammatical construction “What is your name” would be: name-wa particle-interrogative word-is-ka particle.  In the last sentence above with “I am Takeshi”, the des (です) meant “am”.  In the case of “what is your name” the des (です) takes on the meaning of “is”.  The des (です) verb is very flexible in Japanese.  In English you wouldn’t be able to use the verb “to be” in such a flexible way.  The sentence “I am” changes to “She/He is” depending on the subject.

Ok, I’m going to wrap this up.  Grammar is always an unpleasant, complicated matter in learning a language, but it’s absolutely necessary. Thank you everyone, for sitting through this post.

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10 Responses to “Simple Japanese Sentences”

  1. xJAYMANx 17 February 2009 at 5:56 pm #

    @Ginny: Hi, great stuff with the interrogatives! While I’m not actively learning the language as *fast* as I can, it’s been fun picking it up in bits and pieces over the last few years, lol. Plus it’s always fascinating to listen how Japanese TV or film dialogue matches (or doesn’t match) up with its English subtitles. ^_^

  2. Anyolina 18 February 2009 at 3:31 am #

    Hi, just want to comment and say thank you for this blog. Its very simple and easy to understand. My second language is English so its hard to try and understand a third language when that second language is making it confusing for you lol.

    Great post.Keep up the good work!

  3. kim 20 February 2009 at 9:43 am #

    may i know where do you conduct lessons for beginners for Japanese?

    thanks!

    please email me back a reply, alright?

  4. Bob 23 March 2009 at 1:55 pm #

    You might want to mention to your readers that “Namae wa nan desu ka?” is rude. It should be Onamae.

  5. Ginny 13 April 2009 at 11:28 pm #

    Robert,

    are you studying all those languages with Byki? I’ve used it and it really helps :)

  6. Ginny 13 April 2009 at 11:30 pm #

    Bob,

    It’s not necessarily rude. It depends upon the context. I ask children that question all the time. Besides, right now we’re focusing on sentence structure, and not on politeness levels so we’ll worry about that in future posts.

  7. Momoko 15 December 2009 at 4:50 am #

    Agenki desu ka?
    Watashi Momoko..Watashi wa Nihon-jin desu. Yorushiku..mitai na?!:)

  8. KEIL 7 September 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    i,m enjoying this japanese lecture via enternet..

  9. KEIL 7 September 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    how i wish i could go to japan for a tour…he-he.

  10. Nick 18 January 2011 at 6:31 am #

    arigoto o(^▽^)o や


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