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第11課: Adjectives I: 形容詞 Keiyōshi

 Keiyōshi (形容詞けいようし) means "adjective." As you will learn, using adjectives is somewhat similar to English. Because we don't need words like "is/are" when we use them, they more or less end up where they do in an English sentence.

Vocabulary List


・本 Hon – Book

・映画 Eiga – Movie

・海 Umi – Sea

・光 Hikari – Light

・建物 Tatemono – Building

・山田先生 Yamada-sensei – Professor/Dr./Mr. Yamada (teacher) 


・私 Watashi – I 

・彼 Kare – He 


・この Kono – This (adj.)

・あの Ano – That (adj.)

・ここ  Koko  - Here


・新しい Atarashii – New 

・早い Hayai – Early 

・遅い Osoi – Late/slow 

・速い Hayai – Fast 

・強い Tsuyoi – Strong 

・弱い Yowai – Weak 

・古い Furui – Old 

・暑い Atsui – Hot (weather) 

・熱い Atsui – Hot (in general) 

・寒い Samui – Cold (weather) 

・冷たい Tsumetai – Cold (in general) 

・嬉しい Ureshii – Happy

・悲しい Kanashii – Sad 

・遠い Tōi – Far 

・近い Chikai – Nearby/close 

・美しい Utsukushii – Beautiful 

・醜い Minikui – Ugly 

・忙しい Isogashii – Busy 

・楽しい Tanoshii – Fun

・美味しい Oishii – Delicious 

・不味い Mazui – Nasty 

・優しい Yasashii – Kind 

・厳しい Kibishii – Strict/harsh 

How to Conjugate Adjectives

A good adjective to learn first would be the adjective for "new," which is atarashii あたらしい. Adjectives in Japanese happen to function just like verbs. That means 新しい can stand for "is new/are new/etc." In English, sentences end with a predicate, the part of the sentence that explains something about what you're talking about (the subject). Japanese is the same way, and you'll find it at the end of the sentence.  
1. このほんは新しい。(Plain)
    Kono hon wa atarashii.
    This book is new. 
The predicate is simply "新しい," and there is nothing else you need to do it (in plain speech). Now, how does Japanese differentiate between "the book is new" from "a new book"? Thankfully, you do the same thing as in English plus the added help of not needing "a/an/the" before the adjective.  

2. 新しい本
    Atarashii hon
    A new book
When an adjective is used to a modify a noun in this way, we call it the attribute. As you can see, nothing happens as far as conjugation goes.

Basic Conjugations
To conjugate adjectives, you must first know that politeness is taken into account. That means you will need to learn more than one form for each kind of conjugation. However, the process of going back to forth is very systematic as the same elements are used over and over.  
Returning to  あたらしい mentioned earlier, we'll now see how to conjugate it into the non-past, past, negative, and negative past forms in both plain and polite speech. Don't worry; it's a lot easier than it sounds!

 Tense Plain Polite Speech
 Non-past Atarashii 新しい Atarashii desu 新しいです
 Past Atarashikatta 新しかった Atarashikatta desu 新しかったです
 Negative  Atarashikunai 新しくない Atarashikunai desu 新しくないです
 *Atarashiku arimasen 新しくありません
 Neg-Past  Atarashikunakatta 新しくなかった
 Atarashikunakatta desu 新しくなかったです
 *Atarashiku arimasendeshita 新しくありませんでした 
*: These forms are considered more polite. A general rule of thumb to politeness in Japanese is "the longer, the politer a phrase becomes." When to use polite speech is based on whether you are speaking to someone you should be respectful to. 
As you can see, to create the past tense, all you do is drop i い and add katta かった. To create the negative, you drop i い and add kunai くない. Because the nai ない part functions as an adjective, to make the negative-past form, all you do is drop its i い and add katta かった. For the most part, turning adjectives polite simply involves adding です at the end, but as you can see, replacing ない altogether with its polite counterpart results in verbal conjugation we haven't covered yet, and so feel free to simply memorize these forms.
 Polite Speech? Add です!
 To Past? Drop i い and add katta かった!
 To Negative? Drop i い and add kunai くない!
 To Past Drop i い and add kunakatta くなかった

Etymology/Lesson Note: The breakdown of these forms will be discussed later in IMABI. 

Common Adjectives
Now that you've seen how adjectives conjugate, it's time to learn some of the most common adjectives used in daily conversation. 
 Meaning Kanji Kana Rōmaji Meaning Kanji Kana Rōmaji
 Early 早い はやい Hayai Late 遅い おそい Osoi
 Fast 速い はやい Hayai Slow 遅い おそい Osoi
 Strong 強い つよい Tsuyoi Weak 弱い よわい Yowai
 Old 古い ふるい Furui New 新しい あたらしい Atarashii
 Hot (weather) 暑い あつい Atsui Hot (general) 熱い あつい Atsui
 Cold (weather) 寒い さむい Samui Cold (general) 冷たい つめたい Tsumetai
 Happy 嬉しい うれしい Ureshii Sad 悲しい かなしい Kanashii
 Close/nearby 近い ちかい Chikai Far 遠い とおい Tōi
 Beautiful 美しい うつくしい Utsukushii Ugly 醜い みにくい Minikui
 Delicious 美味しい おいしい Oishii Nasty 不味い まずい Mazui
 Kind 優しい やさしい Yasashii Strict 厳しい きびしい Kibishii
 Busy 忙しい いそがしい Isogashii Fun  楽しい たのしい Tanoshii
    Kare wa yasashikunai.
    He isn't nice.

   Tanoshii eiga desu.
   It's an enjoyable/great movie. 

5. 山田先生はきびしいです。
    Yamada-sensei wa kibishii desu.
    Professor Yamada is strict.

6. わたしはいそがしくありませんでした。 
    Watashi wa isogashiku arimasendeshita.
    I was not busy.

7. あの建物たてものちかいです。
  Ano tatemono wa chikai desu.
    That building is close/nearby.

8.  ここはあつくないです
   Koko wa atsukunai desu.
     It isn't hot here. 

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