Nouns are the easiest words to learn in a foreign language. Memorizing them all, however, is no easy task. By learning nouns, though, you will create a framework which, when paired with grammar, will allow you to express the things you want to talk about.
In addition to nouns, this lesson will also serve to introduce you to pronouns, which are words that indirectly refer to people, direction, and things that require context to be properly understood.
In a basic understanding, a noun (meishi 名詞) represents a person, place, state, quality, event, or thing. In Japanese, nouns have no number or gender like they do in languages like Spanish. This means that there is no fundamental distinction between singular and plural forms or masculine and feminine forms. In addition, there are no articles like "a," "an," or "the" that accompany nouns like is the case in English.
Some of the most common nouns in Japanese include the following. Many of these words are also written with the most basic Kanji 漢字 that are taught early on in Japanese education.
|Karaoke|| Karaoke カラオケ||Ramen|| Rāmen ラーメン||Karate||Karate 空手|
|Alcohol||(O-)sake（お）酒||Sushi||Sushi 寿司||Mountain||Yama 山|
|Anime||Anime アニメ||Manga||Manga マンガ||Dog|| Inu 犬|
|Cat||Neko 猫||Tea||Ocha お茶||Water||Mizu 水|
|Sea||Umi 海||Fire||Hi 火||Bamboo||Take 竹|
|Hill||Oka 丘||Tree||Ki 木||Grass||Kusa 草|
|Person||Hito 人||Car||Kuruma 車||Yen||En 円|
|Flower||Hana 花||Sound||Oto 音||Sky||Sora 空|
|Mouth||Kuchi 口||Hand||Te 手||Leg/foot||Ashi 脚・足|
|Ear||Mimi 耳||Man||Otoko 男||Woman||On'na 女|
|Sun||Hi/taiyō 日・太陽||Stone||Ishi 石||River||Kawa 川|
|Village||Mura 村||Town||Machi 町||Bug||Mushi 虫|
|Countryside||Inaka 田舎||Ground||Tsuchi 土||Book||Hon 本|
|Name||Namae 名前||Strength||Chikara 力||Eye(s)||Me 目|
|King||Ō 王||Queen||Jo'ō 女王||Rain||Ame 雨|
|Gold||Kin 金||Silver||Gin 銀||Money||Okane お金|
|School||Gakkō 学校||Thread||Ito 糸||Year||Toshi 年|
|Cloud||Kumo 雲||Song||Uta 歌||Fish||Sakana 魚|
|Face||Kao 顔||Cow||Ushi 牛||Shape||Katachi 形|
Grammar Note: Making nouns plural, although not common, is still possible. One method involves the suffix -tachi たち, which is typically used to refer to a group of people or (living) things.
(Group of ) women
(Group of) men
(A group of) dogs
In English, a proper noun is a noun that indicates an individual person, place, organization, etc. and is spelled with initial capital letters. In Japanese, words are not capitalized, but the concept of proper noun (koyū meishi 固有名詞) still exists. Below is a chart with some very important examples.
Kanto Chihō 関東地方
Kinki Chihō 近畿地方
Abe Shinzō 安倍晋三
Baraku Obama バラク・オバマ
Tokyo Sukaitsurii 東京スカイツリー
Ueno Kōen 上野公園
1. There are four main islands of Japan. The northernmost island is Hokkaido. South of it is the largest island, Honshu. Further south are the islands of Shikoku and Kyushu, with Kyushu being the southernmost island. Further south is a chain of islands referred to as Okinawa.
2. The Kanto Region encompasses the capital of Japan, Tokyo, as well as the surrounding area.
3. The Kinki Region encompasses both Osaka and Kyoto and their surrounding areas.
4. Shinzo Abe is the current Prime Minister of Japan.
5. Barack Obama is the former president of the United States.
6. Tokyo Skytree is the second tallest structure found in the world and is located in Tokyo.
7. Ueno Park is a very spacious park found in Tokyo.
A loan-word is a word borrowed from another language. In Japanese, there are many loanwords from all sorts of languages. Loan-words are called Gairaigo 外来語, and this term typically refers to words that have been borrowed in the last two, three centuries from the world's modern languages. Words borrowed from Chinese during the language's development--Kango 漢語--are usually treated separately. Words that have come from Chinese languages in recent centuries like chāhan 炒飯 (fried rice), though, are treated as Gairaigo 外来語.
Although loan-words come from dozens of languages, the overwhelmingly majority of them come from English. As convenient as that may be, you must still treat these loan words as Japanese words. This means you can't simply pronounce it as if it were English. You will likely not be understood. It is always important that you pronounce words in Japanese like any other word in Japanese regardless of whether or not it comes from English.
For now, we will look only at a handful of loan-words. Later on, we'll go into much greater detail about loan-words. The purpose of knowing about loan words is to give you any easy source of words to rapidly expand your knowledge of nouns.
|Meter|| Mētoru メートル||Game|| Gēmu ゲーム||Bus||Basu バス|
|Pen|| Pen ペン||Sofa|| Sofā ソファー||Pie/pi|| Pai パイ|
|Point|| Pointo ポイント||Cola|| Kōra コーラ||Coffee|| Kōhii コーヒー|
|Tobacco||Tabako タバコ||Tomato||Tomato トマト||Banana||Banana バナナ|
Pronouns: Grammatical Person
A pronoun (daimeishi 代名詞) indirectly refers to an entity that involves a person, direction, or thing. The meaning of said entity is determined by context. For instance, proper names are pronouns because they stand in place of the actual person/thing they reference. Proper names can also be shared with others or other things, and so we need context to truly understand what is meant by say the name "Seth." This can refer to the creator of this curriculum, or it can refer to any other person whose name is "Seth." Because of this, the word "Seth" is a pronoun.
Similarly, words like "here" and "there" or even words like "this" and "that" are also pronouns. This is because no one can ascertain what they refer to without context.
Generally, when we think of pronouns, we think about pronouns that are used to establish grammatical person. For instance, in English we make the following distinctions in grammatical person.
In English, gender and number both play roles in determining what grammatical person is used in a sentence. In Japanese, however, there isn't a single pronoun that corresponds to each of the pronouns for grammatical person. Meaning, there is more than one word for "I," "we," etc. This is because all pronouns in Japanese started out as typical nouns, or they were far vaguer pronouns that didn't necessarily match up with the concept of showing grammatical person.
In Japanese, pronouns differ by their politeness and by who actually uses them. Many pronouns are reserved for whether the speaker is male or female, or whether the person is young or old. Dialects also differ majorly in what pronouns are used.
For the purposes of understanding basic Standard Japanese, the pronouns listed below are the most essential. As you will see, the notes provided for them show just how different they are from their English counterparts.
|1st|| Wata(ku)shi 私|
| Wata(ku)shitachi 私たち|
|2nd||Anata あなた||Anatatachi あなたたち|
|3rd|| Kare 彼 (He)|
Kanojo 彼女 (She)
| Karera 彼ら (They)|
Kanojotachi 彼女たち (They)
|I...|| Wata(ku)shi ga 私が|
Boku ga 僕が
|My|| Wata(ku)shi no 私の|
Boku no 僕の
|We...|| Wata(ku)shitachi ga 私たちが|
Bokutachi ga 僕たちが
|Our|| Wata(ku)shitachi no 私たちの|
Bokutachi no 僕たちの
|You...||Anata ga あなたが||Your||Anata no あなたの|
|You (all)...||Anatatachi ga あなたたちが||Your||Anatatachi no あなたたちの|
| Kare ga 彼が (He)|
Kanojo ga 彼女が (She)
| Kare no 彼の|
Kanojo no 彼女の
|They...|| Karera ga 彼らが|
Kanojotachi ga 彼女たちが
|Their|| Karera no 彼らの|
Kanojotachi no 彼女たちの
Grammar Note: To make a third person reference into the possessive case, just add no to whatever name you're using. This means that "Seth's" would be expressed as Sesu no セスの.
When we start learning how to make sentences in the next lesson, it will be important to remember that different things will go on in a Japanese sentence that don't have much importance in an English sentence. In fact, we won't even revisit the particle ga が and see how it is actually used until Lesson 10.
|Close to Speaker|| Close to Listener/|
Known only to Speaker
| Far from Speaker and Listener/|
Known to both Speaker and Listener
|Koko ここ||Soko そこ||Asoko あそこ|
|This||That||That over there|
|Kore これ||Sore それ||Are あれ|