Japanese Adjectives

By OptiLingo

Japanese adjectives don’t operate in the same way as English adjectives. Actually some argue that there are only a handful of true Japanese adjectives at all. Stand-alone words that function as the equivalent of adjectives in the Japanese language fall into one of two broad categories: noun and verb variants.

Getting into how or why this is the case is beyond the scope of this post, but below I’m going to summarize the major categories of Japanese adjectives based on their suffixal endings. I’ll be using a mix of English and Japanese writing to explain myself. Hold on to your hat, because this is going to be a bumpy ride.

The na-adjective

Example vocabulary

quiet                                    静か 【しず・か】

pretty / clean                  きれい

kind                                    親切 【しん・せつ】

desirable                  好き 【す・き】

In Japanese, na-adjectives are pretty straight forward because they act like nouns; al lthe rules of conjugation for nouns apply to na-adjectives. In case you’re wondering, na-adjectives get their name from the fact that they can modify a following noun by adding 「な」 between the noun and the adjective.

Here are a few more examples to illustrate the point:

Quiet person.                  静かな人。

Pretty person.                  きれいな人。

Example vocabulary

hateful                                    嫌い 【きら・い】

tasty                                    おいしい

expensive (tall)高い 【たか・い】

desirable                  好き 【す・き】

good                                    いい

In contrast to na-adjectives, there is no need to add 「な」 in order to modify a noun.

Unlike na-adjectives, you do not need to add to directly modify a noun with an i-adjective. Here are a few more examples to illustrate the point:

Hated food.                   嫌いな食べ物。

Tasty food.                  おいしい食べ物。

Now, remember how I said before that Japanse adjectives fall into noun and verb variants? As I stated just above, na-adjectives are noun-based, so that means that i-adjectives are verb-based. This means that i-adjectives need to be conjugated.

I might get around to the rules of Japanese i-adjective conjugation in a future post, but I think that just about wraps it up for Japanese adjectives for now. Read this post next to learn about Japanese pronouns.