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JPLearn! - Volume I
Japanese Adjectives: Modifiers and Politeness
Japanese Adjectives: Modifiers and Politeness
Modifiers and Levels of Politeness
In the previous lesson we had gone over some of the differences between い-adjectives and な-adjectives as well as other important grammar topics. If you are arriving to this lesson without first studying the previous, do not continue, and return to Introduction to Japanese Adjectives before proceeding.

Here are a few review questions:
Question (1) : What do you do to an い-adjective when you use it as a predicate?

ANSWER: __________________________________________________________

Question (2): What do you do to a な-adjective when you use it as a predicate?

ANSWER: __________________________________________________________

Question (3): Do い-adjectives almost always end with [ i ]? (YES/NO)

ANSWER: _____________

Question (4): な-adjectives don’t have a specified ending like い-adjectives. (TRUE/FALSE)

ANSWER: _____________

If you are not certain about your answers, review Part I of Adjectives to get a firm grasp of the basics.

Modifying Nouns
We shouldn’t proceed any further before first understanding how to modify a noun. To understand how this works, we will use examples and elaborate on them.

Let’s modify a noun, replace X with any appropriate noun you wish to use.

Jappleng Example: これはほんです。 (This is a book)

We know that this means “This is a X.”

Jappleng Example: これはわたしのほんです。 (This is my book)

We know that this means “This is my X.” What we did here is that we modified the noun and gave it a new meaning. It’s no longer just an X, it is now my X. This is what it means to modify a noun. Let’s explore this concept further with the next example.

Jappleng Example: これはわたしのあかいほんです。 (This is my red book)

Hopefully, you can now see the reasoning behind modifying a noun; it can make a big difference in a sentence.

Now it’s your turn!

Create your own sentences using the three examples given above without using ほん and あかい.

1. _________________________________________________________

2. _________________________________________________________

3. _________________________________________________________

4. _________________________________________________________

Share answers for peer-review

Adjectives Before Nouns
We have already studied both い and な adjectives when they come after a noun and also gave examples. We know that when we are using an い-adjective, we will remove the last い and append です to turn the adjective into a predicate.

We also understand that when we use a な adjective, we remove な when we want to use it as a predicate. Incidentally, な adjectives aren’t true adjectives by definition, can you think of why? Think about this as we proceed further.

What happens when we use an い-adjective before the noun so that it is treated as a true adjective? When this happens, we keep the adjective in its い-form. かわいい is not かわい as we will retain the extra い from its い-form so long as it is not used as a predicate.

This tea is hot = このおちゃはあついです。
That tea is hot = そのおちゃはあついです。

Kindly note that in today’s homework assignment we will be learning about ちゃ as well as others. For now, please read it as “cha”.

How would you describe that the tea is very hot? Simple, we can easily slide the adverb (very) before the adjective or in this instance, the predicate.

This tea is very hot = このおちゃはとてもあついです。

What if you wanted to describe that the tea is more specifically green tea and that it is very hot?

Simply add みどりい in front of おちゃ to make このみどりおちゃはとてもあついです。
Or more correctly when you learn the Kanji: この緑お茶は熱とてもいです。

Can you say “I like this red book”?

YOUR ANSWER) ___________________________________________

You are learning practical japanese

Degrees of Politeness
It’s a given that Japan is very polite with its actions and language but sometimes there’s such a thing as being too polite or that saying something one way may be perceived in another way. Let’s discuss politeness so that you can carefully form sentences without worry.

あなた is rude
It is generally rude (unnatural) to say あなた in conjunction with an adjective. For instance, we’ve used かわいい a number of times before, but what if we said あなたはかわいいです。 If we are converting this into English “You are cute” it seems polite but it’s not how it is in the Japanese culture. This is textbook form and does not translate into the real world under most (likely all) circumstances especially in business.

あなたはかわいいです。⇒  「noun / name 」はかわいいです。⇒ ie: さくらちゃんはかわいいです。

Consider reducing the amount of times you use あなた and わたし. Textbooks may often teach it this way but it doesn’t fit well in every day Japanese. Perhaps you may have heard Japanese people speak to each other while referencing each other’s name or title before, this is the very reason why. In English, it may sound strange but in Japanese it’s perfectly normal.

です should be avoided if possible
If both the speaker and listener understand what the topic is and there’s only a need to state an adjective such as かわいい, then we can omit 「noun」は from 「noun」はかわいいです to generate かわいです。 It’s even possible to remove です however it will be even less formal but it’s entirely appropriate to say. Let’s take a look…

あなたはかわいです。 ⇒ Not Appropriate

「noun」はかわいです。⇒ Appropriate (Formal)

かわいです。 ⇒ Appropriate (Less formal)

かわい ⇒ Appropriate (Informal)

です has other forms
We already know how to use です in different tenses but it is possible to use different degrees of formality instead of constantly using です where applicable.

だ means the same thing as です in the plain form, but is more casual. It can be used in different tense in place of です.

Example 1: わたしは「____」だ。(I am blank)
Example 2: わたしはしわせだ。 (I am Happy)

More appropriately: 私は幸せだ。(Kanji)

As a reminder, kanji is best used to describe what you are trying to say. Using only kana can at times pose confusion. We will be exploring new Kanji very soon. There are other alternatives to use as we will see later, however です and だ are our focus for the time being. We will later learn feminine speak for those wanting to sound cuter and gentle, and delinquent speak for those interested in Yakuza films. Please look forward to this.

Homework Assignment
We have learned a lot in these past two lessons and can see the fruits of our labor. Sentences now can be generated in many different forms and in different lengths. We will practice some more with today’s homework assignment which will lead to the final lesson about Japanese adjectives.
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