When you take a language class on Japanese adjectives, you will learn that there are actually two different types of adjectives in the Japanese language. The first type are true adjectives (often called -i adjectives) and the second type are quasi adjectives (called -na adjectives).
Japanese Adjectives Ending in -i
Some common -i adjectives include:
|新しい or あたらしい||atarashii||new|
|古い or ふるい||furui||old|
|安い or やすい||yasui||inexpensive|
|高い or たかい||takai||expensive (or high)
|軽い or かるい||karui||light (weight)
|重い or おもい||omoi||heavy|
|易しい or やさしい||yasashii||easy|
|難しい or むずかしい||muzukashii||difficult|
|面白い or おもしろい||omoshiroi||interesting|
|良い or いい or よい||ii, yoi
|悪い or わるい||warui||bad|
|美味しい or おいしい||oishii||delicious|
The basic colors also happen to be -i adjectives:
|赤い or あかい||akai
|青い or あおい||aoi
|黒い or くろい||kuroi
|白い or しろい||shiroi
|黄色い or きいろい||kiiroi||yellow
Japanese Adjectives Ending in -na
A list of common -na adjectives include:
|綺麗な or きれいな||kirei na
||pretty / clean
|病気な or びょうきな||byouki na||sick / ill
|元気な or げんきな||genki na||well / healthy|
|安全な or あんぜんな||anzen na
|危険な or きけんな||kiken na||dangerous
|上手な or じょうずな||jyouzu na||skillful|
How to use Japanese Adjectives in a sentence
Let’s use the -i adjective oishii (delicious):
John wa oishii sushi o tabemasu.
John eats the delicious sushi.
Sushi wa oishii desu.
Sushi is delcious.
Here you can see that the adjective comes before the noun it describes, just like in English. Also the adjective is used exactly the same way whether it is used to describe the subject or the object of the sentence. Adjectives ending in -i are very simple and you will probably not have much difficulty with them
Now let’s examine a similar sentence using the -na adjective kirei na (pretty or clean):
Kyoto wa kirei na machi desu.
Kyoto is a clean (or pretty) city.
Kyoto wa kirei desu.
Kyoto is clean (or pretty).
As you can see, the -na adjectives are a bit more tricky than the straightforward -i adjectives. When a -na adjective comes before a noun that it describes, you use the root adjective plus -na (kirei na). However, when the adjective is used to describe the subject of the sentence, we drop the -na and use only the root adjective (kirei).
This makes things a bit more complicated, so make the effort to remember which adjectives are -i adjectives and which are -na adjectives.
Now if you’re ready to take your knowledge of Japanese adjectives to a more advanced level, let’s get into some more sophisticated rules and exceptions.
Some -na adjectives do not use the -na ending, but rather end in -no. Examples of these are:
|不明の or ふめいの||fumei no
|特別の or とくべつの||tokubetsu no
However, if you ever hear a native Japanese speaker, you may notice that many times they will just use -na with these adjectives. Officially, you should be using -no, but in actual conversational use, most people will use -na. Think of this kind of like “who” and “whom” in American English. Though there are specific times to use the word “whom,” most Americans will use the word “who” in all cases because that is how it is used conversationally.
Additionally, a few colors are -no adjectives and they are always treated as such:
|緑の or みどりの||midori no
|鼠色の or ねずみの||nezumi no
|紫の or むらさきの||murasaki no
So, when you’re first learning Japanese adjectives, focus on the -i and -na adjectives. Once you get a good understanding of those, then go on to master all the exceptions to the rules.