Japanese Grammar

A Beginner’s Japanese Grammar Guide

The below Japanese grammar guide assumes no prior knowledge of the language beyond the Japanese syllabary—hiragana and katakana. Trace sheets to help you learn the syllables can be found here.

Beginner Grammar

Introduction

The Foundations

Core Particles

Particles are the building blocks of Japanese grammar helping us define the role of each word in the sentence.

Other Basic Particles

Building up Sentences

From hereon I will no longer space out words in the sentences and will mix both the polite and standard conjugations in the example sentences. Of all the steps learners take to move from being able to say basic things to structuring a more complex sentence, understanding how to nominalise verbs is one of the most important.

Verb Conjugations I

In Japanese, the conjugation of the verb contains a lot of information and, in many instances, determines the grammatical structure of the sentence. For example, in English we can make expressions such as “I can eat“, “I want to eat“, and “Let’s eat” by keeping the verb (“eat”) untouched and adding other words to the sentence. This is not the case in Japanese—we form these sentences by changing the verb itself.

Essential Conjunctions

Conjunctions let us join sentences and move from one clause statements to more complex structures. Below we cover the basic conjunctions (because, but, or, etc.) but the one that causes the most headaches is the Japanese equivalent of “and”. This is because, in many cases, Japanese doesn’t have a separate word or particle for this conjunction. To form this conjunction we first need to understand the “te form”—one of the most important and versatile conjugations in the language.

Conditionals

A complete guide to conditionals in Japanese.

More Complex Structures

Talking About Reasons
Talking About Time-Specific Actions
Describing Things
Comparisons & Making Suggestions
Similarity & Hearsay
Other Key Structures

Additional Uses of the te Form

Verb Conjugations II

Intermediate Grammar

Honorifics

A complete introduction to honorifics.

Verbs that Act on Sentence Topics

The meanings of the following structures are varied, but because in many cases they act on the first noun of the sentence the usage difference can become blurred.

Suggestions & Rules

Expressing Conclusions

Concluding
Inevitability & Obligation
Must & Must Not

The below are more formal ways to express must and must not.

Impossibility

Descriptions

Particles

Structures

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