85. and 86. "This" and "that"

The word for "this" is これ (kore). It is used to indicate something close to the speaker.

「これは何ですか?」 (kore wa nandesu ka?) - "What is this?"

「これは魚です」 (kore wa sakana desu) - "This is a fish."

However, there are two words for "that". The first is それ (sore) and indicates something close to the person you are talking to. The second refers to something close to neither person, and it is あれ (are).

「これは鯨ですか?」 (kore wa kujira desu ka?) - "Is this a whale?"

「それは鯨じゃない。」 (sore wa kujira janai) - "That is not a whale."

「あれは鯨です。」 (are wa kujira desu) - "That over there is a whale."

Those are some examples of これ, それ, and あれ, but you probably wouldn't hear a conversation exactly like this. For example, the second line might just be 「鯨じゃない」 and the final line might use the が particle instead of the は particle. However, I'm not really sure, I'll leave all that for another day.

Anyway, the three words covered here are probably what you would use when pointing to things. If you want to talk about "this dog" or "that cat" or something more specific however, you would use この (kono), その (sono), and あの (ano).

To put it another way, これ is used like a noun, この is used like an adjective.

「この鳥は赤いです」 (kono tori wa akai desu) - "This bird is red."

「そのとりは青いです」 (sono tori wa aoi desu) - "That bird is blue." (Also sometimes translated as "The bird is blue.")

「あの鳥は緑です」 (ano tori wa midori desu) - "That bird over there is green."

(9/269 concepts covered)

More submissions by Paulgami for まいにちの日本語

248. "Excuse me"

This is a fairly well known one: すみません (sumimasen).

It can be used to get someone's attention, for example at a restaurant you can get a server's attention by raising your hand and saying 「すみません。」

Or if you want to stop someone in the street to ask them something, so on so forth.

You can also use it to apologise, but apologies can wait for another post.

(10/269 concepts covered)

First let's start with some pronouns.

129. and 130. "I", and "you"

The word for "I" or "me" in Japanese is (わたし - watashi).

The word for "you" is 貴方 (あなた - anata). Note that you wouldn't use this for someone of higher status than yourself.

24. "of", or the possessive particle

The particle (no) indicates possession. You can think of it as a backwards "of" or alternatively, as the apostrophe-s for possession in English. You place this particle after the possessor to show that something belongs to them.

So for example, "my" is 「私の」 (watashi no) and "your" is 「貴方の」 (anata no) and "Sam's" is 「サムの」 (Samu no).

Another example is:「終わりのセラフ」 (owari no serafu - Seraph of the End), which is the name of the anime I was just watching. Here the の isn't really being used in a possessive-pronoun kind of way, but more like a backwards "of".

255. "My name is"

So somebody asks you:

「お名前は?」 (onamae wa?)

Or alternatively:

「貴方のお名前は?」 (anata no onamae wa?)

You want to say, "As for my name; it's Sam." (If your name is Sam I mean.):

「私の名前はサムです」 (watashi no namae wa Samu desu)

Note that you don't say お名前 when referring to your own name, just 名前.

However, you don't necessarily need the の particle here. You could also say 「私はサムです」 (watashi wa Samu desu).

Of course, if you're being super informal and someone asks your name, you can always just say 「サムです」instead. If your name is in fact Sam.

(7/269 concepts covered)

38. and 256. "What", and "What is your name?"

Japanese often doesn't translate directly to English, and so it's impossible to do this list one phrase at a time without covering some other stuff like particles. For example, the phrase "What is your name?" can't be translated word for word. To say this phrase rather informally would be:

「お名前は?」 (o namae wa?)

To break that down a little, the word 名前 (なまえ - namae) means name.

The prefix (o) is used to be respectful to a person or object. Some examples: お母さん (おかあさん - okaasan) meaning mother; お弁当 (おべんとお - obentou), bento, a boxed lunch; and お茶 (おちゃ - ocha) meaning tea. Because it's a sign of respect, it would be a little wanky to use it for yourself, so when talking about your own name, you'd use 名前 and not お名前.

Last and most difficult to properly explain is , which is the topic particle. Though it is written は which would usually be pronounced "ha", it's special and you say it "wa". Now whatever this particle is placed on the end of is the topic of the sentence. This is not necessarily the subject of the sentence, although it often can be. I don't know how to explain exactly what the topic is, but the way I learned to use the は particle is to treat is as meaning "as for X ...".

So 「お名前は?」 means "As for name?", which is an informal way of asking for someone's name.

So what if you want to be a little more polite? Well then you might say:

「お名前は何ですか?」 (onamae wa nan desu ka?)

So we've added three new parts. The です is the state-of-being covered in my last post. Loosely translated as "is".

The word before that, (なん・なに) can be read either as "nan" or "nani" and I am really not qualified to say when you use which, so stick to trusted examples. Regardless, it means "what".

Finally we have (ka) which is the question particle. It is placed at the end of a statement to turn it into a question.

So 「お名前は何ですか?」 means "As for name, what is it?". This is a more polite way to ask someone's name.

You might notice that none of there phrases directly refer to "you", despite them asking for "your" name. It's not always necessary in Japanese to supply pronouns in this case as the context usually makes clear what you're asking for. Personal pronouns do exist though and I'll get to them later.

Next time, I'll write about how to answer this question and give your name.

One last note on the use of です versus だ. All politeness aside, I'm led to believe you can only use だ at the end of a sentence. So in order to say "it is a cat", it is correct to say either:

「猫です」 (neko desu)
「猫だ」 (neko da)

However, to ask "Is it a cat?", it is only correct to say:

「猫ですか?」 (neko desu ka?)

It would be wrong to say "da ka", as だ should always come at the end.

I'm sure there's more nuance to that that I'm not aware of, but this is something I have read.

(3/269 concepts covered)

I found a Tumblr post recently about how roughly 300 words in any language is enough to talk about everyday things. There's a list of the 269 words/concepts here: http://funwithlanguages.tumblr.com/post/105572981908. My plan is to post every day finding and explaining a translation for one item of that list.

I don't know a lot of Japanese - I can read and write the kana, but little more than that. So if I get anything wrong, please correct me.

I also don't know how well the items in that list work in Japanese, but I'll do my best.

1. "be", or state of being

This is called the copula and it is not an actual verb in Japanese. There are two forms: です (desu) and だ (da), the polite and plain forms respectively. So to indicate that something is, you append one of those on the end. So to say "it is a dog" you would say:

犬だ」 (inu da) (informal)
犬です」 (inu desu) (polite)

The negative forms of だ and です are じゃない (janai) and じゃないです (janai desu). So to say "it is not a dog":

「犬じゃない」 (inu janai) (informal)
「犬じゃないです」 (inu janai desu) (polite)

Those are the non-past (present and future) forms of the copula. The past forms - "it was a dog" - are as follows:

「犬だった」 (inu datta) (informal)
「犬でした」 (inu deshita) (polite)

And the past negative - "it wasn't a dog":

「犬じゃなかった」 (inu ja nakatta) (informal)
「犬じゃなかったです」(inu ja nakatta desu) (polite)

So in conclusion, and for reference:

is - was - isn't - wasn't.

だ だった じゃない じゃなかった
da - datta - janai - janakatta

Polite Japanese:
です でした じゃないです じゃなかったです
desu - deshita - janaidesu - janakattadesu

(1/269 concepts covered)


Each day a step in Japanese.

daily from 2015-02-09 to 2015-12-31