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Lesson 9


Descriptive Words

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Adjectives and Adverbs

There are two different types of Japanese words that can be used to modify nouns (adjectives) and verbs (adverbs). One group is much like what we would call an adjective but they can also be conjugated to modify verbs as well. We will refer to these as "dv" (for "descriptive verb"). These are often referred to as "true adjectives" or "i-adjectives". The other group can, in most cases, stand alone like a noun but can also be used to modify nouns and verbs. We will refer to these as "dn" (for "descriptive noun"). These are often referred to as "quasi adjectives" or "na-adjectives".

All adjectives in the "dv" group always end with い (i). No exceptions. These are placed in front of a noun in order to modify it. For example:

漢字 - Kanji ひらがな - Hiragana Romaji
(English Letters)
English Meaning
赤い車 あかいくるま akai kuruma red car

These adjectives can be conjugated to form different tenses, turned into adverbs (modify verbs), etc. The conjugation rules for "true" Japanese adjectives are as follows:

ひらがな - Hiragana Romaji
(English Letters)
English Meaning
drop the い
and add く
drop the "i"
and add "ku"
modifies a verb (adverb form)
(akaku natta -> became red)
(naru is the verb "to become")
drop the い
and add くない
drop the "i"
and add "kunai"
present tense negative
(akakunai -> is not red)
(becomes a new "dv")
drop the い
and add かった
drop the "i"
and add "katta"
past tense
(akakatta -> was red)
drop the い
and add くなかった
drop the "i"
and add "kunakatta"
past tense negative
(akakunakatta -> was not red)
(This one might take a little practice saying.)

It's not as easy to recognize "dn" adjectives but I will point them out in the vocabulary lists. Sometimes you'll even find a "dn" that ends in い (i) (ex. kirei - pretty). As mentioned before, these words can, in most cases, be used by themselves like a noun (ex. shizen - nature). By adding a な (na) to the end of these words they can be used to modify a noun (ex. shizen na kankyou -> a natural environment). And by adding a に (ni) to the end of these words they can be used to modify a verb as an adverb (ex. shizen ni aruku -> to walk naturally).

Here's a list of some commonly used "dv" and "dn" adjectives:

漢字 - Kanji ひらがな - Hiragana Romaji
(English Letters)
English Meaning
赤い あかい akai (dv) red
黄色い きいろい kiiroi (dv) yellow
青い あおい aoi (dv) blue
黒い くろい kuroi (dv) black
白い しろい shiroi (dv) white
面白い おもしろい omoshiroi (dv) interesting, funny
暑い あつい atsui (dv) hot
寒い さむい samui (dv) cold
大きい おおきい ookii (dv) big
小さい ちいさい chiisai (dv) small
自然 しぜん shizen (dn) nature
綺麗 きれい kirei (dn) pretty, clean
失礼 しつれい shitsurei (dn) rude
静か しずか shizuka (dn) quiet
特別 とくべつ tokubetsu (dn) special
元気 げんき genki (dn) in good spirits
へん hen (dn) weird, strange
上手 じょうず jouzu (dn) skillful
親切 しんせつ shinsetsu (dn) kind, nice
素敵 すてき suteki (dn) "cool", good looking
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