Conjugation of Japanese adjectives and classifications

Japanese has a fairly complex grammar, but it's grammatical rules are straightforward. As such Japanese adjectives can be easily classified. Classification of Japanese adjectives becomes very important in the learning process. I would say this could be the next step after the hiragana and katakana alphabets. Conjugation rules of a given adjective are dependent on the group it belongs to.

Japanese adjectives can be classified into two big groups


Japanese adjectives can be classified into two groups. Exceptions as always exist, namely when an adjectives looks like it belongs to a group but eventually it belongs to another one. The group, or strictly speaking the type of the Japanese adjective can be easily identified by considering only the ending of the adjective. There are adjectives that are ending in "i" (い hiragana from now on) and there are adjectives that are ending in "na" ( な hiragana from now on ). Consequently い (in Japanese: い形容詞、いけいようし) and な (in Japanese: な形容詞、なけいようし) type adjectives can be differentiated.

When you are learning Japanese, it is very important that you accurately master the grammar

Twenty い-type Japanese adjectives:

  • 暑い ー あつい ー warm, hot
  • 冷たい ー つめたい ー cold
  • 可愛い ー かわい ー cute
  • 賢い ー かしこい ー smart, clever
  • 偉い ー えらい ー great, excellent
  • 柔らかい ー やわらかい ー soft
  • 等しい ー ひとしい ー equal
  • しんどい ー tiresome
  • つらい ー painful, bitter
  • からい ー hot, spicy
  • 面白い ー おもしろい ー interesting, funny
  • 赤い ー あかい ー red
  • 青い ー あおい ー blue, green
  • 高い ー たかい ー high, tall, expensive
  • 低い ー ひくい ー short
  • 大きい ー おおきい ー big
  • でっかい ー big
  • 渋い ー しぶい ー bitter, puckery
  • 怪しい ー あやしい ー dubious
  • 硬い ー かたい ー hard, stiff

Twenty な-type Japanese adjectives:

  • 便利な ー べんりな ー convenient
  • 賑やかな ー にぎやかな ー lively
  • 静かな ー しずかな ー calm, peaceful
  • 上手な ー じょうずな ー skilfull
  • 下手な ー へたな ー unskillful
  • 簡単な ー かんたんな ー easy
  • 暇な ー ひまな ー free, available
  • 有名な ー ゆうめいな ー famous
  • 元気な ー げんきな ー happy, healthy
  • 大変な ー たいへんな ー terrible, great, very
  • 無駄な ー むだな ー pointless, useless
  • 必要な ー ひつような ー necessary
  • 変な ー へんな ー weird, strange
  • 十分な ー じゅうぶんな ー enough, plenty
  • 不思議な ー ふしぎな ー wonder, miracle, marvelous
  • 楽な ー らくな ー fun, enjoyable
  • 安全な 安全な ー safe
  • 丁寧な ー ていねいな ー polite
  • 嫌な ー いやな ー hated, unpleasant
  • 特別な ー とくべつな ー special

Adjectives that even though have い endings but they are な-types are exceptions.

For instance:

  • beautiful: きれい → dicitonary form: きれいな it is な-type

In addition to the above rules, adjectives that are introduced from foreign languages become な-type adjectives. (in Japanese: 外来語、がいらいご)

A few examples for foreign origin adjectives:

  • handsome: ハンサムな
  • slim, stylish: スマートな
  • innocent, sensitive: ナイーブな

I would like to mention something here, that even most of the native speakers don't realize. So if we take the first example, handsome means handsome, no problem. But. If we say "smart" in English, it does mean something like "clever", however in Japanese it is used as "slim". As a result, most of the Japanese teenagers think that smartphone is actually "slim-phone". The last one in the list, which is a transformed version of the English "naive" means innocent or sensitive, which is again a misuse.

Japanese words have two forms. One is called the "dictionary form (Japanese: 辞書形、じしょけい)" and the other one is called the conjugated form. These are simple definitions, namely that the word that we can find in the dictionary is in "dictionary form" and if it has been conjugated, then it is in conjugated form.

Let's see a basic example:

い-type adjective and it's conjugated form:

  • great (dictionary form): すごい
  • great (conjugated form): すごく

な-type adjective and it's conjugated form:

  • famous (dictionary form): 有名な / ゆうめいな
  • famous (conjugated form): 有名で / ゆうめいで

When you would like to create an adnominal form you just have to simply put the adjective before the noun.

Using the previous example:

Adnominal form of the い-type adjective:

  • (a) great company: すごい会社(かいしゃ)

Adnominal form of the な-type adjective:

  • (a) famous company: 有名な会社

Conjugated forms of the Japanese Adjectives:

Alright, let's see two common Japanese adjectives. One い-type (high, expensive: 高い、たかい) and one な-type (bustling: 賑やかな、にぎやかな)adjective. Their conjugation is as follows:

Dictionary form:

  • 高い
  • 賑やかな
Example of the dictionary form:
  • 高いビルを建(た)てる。(They are building high buildings.)
  • 賑やかな町(まち)が好き!(I like bustling cities!)

Negative form:

  • 高くない (い → くない)
  • 賑やかではない (な → ではない)
Example of the negative form:
  • 高くない彼氏(かれし)が欲(ほ)しい。(I want short boyfriend.)
  • 賑やかではない町に住(す)みたい。(I want to live in a silent city.)

Past tense:

  • 高かった (い → かった)
  • 賑やかだった (な → だった)
Example of the past tense form:
  • 旅行(りょこう)は高かったと思(おも)う。(I think the trip was expensive.)
  • パリは賑やかだった。(Paris was bustling.)

Past tense negative form:

  • 高くなかった (い → くなかった)
  • 賑やかではなかった (な → ではなかった)
Example of the negative past tense form:
  • この車(くるま)は高くなかった。(This car was not expensive.)
  • 私の故郷(ふるさと)は賑やかではなかった。(My hometown was not bustling.)

て form( I will talk about it later):

  • 高くて (い → くて)
  • 賑やかで (な → で)
Example of the て form
  • 高くて速(はや)い車が欲しい。(I want an expensive and fast car.)
  • きれいで賑やかな町を訪問(ほうもん)した。(I have visited a beautiful and bustling city.)

Adverbial form( I will talk about it later):

  • 高く (い → く)
  • 賑やかに (な → に)
Example of the adverbial form:
  • 娘(むすめ)は高くなった。(My daughter has grown tall (big). )
  • 東京(とうきょう)は賑やかになった。(Tokyo became a bustling city.)

Some of the forms have different variants. For instance you can use 賑やかじゃない instead of 賑やかではない. I tried to collect the most common conjugated forms.

Check out the Japanese Adjectives' lesson! [ VIDEO ]

Learning the conjugation of Japanese adjectives takes a longer time, but it is far from impossible

WARNING! The sentences above lack of any form of politeness. As such never use them in their current form when talking to your superior (boss, teacher, professor, stranger). Go for it, if you are talking to your girlfriend, boyfriend! If you would like to make the sentences polite, I recommend you to read my article related to "keigo".

Source 1: http://kyoan.u-biq.org/na-adjective.html

Source 2: http://kyoan.u-biq.org/i-adjective.html



Further reading

More Videos