Sentence Blocks

Introduction

 

You may have seen or even had a set of refrigerator magnets with words on them.  It was fun to arrange them to make sentences.  In English, there are no identifying tags – the order of words tells which is the subject, which is the verb, etc.  In Japanese, except for the verb which is always last, identifying tags go with each phrase telling what its role is.  You can actually arrange the blocks in almost any order so long as the verb is last.  But some arrangements are awkward sounding.

In any language, a sentence is a string of words – nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and a verb.   However, a Japanese sentence has several unique features:

  1. The verb is always the last word in the sentence, (Well, if you don’t count some special particles such as ka),
  2. Each phrase has a label attached to it telling its role in the sentence (subject, object, etc)
  3. There are no articles (a, an, j7the, etc.)
  4. There is no future tense.
  5. There is no gender
  6. There is no plural form – “There is a car” and “There are cars” both translate to the same thing.
  7. There is no upper/lower case, unless written in Romaji
  8. There are few spaces between words.

9.Sentences can have topics.

  1. Adjectives can behave as verbs or nouns, nouns can behave as adjectives.

 

It is all very strange, but it is logical and really not complicated.

 

Consider this sentence:

English As for Mr. Yamada, I will buy his son a car.
Rearranged Yamada san (topic), his (possess) son for car (object) buy.
Translated Yamada san wa, kare no musuko ni kuruma o kaimasu.
Meaning I will buy Yamada-saan’s son a car

The second line contains the words that will be used in the translated sentence, rearranged in the order of the translated sentence.  Some words have been omitted.  Words in parentheses have been added.

wa, no, ni, andare particles.

Each can be thought of as a tag that identifies the role of the preceding words in the sentence.

Wa  tells us Yamada san (Mr. Yamada) is the topic of discussion.

No tells us that kare (he) possesses the following item – musuko (son), i.e., his son.

ni tells us something is going to musuko.

o tells us that kuruma is the object of the verb.

You could picture the sentence like this:

Yamada san wa kare no musuko ni kuruma o kaimasu
Topic Possessive Destination Object Verb

 

 

 

Now look at it like this:

 

Yamada san wa
Topic

 

kare no
Possessive

 

musuku ni
Destination

 

kuruma o
Object

 

kaimasu
Verb

 

The sentence has five components, which we will call blocks. We can arrange them as shown below.

Yamada-san wa
topic
kare no keaimasu
possessive
musoko ni
destination
kurumo o
object verb

 

The top block contains the Topic, which applies to he entire sentence.

The left column contains the components of the sentence: a time of the action, a destination for the action, and an object. The right column contains the verb.  The order of these block us not defined by language rules.  However, typically the subject comes first and the object last.

All blocks are optional except the subject and verb are optional.  And often the subject is not written/said – it is implied.

This displays the entire sentence, with all the roles defined.

Time
Topic
Subject Verb
. . .
Object
Sentence

 

Data types

Noun

A noun is a word or string of words defining a real or abstract thing.

Noun Phrases

Nouns may have preceding adjectives to modify their meaning.

Brown cow

Funny face

Strange woman

Big man

 

Phrases must be re-arranged as adjectives:

That is the house that I bought yesterday.

That is the yesterday bought house.

About “That”

 

Many English nouns are modified by an expression beginning with ‘that’.  For instance, ‘the horse that won the race’.  There is no such structure in Japanese.The expression must be changed to an adjective: ‘the race-won horse’ (reiesu ni katta uma).  The dictionary form of the verb is used – even if the sentence is formal.

 

 

 

 

Examples

Noun

Car

Jake

Alaska

United Kingdom

John Jaccob Dinkeheimer Scchmidt

I yesterday bought red car

(red car that I bought yesterday)

 

 

Noun Phrase

 

 

 

Date/Time

9 am

Tuesday

January

1954

2017 November 8, Wednesday

3 ½ hours (duration)

Recently

Soon

When

Place and Motion

Japan

Ota ku, Tokyo, Japan

Library

In front of

Where

Far

Sentence types

Descriptive Sentence

 

A descriptive sentence is one the identifies some property of an item,

For instance:

Grass is green.

A car has four wheels.

The sun is shining.

In each case the sentence is subject, copula, object, where the subject is the item whose property is to be identified, the copula is a ‘linking’ verb, and the object is the property.

The linking verb is usually ‘to be’ in English, and desu in Japanese, although other words may also serve as copulas.

Existence sentence

 

An existence sentence is one that identifies something about the existence of something.  For instance:

Is there a dog? – inu imasu ka.

There is a dog. – inu imasu.

The dog is in the room. – inu wa heya ni imasu.

Is there beer? Biru arimasu ka.

Where is Machiko san? – Michiko san wa doko ni imasu ka.

In English, the verb ‘to be’ is used.  The Japanese verb desu cannot be used.  Instead use iru if the subject is a live, animate being; use aru if not.

The object of the verb does not require an identifying particle.

 

 

 

General Grammar Blocks

 

Noun Phrase

Text Noun
Noun Phrase

 

Comments

Use this block to add a noun phrase to the sentence.  It may be used n place of any noun.

Text is any string of words to msake and adjectival phrase preceding the noun.

Verbs in Text nust be Dictionary form.

 

Example

Watashi Ga Kaketa Uma
Subject Verb Noun

Noun phrase

Wa Ushinatt Watashi ga kaketa uma wa rēsu o ushinatta

The horse that I bet on lost the race

Topic
Reisu O
Object Verb

 

Relative Amounts

 

Too much

Too much

* Sugiru
Too much

 

  • Verb or Adjective roo.

Use this block to say that something is excessive,

 

Examples

Anata Wa Nomi Sugirru Desu
Too mch Too mux. Copula

As for you, (you) drank to much.

Anata Wa Nomi Sugirru Desu
Too mch Too mux. Copula

 

 

Topic (All)

 

noun wa
Topic

 

Comments

The Topic, if used, is almost always at the beginning of the sentence.

The Topic must not be confused with the subject – it is really not part of the sentence in a grammatical sense. It is saying what the topic of the conversation is, or at least what part of the conversation the speaker is addressing.  Often, th subject is omitted because it is the same as the topic.  And often, the topic is omitted after it has been introduced in a previous sentence.

The topic is usually translated as “Speaking of . . .” or “As for . . .”.

Examples

Watashi wa, Yamada Koki desu.

As for me, (I) am Koki Yamada.

Fuki yama wa, utsukushii desu.

As for Mt Fuji, it is beautiful.

watashi wa
Topic
Yamada Koki desu 
  Desc    Object Desc Verb

 

 

 

 

Subject (All)

 

noun ga
Subject

 

Comments

The subject is required.

However, if the subject is known by the speaker and listener, it may be – and often is – omitted.  It still exists as a ‘virtual’ subject.  For instance, if it has been established that the topic of conversation is the box, it is adequate to say “is blue”.

To place emphasis on the subject, omit the topic and include the subject (some say change the wa to ga, but is better thought of this way).

Usually, the subject is immediately after the topic, or if there is no topic,  it is usually at the beginning.  In either case, a time block, if used, can be placed before the topic or subject.

Examples

Ashita   Ashita, watashi wa Tokyo ni ikimasu.

As for me, tomorrow (I) go to Tokyo.

 

Time  
watashi wa
Topic
Yamada Koki desu 
  Desc    Object Desc Verb

 

gakko wa Gakko wa, suki desu.

Speaking of school, (I) like it.

Desc Verb

Topic
suki desu 
  Desc    Object
   
   

 

 

Object  (General)

 

Noun or Adjective o
Object

 

Comments:

Use this block to provide an object for an action verb.

This is usually immediately before verb.

The particle o is written with hira gana を(wo) but pronounced ‘o’.  The reason is one of the great Japanese secrets.

If using in a Descriptive or Existence sentence, use the appropriate object block.

Example

kare wa, osake o nomimasu
Topic Object Verb

(as for) him, (he) drinks sake.

He drinks sake.

 

 

Object (Descriptive)

 

Noun or Adjective
Desc object

 

Comments

The object of a copula does not require a particle.  The object tells what thhe property of the copula verb is.

The basic sentence is ‘some thing (named in the subject) is (has the property of ) some property.

Examples

Hon ga midori desu.

(The) book is green.

Watashi no namae wa, Tsuneko desu.

As for my name, (it) is Tsuneko.

 

 

Object (Existence)

 

Noun or Adjective
Exist object

 

Comments

The object of an aru and iru does not require a particle.

Examples

uchi ni kohi ga arimasen.

There is no coffee in the house

dare mo uchi ni imasen.

Nobody is in the house.

 

 

Verb (General)

 

Noun or Adjective O
Object

 

Comments

Conjugate the verb according to tables in the Appendices.

For Description and Exists sentences, use the specific verb blocks.

Examples

Watashi wa kanji o yomemasen.

I cannot read kanji.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verb  (Descriptive)

 

Copula
Verb

 

Comments.

A copula is a special verb that couples (hence its name which comes from Latin)  There is no action associated with it.  It corresponds to the English verb ‘is’ except when ‘is’ is used to speak of existence.

Other verbs that can serve as copulas include ‘become’, ‘get’, ‘feel’, and ‘seem’.

Conjugation of the. Copula is according to this table.

Tense Informal Formal
Non-past da desu
Past datta deshita
Non-past negative de wan ai

ja nai

de wa/ja nai desu
Past negative dewa/ja nakatta dewa/ja arimasen or deshitadewa/ja nakatta desu

 

Examples

Sora wa aoi desu.

The sky is blue.

Hako ga aka deshita.

(The) box was red.

 

 

i Adjective as copula  (Descriptive)

(Non-past) ~i desu  

 

 

 

(Past) ~katta desu
(Negative) ~kunai desu
(Past negative) ~i dewa arimasen deshita
VCopula  

 

Comment

Use this block when you want an i adjective as a copula.

Example:

ekii Wa, Chikai desu
Topic VCopula

(Speaking of the) station, (it) is close.

The station is close.


 

na Adjectve as Copula (Descriptive)

 

(Non-past) ~desu ~ na Adjective
(Past) ~deshita
(Negative) ~dewa arimasen
(Past negative) ~ja arimasen deshita
NCopula

Comments

Conjugate the adjective and leave the verb in non-past tense.

Example

kare wa yume
Topic NCopula

(As for) him, (he) is famous.

He is famous.

 

 

Verb (Existence)

 

Aruiru
Exist verb

 

Comments

Use aru when speaking on non-living things; use iru when speaking of live animate things, including humans.  Conjugate the verb using the tables below according to circumstances.

Conjugation of aru and iru is according to these tables:

aru conjugation

Tense Informal Formal
Non-past aru arimasu
Past atta arimashita
Non-past negative aranai arumasen
Past negative  aranakatta arimasen deshita

 

iru conjugation

Tense Informal Formal
Non-past iru imasu
Past ita imashita
Non-past negative inai imasen
Past negative inakatta imasen deshita

 

Examples

Inu wa, uchi naka ni imashita..

(The) dog was in the house.

Empitsu wa watashi no ye arimasu.

(The) pencil is inn my hand.


 

VAdjective

i Adjective
VAdj

 

 

Comments:

Example:

eki wa tatemono no chikaku ni arimasu
Topic Noun Adj Passive location Copula

 

 

NAdj

 

(Non-past) ~desu
(Past) ~deshita
(Negative) ~dewa arimasen
Past negative) ~ja arimasen deshita
NAdj

 

Comments

 

Example:

uchi wa, kirei dewa arimasen
Topic NAdj

(as for the) house, (it) is not clean.


 

Chained I Adjective

i adjective kute  . . .  adjective
I chain   (last adjective)

 

Comments

Use this when more than one adjectives are used together.

You can not mix positive and negative adjectives (e.g, bright and noisy).

Example:

sushi wa oishii kute yasui
Topic I Adjective i copula

As for sushi, (it) delicious (and) cheap is

The sushi is delicious and cheap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

na Adjectve

 

(Non-past) ~desu  
(Past) ~deshita
(Negative) ~dewa arimasen
Past negative) ~ja arimasen deshita
na Adjective

 

Comments

Example

uchi wa, kirei dewa arimasen
Topic na Adjective

(as for the) house, (it) is not clean.

The house is not clean,


 

Chained na Adjective

 

na Adjective de . . . Adjective desu
na chain   Adjective

 

Comments

Use this when more than one adjectives are used together.

You can not mix positive and negative adjectives (e.g, bright and noisy)

Example

kurabu wa nigiyaka de kitanai desu
Topic na hain l Adjective

As for the club, (it) noisy (and) dirty is.

The club is noisy and dirty.


 

na Adjectve

 

(Non-past) ~desu  
(Past) ~deshita
(Negative) ~dewa arimasen
Past negative) ~ja arimasen deshita
na Adjective

 

Comments

Example:

uchi wa, kirei dewa arimasen
Topic na Adjective

(as for the) house, (it) is not clean.


 

Location and Transportation Blocks

At Time (no action)

 

time ni
At time

 

Comments

use when verb does not describe any action –  e.g, copula.

Example

kyo wa kinyoubi de desu
Topic Action Time Verb

Today Friday is

Today is Friday.

Action Time

 

Time de
Action time

 

Comments

Use this block to state the time that the action occurs.

If the time is unambiguous (e.g., ashita, kyo), use a Time block.

Example

3 ji de mise ni ikimashita.
Action Time Destination Verb

(I) at 3 0’clock to store went.

At 3 o’clock (I) went to the store

 

 

Start time

 

Time kara
Time start

 

Comments

Use this block to state the time at which the action begins.

Example

8 gatsu 4 nichi kara Sapporo E ikimasu
Time start Location to Verb

From August 4 (I) Sapporo go

(On) August 4 (I) go to Sapporo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

End Time

 

Time made
Time end

 

Comments

Use this block to state when the action ends.

Example

watashi wa getsuyoubi made koko ni Imasu
Topic Time end Location at Verb

As for me, (I) to Monday here am

I will be here until Monday.

 


 

Duration

 

time kan
Duration

 

Comments

Use this block to relate the duration of some event.

Example

watashi wa london ni ichi shuu kan imasuu
Topic Location Duration Verb

As for me, (I) in London one week am.

I am in London for one week.


 

Action Location

Location and Transportation Blocks

 

Noun de
action location

 

Comments

Use this block when the verb describes the location where the action described by the verb occurs.  It may be an absolute or relative (e.g. above, behind) location

Example

watashi wa daidokoro de ryori shite imasu
Topic Action location Doing verb

As for me, (I) in kitchen am cooling.

I am cooking in the kitchen

 

 

Non-action Location

 

Noun ni
Non-action Location

 

Comments

Use this block to relate a location when the verb does not describe an action, e.g., is a copula

Location may be an absolute or relative (e.g. above, behind) location

Example

Uchi wa Tokyo ni desu
Topic NonAction Location Copula

Speaking of the house, (it) in Tokyo is.

(The) house is in Tokyo.

 

From

 

Location   kara
  From

 

Comments

Use this block to relate the origin of a movement.

Example

San Francisco kara Tokyo made hikoshimashita
From To Verb

From San Francisco to Tokyo (I) flew.

I flew from San Francisco to Tokyo.

 

 

 

 

 

To

 

Location made
To

 

Comments

Use this block to relate the destination of a move.

Example

Atami made Ikimashita
To Verb

To Atami (I) went.

I went to Atami.

 

 

Mode

 

Mode de
Mode

 

Comments

Mode is the method of movement, such as train, car, walking, etc.

Example

densha de osaka e ikimasu
Mode Destination Verb

By train to Osaka went

I went to Osaka by train.

 

 

 

 

Limits)

That’s all there is

Noun/Adjective dake
All there is

 

Comments

 

Examples

Jazz dake
All there is
Ga Suki
Subject Copula

Jazz is all that I like,

Jazz is the only nusic I Iike.

 

Kono Mizu
Na Adjective
Dake
All there is
Ga Nomimasen
Subject Verb

Do not drink this (onl) water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing but

Noun/Adjective Bakari
Nothing but

 

Comments

 

Example

 

Kono Koen
Adjective
Wa Sakuranoki Bakari Arimasu
Topic Nothing bbut Verb
Object

 

Nothing but cherry trees in this park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too much

Verb or adjective root Sugiru
Too Much

 

Comments

This is a Group 2 verb.

If negative, change nai to sai.

 

Examples

Watashi Wa Sake O Nomi sugumashita
Topic Ob.jedt Too much

As for me, (I) drank too mich,

                                                                
       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lists

 

Complete List

 

Noun to . . . Noun
List item . . . Noun

 

Comments

Use this block to present a complete list.

Example

niu to imo to nasu o kaimashita
List item List item Object Verb

Meat and potato(s) and eggplant (I) bought.

I bought meat, potatos, and eggplants.

 

 

 

Incomplete List

 

Noun ya . . . Noun nado
Etc Item . . . List Etc Item

 

Comments

Use this block for an item in an incomplete list, i.e., one that end with ‘et cetera’.

Example

ringo ya orenji ya yuzu nado kudammono desu
Etc item Etc item Etc Last Copula object Copula

Apples, oranges, (and) yuzu fruits are.

Apples, oranges, and yuzu are fruits.

 

 

 

Or list

Noun ka . . . Noun
Or list item . . . Noun

 

Comments

Use this block to make a list of alternatives.

Example

Aya san ka Takumi san ka Aoko san o iru imasu
Or item Or item Object Doing Verb

Aya ssan or Takumi san or Yoko san is going.

Aya or Takumi or Yoko is going

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sentence Blocks

 

Question

 

 

Sentence

 

 

Ka
Question

 

Comments

Ka at the end of a sentence turns it into a question.  Think of ka as a question mark..

Example


 

Confirmation

 

 

Sentence

 

 

ne
Confirm

 

Comments

neat the end of a sentence basically asks for agreement with what was said.

Example


 

Assertion

 

 

Sentence

 

 

yo
Assert

 

Comments

yo at the end of a sentence turns it into a assertion

Example

 

 

Confirmation

 

 

Sentence

 

 

ne
Confirm

 

Comments

neat the end of a sentence basically asks for agreement with what was said.

Example


 

Confirmation

Sentence 1

 

 

kara
Therefore
 

 

Sentence 2

 

 

 

Comments

Use this block for if … then situations.  If sentence 1 then sentence 2

Example