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Basics of Japanese: Top 15 Adjectives

Japanese use adjectives as interjections in everyday conversation. Whereas in English you might say, “This is fun!” in Japanese you can simply say, “Tanoshii!” Similarly, instead of saying, “Oh geez, I feel so embarrassed,” a Japanese person is much more likely to simply say “hazukashii!”

As you can guess from these examples, knowing just a few adjectives will allow you to really begin to express how you’re feeling while also sounding just like a native speaker.

Japanese adjectives function in a sentence the same way as they do in English. If you want to describe a noun (like a “cute cat”) then you would say “kawaii neko”. Meanwhile, if you want to make a sentence (like “the cat is cute”) then you would say “neko wa kawaii desu.”

 

Appearances/Personalities

Cute

かわいい / kawaii

  • ねこ も いぬ も かわいい です / neko mo inu mo kawaii desu
    • Both cats and dogs are cute

Ugly

みにくい / minikui

  • みにくい あかちゃん を みた こと が ありません / minikui akachan wo mita koto ga arimasen
    • I’ve never seen an ugly baby

Quiet*

しずか / shizuka

  • ひふみさん は しずか な おとこ の こ です / hifumi-san wa shizuka na otoko no ko desu
    • Hifumi-san is a quiet boy

Clean or Pretty*

きれい / kirei

  • へやはとてもきれいです / heya wa totemo kirei desu
    • The room is very clean

Noisy

うるさい / urusai

  • とうきょう は うるさい です か / toukyou wa urusai desu ka
    • Is Tokyo noisy?

Fun

たのしい / tanoshii

  • おまつちゃん は たのしい おんな の こ です / omatsu-chan wa tanoshii onna no ko desu
    • Omatsu-chan is a fun girl

 

*Na-adjectives

The two adjectives marked with the asterisk are called ‘na-adjectives’. These adjectives require you add a ‘na’ after the adjective when you’re describing a noun (like in the example for “shizuka” where we say “shizuka na otoko no ko”) but you do not need the ‘na’ if it’s being used in a sentence (like for “kirei” in “heya wa kirei desu”). Otherwise, for these basic sentence structures at least, na-adjectives are no different than the more common type of adjective, known as i-adjectives.

 

Expressions

The following adjectives are commonly used by themselves as an interjection, but they can also be used in a regular sentence.

Cool

かっこいい / kakkoii

  • かれ は かっこいい です ね! / kare wa kakkoii desu ne!
    • Isn’t he cool!

Amazing

すごい / sugoi

  • みやざき はやお さん は すごい です / miyazaki hayao-san wa sugoi desu
    • Hayao Miyazaki is amazing

Risky

あぶない / abunai

  • サメ と およぐ の は あぶない です / same to oyogu no wa abunai desu
    • Swimming with sharks is risky

Good

いい / ii

  • いい おてんき です ね / ii otenki desu ne
    • What good weather

Bad

わるい / warui

  • わるい ひと は だれ です か / warui hito wa dare desu ka
    • Who is a bad person?

 

Colors

Colors are an interesting kind of adjective in Japanese. In their base form, they’re actually nouns–not adjectives. However, you can add an い (i) to the end of many of them to turn them into an i-adjective, or you can use their base form and add a の (no) to use them similar to na-adjectives. For all of the adjectives listed below, it’s very natural to add an い and turn them into i-adjectives.

Blue

あお / ao

  • あおい かさ を とって ください / aoi kasa o totte kudasai
    • Please take the blue umbrella

Red

あか / aka

  • あかい の を ください / akai no wo kudasai
    • Please give me the red one

White

しろ / shiro

  • しろい ズボン を はいています / shiroi zubon wo haiteimasu
    • I’m wearing white pants

Yellow

きいろ / kiiro

  • きいろい とり は カナリア です / kiiroi tori wa kanaria desu
    • A yellow bird is a canary

 

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Katrina

About the author

Katrina has worked as a Japanese language teacher and freelance translator for several years. She loves traveling and has been all over Japan. Click here --> Free Japanese Lessons

View all articles by Katrina
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