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Lesson Transcript

Peter: Hi everyone, and welcome to the Grammar portion of JapanesePod101.com’s All About Series!
Naomi: Oh no, not grammar!
Peter: Now, I’m sure some listeners are having that very same reaction right about now. But we’re here to tell you – there’s nothing to worry about. We’ve made Japanese grammar so simple that you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.
Naomi: You’ll be surprised to learn that in comparison with English or other foreign languages, some parts of Japanese grammar are amazingly easy!
Peter: Easy, you say? I think it’s possible, and we’re about to show you!
Naomi: Okay, so let’s get started!
Peter: First, what we want to do is take a look at English. If you think for a moment about how English works, you’ll be able to see in what ways Japanese is different.
Naomi: For one thing, English is an SVO language! Peter, what does SVO stand for?
Peter: There you go, you’re starting with the acronyms. SVO stands for Subject-verb-object. Basically, that means that in an English sentence, the subject always comes first, followed the verb, and then the object, if there is one. That’s how English sentences are put together.
Naomi: Can we have an example?
Peter: Sure. “I eat fruit”. That’s the English sentence. ‘I’ is the subject, or the one doing the action. ‘Eat’ is the verb, or the action taking place. And lastly, ‘fruit’ is the object that recieves the action.
Naomi: So, SVO! Subject, verb, and object!
Peter: So “I read the newspaper”, “I watch TV”… these are all SVO sentences.
Naomi: And that’s where Japanese is a little different.
Peter: That’s right. Japanese is what’s called an SOV language.
Naomi: Subject-object-verb.
Peter: So the position of the object and verb are reversed in Japanese. Compared to English, the important thing to notice here is that the verb comes at the end!
Naomi: So, if we were to say the previous sentence using Japanese SOV order, it would be…
Peter: I fruit eat.
Naomi: It sounds a bit strange, right?
Peter: It sounds a bit strange, but once you get used to it, it’s not bad at all. In fact, as we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of areas of Japanese that are much simpler than their English counterparts, right?
Naomi: Right. Now we’ll go through and show you what some of them are.
Peter: What we’ve decided to do is compare Japanese examples to English grammar examples so that you can really see the differences. The next one we’ll talk about is tense.
Naomi: Well first, what is tense?
Peter: Good question! Tense refers to time – past, present, and future. Three main tenses.
Naomi: But in Japanese, there are only two tenses.
Peter: Past and non-past.
Naomi: It’s called non-past because Japanese uses the same tense for present and future. There’s no distinction!
Peter: So, as long as you have words that specify time, you can easily tell when the action is going to take place. Let’s hear some examples. How about a simple sentence.
Naomi: Okay. わたしはスーパーに行きます。
Peter: I go to the supermarket.
Naomi: 行きます
Peter: is the verb, and it means “to go”. So, Naomi-sensei, that sentence is in the present tense.
Naomi: Right.
Peter: How do we change it to the future? “I will go to the supermarket”.
Naomi: It would be the exact same sentence! わたしはスーパーに行きます。
Peter: To make it even clearer that it’s in the future though, you can add a word that tells us when you will go to the supermarket, like
Naomi: あした
Peter: Tomorrow, or…
Naomi: 来週
Peter: Next week. Now, if you have a word that indicates future in there, then there is no doubt that this action will take place in the future.
Naomi: That’s right.
Peter: But the whole point is that there are a lot less tenses than in English, and for those of you native English speakers who are listening to this, you don’t realize how difficult English is. For those of who you have studied English and are listening to this - congratulations!
Peter: Okay, let’s move on to another advantage that Japanese has over English. Naomi-sensei, that is…?
Naomi: Conjugation.
Peter: Conjugation. Now, in a lot of languages, the verb conjugates, or, in plain English, changes its form, according to who is doing the action. Now, this is especially true for Romance languages, but we also see it in English: for example, “I go” versus “he goes”.
Naomi: “go” becomes “goes”.
Peter: See how the verb changes according to who’s doing the action? Now, Naomi-sensei, what about Japanese?
Naomi: Japanese verb doesn’t conjugate according to the subject.
Peter: In Japanese, it doesn’t matter who is doing the action – the verb stays the same. Naomi-sensei, can we hear some examples?
Naomi: Sure.
Peter: Now, don’t worry about trying to catch every word, just listen for the verb at the end. It’s the same one we mentioned before:
Naomi: 行きます, to go.
Peter: Sample sentence?
Naomi: 私はスーパーに行きます。
Peter: “I go to the supermarket”.
Naomi: ピーターはスーパーに行きます。
Peter: “Peter goes to the supermarket”. The translation changed. “I go to the supermarket”. “Peter goes to the supermarket”. But the Japanese - you heard the exact same…
Naomi: 行きます
Peter: …in both sentences, right?
Naomi: The verb didn’t change!
Peter: And that makes grammar a lot easier for sure.
Naomi: Yes, indeed.
Peter: All right, on to our next advantage Japanese has over English, in the realm of easiness. Let’s also talk about singulars and plurals. For English, we learn that to make plurals, we add ‘s’ or ‘es’ at the end, but when you think about it, there are tons of exceptions.
Naomi: Yeah like “knives”, “geese”, “mice”, “children”…
Peter: I’m kind of getting a feeling you’re remembering your childhood studies and the pain you went through to remember these exceptions to the rule.
Naomi:  そうですね。Right.
Peter: Now, in the case of Japanese, it does away with all of this completely. Japanese words don’t make the distinction between singular and plural. The word for book:
Naomi: 本
Peter: could refer to one book or two books.
Naomi: or three… could be a million!
Peter: The word for car:
Naomi: 車
Peter: …could refer to one car, or ten!
Naomi: Right.
Peter: You’ll find that it makes things a lot simpler. If you need to specify, say, multiple books or something like that, of course there are ways to count them, but the distinction is not that important that you need to worry about it!
Peter: Okay, now let’s switch gears a little bit, shall we Naomi-sensei?
Naomi: Sure.
Peter: Let’s talk about some areas of Japanese grammar that are really unique! Things that English might not even have.
Naomi: One of the biggest ones is the use of formal and informal language.
Peter: Now, in English there are certain phrases that you can use to sound more polite – for example “I’d like” versus “I want”, but the thing about Japanese is that when you are speaking formally, you use an entirely different set of grammar. There are informal and formal ways to say everything.
Naomi: Usually when you first learn Japanese, you learn to speak using formal language.
Peter: It’s really interesting how it works though, since English doesn’t have any real equivalent. And it gives you good insight into how Japanese culture works too, since you have to speak to certain people in a certain manner.
Naomi: There’s one more thing that we’d like to mention.
Peter: We?! You mean me, I’m doing all the talking here, Naomi-sensei! Okay, something you should know about the Japanese language is that it’s really a concise language. The key to sounding natural is leaving out anything that is already understood from context.
Naomi: You don’t need to repeat yourself when it comes to things like the subject.
Peter: And again, in plain English, the person going the action. The subject, the one doing the action, often disppears without a trace once it’s been made clear.
Naomi: On the contrary, if you keep stating the subject every time, it will start to sound unnatural.
Peter: So really all you need to worry about is the important information. Everything else that is already understood doesn’t need to be mentioned again! All right, Naomi-sensei, I think that just about covers it for our brief overview of Japanese grammar!
Naomi: We hope this has prepared you for your journey into the Japanese language. Hopefully after this, there should be no major surprises!
Peter: Keep up with JapanesePod101.com for more lessons that will teach you Japanese the easy and fun way.
Naomi: See you again!


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Monday at 6:30 pm
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Hi everyone! That grammar overview wasn't so bad, was it?

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August 3rd, 2017 at 9:58 pm
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Hi Keith,

Thanks for your great feedback!

We're glad you're having fun studying Japanese with us ;)

Please let us know if you have any questions. We'll be happy to help you out :)


Cristiane (クリスチアネ)

Team Japanesepod101.com

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May 15th, 2017 at 5:58 pm
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I was always intimidated to try to learn Japanese, but if i would've known it was this fun I would've started a long time ago.

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February 17th, 2017 at 9:21 pm
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Does the helping word に in the two sample sentences indicate the place being visited? A textbook I learned from states that the helping word へ should be put after a place if you want to say somebody goes(went) somewhere.

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May 7th, 2015 at 3:31 pm
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Hanna san,


Thank you for the reply.

Wow! That is interesting. :smile:

Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

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May 3rd, 2015 at 7:43 pm
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It is the language of Sri Lanka.Sinhalese:smile:

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April 29th, 2015 at 4:25 pm
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Hanna san,


Thank you for the post.

If you don’t mind, could you please tell me your first language?


Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

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April 26th, 2015 at 7:29 pm
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Japanese tenses & Conjugations are exactly same to my native language.:smile:

The particle ね is totally same to my language in way we use it and even the way we pronounce it.

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July 14th, 2014 at 4:02 pm
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Hi 12,

Great to have you here!

Please stay tuned since every week we have new lessons for you! And if you have any questions, feel free to ask us.



Team JapanesePod101.com

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July 11th, 2014 at 1:07 pm
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arigato ^^

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June 6th, 2014 at 6:12 pm
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Koda san,

Thank you for the comment.

We are happy you have enjoyed the lessons.

Yuki  由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com