Of particular note with Japanese grammar
(compared to English grammar
) is that it is extremely regular
. In fact, while there are over 250 "verb class
es" in English
s that conjugate
mostly the same way), there are only two such classes in Japanese
, plus two irregular verb
s. This regularity actually makes Japanese easier
to learn than many other language
The verb always comes at the end of the sentence, and does not change for person, gender, or number. Also, there are only two irregular verbs in the entire language, and even these conjugate predictably.
Furthermore, there are only two basic tenses: past and present. The present tense is used to express future intent, and so it is also known as the "non-past".
Rather than using auxiliaries or linking verbs, as English does ("will", "want", "can", "would", "should", etc), Japanese concentrates these functions into the verb ending. For example, "tabemasu" corresponds to "eat", "taberaremasu" corresponds to "can eat", and "tabetai" corresponds to "want to eat". Sometimes more than one ending can be applied to the same verb simultaneously, which can be somewhat confusing.
Articles ("a", "an", "the") are not present in Japanese. Additionally, Japanese nouns can signify plural or singular, definite or indefinite, as context warrants. For example:
Kore wa hon desu.
This is a book.
These are books.
This is the book.
These are the books.
Plurals do exist in the language and are used when there is emphasis on the plurality. For the most part, however, all the translations of the example sentence above are valid.
Japanese pronouns are treated quite differently than their English counterparts. They are frequently omitted, and the he/she forms are not usually used.
An important element of Japanese grammar that is not really present in English is the particle. These are short pseudo-words that indicate the function of the words they follow.
Japanese conjunctions, prepositions, interrogatives, and demonstratives exist in forms that are similar to those in English. Major differences include the use of the conjunction and and case changes for interrogatives.
Japanese adjectives overlap the verbs somewhat as they are conjugated for tense and function, and endings similar to those used for verbs can be applied. There are three types of adjectives, see that node for details.
One more note: when speaking Japanese, politeness is almost as important as correct grammar. There are no less than four levels of politeness; in combination with several "styles" of speaking this amounts to almost anything you say having a slant towards politeness or impolitness, familiarity or distance. To the dismay of foreigners everywhere, there is no neutral level in Japanese.