An adjective is a word that describes or clarifies a noun. Adjectives describe nouns by giving some information about an object’s size, shape, age, colour, origin or material.
- That is a big table.
- That table is brown.
- Aki has long, straight hair.
- Mr. Smith is a kind person.
- The room was cold and quiet.
- The test was not difficult.
An adjective can directly modify a noun that immediately follows it, or it can be connected using particles to nouns.
Types of Adjectives
There are two types of adjectives in Japanese; na-adjectives and i-adjectives.
The na-adjective is very simple to learn because it acts essentially like a noun. All the conjugation rules for both nouns and na-adjectives are the same. One main difference is that a na-adjective can directly modify a noun following it by sticking な between the adjective and the noun. (Hence the name, na-adjective.)
- Quiet person. しずかなひとです。
- Beautiful person. きれいなひとです。
You can also use adjectives with particles.
- My friend is kind. ともだち は しんせつ です。
- My friend is a kind person. ともだち は しんせつな ひと です。
note: In English to like is a verb, however in Japanese, すき is actually a na-adjective. If this confuses you, you can think of like to mean desirable.
- I like Sushi. すし が すき です。
- Food that I like. すきな たべもの です。
To make a na-adjective negative, we add じゃない to the adjective.
- I don’t like Sushi. すし が すきじゃない です。
- Person that does not like Sushi. すし が すきじゃない ひと です。
All i-adjectives always end in the Hiragana character: i. Unlike na-adjectives, you do not need to add な to directly modify a noun with an i-adjective.
- Sushi is delicious. すし は おいしい です。
- My friend is interesting. ともだち は おもしろいい です。
- It is an interesting movie. おもしろい えいが です。
To make an i-adjective negative, we remove the final い and replace it with くない.
- Sushi is not delicious. すし は おいしくない です。
- My friend is not interesting. ともだち は おもしろくない です。
- It is not an interesting movie. おもしろくない えいが です。
There is one i-adjective meaning “good” that acts slightly different from all other i-adjectives. This is a classic case of how learning Japanese is harder for beginners because the most common and useful words also have the most exceptions. The word for good was originally よい. However, with time, it soon became いい. When it is written in Kanji, it is usually read as よい / 良い so いい is almost always Hiragana. That’s all fine and good. Unfortunately, all the conjugations are still derived from よい and not いい. This is shown in the next example.
- It is good. いい です。
- It is not good. よくない です。