Now that you have the basics of hiragana and katakana down, you can start learning some basic words, phrases, and sentence structures. Remember to keep practicing both alphabets and to do the homework assignment at the end of this lesson! It will help you retain what you learn!
In this lesson
– Basic phrases
– Basic sentence structure
– Homework assignment and answer key
In the table below are some very basic Japanese phrases, words, and greetings. Study them until you feel comfortable speaking them and writing them. The lessons from here on out will not give you any Romaji, so you must remember hiragana and katakana! Sometimes, you will be asked to Romanize certain words or phrases. This is for making sure you understand hiragana and katakana and retain them!
|Japanese (にほんご)||English (えいご)|
|はじめまして||Nice to meet you/How do you do?|
|どぞよろしく||Pleased to meet you/please treat me kindly.|
|わたしは …||I am …|
|おげんきですか。||How are you?|
|はい、げんきです。||I am well.|
As you can see in the chart above, there is a greeting for each time of the day. When someone says this greeting to you, you can return it by saying the same one, depending on what time of day it is.
Look at the following short conversation to understand how the rest of the phrases are used. There is an English translation of the conversation following the Japanese.
A: Good afternoon!
B: Good afternoon. Nice to meet you. I am Fujiwara Takeshi. Please treat me well.
A: Nice to meet you. I am Takanaka Keisuke. Please treat me well. How are you?
B: I am well. And you?
A: I am fine.
From the above conversation, you can see how basic introductions are made using はじめまして, わたしは, and どぞよろしく. You can also see that there are usually no question marks in Japanese. The question particle か takes care of this, so you can just use a period. There is a question mark after あなたは because it is not a complete sentence and therefore does not have the particle か attached to it. In conversation, one would simply raise the tone of their voice when asking a question like this. In writing, the question mark is not necessary, but it is added here for clarification.
Basic Sentence Structure
The most basic sentence structure you will work with in Japanese is the X は Y です form. This is how you say “X is Y.” は is a particle that marks the subject of the sentence while です is a verb that means “to be.”
You can use this sentence form with わたしは that you saw above. For example, you can say “I am _____” and put your name where the blank is.
Example: わたしはななはらけいたです。 (I am Keita Nanahara).
Keep in mind that in Japanese, the surname always comes first! Japanese is also different from English because the verb always goes last. Japanese sentences function in subject, object, verb form instead of subject, verb, object form like English does.
Check out the sentence form in the below paragraph. You will learn how to make sentences like this as we learn more.
The above sentences say, “I am Yasuko Kumoto. I am 23 years old. I am a college student. My major is history.”
Notice that not each sentence begins with わたしは. This is because the subject in Japanese is often understood. Therefore, you can sometimes leave off the わたしは or whatever the subject may be, provided that your listener knows what you are referring to. It can get really repetitive to say わたしは over and over again.
Section 1: Write a short dialogue using the phrases you learned in this lesson. If you want to add extra words, feel free to use a Japanese dictionary.
Section 2: Write the following English phrases in Japanese (hiragana).
- Good night.
- How are you?
- Please treat me well.
- Good evening.
- I am well.
Section 3: Look at the pictures below. Write what Japanese phrase you think best goes with each picture. (Use your imagination!)
Section 4: Translate the following into English.
- I am 30 years old.
- I am a student.
- I am Chinatsu.
- I am well.
- My major is history.