Wednesday, September 11, 2019

って Particle

In Japanese, tte って is a quoting particle. It's sometimes used as the casual counterpart of the to と particle, but it has other uses, too, like mentioning things in order to refer to them.
Sunday, September 8, 2019

~nai to ~ないと

In Japanese, ~nai to ~ないと generally translates to "if not," or "if [you] don't," or "when [you] don't." It's the i-adjective nai ない plus the conditional to. Note that it could also be another use of the to と particle, or even a different word, like naito ナイト, "night" or "knight."

Some examples:
  • benkyou shinai to daburu
    If [you] don't study, [you] will repeat a year.
  • okane ga nai to komaru
    If [you] don't have money, [I] will be troubled.
  • bakuhatsu shinai to omou
    [It] won't explode, is what I think. (this isn't the conditional to と, this is the quoting particle.)

Conditional と

In Japanese, the conditional to と refers to the to と particle when it's used as a conjunction. That's because it often translates to "if X, Y," or "when X, Y."

For example: hashiru to tsukareru 走る疲れる, means "if [I] run, [I] get tired," or "when [I] run, [I] get tired."
Friday, September 6, 2019

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Among verb types, intransitive, transitive, and ditransitive verbs are verbs of varying transitivity. A ditransitive verb has three arguments: subject, direct object, and indirect object. A transitive verb has two: a subject and a direct object. An intransitive verb only has one: a subject.

Normally, you wouldn't have any problem with such verbs, except that in Japanese they work differently from how they do in English, and most people have trouble with transitive-intransitive verb pairs, which take different particles.
Wednesday, September 4, 2019


In grammar, adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. For example: to speak quickly, to be very fast, and to run very quickly have the adverbs "very" and "quickly."

In Japanese, "adverbs," fukushi 副詞, do exactly the same thing, except that Japanese adverbs are a bit different from English adverbs..
Monday, September 2, 2019

Case Markers

In Japanese, case markers are particles that mark nouns and noun phrases with a "grammatical case," such nominative and accusative, or subject and object.

In Japanese, case marking particles are called kaku-joshi 格助詞.

Parallel Markers

In Japanese, parallel markers are particles that translate to "and" and "or" in English. They're parallel marking particles because they put nouns and nouns phrases in parallel. The Japanese term for them is heiritsu-joshi 並立助詞, "lining-up particles."

と Particle

In Japanese, the to と particle has various functions.
Friday, August 30, 2019

Ergative Verb Pairs

Among verb types, an ergative verb pair refers to an intransitive-transitive verb pair, where the subject of the intransitive is the object of the transitive, and the transitive expresses the causation of the intransitive event. Although there are some exceptions, like ditransitive verbs.

For example: ageru 上げる, "to raise," and agaru 上がる, "to rise," form an ergative verb pair both in English and in Japanese. If "you raise something" (object), you cause: "something rises." (subject)

Unaccusative Verbs

Among verb types, unaccusative verbs are intransitive verbs whose subject is the patient of the action. For example:
  • nan'i-do wo ageru
    To raise the difficult-level.
    • nan'i-do wo - patient, accusative case.
  • nan'i-do ga agaru
    The difficult-level rises.
    • nan'i-do ga - patient, nominative case.

Above, agaru is an unaccusative verb, and ageru is its lexical causative verb counterpart. Together, they form an ergative verb pair. The article about the verb pairs contains details on how both types of verbs work in Japanese.

By the way, the opposite of an unaccusative verb is called an unergative verb, whose subject is the agent, unless in passive voice.

Lexical Causative Verbs

Among verb types, lexical causative verbs are transitive verbs that form causative sentences without being conjugated to the causative form. For example:
  • musume ga naku
    The daughter cries.
  • musume wo nakasu
    To cause: the daughter cries.
    To make the daughter cry.

Above, we have the intransitive verb naku 泣く, "to cry," and the lexical causative verb nakasu 泣かす, "to make cry." Together, they form an ergative verb pair. The article about verb pairs explains the grammar in detail. This article will focus only on the verbs themselves.

Causative Sentences

In Japanese, "causatives," shieki 使役, happen when the subject of a sentence causes a causee to perform an action, where "causing" means either "forcing" or "allowing." Causative sentences usually feature verbs in the causative form, like suru する becoming saseru させる.

For example: kekkon saseta 結婚させた is a causative meaning either "[a causer] made [a causee] marry [someone]" or "[a causer] let [a causee] marry [someone]."
Monday, August 26, 2019

Suffering Passive

In Japanese, the suffering passive is when a sentence in passive voice has a subject that's negatively affected by an action without being directly involved in it. For example:
  • Tarou ga ame ni furareta
    Tarou is suffering because:
    • ame ga futta
      The rain fell from the sky.
      The rain is raining.
      It's raining.
    • Implicature: Tarou is inconvenienced by the rain.
  • Tarou ga Hanako ni shinareta
    Tarou is suffering because:
    • Hanako ga shinda
      Hanako died.
    • Implicature: Tarou was a friend of Hanako.

They're also called adversity passives or "indirect passives," kansetsu-ukemi 間接受身.

Passive Voice

In grammar, the passive voice is when the subject and object appear to switch roles. In active voice, the subject is generally the agent and the object is the patient: the cat ate the rat. In passive voice, the subject is the patient instead: the rat was eaten by the cat.

In Japanese, the passive voice, ukemi 受け身, is identified by the verb being in the passive form: suru する "to do," is active voice, sareru される "to be done," is passive voice. The way particles are used in the passive voice is different, and there are different types of passives.
Friday, August 23, 2019

Double Subject Constructions

In Japanese, a double-subject construction is when you have two subjects in a single sentence, called large subject and small subject, where the predicate of the large subject is a predicative clause containing the small subject plus the small subject's predicate.

In practice: zou ga hana ga nagai 象が鼻が長い, "elephants have long noses," or "about elephants: about [their] noses: long," has the large subject zou predicated by the clause hana ga nagai, which contains the small subject hana predicated by nagai.

The patterns ABがC, ABがC, ABがC, AにはBがC, BがC, C, ABC, ABC, among others often form double-subject sentences. Among these, some have two nominative subjects, and thus are also called double-nominative sentences.
Monday, August 19, 2019

で vs. に

In this article I'll explain the difference between the de で particle and the ni に particle. Note that one particle has a mountain of different functions, while the other one has a Mt. Fuji of different functions, and not all of them will be discussed in this article.

Check the particles' respective articles for further details.
Monday, July 22, 2019

で Particle

In Japanese, the de で particle has various functions.
Sunday, July 21, 2019


In Japanese, ra-nuki kotoba ら抜き言葉, "ら-removed speech," refers to a way of talking that omits the ra ら in the potential form of ichidan 一段 verbs, conjugating them like godan 五段 verbs that end in ru る.

For example: tabereru 食べれる is taberareru 食べれる, "able to eat," with the ra ら removed.
Saturday, July 20, 2019


In Japanese, i-nuki kotoba い抜き言葉, "い-removed speech," refers to a way of talking that omits the i い at the start of auxiliary verbs attached to te-form, contracting te-iru ている into te-ru てる, te-iku ていく into te-ku てく, de-iru でいる into de-ru でる, and de-iku でいく into de-ku でく, and so on.

For example: miteru 見てる is a contraction of mite-iru 見てる, "to be seeing."
Friday, July 19, 2019

youkoso ようこそ

In Japanese, youkoso ようこそ means "welcome." It's an expression used when welcoming a guest to a new place, like "welcome to city X" or "welcome to organization Y," and so on.

Manga: Mahou Sensei Negima! 魔法先生 ネギま! (Chapter 1)
  • youkoso ❤
    Welcome ❤
  • Negi-sensei'
    (character name.)

Above, for example, a teacher is welcomed into a classroom with youkoso.
Thursday, July 18, 2019

へ vs. に

In Japanese, the e へ particle and the ni に particle are similar in that they can be both used to mark a place for a movement verb.
  • gakkou ni iku
    To go to school.
  • gakkou e iku
    (same meaning.)

However, there are differences between e へ and ni に that can be noted.
Wednesday, July 17, 2019

へ Particle

In Japanese, the eparticle marks the direction "toward" which an action occurs, or simply means "toward." It's spelled as he へ, but pronounced like e.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019

naku wa nai なくはない

In Japanese, naku wa nai なくはない is the i-adjective or auxiliary adjective nai ない in the adverbial form, plus the wa は particle, plus the auxiliary nai ない again.

If the first nai is an auxiliary, ~naku wa nai ~なくはない means something "is indeed" somehow. If the first nai isn't an auxiliary, then it depends on what the phrase is saying. The exact grammar has been explained in the article about ~ku wa ~くは.

nakunai なくない

In Japanese, nakunai なくない means "is not not" or "there is not no" or "[I] don't have no." It's a double negative, so it translates to the positives "is," "there is," and "[I] have."

Grammatically, it'a the i-adjective or negative auxiliary nai ない, inflected to the adverbial form, naku なく, plus the negative auxiliary nai ない. So it's nai twice.

~ku wa nai ~くはない

In Japanese, ~ku wa nai ~くはない is the adverbial form of an i-adjective, plus the wa は particle, plus the negative auxiliary nai ない. Or it might be kuwanai 食わない, "won't eat."

Basically, ~ku wa nai is used to affirm something "is not" a given adjective.
  • warui?

    Is [it] bad?
  • waruku wa nai kedo..
    Bad, [it] is not but...

See ~ku wa ~くは for details about the grammar.

~ku wa ~くは

In Japanese, ~ku wa ~くは is the adverbial form of an i-adjective plus the wa は particle. This can work just like ~te wa ては, separating the adjective and an auxiliary into topic-focus, or just mark the adverb as topic.
Monday, July 15, 2019

nakya なきゃ

In Japanese, nakya なきゃ is often used to say you "must" do something. It can also be used to say "if not something, something else."
  • ganbaranakya
    [I] must work hard. Try my best. Put effort.
    • ganbaru 頑張る
      To work hard. Try your best. Etc.
  • yasukunakya urenai
    If [it's] not cheap, [it] can't be sold.
    • yasui 安い

Grammatically, it's either a contraction of nakereba なければ, the conditional ba-form of the i-adjective nai ない, "nonexistent," which can be suffixed to verbs and adjectives to create their negative forms.

This nakya なきゃ is almost synonymous with nakucha なくちゃ, which contracts nakute wa なくては instead.

~kya ~きゃ

In Japanese, ~kya ~きゃ is a contraction of ~kereba ~ければ, the conditional ba-form of i-adjectives. Or some sort of fangirling shriek: kyaa! きゃー!

nakucha なくちゃ

In Japanese, nakucha なくちゃ is normally used to say that you "must" do something. For example:
  • ganbaranakucha
    [I] must word hard. Try my best. Put effort.
    • ganbaru 頑張る
      To work hard. Try your best. Etc.
  • nigenakucha
    [I] must run away.
    • nigeru 逃げる
      To run away.

Grammatically, it's a contraction of nakute wa なくては, which is the te-form of the i-adjective nai ない, "nonexistent," plus the wa は particle. See the article about ~te wa ~ては for details.

~cha ~ちゃ

In Japanese, ~cha ~ちゃ is a contraction of ~te wa ~ては. Although sometimes it means "tea," ocha お茶.

~te wa ~ては

In Japanese, ~te wa ては is the te-form of a verb plus the wa は particle. This can have two different functions.


Just like how in English "I am" is contracted to "I'm," "is not" to "isn't," "will not" to "won't," and "don't know" to "dunno," Japanese has contractions, too. For reference, in this article I'll list the Japanese contractions.
Sunday, July 14, 2019

Null Particle

In Japanese, the "null particle," "zero particle," is an invisible, unpronounced, and basically imaginary particle that often replaces the particles wa, ga, wo, and ni, in all sorts of phrases. Literally, it's using "no particle," mu-joshi 無助詞, or just omitting the particle.

For example, in kankei ga aru 関係がある, kankei is marked as the subject by the ga が particle. However, the phrase is often just: kankei aru 関係ある. Since a particle is supposed to come after kankei, but isn't there, we call that the null particle.

Symbolically, the empty set symbol ∅ or the similar-looking Greek letter phi φ is used to refer to the null particle during analysis: kankei φ aru 関係φある, the null particle φ marks kankei.

Contrastive は

In Japanese, the contrastive wa は refers to the wa は particle when it marks the contrastive topic. Normally, the wa は particle just marks the (non-contrastive) topic, hence why this distinction is important.
Wednesday, July 10, 2019

は vs. が

In this article, I'll explain the difference between wa は and ga が, the two most confusing particles in all Japanese.
Sunday, June 30, 2019

わ Particle

In Japanese, the waparticle is a sentence-ending particle used to affirm one's conclusion, decision, opinion, to clarify something, or to exclaim an emotion such as surprise. In a way, it's predominantly used by women, categorizing it as female language.

Not to be confused with the wa は topic-marker, which is spelled with ha は but read wa.
Saturday, June 22, 2019

Sentence-Ending Particles 終助詞

In Japanese, "sentence-ending particles," or shuujoshi 終助詞, "final particles," are particles that come at the end of a phrase and express emotion, emphasis, determination, surprise, doubt, the speaker's will, calls for attention, and other ridiculously hard to explain effects.
Thursday, June 13, 2019

Female Language

In Japanese, "female language," or joseigo 女性語, refers to words and manner of speech predominantly used by women in Japan, that, consequently, would sound weird if used by men.

It's also called "women's language," and onna-kotoba 女言葉, "women's words."
Friday, June 7, 2019

sou そう

In Japanese, sou そう means "like that," "that's right," "it seems," or "I heard from someone that" depending on what function of the word is being used in a given sentence.
Thursday, June 6, 2019


In grammar, a noun is a word that refers to a thing, like a "cat." It isn't a verb: "John cats Mary." Or an adjective: "the caty person." Or an adverb: "he spoke catly." It's a noun.

Japanese has nouns too, like neko 猫, which means "cat," and turns out a lot of grammar depends on how nouns work, so that's what I'm going to explain in this article.

Subject and Object

In grammar, the subject, the direct object, and the indirect object are types of arguments a verb can have. The concept applies to both English and Japanese, but there are differences between how the two languages express and interpret verb arguments in a sentence.
Sunday, June 2, 2019

は Particle

In Japanese, the wa は particle has multiple functions. Note that it's spelled as ha は, but pronounced like wa わ.

は particle.
Manga: Boku no Hero Academia 僕のヒーローアカデミア (Chapter 46)
Saturday, May 18, 2019

を Particle

In Japanese, the wo を particle has one function: it marks the direct object of the sentence. Which should make it the simplest particle in all Japanese. However, just because it's the simplest one, that doesn't mean it's going to be simple.

To begin with, the wo を particle is also romanized o を. This happens because the wo を particle is pronounced like o お in Japanese.

In this article, as well as in the rest of this blog, it's romanized wo. In other blogs, resources, it may be romanized o. There's no difference: it's the same Japanese, different romaji.
Friday, May 17, 2019

が Particle

In Japanese, the ga が particle has several functions.
Wednesday, May 15, 2019

に Particle

In Japanese, the ni に particle has way, way too many functions, I mean, seriously, look at this:
Tuesday, May 14, 2019

な Particle

In Japanese, the na な particle has several functions.
Monday, May 13, 2019

の Subject Marker

In Japanese, the no の particle can sometimes replace the ga が particle as subject marker in a relative clause. Since this is something that's a bit confusing, I thought I'd better make a separate article to talk about it.
Sunday, May 12, 2019

の Particle

In Japanese, the no の particle has several functions.
Friday, May 3, 2019


In Japanese, __ to ii __ to ii ~といい~といい is a pattern used when citing two things about a situation before concluding something the situation.

  • nedan to ii, shitsu to ii, manzoku desu
    (citing) the price, the quality, (conclusion) [I'm] satisfied.
    • Given the price and the quality, I'm satisfied with this.

They're also spelled to ii と言い, from to iu と言う, "to say." Not to be confused with the other to ii といい, which's from "good," ii 良い.

The pattern can repeat for more than two things, but it's usually just two things.

otoko 男, 漢

In Japanese, otoko 男 means a "man," and otoko 漢 means a "MAN." A man among men. Whose pride, bravery, and dignity is unrivaled.

This, of course, isn't an actual word. It's a meme. It shows up in manga and anime from time to time.

Normally, "man" in Japanese is spelled otoko 男, as seen in words like otoko no ko, "male child," "boy."

The manga slang otoko 漢 is an ateji, that is, we're spelling with a certain kanji a word that doesn't have kanji or is normally spelled with different kanji. In this case, 漢 is the kanji for "man" in Chinese. Normally, it can only be read as kan 漢 in Japanese, like in chikan 痴漢, "foolish man," "molester." (another manga ateji is otokonoko 男の娘, "trap.")
Wednesday, May 1, 2019

koto aru ことある

In Japanese, koto aru ことある means something "exists" or "happens," or can happen, might happen, or that it has "happened," or that someone "has done" something before, as opposed to have never done it. Variants include koto ga aru ことがある and koto wa aru ことはある.

Literally, it's the combination of the light noun koto こと plus the verb aru ある, "to exist." Grammatically, koto is qualified by an adjective, such as relative clause, so it can abstractly refer to "a kind of something," and then the aru says that kind of something exists or happens.

The opposite is koto nai ことない: "doesn't exist," "doesn't happen," "never done it."

Depending on the adjective qualifying koto, the meaning changes.

koto nai ことない

In Japanese, koto nai ことない means someone has "never done something," or that something has "never happened," or that something "doesn't exist," or "doesn't happen." Variants include koto ga nai ことがない and koto wa nai ことはない.

Literally, it's the combination of the light noun koto こと plus the i い adjective nai ない, "non-existent." Grammatically, koto is qualified by an adjective, such as relative clause, so it can abstractly refer to "a kind of something," and then the nai says that kind of something doesn't exist or happen.

The opposite is koto aru ことある, "exists," "happens," "I've done it."

Depending on the adjective qualifying koto, the meaning changes.

yaru やる

In Japanese, yaru やる means a bunch of things. It can mean "to do" in a dozen ways. It can mean "to give [something]," or be used as an auxiliary verb to say "to do [something] for [someone]," just like ageru 上げる. It can mean "to work [a profession]." It can mean "to murder [someone]". And it can mean "to have sex with [someone]."

Depending on its meaning, it's sometimes written with different kanji.

Example of yaru やる in Japanese.
Manga: One Punch Man (Chapter 48)

guruguru-me ぐるぐる目

In Japanese, guruguru-me ぐるぐる目 means "spiraling eyes." In anime, this is those spiral-shaped eyes characters make when they're puzzled or dazed.

It comes from guruguru ぐるぐる, a mimetic word meaning "spiraling," and me 目, "eyes."

Sarazanmai さらざんまい

The anime Sarazanmai さらざんまい airing this season has so many puns and cultural Japanese references that I thought it'd be a good idea to list them here for further reference. This way you'll finally be able to unders... to understan...


Okay you won't be able to understand the anime, but you'll be able to understand the Japanese part of the anime, and that's one step, at least, so let's content ourselves with that. Anyway.

THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS!!! The first part of the article assumes you have already watched at least the first episode. After that, there's a second spoiler warning, and sections spoiling each and every episode. So scroll with caution!

egao 笑顔

In Japanese, egao 笑顔 means "smiling face," or "smiling expression." That is, the face someone makes while they're smiling.

An example of egao.
Anime: SSSS.Gridman (Episode 12)

Literally, it's warau 笑う, "to laugh," or "to smile," plus kao 顔, "face," which becomes gao because of rendaku.

Note, however, that the way the word is used in Japanese is closer to just "smile." For example:
  • sono egao wo mamoritai
    [I] want to protect that "smiling face."
    [I] want to protect that smile.
  • kanojo no egao
    Her smile.

negao 寝顔

In Japanese, negao 寝顔 means "sleeping face," or "sleeping expression." That is, the face someone makes while they're sleeping.

An example of negao.
Anime: Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge 田中くんはいつもけだるげ (Episode 1)

Literally, it's neru 寝る, "to sleep," and kao 顔, "face," which becomes gao because of rendaku.
Tuesday, April 30, 2019

torogao トロ顔

In Japanese, torogao トロ顔 means more or less "dozy face," in the sense of an expression of (often sexual) pleasure that makes someone feel relaxed enough to look dozy, with eyes half-closed, etc.

Example of torogao
Anime: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen~ かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Episode 11)
  • Context: food is delicious.
  • kan'in 完飲
    Drinking it all. (in this case, ramen.)

It comes from torotoro トロトロ , a mimetic word which means, among other things, "dozing off." Plus the word kao 顔, "face," that becomes gao 顔 because of rendaku.

Sex-Related Terms

A lot of manga and anime feature sex-related jokes, or dirty jokes, "low jokes," shimoneta 下ネタ, besides those that are simply sexual in nature, like of the ecchi and hentai genres. So, for reference, a list of sex-related Japanese vocabulary.

yaranaika? やらないか?

In Japanese, yaranaika? やらないか? means "won't [you] have sex with [me]?" The meme comes from a gay pornographic manga of the bara バラ genre.

Literally, it means "won't [you] do [it]?" It's the verb yaru やる, "to do," plus the negative -nai ~ない suffix, plus the doubtful ka か particle. However, yaru has various secondary meanings, like "to give," and, used as a slang, "to kill," and "to have sex with."

そう思っていると突然その男は僕の見ている目の前でツナギのホックをはずしはじめたのだ・・・! やらないか
Adult Manga: Kuso Miso Technique くそみそテクニック
  • sou omotteiru to
    totsuzen sono otoko wa
    {boku no miteiru} me no mae de
    tsunagi no hokku wo
    hazushi-hajimeta no da...!

    While [I] was thinking like that, that man, in front of [my] eyes [while] {I was seeing [him]}, started undoing the hook of [his] jumpsuit.
  • yaranaika
    Won't [you] do [it]?