Fun With Vocabulary

Not content with having three alphabets (or two syllabics and a logographic if you’re picky) the Japanese also have a formally formal way of speaking, and a formally informal way. These are not to be confused with the informal formalities, which are mere period pieces and regional dialects. So, one learns the baseline dictionary form of verbs and adjectives, and how to conjugate those forms into formal language. Then, in Chapter 18, they tell you that nobody talks like that, except in letters, and that in real life they use informal conjugations. On the positive side, despite the fact that they are very different from each other, these conjugations are extremely simple and logical…both of them. Oh, did I mention that the adjectives are conjugated almost identically to the verbs? And that these verbs and adjectives climb an intertiwined ladder of additional complexity from present positive to past negative? So った (tta) is the past positive form of a verb. And かった (ka.tta) is a past positive adjective. And なかった (na.ka.tta) is a past negative verb. And くなかった ( is a past negative adjective. See? Easy!

Decision Tree for Conjugating Japanese Informal Verbs and Adjectives

In an attempt to keep myself from going mad, I’ve built a key, a decision tree, based on my woefully inadequate understanding of how this works (we’re only on Chapter 18, remember?). Be warned that there are many exceptions, and there are words that look like verbs because maybe the word itself ends in た before ever you start conjugating it. We’ll just ignore that part. This graphic works on 90% of the words I am…currently… working with. As people correct me, and I learn more, I’ll update this.

Meanwhile, don’t follow me — I’m lost.


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