2017年9月27日水曜日

Japanese verbs 1: active and non-active

The last post was about wakaruand I said there that “wakaru is not an active verb.” This time, I’ll focus on this point. As you know, Japanese verbs are divided various ways into groups. Grouping for conjugation looks complicated, but there is a system to it. (Group 1: iku, nomu, kau, etc. Group 2: taberu, neru, miru, etc. Group 3: suru and kuru.) There are a few exceptions too, but you just need to remember them.
Another method of grouping is related to the meaning of verbs. Therefore, you need to recognize the concepts of action, state and change as related to verbs.

First of all, let’s divide verbs into two groups.
  1. active verbs
  2. non-active verbs
The active verbs are easy to figure out. Examples include taberu, nomu, suru, miru, iku and so on. Easy examples of non-active verbs are aru and iru. They are not actions, but instead indicate the existence of something or someone.
Sundeiru is the same concept. Some people think of this as an action, but it’s not a momentary action. It indicates a continuous state of living.
―――― sundeiru (I have been living)―――――→ (time)
Other verbs indicating states are tsukareteiru (have been tired), futotteiru (have been fat), kondeiru (have been crowded) and so on.
What do their dictionary forms mean then? Tsukareru, futoru and komu are the dictionary forms and they indicate changes.
Being in good shape ――→ get tired (tsukareru)
Being thin ――→ get fat (futoru)
Of course, naru indicates change as well.
Additionally, potential forms are also non-active verbs.
Watashi wa nihongo ga hanaseru. (I can speak Japanese.)
Hanasu is an action. On the other hand, hanaseru is the state of having the ability to speak. The same concept applies to oyogeru (can swim), yomeru (can read), surfing ga dekiru (can surf) and so on. Each one means someone has the talent or skill to do something.

What about mieru and kikoeru? They are non-active verbs, too. They are often translated as “I can see” and “I can hear”. However, it’s not one’s ability that these verbs refer to, but instead to situations happening naturally. Thus, they are not the potential forms of active verbs. Please keep in mind that these are different from verbs like hanaseru or oyogeru.
Fujisan ga mieru. (Mt. Fuji is visible.) 
It’s visible just because it’s there. It doesn’t include an action with any intention. Ultimately, mieru and kikoeru refer to states of being visible and audible, respectively. You can interpret wakaru in the same way. I wrote this in the previous post too, but please have a look at this again.
(watashi wa) nihongo ga wakaru. (Japanese is understandable (to me).)
Wakaru isn’t an active verb, but a state verb. Benkyo suru (to study) and narau (to learn) are actions, but wakaru refers to the state of knowing or understanding as a result of studying. That result is a state.


If you’re wondering why I have explained this, it’s because it’s easier for you to understand Japanese grammar if you can distinguish between active verbs and non-active verbs.
Basically, non-active verbs are not used with (wo). I previously wrote that “nihongo wakaru” is incorrect. Similarly, “kuruma aru”, “surfing dekiru”, “Fujisan mieru” aren’t correct either. You should use , not . However, を can be used with potential forms such as “nihongo hanaseru” and “kanji yomeru”. 

Also, there is one more important difference, too.

  1. 1. Active verbs include the speaker’s intention.
  2. Non-active verbs don’t and instead express a state, change, ability or result. 

For example, compare tame ni and you ni.
Byouki wo naosu tame ni, kusuri wo nomu. (I take medicine in order to cure my illness.)
Byouki ga naoru you ni, kusuri wo nomu.  (I take medicine so that I’ll get better.)
Next, compare tara and ba.
Ano mise ni ittara, cake wo tabeyou. (Let’s eat cake if/when we go to that shop.)
Ano mise ni ikeba, oishii cake ga aru. (If we go to that shop, there are good cakes.)
Tame ni and tara are paired with active verbs, and you ni and ba are paired with non-active verbs. (Tara and ba have different usages as well.)

There are many cases in Japanese grammar where you can choose whether to use verbs with intention or not. If you can distinguish between the two verb types, it gets easier to use Japanese grammar correctly.
Remembering the meaning of words is not enough. Try to think about whether it’s an action, state or change at the same time! 

2017年6月21日水曜日

wakaru

It’s been a long time! Many of you will take the JLPT soon. Are you studying every day?

Here’s a question for you: Do you consider “wakaru” to be an active verb like “taberu”, “nomu”, or “suru”?
The truth is that “wakaru” is not an active verb. Likewise, “aru”, “iru” or “tsukareru” are not active verbs either. Can you tell these verbs are all the same type of verb? If you can, it should be easier for you to understand Japanese grammar. If you can’t, please accept that’s just the way it is.
The following sentences are very basic examples with active verbs:
Watashi wa   soba o   taberu. (I eat soba.)
Watashi wa   ocha o   nomu. (I drink tea.)
Watashi wa   tennis o   suru. (I play tennis.)
However, unlike the verbs in those examples, “wakaru” is not an active verb, so we don’t say “watshi wa nihongo o wakaru.”
Nihongo ga   wakaru.
This is a grammatically orrect sentence. When you speak casually, you might say, “Nihongo wakaru?” “wakaru yo.” Or you may say, “kore wakatta?” “wakaranai.” The particles "o” and “ga” are not spoken so you can’t tell which one is omitted. It’s actually “ga” that is hidden there.

Mr. Jay Rubin, who has translated many of Haruki Murakami’s works, explains “wakaru” like this in his book Making Sense of Japanese:
People don't wakaru things; things themselves do wakaru: they "are clear" or they "are understandable." 
According to his explanation, “Nihongo ga wakaru” literally means “Japanese is clear/understandable.” When you think about it this way, it helps clarify why “nihongo o wakaru” is incorrect.

Based on that, you might ask, “How do you interpret the watashi wa in ‘watashi wa nihongo ga wakaru’?”
Watashi wa/niwa  nihongo ga  wakaru. As for me/To me, Japanese is understandable.
Mr. Rubin also explains it this way.

Also, “wakaru” has many usages. While writing up until this point, I almost used “wakaru” many times, but I deliberately chose other verbs each time. It’s possible to replace the verbs marked in pink above with “wakaru”. 

Let’s have a look at the definition of “wakaru” in a Japanese dictionary.
1) to understand    
example) Wake ga wakaranai. (It doesn't make sense.)  
example) Anata no iitai koto wa yoku wakaru. (What you mean is understandable.) 
2) to prove a fact 
example) Hannin no mimoto ga wakaru (find out the criminal's identity.)
example) Mondai no kotae ga wakaru (discover the answer to the question.)
It’s clear that “wakaru” doesn’t mean only “understandable” or “understand”. In addition to the examples above, it can also sometimes be “learn” or “realize”.

Lastly, since “wakaru” is not an active verb, it doesn’t have a potential form. "Wakareru” doesn’t exist. When you want to say “I can understand”, use “rikai dekiru” instead. “Rikai” means understanding. (However, "wakaru" itself sometimes means "I can understand".)

Wakaru no tsukaikata ga wakarimashita ka? (Did you figure out how to use “wakaru”?)

Minasan, JLPT gambatte kudasai !!

2017年4月2日日曜日

日本語教師募集中

日本語教師を募集しています。経験者であればさらに歓迎。
興味のある方はぜひお問い合わせください。
We are recruiting experienced Japanese language teachers!

private.nihongo.lessons@gmail.com
recruit.privatejapaneselesson.com


arigato gozaimasu and arigato gozaimashita

It’s a question I sometimes get asked not only by beginners, but also by advanced students.
What’s the difference between “arigato gozaimasu” and “arigato gozaimashita”?
The answer is simple, but I’ll write it out to make sure you understand it.

“Arigato” expresses gratitude. You say it when someone has done something for you—for example, if your boss helped you with something at work.
“Tetsudatte kudasatte, arigato gozaimashita.” (1)
The past tense “gozaimashita” is used because your boss had already helped you before you said it. This makes sense, doesn't it? 
However, the present tense “arigato gozaimasu” can also be used in this case. That’s why these expressions cause confusion.

Consider this next example. Let’s say your client is going to prepare some documents for you by next week.
“Arigato gozaimasu. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.” (2)
The present tense is used because your client hasn’t prepared them yet. In this case, you can’t use the past tense. Remember: The past tense can’t be applied to incomplete events. This is a rule! 


Let’s have a look at other expressions: “Otsukaresama desu” and “otsukaresama deshita.”
The same rule applies here, too.

It’s 7 PM and all employees are going home after work. What would you say to your colleagues?
“Otsukaresama deshita.” (1)
Work for the day is finished (1), so the past tense “deshita” is used. Japanese people say this to each other to mutually acknowledge their hard work. Like “arigato”, you can say “otsukaresama desu” in the present tense. 

Actually, you always hear “otsukaresama” at Japanese companies during the day and not only at the end of the day or after long meetings. People say it whenever they pass by each other. You can consider this expression to be a greeting used in the same way as “ohayo” and “konnichiwa.”
And, in cases where work is not over yet (2), you should say it like this:
“Otsukaresama desu.” (2) 
Even in the middle of the day, it expresses something like “You’ve been working hard today. Are you tired? Are you okay?” 

Moving on, how about these expressions: “Osewa ni narimasu” and “osewa ni narimashita”? It’s not easy to translate them into English, but do you understand their meaning?
They are used when expressing gratitude to someone for taking care of you, helping you, or working with you.

For example, when you leave a company where you’ve worked for five years, you feel grateful to your colleagues.
"Ima made taihen osewa ni narimashita." (1)  (Thank you very much for all of your kind help.)
The act of receiving help from your colleagues has finished, so in this case, the present/future tense is not used. 

On the other hand, when you begin working at new office, you expect that your new colleagues will work with you and help you a lot. So, you say,
"Korekara osewa ni narimasu." (2)
This is about future, therefore “narimasu” is used and only this form is possible.

What would you say to clients you have been working with for a while?
Itsumo osewa ni natteimasu. (3)
Itsumo osewa ni natteorimasu. (polite version)
“Teimasu”, indicating a ongoing state, is used because these refer to a daily situation. When you want to be polite, convert “imasu” to its humble form, “orimasu.” 

These are very typical Japanese greetings and essential at Japanese offices. I hope you can use these expressions correctly in various situations.


2017年1月16日月曜日

Skype Japanese language lessons and Visitor Japanese language lessons

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2017年1月12日木曜日

Japanese announcements at the station part 2

Happy New Year 2017!

Yet another years has gone by. I haven’t posted anything for the last three months. However, “Nihongo Day By Day - English” surpassed 10,000 page views last November and December! Arigato gozaimashita!! I thank all of you — those who just had a quick look and also those who read the entire articles. I’m very happy.

To commemorate reaching 10,000 page views, I’ll write a follow-up to my Japanese station announcements article, which has been the most popular article on this blog.

In the first version, I introduced “door ga shimarimasu”, but I sometimes hear “door o shimemasu”. What is the difference between “ga” and “o” and also between “shimarimasu” and “shimemasu”?
door ga shimarimasu: The door will be closing on its own.
(watashi wa) door o shimemasu: I (the train crew) am closing the door.
“Shimemasu” is for someone’s action and “o” is an object marker.

Next, you hear something like this.
“muri na go-josha wa o-yame kudasai. 
 muri na: impossible, unreasonable
(go-)josha: boarding (“go” is an honorific prefix)
o-yame kudasai: to stop/quit (“o” is an honorific prefix)

What is impossible boarding? Is that something like the trains in India that have people crammed both inside and on top of trains?
No, that never happens in Japan. Rather, “muri na go-josha” refers to dashing to get on the train right before the door closes.

As I wrote last time, Japan loves warnings. Other people will caution you even for things you have to take care of by yourself.
“kono saki yuremasu node, go-chui kudasai.”
kono saki: from now on/from this point on
yuremasu: shake
node: because/therefore
Everyone more or less expects that trains will shake, though... 

These next announcements are rather important. Trains stop at every station along Tokyo Metro, but JR lines and other train lines have different types of trains, such as express or super express. They are quite difficult to get your head around.
“kono densha wa shimbashi ni teisha itashimasen. Tsugi no densha o go-riyou kudasai.”
kono densha: this train
shimbashi: a name of the station in Tokyo
teisha shimasu: to stop
itashimasen: the humble form of shimasen
tsugi no densha: next train
(go-)riyou kudasai: please use 
“shuten made kaku eki ni tomarimasu”
shuten: final stop/station
made: to/until
kaku eki: each station
tomarimasu: to stop


If you miss these announcements, trains sometimes don’t stop at your station or else they stop at every station and take longer than expected to reach your destination.
When you’re unsure whether or not a train stops at your destination, try to ask someone this question: 
 “kono densha (pointing at the train) wa your destination ni tomarimasu ka?”
             (Is this train going to stop at your destination?)

It’s tough to get on and off trains or buses at unfamiliar places. Even if you carefully check your surroundings and the destination or number of train/bus, it’s easy to make mistakes. The other day I took the wrong bus in Kyoto - twice! 
Even when I go to an unfamiliar station in Tokyo, I have no idea which direction to go and even board trains going in the opposite direction from time to time. This is not a language issue, but just depends whether or not you understand the layout of the area.

Lastly, I’m going to post as many articles as I can this year, so I hope you will keep reading. Thank you!

akemashite omedeto!