X-thousand Sentence Master

Those sentences we just looked at (with です) in the previous lesson are a bit formal. To make casual sentences, we can essentially do the same thing with だ in place of です. But be careful!

The thing is:

We can only put 「A は B だ」when B is a noun or a na-adjective.

What’s a na-adjective?

Technically, Japanese has two types of adjectives: i-adjectives (i.e. adjectives that end in い) and na-adjectives (i.e. adjectives that [usually] DON’T end in い). Every adjective I used in the last lesson was an i-adjective… because they ended with ‘i.’

// takai // expensive; tall

面白 // omoshiroi // interesting; fun

// yasui // cheap

Here, on the other hand, is a na-adjective: 簡単 (かんたん), which means “easy.” This is a na-adjective because it does not end in ‘i.’ This is not to say that the last kana of a na-adjective can never end in い. The word 綺麗 (きれい), for example, ends with the kana い, but it's a na-adjective. Perhaps it would make more sense to say that an i-adjective is an adjective with い snapped onto the end of it.

So, we could take a noun like 日本語 (にほんご), which means “Japanese (language),” and then we could make this sentence:

AB です
日本語簡単です。
にほんご は かんたん です。
Japanese is easy.
Literally: "Japanese (language) + は + easy + です."

Since 簡単 (かんたん) is a na-adjective, we can switch out です for だ in casual sentences:

AB
日本語簡単だ。
にほんご は かんたん だ。
Japanese is easy.
Literally: "Japanese (language) + は + easy + だ."

(Important Note: Be sure to read the part later in the lesson where I talk about dropping だ completely.)

Well, maybe Japanese isn’t “easy,” per se. After all, we have to learn a lot of information. Maybe instead of “easy,” we should say “simple.” The word for “simple” in Japanese is 単純 (たんじゅん), which is also a na-adjective.

So how do you think we would say “Japanese is simple” in casual Japanese?

⬇*Answer*⬇

AB
日本語単純だ。
にほんご は たんじゅん だ。
Japanese is simple.
Literally: "Japanese (language) + は + simple + だ."

Grammar Terms: Technically speaking, it is better to refer to だ as the "plain form" of です. We'll talk a lot about the plain form throughout this guide, especially once we get to verbs and more complex phrases.

This also works for nouns. For example, in Japanese we can say people’s nationalities by putting the suffix 〜人 (~じん) onto the end of a country’s name. So let’s take eight random countries:

(I know you might be struggling with katakana still, so I've included romaji.)

Japanese Romaji English
アメリカ amerika USA
カナダ kanada Canada
メキシコ mekishiko Mexico
フランス furansu France
イギリス igirisu Great Britain
ドイツ doitsu Germany
インド indo India
ベトナム betonamu Vietnam

If you look at the Japanese names of countries, they’re almost always the English name of the country written with Japanese pronunciation. There are some exceptions to this, such as ドイツ for “Germany,” above, but usually those make sense, too, because they come from languages other than Japanese or English.

So let’s say that we have a guy named “Tom,” which we’ll write as トム (tomu) in Japanese. Tom is an international dude, and he has like eight nationalities. Simply by adding 〜人 (~じん) to the country names above, we can say that Tom is a citizen of those countries:

A B です。
トム アメリカ人 です。
→ Tom is American.
トム カナダ人 です。
→ Tom is Canadian.
トム メキシコ人 です。
→ Tom is Mexican.
トム フランス人 です。
→ Tom is French.
トム イギリス人 です。
→ Tom is British.
トム ドイツ人 です。
→ Tom is German.
トム インド人 です。
→ Tom is Indian.
トム ベトナム人 です。
→ Tom is Vietnamese.

Question: Now how do we make those sentences casual?

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This is going to be just ever so slightly more complicated than I'd wish it to be.

First, here is the answer you'll probably get from your Japanese teachers and textbooks:

So-So Answer: Replace です with だ.

Like this:

A B だ。
トム アメリカ人 だ。
→ Tom is American.
トム カナダ人 だ。
→ Tom is Canadian.
トム メキシコ人 だ。
→ Tom is Mexican.
トム フランス人 だ。
→ Tom is French.
トム イギリス人 だ。
→ Tom is British.
トム ドイツ人 だ。
→ Tom is German.
トム インド人 だ。
→ Tom is Indian.
トム ベトナム人 だ。
→ Tom is Vietnamese.

Now, you're probably wondering why I put that text in red and said that it's a so-so solution for making casual "A is B" sentences.

Yes, you can say the above sentences. They're technically correct. And grammatically, there's nothing wrong with them.

But if you find yourself speaking casual Japanese with friends in Japan, they're going to opt for this even better answer to our question:

Question: Now how do we make those sentences casual?
Answer: Drop です and だ completely!

Like this:

A B
トム アメリカ人
→ Tom is American.
トム カナダ人
→ Tom is Canadian.
トム メキシコ人
→ Tom is Mexican.
トム フランス人
→ Tom is French.
トム イギリス人
→ Tom is British.
トム ドイツ人
→ Tom is German.
トム インド人
→ Tom is Indian.
トム ベトナム人
→ Tom is Vietnamese.

So if です is the final word of your simple sentence, just leave it out completely in casual situations. Your Japanese will sound more natural.

Easy enough, yeah?

Are you ready to level up, then?

There may be some of you out there thinking, "Uh, I've heard Japanese people say だ at the end of casual sentences."

Yes, you're absolutely right. This does happen from time to time.

Specifically, the sentences above do need だ if we want to add a particle to the end of the sentence.

Imagine, for example, that we want to end the sentence with the particle よ (yo), which, among its many nuances, can convey that we are introducing new information to the listener. (We can generalize immensely by saying that よ is a particle for emphasis.) In this case, we would put だ just before the よ at the very end of our sentence:

トムはアメリカ人だ
トム は アメリカじん だ よ。
(You don't appear to know this, but) Tom is American.
Literally: "Tom + は + American (person) + だ + よ."
Note: Please don't take that translation too literally.

A B だよ。
トム アメリカ人 だよ。
→ Tom is American.
トム カナダ人 だよ。
→ Tom is Canadian.
トム メキシコ人 だよ。
→ Tom is Mexican.
トム フランス人 だよ。
→ Tom is French.
トム イギリス人 だよ。
→ Tom is British.
トム ドイツ人 だよ。
→ Tom is German.
トム インド人 だよ。
→ Tom is Indian.
トム ベトナム人 だよ。
→ Tom is Vietnamese.


Question: Why can't we just drop だ and say...

トムはアメリカ人
トム は アメリカじん よ。
(You don't appear to know this, but) Tom is American.
Literally: "Tom + は + American (person) + よ."

...?

Answer: We can drop だ, BUT it is feminine language.

だ has a bit of a rougher, punchier sound to it, don't you think?

No?

Well, you should start thinking that, because it will help with understanding the nuances of feminine and masculine speech in casual situations.

We don't have time to get into the many differences between masculine and feminine speech in this lesson, but let's all at least remember that the following sentences are using feminine language because there is no だ before よ:

A B よ。
トム アメリカ人 よ。
→ Tom is American.
トム カナダ人 よ。
→ Tom is Canadian.
トム メキシコ人 よ。
→ Tom is Mexican.
トム フランス人 よ。
→ Tom is French.
トム イギリス人 よ。
→ Tom is British.
トム ドイツ人 よ。
→ Tom is German.
トム インド人 よ。
→ Tom is Indian.
トム ベトナム人 よ。
→ Tom is Vietnamese.

Instead of just saying "feminine language," perhaps I should say "overtly feminine language," as you probably won't hear people talking like this very often in real life. You probably will, however, hear it in anime, movies, textbooks, etc. In other words, I'd recommend ending the sentences above in ~だよ whether you're a male or female.

So, assuming that I didn't confuse you too much, now you know all about making simple sentences using loan words from English.

In other words:

You can now make tens of thousands of different sentences.

That is not hyperbole.

In many, many, many cases, if you say an English word with super-Japanese pronunciation, Japanese speakers will understand. Yeah, it takes a while to get a good sense of how Japanese people change English words into katakana, but once you get the hang of it, you can pretty much say anything you want.

Still, using English loan words is way less exciting than all those cool, weird-sounding Japanese words people use, yeah? So let’s get better at using those in future lessons.