395 - げ

JLPT N2 Grammar: げ

げ is a grammar point that means “show signs of,”or “look like.”

It is usually used with adjectives to show the way someone looks or feels.

It is a slightly old fashioned way of talking about someone’s appearance. You may think that because of this it isn’t useful. But not only should you know it for the JLPT if you plan on taking it, but you should also know the meaning for when older people speak to you. There are enough difficulties in speaking to older people in Japanese, so don’t let this grammar point be another one of them! (I say this because I have a neighbor with no teeth who only speaks the local dialect...I can’t understand him at all.)

げ is a special type of grammar point as it is often connected with i-adjectives and na-adjectives, and the word is then used as a na-adjective within the sentence.

Here is the construction:

i-adjectives: Remove い, add げ.
恥ずかしい(はずかしい // embarrassed; shy; ashamed
恥ずかしはずかしげ // looking embarrassed; shyly

na-adjectives: *Remove な, Add げ.
満足な(まんぞくな // satisfied; content
満足まんぞくげ // looking satisfied

*In many cases, there will be no な to remove.

As mentioned above, the new word with げ at the end of it functions as a na-adjective.

In other words, ~げ will often be followed by "な + NOUN" or "に + VERB."

~げ + な + NOUN
~げ + に + VERB

See the examples below to see what I mean.


「あごにソースがついているよ」と言うと、彼は恥ずかしに微笑んで「ありがとう」と言った。
「あご に ソース が ついている よ」 と いうと、 かれ は はずかしげ に ほほえんで 「ありがとう」 と いった。
When I said, “There is sauce on your chin,” he gave an embarrassed smile [he smiled shyly] and said “Thank you.”
Literally: “chin + に + sauce + が + sticking to + よ + と + say + と, + he + は + looking embarrassed + に + smiled (and) + thank you + と + said.”


台風で花火大会が中止になったとき、子供たちはとても悲しだった。
たいふう で はなび たいかい が ちゅうし に なった とき、 こどもたち は とても かなしげ だった。
When the fireworks festival was canceled due to the typhoon, the children looked very sad.
Literally: “typhoon + で + fireworks + festival (=large meeting) + が + cancellation + に + became + when, + children + は + very + looking sad + だった.”


~げ is often used with words like いかにも (really; indeed) and さも (extremely; really).

お父さんは長い昼寝のあと、いかにも満足に大きく伸びをした。
おとうさん は ながい ひるね の あと、 いかにも まんぞくげ に おおきく のび を した。
After taking a long nap, father stretched out, looking extremely satisfied.
Literally: “father + は + long + nap + の + after, + indeed + looking satisfied + に + big + stretched + を + did.”


Now, we can look at a unique exception to our conjugation rules:

~ありげ

In this case, we have げ attaching to a verb: あります (is; be).


We remove the ます and add げ.

Usually ありげ will come after a noun:

NOUN ありげ
appearing to have NOUN; appearing to be full of NOUN

The most common noun you'll see this being used with is 意味 (いみ // meaning).

意味あり
いみ ありげ
meaningful; appearing to have meaning

Here's an example:

シャーロックはその男性の証言を聞くと、さも意味ありな表情を浮かべた。
シャーロック は その だんせい の しょうげん を きくと、 さも いみありげ な ひょうじょう を うかべた。
When Sherlock listened to the man’s testimony, a really meaningful expression showed on his face.
Literally: “Sherlock + は + that + man + の + testimony + を + listen + と, + really + looking meaningful + expression + を + showed.”


Now it's your turn. Can you think of the way someone would look if they saw an old friend? Or how about a child caught stealing a cookie from the cookie jar? Try making your own sentences using げ.

This is my dog’s 悲しげ expression when I won’t give him any of the chicken I am eating:


This lesson was written by Cassy L., a guest contributor:


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