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Thread: Japanese Sentence structure

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    Default Japanese Sentence structure

    The Japanese class I took stunk. I learned hiragana, katakana, and some kanji, but she never really taught us the basics of sentence structure, so I could never articulate any thoughts in the language. Would anyone have any advice?

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    The sentence structure?

    A bunch of crap here then verb.

    Basically, you just say all the stuff in any order but the verb goes last.

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    Subject, time, anything else, place, purpose, object, verb.

    That's the one I learned.
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    First things first is subject, then comes the tricky details. I think, depending on what time adjective you are using, it can either go next or right before the verb. Then comes details like place, other people that may be involved, then the direct object followed by the werb. Something like this:

    SUBJECT wa TIME ni PERSON ni PLACE/DIRECT OBJECT wo VERB (ending).

    There are quite a bit of variations on this, so this of course is far from everything you need to know about sentence structure, but it's a good place to start. If you really want to know, contact me via MSN.


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    Basically it's like this:

    [modifiers] [topic] [modifiers] [verb] [ending]

    where modifiers can be place, method, time, number, objects (direct and indirect), and any number of other things. My Japanese teacher said today though that if you number the objects (e.g. "there are 4 glasses on the table"), then the number goes immediately before the verb.
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    When you say time, are you refering to tense, such as past present and future?

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    No, the verb is conjugated based on past, present, future, continuous, etc. Time, referring to, in the case of:

    I ate lunch at 3 o clock.

    Watashi wa sanniji ni gohan wo tabemashita.

    I 3 oclock at lunch ate


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    Watashi wa rokuji ni Tanaka-san ni disco wo ikimasu.

    I am going to the disco with Bruce at 6 o'clock.

    Is that right?

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    how did you manage to translate tanaka-san with bruce ? oO
    also afaik it should be something like
    watashi ha rokuji ni tanaka-san to disco ni ikimasu.
    "to" meaning = with
    and "ni" being the particle indication the direction
    (you could also use "he" but I think that is more for indicating an approximate direction generally...even though there is not a really clear border between ni and he when used that way, i think)

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    My bad. I was going to use the name Bruce, but changed my mind, half way through. I also forgot about wa being spelt ha. Thanks for the reminder.

    Watashu ha sushi wo tabemasu.

    I eat sushi.

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    Quote Originally Posted by G0RE View Post
    My bad. I was going to use the name Bruce, but changed my mind, half way through. I also forgot about wa being spelt ha. Thanks for the reminder.

    Watashu ha sushi wo tabemasu.

    I eat sushi.
    Actually even though the particle "wa" is spelled "ha", it's bad practise to say "ha" when you're typing in a place like this, both because the word "ha" by itself means something and because if you practise it like that, then when you go out and really speak Japanese, you'll say "ha" and people won't know what you're talking about.

    Also, it's "watashi", or, if you're a guy, "boku" (although "boku" is more casual style, so use it with your friends if you like but not with someone you're trying to impress like a future employer or something). Then again, I use informal style with pretty much anyone but my Japanese teacher (in fact, my end-of-term presentation in Japanese class was done in almost 100% informal style), so it's probably best not to copy me :P
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ertai87 View Post
    Actually even though the particle "wa" is spelled "ha", it's bad practise to say "ha" when you're typing in a place like this, both because the word "ha" by itself means something and because if you practise it like that, then when you go out and really speak Japanese, you'll say "ha" and people won't know what you're talking about.

    Also, it's "watashi", or, if you're a guy, "boku" (although "boku" is more casual style, so use it with your friends if you like but not with someone you're trying to impress like a future employer or something). Then again, I use informal style with pretty much anyone but my Japanese teacher (in fact, my end-of-term presentation in Japanese class was done in almost 100% informal style), so it's probably best not to copy me :P
    boku isn't informal.. =/ lol but i denno the difference of formal and informal so meh. i don't think boku is though
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    well when talking to a professor or someone like that you should not use boku

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    Quote Originally Posted by LavaBug View Post
    well when talking to a professor or someone like that you should not use boku
    uhh but my dad uses it with like high work people ;; and my brother uses it with his employer XD
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    if they know each other it might be okay...
    but with your teachers/profs you don't get that intimate usually...
    (but there's always an exception i guess)

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    Quote Originally Posted by LavaBug View Post
    if they know each other it might be okay...
    but with your teachers/profs you don't get that intimate usually...
    (but there's always an exception i guess)

    whatever i dont need this anyway I was fine my whole life speaking the way I do so... XD
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    Quote Originally Posted by LavaBug View Post
    well when talking to a professor or someone like that you should not use boku
    what?? no way. i use it all the time and all my japanese friends also use boku when talking to our lecturers. boku is a perfectly polite way of addressing urself if ur a guy, to someone who is older than u, or ur teacher, professor etc

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    Quote Originally Posted by tetekmakhang View Post
    what?? no way. i use it all the time and all my japanese friends also use boku when talking to our lecturers. boku is a perfectly polite way of addressing urself if ur a guy, to someone who is older than u, or ur teacher, professor etc
    Yeah that's what I've been saying. Boku is just as formal as watashi....
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    I still dont think it's AS formal as watashi, but I can only judge based on the things I was taught when learning Japanese...
    Because I lag long-term experience in everyday Japanese life and language I have to believe you on this ^^&#176;

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    Quote Originally Posted by shinnraiu View Post
    Yeah that's what I've been saying. Boku is just as formal as watashi....
    I have to disagree.

    It all depends on what you consider as polite as opposed to the situation.

    Indeed, boku and watashi are both equally acceptable as a polite way of addressing yourself, but only until a certain point.

    Boku may still be acceptably polite if you were talking to a person in your company a couple years senior than you, your direct superior, or a teacher you are familiar with, but may not be as appropriate if that person was, say, the top of your company or the president of Japan.

    The place matters a great deal as well: at the workplace or over the phone you might get away with using boku privately with your employer but maybe not at a chair meeting with other officials in attendance. Likewise, language deemed polite enough in a college classroom may not hold to the same standards of a courtroom.

    Of course, you may never be placed in a situation where such extreme politness is necessary, especially if you are still a sutdent, but it does pay to know. What I mean to say is, there is no right answer: it's important to pay attention to your current situation and think for yourself what is expected of you.

    まあ、噛みくだいて言えば、空気を読んで行動しましょう、ということです。

    Also note that watashi is a slurred form of watakushi, which would be word you would use for maximum politeness.

    A-aaaas for to the original post of the thread, to get back on topic, I wouldn't be so hard on your teacher. It will be a very long time before you'll be able to articulate your thoughts in Japanese using concise grammar (I still have a lot of trouble myself), and even before all that, mastering hiragana/katakana/kanji is absolutely essential. You wouldn't expect to start writing without learning your ABCs, or doing your multiplication tables before learning 123, would you not? So my advice is, trust your teacher.

    But of course, self learning is a great thing! I'm sure there are plenty of websites out there that can teach you what you want to know, or at least the basics of it.
    Last edited by Datenshi; 07-27-2007 at 09:12 AM.

  21. #21
    Junior Member 'Cha ga nurui T_T has a reputation beyond repute 'Cha ga nurui T_T has a reputation beyond repute 'Cha ga nurui T_T has a reputation beyond repute 'Cha ga nurui T_T has a reputation beyond repute 'Cha ga nurui T_T has a reputation beyond repute 'Cha ga nurui T_T has a reputation beyond repute 'Cha ga nurui T_T has a reputation beyond repute 'Cha ga nurui T_T has a reputation beyond repute 'Cha ga nurui T_T has a reputation beyond repute 'Cha ga nurui T_T has a reputation beyond repute 'Cha ga nurui T_T has a reputation beyond repute 'Cha ga nurui T_T's Avatar
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    Yeah uh... This is the first time I've visted these boards let alone posted on them but thought I could help out >_<

    You have to understand that in Japan the differences between the social ranking/age/whatevers of people are quite important n' stuff. So basically what I'm trying to say is that "watashi" is formal where as "boku" is used by someone (male) who is talking to a superior or someone older than them or whatnot and not necesarily formal.

    Then again, might not be the case as I'm limited to the knowledge of a half japanese 15 year old :|

    P.S. Yo, forum-dwellers.

    -edit- Forgot to mention that that isn't the only use, often used by people who (for instance) prefer not to sound arogant or are young etc.
    Last edited by 'Cha ga nurui T_T; 07-27-2007 at 06:21 PM.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Datenshi View Post
    I have to disagree.

    It all depends on what you consider as polite as opposed to the situation.

    Indeed, boku and watashi are both equally acceptable as a polite way of addressing yourself, but only until a certain point.

    Boku may still be acceptably polite if you were talking to a person in your company a couple years senior than you, your direct superior, or a teacher you are familiar with, but may not be as appropriate if that person was, say, the top of your company or the president of Japan.

    The place matters a great deal as well: at the workplace or over the phone you might get away with using boku privately with your employer but maybe not at a chair meeting with other officials in attendance. Likewise, language deemed polite enough in a college classroom may not hold to the same standards of a courtroom.

    Of course, you may never be placed in a situation where such extreme politness is necessary, especially if you are still a sutdent, but it does pay to know. What I mean to say is, there is no right answer: it's important to pay attention to your current situation and think for yourself what is expected of you.

    まあ、噛みくだいて言えば、空気を読んで行動しましょう、ということです。

    Also note that watashi is a slurred form of watakushi, which would be word you would use for maximum politeness.
    Yeah, well. I'm not a guy (HAHA) so I never need to use boku anyway. And I will never meet with the prime minister for any reason. So it doesn't really affect me at all. I can very well pay attention to my situations and haven't had problems with my speech ever in all my life. I just don't know how to compare any to English so I may misunderstand things sometimes.




    back on topic::
    It helps if you watch a lot of Japanese TV (like game shows and dramas and news and whatnot). Then you can just naturally start to hear the language in your head and the words all fall into place grammatically... I guess. I know people who've done that at least. =)
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    Just from what I've observed, Watashi only seems to occur in male speech when they're being super-formal (anime example: Hotohori from Fushigi Yuugi). In more casual conversation it seems to be predominately female.

    Something I've noticed with sentence structure in Japanese is how they describe things using verbs before the subject of the sentence, which can be somewhat confusing in terms of the "verb at the end" rule.

    What I mean is that they might say something like...

    図書館働く英国人ですわ。
    toshokan ni hataraku eikokujin desu wa.

    (I'm an English person who works in a library)
    or to be literal:

    Library in work english person am.

    "toshokan ni hataraku" means "I (he, she, etc) work in a library" when written on its own. "eikokujin desu" means I'm and English person. So the stuff about the library is describing the English person, even though it's using a verb and this verb is not at the end of the sentence.

    On reflection hataraite imasu (働いています)may be better than hataraku because it's a continuous action and hataraku is the dictionary not the formal form of the verb...but it's 7 something in the morning and my brain is tired.

    Anyway, you get the gist...

    I've noticed they do this quite a lot - a descriptive sentence about the subject appears before the subject, which is generally followed by "wa" (は) or "ga" (が) (although not with desu/da as far as I can tell).

    This is something I'm just getting my head around so my accuracy might not be 100%, however it pays to know that they do this...

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  24. #24
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    To end the debate: watashi is formal and used by men and women. atashi, boku, ore are casual and shouldn't be used in business situations and in most cases with your higher ups.
    /end debate The pooky has spoken.

    Please get back to sentence structure or the thread will be closed. Thanks.

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