- before diving into Japanese nouns
- How are i-adjectives and na-adjectives different?
- Japanese nouns used like an adjective
- Other examples
- Other way around
before diving into Japanese nounsBefore diving into how Japanese nouns are used like an adjective, let me explain Japanese adjectives.
In Japanese, there are the two different types of adjectives, i-adjectives and na-adjectives. They are named after characters appearing at the end of adjectives in plain form.
When an adjective ends with the character, “i (い)”, in its plain form, it is an i-adjective. “Utsukushii” is one example for it. When an adjective ends with the character, “na (な)”, in its plain form, it is a na-adjective. “Kireina” is one example.
Honestly, this classification method is a bit different from what Japanese native speakers learn in school. However, both concepts are more or less the same. So, here, I will focus on the classification explained above. In the next paragraphs, I will explain the difference between two types of Japanese adjectives in detail.
How are i-adjectives and na-adjectives different?The difference between two types of adjectives is very simple. While na-adjectives consist of one noun and one conjugative suffix, i-adjectives cannot be broken down into smaller parts. This means that “kireina” can be broken down into two parts, but “utsukushii” cannot.
“Kireina” can be broken down into two smaller parts, a noun part and a conjugative suffix. They are “kirei” and “na” respectively. The noun part, “kirei”, is literally a noun and doesn’t change its form at all. On the other hand, the conjugative suffix, “na”, changes its form and plays a significant role in conjugating “kireina”. This is a typical structure of na-adjectives.
To tell the truth, there is a room for further discussion on the above idea. Some may say that na-adjectives shall be considered as one word, namely, one part instead of a combination of two smaller parts. In reality, however, Japanese people often use only noun parts like an adjective in daily conversation. This means that they consciously or unconsciously break na-adjectives into smaller parts.
Japanese nouns used like an adjectiveHow Japanese native speakers use nouns like an adjective? Let me take the same example as above, “綺麗な (kirei na)”. To find its noun part, please take a look at its conjugations below.
- 綺麗だろ (kirei daro)
- 綺麗だっ (kirei dat)/綺麗で (kirei de)/綺麗に (kirei ni)
- 綺麗だ (kirei da)
- 綺麗な (kirei na)
- 綺麗なら (kirei nara)
I’ve chosen “kireina” as an example. However, this does not mean the idea explained above is limited to it. Noun parts of other na-adjectives can also be used like an adjective.
Honestly, it’s hard to explain why this happens grammatically or even theoretically. This is just part of Japanese language. The fact is that Japanese people use noun parts of na-adjectives like an adjective.
Other examplesAgain, “綺麗 (kirei)” is not only one example. Following nouns are also typical ones which can be used like an adjective in conversation.
- 大変 (taihen)
- 元気 (genki)
- 意外 (igai)
- 大変な (taihen na)
- 元気な (genki na)
- 意外 (igai na)
Other way aroundBy omitting the auxiliary verb “な (na)” in na-adjectives, in other words, extracting their stem parts, we can make nouns which can be used like na-adjectives. This has been explained so far. Now, let’s think about this method the other way round. What will happen if the auxiliary verb, “な (na)”, is added at the end of a noun?
In daily conversation, Japanese people often do this to make adjective-like nouns. Nouns made by this method are not always acceptable and could sound weird, but Japanese people, especially young people often enjoy that weirdness. Adjective-like nouns made by this method usually do not fit with formal situations, while they are acceptable in casual conversation.
This sounds a bit strange, since nouns can be used like na-adjectives as explained above. However, we need to be aware that only nouns which are made of their original na-adjectives can be used like na-adjectives. Therefore, nouns not related to na-adjectives or not having corresponding na-adjectives cannot be used like adjectives basically. Unless we don’t care the weirdness, we can make adjective-like nouns with the method above.
Japanese Particles Master
Masaki Mori is a Japanese particles master. Through teaching Japanese language, he is trying to spread the culture of Japan. His goal is to preserve it as much as possible.