Japanese Adjectives and How to Conjugate Them: -i and -na

By Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch

Do you know the different Japanese adjectives? Learn the two different types of adjectives in Japanese, -i adjectives and -na adjectives, and how to use each of them.

-い Adjectives

The first type of adjective in Japanese is the – い adjective (-i adjective). These types of adjectives have an – い at the end of the word. For example: おいしい (oishii), which translates as delicious. Before using an – い adjective, we need to conjugate it to match the tense of the sentence. Let's go over the different conjugations of an – い adjective, using おいしい as an example:

Present Affirmative:おいしい です。(oishii desu)

It is delicious.

We can position the adjective in two ways. The first puts the adjective after the noun:

この すし は おいしい です。(kono sushi wa oishii desu)

This sushi is delicious.

We can also place the adjective in front of the noun:

おいしい すし です。(oishii sushi desu)

(It is) delicious sushi.

Present Negative: おいしくありません。(oishikuarimasen)

It is not delicious.

When we make an – い adjective negative, we drop the last い and add the ending くありません. For example:

この とんかつ は おいしくありません。(kono tonkatsu wa oishikuarimasen)

This tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) is not delicious.

Past Affirmative:おいしかった です。(oishikatta desu)

It was delicious.

To make an – い adjective past affirmative, we drop the last い and add the ending かった. For example:

この すし は おいしかった です。(kono sushi wa oishikatta desu)

This sushi was delicious.

Past Negative:おいしくありませんでした。(oishikuarimasendeshita)

It was not delicious.

The past negative form of an – い adjective follows the pattern of the present negative form, except くありません becomes くありませんでした. For example:

この とんかす は おいしくありませんでした。(kono tonkatsu wa oishikuarimasendeshita)

This tonkatsu was not delicious.

Irregular -い Adjectives

Not all – い adjectives follow the same pattern. The exception is いい (ii), which means good. Let's go over the conjugation:

Present Affirmative: いい です (ii desu)

It is good.

Present Negative: よくありません (yokuarimasen)

It is not good.

Past Affirmative:よかった です (yokatta desu)

It was good.

Past Negative:よくありませんでした (yokuarimasendeshita)

It was not good.

Note that when we conjugate いい, the stem changes to よく and then follows the regular pattern of conjugation.

-な Adjectives

The other group of Japanese adjectives is the -な adjectives. An example is げんき (な). Note that the actual adjective is げんき (genki), which means healthy or energetic; the な is added to connect the adjective and noun. For example:

げんき な おんあ の ひと。(genki na onna no hito)

The healthy woman.

When we use the long form of a -な adjective, the な is dropped. For example:

この おんあ の ひと は げんき です。(kono onna no hito wa genki desu)

This woman is healthy.

Let's go over the conjugation for -な adjectives:

Present Affirmative:げんき です (genki desu)

(It is) healthy.

わたし は げんき です。(watashi wa genki desu)

I am healthy.

Present Negative:げんきじゃありません (genkijaarimasen)

(It is) not healthy.

When we form the present negative form of a -な adjective, we add じゃありません. For example:

きょう は わたし の ともだち は げんきじゃありません。(kyou wa watashi no tomodachi wa genkijaarimasen)

Today my friend is not energetic.

Past Affirmative: げんき でした (genki deshita)

(It was) healthy.

When we form the past affirmative form of a -な adjective, です is changed into its past tense. For example:

きのう は わたし の ともだち は げんき でした。(kinou wa watashi no tomodachi wa genki deshita)

Yesterday my friend was energetic.

Past Negative:げんきじゃありませんでした (genkijaarimasendeshita)

(It was) not healthy.

To form the past negative form of a -な adjective, we use the past form of じゃありません. For example:

いぬ は げんきじゃありませんでした (inu wa genkijaarimasendeshita)

The dog was not healthy.

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