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How Male and Female Speech Differs (Intro to)

In many languages across the world, there is a clear distinction between masculinity and femininity. For example, the Spanish language assigns a “grammatical” gender to every single noun word, even nouns words that represent inanimate objects with no physical gender.

The Japanese language employs a difference based upon gender in a much lighter sense, in that male speakers and female speakers tend to speak in a slightly different way in certain points in their speech; but even if a male speaker chooses (inadvertently or not) to sound like-or come off as, a female speaker with more feminine speech, or vice-versa, their language will still be grammatically correct.

In this sense, gender-based Japanese speech is quite stylistic. Due to this, beginner-level learners of the Japanese language are likely not to come across if their curriculum is textbook heavy, as polite and written Japanese is the standard, both of which essentially being gender-neutral. All in all, the differences between male and female speech in the Japanese language are not prominently observable until one, what is being observed is an actual conversation and not just textbook content, and two, the participants of said conversation have transitioned from polite speech to casual speech and have become comfortable enough with their addressees to convey their personality by speaking in a more masculine or feminine manner.

 

Select Phrases

あら

First Person Pronouns

the use of your own name to address yourself is a big tell-tale of female speech

あたし

Sentence-Ending Particles

わ (instead of ) not to be confused with wa in the Kansai dialect

の (in statements, not questions)

かしら

Women and girls have a tendency toward adding the prefix “お o-” to the beginning of a certain range of words to express more politely:
お買い物 (おかいもの ‘okaimono: shopping’); お友達 (おともだち ‘otomodachi: friend(s)’); お人形 (おにんぎょう oningyou ‘puppet’); お花 (おはな ‘ohana: flower’); お部屋 (おへや ‘oheya: room’); お洋服 (おようふく ‘oyoufuku: clothes’); お料理 (おりょうり ‘oryouri: cooking or dish’).
Although such words prefixed with “お o-” can be also used by men when they need to express very politely, women use them much more habitually.

 

Some words have more polite synonyms that are preferred by women even when they speak among closest friends or family members (on the examples below, the synonym of a word is placed on its right):
おやじ (‘oyaji: papa’) => おとうさん (‘otoosan’)
おふくろ (‘ofukuro: mama’) => おかあさん (‘okaasan’)
食う (くう ‘kuu: to eat’) => 食べる (たべる ‘taberu’)
けつ (‘ketsu: hips, ass’) => お尻 (おしり ‘oshiri’)
腹 (はら ‘hara: belly, stomach’) => お腹 (おなか ‘onaka’)
屁 (へ ‘he: fart’) => おなら (‘onara’)
飯 (めし ‘meshi: rice or food in general’)) =>ご飯 (ごはん ‘gohan’)

 

Male

ない into ねー

かい

「ぜ」,「ぞ」「い」(as in 「だい」,「かい」)…

おれ

おまえ

えぇ

ね is usually changed to な

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How-to use ~らしい to mean “heard that~, seems like~, looks like~, etc.”

How-to use ~らしい to mean “heard that~, seems like~, looks like~, etc.”

Construction:
Plain-Form VERB + らしい
NOUN + (Conjugation) + らしい
い-ADJECTIVE + (Conjugation) + らしい
な-ADJECTIVE + (Conjugation) + らしい

Using the らしい grammar pattern is one of the many ways to express that you have heard something. Other such similar grammar patterns include ~みたい, ~よう, ~そう; and while there are times when usage of these grammar patterns are interchangeable, it is important to know the different nuances they have for the times when they are not.

The らしい grammar pattern is used when you are making a statement about something you have learned about from another source and not through first-person experience. This could be by means of hearing about, reading about, etc. This contrasts to the ~みたい and ~よう grammar patterns because they in fact can be used to make statements based off your own inferences and assumptions. As such, らしい is essentially never used to talk about oneself, as everything the speaker knows about themselves is from first-hand experience and not indirect sources.

Finally, the difference between らしい and ~そう (Plain Form Version) is that the latter expresses stronger degree of accuracy for the statement made.

(らしい also has a second, more adjectival function of expressing that something has a very characteristic quality of something else, but this will covered in a separate lesson.)

Example(s):
彼女は夫と離婚するらしい。
Kanojo wa otto to rikon suru rashii.
“I hear she’s going to divorce her husband.”
*Note how the usage of らしい here as opposed to みたい or よう implies that the speaker heard talk of the divorce happening as opposed to some first-hand experience such as the speaker witnessing the couple’s strained relationship and inferring that a divorce would occur.

彼は入学試験に失敗したらしい。
Kare wa nyuugakushiken ni shippai shita rashii.
“It appears he failed his entrance exam.”

明日は台風が来るらしい。
Ashita wa taifuu ga kuru rashii.
“It seems that a typhoon is suppose to come tomorrow.”

明日は、いい天気らしい。
Ashita wa, ii tenki rashii.
“It seems like tomorrow’s weather will be good.”

ここは世界的に有名なお店らしいです。
Koko wa sekaiteki ni yuumei na omise rashii desu.
“I heard that this place is a famous all across the world.”

Similar Grammar Patterns:
~みたい
~よう
Plain-Form CLAUSE + (そうだ) as “heard that ___”
Pre-ます Form VERB + そう
~らしい as “~-like”

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How-to use っぽい to say something-ish, -like

「Learn Japanese」 How-to use っぽい (to say something-ish, -like, -looking, -ly)

The grammar pattern Xっぽい is used to express that something is very “X-ish,” “X-like,” “X-looking,” or “X-ly.”

As one might have been able to guess from the somewhat cute-sy nature of  っぽい’s pronunciation, this word is predominantly used in conversational Japanese and is seldom seen at all in written language (most likely only when what is written is a transcript of a conversation).

Not only is っぽい more conversational and casual than most Japanese grammar patterns, but it is also very modern and actually even continually changing. So while there are in fact some words that just don’t sound right with the っぽい suffixed attached to them for various reasons (grammatically incorrect, unnatural sounding, more suited for other similar grammar patterns); when it comes to language, once something is used over and over and enters the majority (especially in mass media)-even if it is incorrect, it eventually becomes the norm.

Additionally due to this, っぽい is quite the nuance grammar pattern, so take some precaution in automatically translating to “-ish” or another definition every time you come across it. We have provided multiple English definitions/translations because none are universally compliant with っぽい, something that should become more apparent with the example sentences below.

Construction:
NOUN + っぽい
Pre-ます-VERB + っぽい
い-ADJECTIVE Stem + っぽい
な-ADJECTIVE + っぽい

Regardless of the initial word type (noun, verb, adjective), when っぽい is added as a suffix, the resulting compound word is an い-ADJECTIVE. As such, it henceforth follows the grammatical guidelines of an い-ADJECTIVE, e.g. its ADVERB form would be Xっぽく and its Negative Form-ない would be Xっelない.

Example(s):

彼は忘れっぽいから、ちょっと心配だ。
Kare wa wasureppoi kara, chotto shinpai da.
“He is kind of forgetful, so I’m a bit worried.”
*Notice the minor alterations we have to make to the word 忘れっぽい to naturalize it into English, as “forget-ish” would have simply been grammatically incorrect.

その赤っぽい車の隣に有名な店がある。
Sono akappoi kuruma no tonari ni yuumei na mise ga aru.
“Next to that reddish car right there is a famous shop.”

最近自分が男っぽいと悩む女性は多いようだ。
Saikin jibun ga otokoppoi to nayami josei wa ooi you da.
“It seems that nowadays there are a lot of woman who are insecure about how manly they come off as.”

日本にアニメグッズを買いに行くのはジョージっぽい。
Nihon ni anime goods o kai ni iku no wa George-ppoi.
“Going to Japan to buy anime goods is such a George-like thing to do.”
*Notice how you don’t always have to be instigating a comparison/contrast when calling something Xっぽい, as the X can even be someone’s own name, thus calling them very much like themselves.  

子供っぽい行動
kodomoppoi koudou
childish behavior

色っぽい話
iroppoi hanashi
an erotic tale

熱っぽい
netsuppoi
fever-ish

怒りっぽい
okorippoi
hot-tempered

Similar Grammar Pattern(s):

〜気味 as “slightly〜”
~らしい
~みたい

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How-to say “I get the feeling that ___” (___ような気がする)

How-to say “I get the feeling that ___” (___ような気がする)

The grammar pattern ~ような気がする as “I get the feeling that~/I get the feeling like~” is used when a speaker wants to express that they think-or more adequately, feel that something is true. It is a softer version of the grammar pattern that is ~気がする, which conveys a stronger confidence in what you are feeling. It is also somewhat similar to the grammar pattern ~ようだ, which also has a more affirmative tone. Finally, the “like” in “I get the feeling like~” is similar to the translation of the よう from the grammar pattern ~ような/ように to “like” as well.

Construction:
Verb-casual + (ような) 気がする
Noun + (のような) 気がする
いadj + (ような) 気がする
なadj + (な/のような) 気がする

Example(s):

雨が降るような気がする。
Ame ga furu you na ki ga suru.
“I have a feeling that it’ll rain.”

日本語は、勉強すればするほど難しくなるような気がする。
Nihongo wa, benkyou sureba suru hodo muzukashiku naru you na ki ga suru.
“With Japanese, I get the feeling that the more you study, the more difficult it becomes.”

前にあの人を見たことがあるような気がする。
Mae ni ano hito o mita koto ga aru you na ki ga suru.
I get the feeling as if I’ve seen that person before.

彼女は約束を守る気がする。
Kanojo wa yakusoku o mamoru ki ga suru.
“I have a feeling that she’ll keep her promise.”

皆が私達の秘密を知っているような気がする。
Mina ga watashitachi no himitsu o shitte iru you na ki ga suru.
I get the feeling that everyone knows our secret.

Similar Grammar Patterns:

NOUN + のよう(な/に) ____ as “like NOUN”
気がする
〜よう(だ/です)

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Basic Japanese Sentence Structure (How-to Form a Simple Sentence in Japanese)

Basic Japanese Sentence Structure (How-to Form a Simple Sentence in Japanese)

Let’s learn how-to form a simple sentence in Japanese! This lesson is 100% friendly to complete beginners to the Japanese language.

Here’s a list of vocabulary terms we will be using for this lesson:

私 (watashi) – “I”
ジュース (jyuusu) – “juice”
飲む (nomu) – “to drink”
テレビ (terebi) – “television, T.V.”
子供 (kodomo) – “children, kids”
見る (miru) – “to see, to watch”
彼女 (kanojo) – “girl, she”
家 (uchi) – “home”
帰る (kaeru) – “to return”
幽霊 (yuurei) – “ghost, apparition, spirit”
壁 (kabe) – “wall”
壊る (kowareru) – “to break”
コンピューター (konpyuutaa) – “computer”
買う (kau) – “to buy”

In order to make faster sense of how a Japanese sentence is constructed, we will be comparing the Japanese sentence structure to that of the English language’s sentence structure.

English:
S-V-O
SUBJECT – VERB – OBJECT
“I drink juice.”

Japanese:
S-O-V  
SUBJECT – OBJECT – VERB
“I juice drink.”
私はジュースを飲む。
(”Watashi wa juice o nomu.”)

*If we included an indirect object as well as a direct object, it would appear before the direct object, just like it generally does in English!

Similarly to the English language however, this structure can get mixed up when we enter realms where creative license can take effect, e.g. characters in books, movies, television shows. However, Japanese has a sort of upper edge to English for when something like this happens because alongside those words, it has something called particles.

Introduction to Particles

The English language doesn’t have as many particles as the Japanese language in terms of simple sentences, but it does have some. We much more commonly refer to them as prepositions, because they denote something about the word they are right before and that something they denote is a relation to another part of the sentence. For example, when we hear the English particle “from,” we automatically have an idea of what the word right after it is going to be. Maybe a place, a time, or a noun. We also know that it definitely isn’t going to be a verb, because that would be grammatically incorrect.

Particles in the Japanese language work in the same way, except they’re indicative of the word right before it instead of right after it. So technically, they’re postpositions instead of prepositions. Also, like I said earlier, they have a wider range of word types they apply to. For example, the word could be a subject, an indirect object, a direct object, a location, etc.

(*Side-note: This is also one of the main reasons why spaces between words are considered unnecessary in the Japanese language, because particles-which are always in kana while the more meaningful words are usually in kanji, already serve that function of making it easy to tell when a word ends and a new one begins.)

Additionally, we have multiple options for particles to choose from for certain word types. For example:

は (wa) – the topic marker (can also be used to mark the subject)
が (ga) – the subject marker
を (o) – the direct object marker
に (ni) and へ (e) – the destination/location (either can be used but not both at the same time)

The word type that most apparently doesn’t have a particle-or particles, associated with it are the verb actions of the sentence; this is probably because the verb action almost always appears at the end of the sentence or clause so there’s not as much a need to distinguish it with a particle.

Introduction to the Concept of a Topic of a Sentence

So, sentences having a topic as well as a subject is something that is 100% unique to the Japanese language, at least if we’re just comparing Japanese to the English language. And what it is is pretty much just that, the topic of the sentence. If we were to literally translate it, it would be something like “Speaking of X,” or “As for X,” and then whatever the rest of the sentence is would come right after that.

The important thing for us to know now is that the topic doesn’t necessarily replace the subject of the sentence. There can be a sentence with a topic, a subject, and an object.

But in some cases it can replace the subject.
Our very first example was an example of this.

“I juice drink.”
TOPIC/SUBJECT – OBJECT – VERB
私はジュースを飲む。
(”Watashi wa juice o nomu.”)
*The topic marker は is used to mark “I,” which makes it not only the subject but also the topic.

The topic can even replace the object of the sentence.

テレビは子供が見る。
(”Terebi wa kodomo ga miru.”)
“Speaking of television, children watch (it).”
TOPIC/OBJECT – SUBJECT – VERB

*The concept of the topic marker は is actually something that we could talk about for hours, but this is where we’ll stop. It will definitely show up again with its complicated nature as you continue your Japanese studies.

Great, so now with what we’ve learned, we are now capable of forming pretty much any simple Japanese sentence with the help of a dictionary for some vocabulary.

彼女は家に帰りました。
Kanojo wa uchi ni kaerimashita.
“She went home.”
[SUBJECT-LOCATION-VERB]

幽霊を見た。
Yuurei o mita.
“(I) saw a ghost.”
[(SUBJECT)-OBJECT-VERB]

壁が壊れた。
Kabe g kowareta.
“The wall broke./The wall gave in.”
[SUBJECT-VERB]

コンピューターを買う。
Computer o kau.
“(I) will buy a computer”
[(SUBJECT)-OBJECT-VERB]

So, you might have noticed that in a decent amount of those examples, we omitted the subject from the entire sentence for some reason, despite that this whole lesson was about where the word types of the sentence should appear! The truth is doing that makes our speech sound a lot more natural and not like it came straight out of a textbook. How Japanese speakers frequently drop not only the subject of their sentences but also other parts such as the objects is a topic we’ll have to save for another lesson!

Awesome! So now that we’ve learned how to form the simplest kind of sentence in Japanese, we’re ready to move onto snazzier kinds of sentences that involve things like adjectives and verbs that just aren’t in the positive form. The following links below are recommendations on which subjects to learn about next to do just this, or, if you’re feeling adventurous you can find an index of every single one of our video lessons on our official website that makes it easy to find whatever thing you’re trying to learn next!

Related Topic(s):

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How-to turn NOUNS into ADJECTIVES (and ADVERBS) with 的 (てき)

How-to turn NOUNS into ADJECTIVES (and ADVERBS) with 的 (てき)

In the English language, words are relentlessly interchanging between word types. For example, the word “force” can be used as a noun (“a force”), a verb (“to force”), and an adjective (“forceful”).
When we talk about the specific case of turning noun words into adjectives, things can really messy in terms of what suffix we’re suppose to attach to them. Some words require the suffix “-ful” (forceful, wonderful, beautiful), some words require the suffix “-al” (mechanical, internal, musical, logical), some words require the suffix “-ous” (dangerous, fabulous, courageous). The list goes on and on.
(This isn’t even mentioning the numerous letter changes you have to do for each individual word before even adding the suffix on, e.g. “beauty” changing to “beauti” before adding on the “-ful” suffix)

Fortunately, the same process in the Japanese language is far simpler, as we only need to remember one suffix, 的 (てき). Adding the character 的 after a Japanese NOUN word will effectively turn that NOUN word into an ADJECTIVE word that means “[whatever the definition of the NOUN word is]-ish.”

Example(s):
効果 (“effect”) + 的 (“-ish”) = 効果的 (“effective”)
美術 (“art, fine arts”) + 的 (“-ish”) = 美術的 (“artistic”)
仮説 (“hypothesis”) + 的 (“-ish”) = 仮説的 (“hypothetical”)

When a NOUN word is turned into an ADJECTIVE word in this manner, the resulting ADJECTIVE word is always a な-Adjective and not an い-Adjective. And since all ADJECTIVE words used in this way are な-Adjectives, we can go even further and effectively use this same idea to turn NOUN words into ADVERB phrases due to the fact that all you need to turn a な-Adjective into an ADVERB phrase is the particle に appearing right after it. As such, we can have our previous three example words undergo an additional word-type transformation:

効果的 (“effective”) + に (“-ly”) = 効果的 (“effectively”)
美術的 (“artistic”) + に (“-ly”) = 美術的 (“artistically”)
仮説的 (“hypothetical”) + に (“-ly”) = 仮説的 (“hypothetically”)

Example Sentence(s):
もっと効率的に日本語が勉強したいです。
Motto kouritsuteki ni nihongo ga benkyou shitai desu.
“I want to be more efficient with my Japanese studies.”

具体的な日取りは決まっていない。
Gutaiteki na hidori wa kimatte inai.
“The exact date hasn’t been decided.”

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Causative-Passive Form (Verb Conjugation) (させられる)

Causative-Passive Form (Verb Conjugation) (させられる)

Construction:
As the name implies, the Causative-Passive Form of verb words is constructed simply by taking the Causative Form of the respective form and in turn conjugating that into the Passive Form, i.e. replacing the final る to られる.

(As we should know, there are two guidelines on conjugating verb words into their Passive Form depending on whether the word is a る-Verb type or an う-Verb type; however since all verb words conjugated into their Causative Form are automatically る-Verb types, we need not worry about choosing between the two guidelines in this case.)

*A review on how to conjugate verbs into their Causative Form is included at the end of this post.

Example(s):
たべ = たべさせられる
= みさせられる
= いわせられる
= かわせられる
= よませられる

The Causative-Form for the two irregular verbs くる and する are こさせられる and させられる respectively.

While the Causative-Passive Form of verbs isn’t used extremely often, it definitely still has grammatical significance; it is used to express that something is made to do something by something else. That second something will be indicated with the particle に.

Example(s):
感動させられた
Kandou saserareta.
“I was moved/I was forced to be moved.”

僕は事件の身代わりにさせられた
Boku wa jiken no migawari ni saserareta.
“I was made to be the scapegoat for the incident.”

母に勉強させられる
Haha ni benkyou saserareru.
“I am forced to study by my mom.”

いつも彼女に買い物に行かせられる
Itsumo kanojo ni kaimono ni ikaserareru.
“I am always forced to go shopping by my girlfriend.”

学生は先生にたくさん漢字を書かせられている
Gakusei wa sensei ni takusan kanji o kakaserarete iru.
“The students are forced to write a lot of kanji by the teacher.”

嫌いなものをムリヤリ食べさせられたことで、ますます大嫌いになることもある。
Kirai na mono o muriyari tabesaserareta koto de, masumasu daikirai ni naru koto mo aru.
“It is possible that when they are forced to eat things they don’t like against their will, people end up disliking it even more.”

A review on how to conjugate verbs into their Causative-Form:

To conjugate る-Verbs into their Causative Form, drop the final る character and replace it with させる.

Example(s):
見る (みる) = 見させる (みさせる)
食べる (たべる) = 食べさせる (たべさせる)
寝る (ねる) =  寝させる (ねさせる)

To conjugate う-Verbs that end in the vowel character う into their Causative Form, drop the final う and replace it with わせる.

Example(s):
買う (かう) = 買わせる (かわせる)
言う (いう) = 言わせる (いわせる)

To conjugate う-Verbs that end in any character other than the vowel character う into their Causative Form, drop the “u” inside the final character to isolate the respective consonant that should now be at the end of the verb and replace it with an “a” to form a new Japanese character. Then, add after it all せる.

Example(s):
死ぬ (しぬ) = 死なせる (しなせる)
行く (いく) = 行かせる (いかせる)
読む (よむ) = 読ませる (よませる)

There are two irregular verbs for the Causative Form and they are the same two for the Passive Form:

来る = 来させる
する = させる

Similar Grammar Pattern(s):

Passive Form (Verb Conjugation) (Post | Video)
Causative Form (Verb Conjugation) (Post | Video)

Passive Form (Simple) (Post | Video)
Passive Form (Adversity with Transitive Verbs) (Post | Video)
Passive Form (Adversity with Intransitive Verbs) (Post | Video)
Causative Form (Post | Video)

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Negative-ず-Form (Verb Conjugation) – How-to say “to do VERB2 without doing VERB1” ( Negative-ず-Form VERB1 + に + VERB2)

Negative-ず-Form (Verb Conjugation) – How-to say “to do VERB2 without doing VERB1” ( Negative-ず-Form VERB1 + に + VERB2)

In addition to having the standard Negative-ない-Form, the Japanese language also has the Negative-ず-Form.

Construction:
The conjugation of verbs into their ず-Form is fairly simple, even more so if you are already familiar with the Negative-ない-Form as you simply replace the final ない with a ず.
たべる -> たべない -> たべず
のむ -> のまない -> のまず
いく -> いかない -> いかず
はなす -> はなさない -> はなさず
きく -> きかない -> きかず

*The two verbs する and くる express irregularity with this conjugation (as they do with numerous other conjugations) and become せず and こず respectively.

Historically, the Negative-ず-Form was just as generally used for negative forms as the Negative-ない-Form, however in modern Japanese it retains usage with only one grammar pattern: Negative-ず-Form VERB1 + に + VERB2 to mean “to do VERB2 without doing VERB1.”

This grammar pattern is essentially identical to the grammar pattern Negative ない-Form VERB1 + で + VERB2 as “to VERB2 without doing VERB1.“ It only differs in that is is considered more formal due to the ず-Form’s rather archaic status and is more commonly seen in written Japanese. However, there are certainly occasions in which it may appear in spoken language (e.g. depending on the actual statement, one might opt for ず-Form VERB + に over ない-Form VERB + で to avoid confusion with ない-Form VERB + で also serving as the grammar pattern that means “don’t do VERB.”)

When used in sentences, this grammar pattern is commonly paired with the particle に. While not doing so would not make the sentence grammatically incorrect, the presence of the particle is almost always the way this grammar pattern is used in modern Japanese and more accurately expresses the action not performed as an adverbial phrase to the action that is performed.

Example(s):

彼女は何も食べずに帰りました。
Kanojo wa nanimo tabezu ni kaerimashita.
“She returned home without eating anything.”

ドアに鍵をかけずに旅行した。
Doa ni kagi o kakezu ni ryokou shita.
“I left for a trip without locking my door.”

あの子はいつも歯を磨かずに寝る。
Ano ko wa itsumo ha o migakazu ni neru.
“That child is always going to sleep without brushing their teeth first.”

何となく、勉強せずに試験に合格した。
Nantonaku, benkyou sezu ni shiken ni goukaku shita.
“Somehow, I passed the test without studying.”

私のことは気にせずに先に行って下さい。
Watashi no koto wa ki ni sezu ni saki ni itte kudasai.
“Please go on ahead without worrying about me.”

ぐずぐずせずに早くしろ!
Guzuguzu sezu ni hayaku shiro!
“Hurry up and get going without dilly-dallying!”

Similar Grammar Pattern(s):
How-to say “to VERB2 without doing VERB1” (Negative ない-Form VERB1 + で + VERB2)