One of the big grammatical differences between Japanese and English is the way adjectival clauses are formed, and getting familiar with this will help you on the road to better understanding of Japanese, and more advanced sentence creation.
The basic use of single-word adjectives is the same in Japanese in English, and the reverse in other languages like Spanish.
- English: A clean city
- Japanese: 清潔な町 （清潔＝せいけつ）
- Spanish: una ciudad limpia
Notice that in English and Japanese the adjective comes before the word it is modifying, whereas in Spanish it comes after the word.
But when you want to use a clause as an adjective, suddenly things in Japanese are reversed. If you’re not familiar with a term ‘clause’, it generally refers to a group of several words where there is one subject and a predicate, though in Japanese there doesn’t have to be a subject. You can think of a clause as a verb with optional subject or objects in front of it.
- The (TV) show that I watch every day.
As you can see from this example, in Japanese the same pattern is used in both a simple single-word adjective and longer adjectival phrase, but in English the grammar is changed to use a word like ‘that’, ‘which’, ‘who’, ‘where’, or ‘why’ after the noun, followed by the phrase itself. I have italicized the adjectival phrases in both sentences above so you can see where they lie. Note that the above sentences are not complete since they only have a subject, not a predicate. This was done for simplicity and I’ll give a more complex example next.
- I don’t play games you like.
Again we can see the adjectival phrase is before the noun (games) in Japanese, and after it in English.
Once you get the hang of it this, you can start to formulate your own sentences, though at first it may take some time to reverse things in your head.
The challenging thing is learning to do this process automatic, when speaking, reading, listening, or writing, such that you don’t have to ferry back and forth between Japanese word order and English word order in your head. In particular, when speaking you need to have the adjectival clause of the sentence prepared before the noun itself so you can speak it in that order. If you think in English first, you’ll find it’s difficult to do this smoothly. Also if the word ‘that’ or ‘where’ pops up in your head you’ll have no where to put it in Japanese, since there is no parallel or for it in that language in this case. In this sense I feel Japanese is a bit more efficient since it avoids this (mostly) unnecessary word.
As with most things, mastery of this aspect of the language will come with time. Good luck!