Monthly Archives: February 2015

食べられる (taberareru) vs 食べれる (tabereru)? The phenomenon of ら抜き (ra-nuki) in Japanese

The way I learned Japanese conjugations for the potential form of “eru/iru” verbs was to remove the stem and add ~られる。All other verbs involve removing only the last character and then adding a character with the same consonant, but with a え sound, (for example く would change to け )  followed by a る.

Potential (可能) in this context means the ability to do something (without having necessary actually done it), and can also represented in Japanese via the expression “verb + ことができる”. In English we typically use the “can” form for this (ex: “I can do it”).

Here are a few examples of the potential conjugations for the two types of verbs.

  • 食べる=>食べられる  (eru/iru verb)
  • 見る=>見られる  (eru/iru verb)
  • 歩く=>歩ける
  • 洗う=>洗える
  • 話す=>話せる

Here is a example sentence of using the potential form:

  • 肉が食べられる
  • Can you eat meat?

This was all fine and great, and after some practice I finally was able to say 食べられる which can be real tongue twister.

Then one day I heard a Japanese person say “食べれる” and at first I was puzzled. Was it a dialect or some sort of other conjugation I hadn’t learned? After hearing it many times I figured out it did have the same meaning, and to top things off it was even easier to say, so I ended up using it myself sometimes.

It was just recently that I decided to investigate this strange conjugation, and I discovered it is a phenomenon called ら抜き (ra-nuki), where 抜き means “to omit”. This makes sense since the only difference between 食べれる and 食べれる is the missing ら in the second (shorter) form.

ら抜き is a practice which is essentially a corruption of proper verb conjugation, and has become popular among younger Japanese people. It is used not only in spoken conversation, but sometimes even in writing. This slang usage has extended even to some politicians and other cultural figures who appear on TV.

However, there are those who are against omission of ら for these verbs. One of the reason is that it is still technically incorrect grammar, and you can see this pointed out in some school-grade textbooks. For the most part it is avoided in some places like newspapers, and in fact you can even see the ら “corrected” in subtitles sometimes. (Subtitles are commonly used in Japanese TV for places like newscasts, even if the person is speaking is a native)

However, language is an evolving thing and my feeling is this usage will stay and become even more widespread over time.

Besides the fact it is one less syllable to speak (the Japanese language is known for shortening words to make them easier to pronounce, like パソコン from パソナールコンピューター), it’s interesting to note that this shorter conjugation is only used for the potential form, not the passive form (受身). For example, let’s look at the following statement.

  • リンゴが食べられる。

Using the “proper grammar” and retaining the ら, the above statement has two different meanings:

  • (I) can eat an apple.   (potential)
  • The apple will be eaten.  (passive)

However with the ら抜き corruption, those two meanings would be expressed differently.

  • リンゴが食べれる     => (I) can eat an apple.   (potential)
  • リンゴが食べられる => The apple will be eaten.   (passive)

When I was first leaning these forms, I was frustrated that one conjugation represented both meanings (though this is only for the eru/iru verbs). To make things worse, there is a third usage of this conjugation which expresses respect towards the subject.

My personal feeling is that ら抜き a natural evolution in the history of Japanese, and I plan to keep using to use ら抜き both because it’s easier to say, and because of the easy differentiation between potential and passive forms.

However, when using written Japanese or when speaking to a new person, I will try to keep to “correct” grammar, at least for the short term. And if you happen to take any Japanese tests I’d recommend staying away from ら抜き to avoid upsetting your teacher (:

Notes

1) There are some that claim that ら抜き’s usage is influenced by geographical region, and that some regions treat it as proper grammar (such as Nagano prefecture).

2) Much of the information in this post I got from this site.

References

http://matome.naver.jp/odai/2139547158351307801

http://selftaughtjapanese.com/2014/04/01/review-youkoso-invitation-to-contemporary-japanese-textbook/comment-page-1/

Japanese Particle combination では (de wa) and じゃ (ja)

In this post I’d like to look at the particle combination で+は = では (pronounced ‘de wa’) and the related word じゃ (ja).

To a certain extent, the various usages of “では”can be understood by taking a sum of the usages of で and は when used separately, but in some cases thinking in this way may not be intuitive, so I’ll go over some specific examples to make things clear.

I’m not planning on going over all the meanings of で or は when used on their own, as each of these particles can be pretty complex with many ways of using them. However I will go over some of this quickly in this post. If you want to learn some of the nitty gritty details of は, you can check out this post of mine.

Let’s start with one of the basic usages of で, which is to represent a tool or something that being used to perform an action. This also includes a location where an action is being performed. One simple example is languages, which usually have a で before them when you are speaking, reading, writing, or doing something with them. For example:

  • 日本語読めます。
  • I can read in Japanese.

One of the functions of は is to imply something applies for the word before the は, but there may be other cases that do not apply.    For example:

  • 小説読みます。
  • I do read novels.

This implies that the speaker reads novels, but there is probably something he or she doesn’t read (maybe short stories?).

If we take the functions of both particles and put them together, we end up with using something with an implication about using other things.

  • まだ小説は日本語では読めません。
  • I can’t read novels in Japanese yet.

Here the implication of the は within the “では” is that the person can’t read novels in Japanese, but he or she can probably read something else in Japanese (maybe children’s books?). It’s difficult to capture this essence in the English translation, though in a larger context (in the middle of a conversation or article) it would be easier to include all the nuances of the original text.

For another example, imagine you asked someone if you could get to Hokkaido via train or plane, and they answered:

  • 飛行機では行けますよ。
  • You can go via airplane.

Again, the addition of the は means that you probably can’t go via some other means (like train).

One of the other main uses of は is when you want to introduce a topic in order to say something about it.

  • 日本、昔からある。
  • Japanese has existed since a long time ago. (More literally, “As for Japan, it has existed since a long time ago”)

The other meaning of は I mentioned above (where there is an implication that other things do not apply) is tightly related to this one, but I think it helps to think of them separately.

Putting these two meaning together, we end up with introducing a topic which are using or taking action in. This can be easily seen when talking about a country or a language.

  • 日本では、公園が多い。
  • In Japan, there are a lot of parks.
  • 日本語では、文字が多い。
  • In Japanese, there are a lot of characters.

Interestingly enough, if we removed the は from either sentence we would end up with awkward Japanese. I think the reason is because in both cases there is an implication that there is ‘less’ of something somewhere else (less parks in another country, or less characters in another language). Therefore は is necessary.

Another way では can be used is when talking about a situation or condition, in the sense of “with such a situation…”.

Imagine someone tried to explain a movie’s plot with a confusing set of scene descriptions which were out of order. You might reply to them:

  • それでは分からないよ!
  • That’s not enough for me to understand! (literally: “With that, I won’t understand”)

Let’s look at another example.

  • 教科書だけでは足りないよ。
  • Only a textbook is not enough. (to become fluent, etc.)

You may have noticed both of these examples talk about something negative (can’t understand, not enough), and this is one of the nuances of は.

I think it’s time we talked about “じゃ”. It’s simply a abbreviation for ”では”, although it isn’t interchangeable in all cases.

For example in the above two sentences, it’s perfectly natural to replace では with じゃ, and I would argue it sounds best with じゃ.

  • それじゃ分からないよ!
  • 教科書だけじゃ足りないよ。

However, if the sentence doesn’t express something negative, it sounds unnatural to use じゃ. (except for a few cases I’ll talk about below).

  • 日本じゃ、公園が多い    (unnatural)

Shortening of “ではない” (is not) to “じゃない”, is just following the same pattern which fits because of the negative meaning. Sometimes this gets shortened to “じゃん” in modern slang, as in the phrase “すごいじゃん!” (“is is not awesome?”)

One place you may be used to seeing では and じゃ is in common expressions for bidding farewell to someone.

For example, the expression “それでは”, which literally means something like “And with that…”, is used as a simple “goodbye”. I’ve used this many times in emails before I write my name at the bottom.

Although it isn’t negative, it is common to abbreviate this as “それじゃ” or just “じゃ”.

The expression “じゃ〜ね” pretty much means the same thing, though I don’t think I’ve heard it said as “ではね”.

To end with, there is a another meaning for じゃ which I’d like to talk about.

”じゃ” or “じゃあ” can be used when you are thinking about something, often right before you make a decision or suggestion.

  • 雨が降ってる?じゃあ、図書館に行こう?
  • It’s raining? Alright… do you want to go to the library?

The “じゃ” here is literally close to “In that case”, so this form is often used when there is some condition that limits what you decide, like in the example above where the rain limits possible activities.

Is is another example involving making a suggestion after someone said they don’t like Italian food.

  • じゃあ、お寿司はどう?
  • Well, what do you think about (having) sushi?

And one more example:

  • じゃ、行こう!
  • Alright, lets go!

In this case there is the implication that was something going on which is just finishing up, and now a new activity will be started.

One thing in common with most of these examples is that there is a sense of transition to some new state or idea. So it may help you to think in those terms.

Although I’ve used “well” or “alright” in the English translations above, those are just rough estimates and I wouldn’t memorize “じゃ” as always meaning either of these. In some cases it can be translated to “so” as well and doesn’t necessary.

When there is a short じゃ I think it’s OK to replace it with では, though that feels a little stiff and less conversational (as in “では、行きましょう”). In cases where you are thinking with a long “じゃ〜〜”, it would sound odd to replace it with a “では〜〜”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

http://selftaughtjapanese.com/2013/12/19/a-closer-look-at-japanese-particles-wa-は-and-ga-が/

Japanese Drama Recommendation: ありふれた奇跡 (“Everyday Miracle”)

As I’ve said in several other posts, Japanese dramas are a great source for learning conversation skills, including common expressions and vocabulary. However, depending on the drama, there will be more or less coverage of stuff that you would actually be able to use yourself. For example, a drama where the main character is a scientist might involve a whole bunch of science domain-specific terms that are great if you are into science but less useful if you’re not.

“Everyday Miracle” is a Japanese drama which I watched part of a few years back, and recently I happened to watch a part of an episode when I had nothing else convenient to watch.

As I listened to the dialog, I noticed there was something unique about it I hadn’t seen in any other recent dramas. The lines feel awkward, somehow bare-naked honest. In Japanese I would call this “飾らない”, which is something like “unadorned”. It’s not just the lines themselves, but how they are delivered. Not in a quick burst but in pauses and stutters. It’s both the incredible scriptwriting and professional cast which makes the overall experience something special and precious. In some sense I feel like the dialog is extremely close to real life conversation, as opposed to many modern dramas which have dramatic or showy lines. Interestingly enough, this drama is actually pretty recent (2009), but the scriptwriter (山田 太一 “Taichi Yamada”) is in his 80s, and I think it’s his old-fashioned sensibilities that keep this drama so unique and touching. Besides the lines themselves, you’ll get to experience a touch of classic Japanese customs as well as residences.

Apart from linguistic and cultural reasons, Yukie Nakama (仲間由紀恵) does an excellent job playing the female lead, and her performance is another reason to watch this drama.

To be honest, I haven’t seen the series to it’s end so I am not going to make a judgement about the story, which is why I’ve made this post’s title as ‘recommendation’ instead of ‘review’. But it’s quite dramatic, with racy topics you wouldn’t normally expect (like suicide) being key parts of the plot. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend this for kids.

But regardless of how the series ends, for anyone looking to become fluent in Japanese, especially someone not living in Japan, this drama is a perfect way to hear some dialog that’s a bit closer to real life Japanese than some other shows.

(Note: if you haven’t tried my latest mini quiz on particles で and に, please check it out here: testmoz.com/450945)

Notes

1. “Everyday Miracle” is my personal translation of the title. I have also seen it referred to as “Unsurprising Miracle” or “Ordinary Miracles” by others. Whether the word miracle should be plural or not would require me seeing the entire series, which I have not done yet.

References

http://www.fujitv.co.jp/b_hp/arifureta-kiseki/

Discussion of a tricky で vs に question (mini quiz 2: で and に)

In my second mini quiz (Japanese particles で and に), there was one question which was answered incorrectly more than half the time, so I’d like to review it in this post.

(If you haven’t taken the quiz yet, you can do so here: testmoz.com/450945)

The problem goes like this:

 

今晩、床「 」寝る

今晩:こんばん tonight
床:ゆか floor
寝る:ねる sleep

Choose the most appropriate particle(s) which fit in the above 「  」:

  1. に or で
  2. neither

 

You may be surprised to learn the answer here is actually ”3. に or で”, because either particle can be used here.

If で is used, performing the action of ‘sleeping’ at the location of ‘floor’ is emphasized, while usage of に would emphasize existing   at the location ‘floor’ while sleeping.

Besides 寝る, there are some other verbs where you could probably safely use either で or に, including 眠る (ねむる)、待つ(まつ)、立つ (たつ)or 滞在(たいざい)する.  You may have noticed all of these verbs involve staying in one place, hence the overlap with the concept of ‘existing’ at a certain place.

My general advice is to use で in all cases except for a few specific verbs like ある, いる and 住む, where you would typically use に. Of course if you hear a native speaker use に with some other verb, it’s probably best to mimic them next time you say a similar phrase.

If you use に to express “existence” for a verb or situation where it doesn’t make sense, you could end up with an awkward phrase. For example, the following sentence sounds unnatural.

  • 部屋勉強しています.   (unnatural)

Here using で would be best.

  • 部屋勉強しています.   (natural)

 Notes:

1) Although I’ve heard from native Japanese speakers that に is the right particle to use with 住む (i.e “日本に住んでいます”), I have seen で used as well.

 

 

Mini Japanese Quiz: Particles で vs に

I got feedback from one of my readers that sometimes differentiating between で and に can be difficult, so I made a mini 8-question quiz to test everyone’s knowledge in this area.

You can take it here:

testmoz.com/450945

If you’d like to review before the test, you can see this post of mine which goes over the differences between the two:

http://selftaughtjapanese.com/2014/03/17/japanese-particles-で-de-vs-に-ni/

My general philosophy on these quizzes is I will typically make 70-80% of the questions relatively simply and straightforward, with the remaining questions targeting tricky or special cases. So if you get roughly 80% on the test, you can consider your understanding reasonably good.

As with my first test, I plan on writing post(s) about any questions that are commonly missed, and if you write me a comment about one of the questions there is a good chance I’ll write a post about it.

For this test, in addition to giving the hiragana readings for all the Kanji used (so even those with little to no Kanji knowledge can use it), I’ve also given all the English definitions for those words.

I’m always open to hear topics you’d like to have tests made for, so please feel free to leave comments if you have some ideas.

What’s with the Japanese “〜まして” form? (~mashite)

In Japanese, using polite speech properly is an important part of becoming fluent, and many textbooks or classes introduce the です/ます forms (ex: たべます)from day one.  This is especially important because many of the people you speak Japanese with might be people you have met for the first time, for example if you stop people on the streets on Tokyo to ask a question.

Once you start to get familiar with the non-past (~ます, です)  and past (~ました、でした) forms, you may eventually start playing around with other forms, for example the て form which would be たべまして for the verb たべる (to eat).

However for this polite て form, you need to be careful, since it isn’t exactly the same thing as the regular て form (ex: たべて).

Let’s look at a few example sentences. Which (one or more) of these do you think are natural Japanese?

 

A: 掃除をしましてください。   

B: みんな頑張りまして、いい試合でした。

C: みんな、頑張りましてね!    (said to motivate a group of people)

D: 私、結構頑張りまして。。。 (cuts off mid sentence)

 

The answer here is that B and D are natural, where A and C are not.

I’ll discuss each sentence below.

A: 掃除をしましてください。     

「〜まして 」+ 「ください」 is not a combination that is used. Instead use the normal て form here, as in「〜して 」+ 「ください」

B: みんな頑張りまして、いい試合でした。

Here the まして form is used mid-sentence to inject a bit of extra politeness there. There is often a pause after the まして form, as if someone is thinking. (The comma used hints at that)

However you can drop this まして form and keep the same meaning without any disrespect to anyone, and this is what I recommend. (“みんな頑張って、いい試合でした”).

C: みんな、頑張りましてね!    (said to motivate a group of people)

This usage is unnatural because the まして form is typically not used as a casual request. For that, just use the normal て form (“みんな、頑張ってね!”)

If I changed this sentence to the following so that it was a sentence fragment describing something that already happened, then it would be more natural sounding.

=> みんな、頑張りましてね。。。(そして勝利しました!)

D: 私、結構頑張りまして。。。 (cuts off mid sentence)

This is natural for the same reason state above, since it is being used simply to mean “I tried hard and…”.

 

Notes:

1) でして (て form of です)follows the same general rules as 〜しまして.

2) Other verb forms such as “〜ましたい” (want to)  and “~ましたかったら” (if/when) do exist but are used very rarely, so don’t worry about those.

3) Part of this post was verified by native speakers in this Oshiete goo post.

References

https://oshiete.goo.ne.jp/qa/8926927.html

 

 

 

Short Particle Quiz: Explanation of a tricky question (に vs を)

For my short quiz on Japanese particles, there was one question which was not answered correctly nearly half the time. In this article I’d like to go over that problem which appeared as #3 in the quiz.

(For those who want to take the quiz before reading the answer and explanation, you can do so here: testmoz.com/449328)

 

The question goes like this:

猫が木「?」登っています。

(ねこがき「?」のぼっています)

For the above sentence, which of the below particles fits the best?

Your first instinct for this question may be to choose ”を”. After all, it does appear the tree acts as an “object” to the cat’s climbing.

However, the correct answer is actually “に”!

This is related to the fact that is often used to indicate a direction for an action (ex: ”西走る”, “run west”) , whereas refers to an object as a whole.

Generally when talking about an action like tree climbing, the particle に is the most appropriate because the tree is considered in terms of a direction for the action. In English you can see this idea from the phrase “climb up the tree”.

However, there is a some cases where を would actually be more appropriate (taken from here). For example, in the famous story “Jack and the Beanstalk” Jack decides to climb the tall tree he has discovered (technically a vine) to it’s tallest point to discover what is at the top. Jack doesn’t want to just climb “up” the tree, but he wants to climb the entire tree in its entirety.

In this case it would be natural to use , as in:

  • ジャックは豆の木登る。

This is quite a contrived example, but if you do a search for “木登る” online you’ll find many many uses of it by native Japanese speakers.

Honestly, although it’s best to answer “” if you see this question on a test, I feel that this is a subtle distinction and “” isn’t technically wrong, it’s just not as good of a fit. Whether you choose to use or here, I’m sure the person you are speaking with would understand. Because of this, for my quiz question “を or に” would also be an appropriate answer.

If you want to check out a good set of sample sentences with English translations, see this page. The particle is used the most commonly, but a few of the examples use .

Notes

I used the kanji 上る (のぼる)for climbing in the original quiz question but it turns out the kanji 登る (also pronounced のぼる)is used more commonly for when talking about climbing something like a tree. See here for a bit more detailed explanation in Japanese.

References

http://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1015984930

http://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q147535869

http://ejje.weblio.jp/sentence/content/登る/3

 

The Japanese volitional form (~しよう、〜しましょう): much more than just “Let’s”

This time I’d like to focus on the volitional form in Japanese which an important pattern often used in both written and spoken speech.

Many times I have seen this form introduced to beginner students of Japanese as meaning “Let’s …”, and while this is one of the common usages there are several more. I first learned this myself as simply “Let’s”, but when I came to sentences where this didn’t apply I was confused at first. So I’d like to lay out all the main uses of this form to avoid any problems.

In case you’re not too familiar with the english word volitional, I’ll quote one of the definitions for it from Dictionary.com:

Volitional – the act of willing, choosing, or resolving; exercise of willing.

The other definitions also relate in some way or another to the idea of a person’s will. It may be easier to think of this as related to someone’s intention, or a decision someone has made.

I’ll go over the verb conjugation rules briefly for those who are new to this grammatical form:

  • Polite form:
    • ーます => ーましょう  [たべます => たべましょう]
  • Casual form:
    • Verb ending with a single う:       …う => …おう   [かう=>かおう]
    • Verb ending with a character that contains a ‘う’ sound (く/す/つ/ぬ/ふ/む/ゆ/る): replace the う sound with the お version of that same sound , and add う  [あるく=>あるこう]    [かつ=>かとう]
    • する => しよう
    • くる => こよう

You can see more examples of conjugation here.

Use 1: When making a suggestion to one or more people which includes oneself (“Let’s” / “Shall we”)

This is the common case I mentioned above that is often taught first because it translates well to English and is easy to use in daily life.

The volitional form can be used either as a direct suggestion, or more as a question. First let’s look at a direct suggestion.

  •  食べましょう。
  • Let’s eat.

You can add a “ね” after this form to impart a sense of friendliness, or a “よ” to give an stronger sense of urgency or emphasis.

  • 食べましょうよ。
  • Let’s eat already.

If you use the same phrasing (without the “ね” or “よ”) you can change your tone to that of a question in order to be less pushy and imply the listener has more of a choice in the matter.

  • 食べましょう?
  • Shall we eat?

You an also add a “か” to the end of this phrase, without a major change in meaning (it’s sounds slightly more formal to me though). Sometimes the う at the end can be shortened to a small tsu (っ) as in “食べよっか”, which has a casual feeling.

Use 2: When making a suggestion to one or more people which doesn’t include oneself.

You can use the volitional form even if the speaker is not included in the action. For example I recently heard the similar line in a drama, said by a bartender to a customer who had just entered the restaurant:

  • 座りましょうか。
  • Why don’t you sit down.

Depending on the situation, you could possibly use the “Let’s” form, because in English this can be used in cases where the speaker is not included (Ex: “Ok, let’s calm down now”)

Use 3: Talking about your intention/will without including others

In this case you are talking about your intention or will to do something that doesn’t involve others. It can either be an informal declaration to others nearby, or you could just be talking to yourself.

  •  今から散歩しよう。
  • (I think) I’ll take a walk now.

The English translation doesn’t really capture the entire connotation of the Japanese text here, but adding “I think” help’s get a bit closer.

It’s important to differentiate this usage from the normal non-past form (する), because that form has more certainty. For example:

  • 今から散歩する。
  • I will take a walk now.

Rather than emphasizing one’s decision or will to do an action, this dryly announces you are going to perform a certain action. It has a certain objective feel to it.

Use 4: Trying to decide between several options. 

In this usage, rather than making a specific suggestion or declaration, you are instead expressing that you’re debating between several options.

This form can be used when you are thinking out loud, as in the following example. The “かな” used at the end signifies something is being actively thought about, and often the な sound is drawn out (written as “な〜”)to emphasize this.

  • どの映画みようかな〜
  • Which movie should I watch…

The “にする”  expression, which means to decide something, is often used together with the volitional form:

  • どの味にしようかな。
  • I wonder which flavor I should pick.  (or “Which flavor should I pick…”)

Use 5: Offering to do a favor for someone

This usage is similar to the first one (making a suggestion to someone), except that you’re offering to help another person or do a favor for them.

  • 手伝いましょうか?
  • Shall I help ?

This example could also be also translated as “Let me help you” or “I’ll help”.

It’s very common to use the 〜てあげる form along with the volitional form for a more direct implication of helping someone.

  • 手伝ってあげましょうか?
  • Shall I help ?

Use 6: Volitional + と思う to express thinking about something

This form is used when you want to talk about the fact you have a certain will or intention, without actually making an offer to someone directly. The 思う verb can be in various different tenses or even in the middle of a sentence.

  • 図書館に行こうと思ってる。
  • I’ve been thinking of going to the library.

Here is an example of someone talking about a past volition (intention).

  • その雑誌を買おうと思ってたんだけど、高いからやめた。
  • I was thinking of buying that magazine, but since it’s expensive I changed my mind.

Use 7: Volitional + と + decision verb

This form is used to express deciding about something either in the future or past.

  • 大会に出ようと決めた。
  • I decided to participate in the competition.

You can replace the verb 決める (to decide) with other similar verbs such as “決心する”.

A related expression is  “Verb (dictionary form) + ように + decision verb” which has roughly the same meaning.

  • 大会に出ることに決めた。
  • I decided to participate in the competition.

Use 8: Volitional + とする to express trying something

This form is used when you make an effort to do something. In some ways it is similar to the  “〜てみる” form, except it seems to be used more often when something didn’t work out or if you are still trying it. Conversely I haven’t seen it used frequently for the present tense (i.e. “しようとする”).

  • 1マイル走ろうとした。
  • I tried to run a mile.

You can use this form when talking about someone else’s attempt at something.

  • 何をしようとしてるの?
  • What are you trying to do?

It may help to think of this form as meaning “Make an effort to do ~”, whereas ”〜てみる” means “Try and see what happens”, with an emphasis on an uncertain outcome.

Use 9: Volitional + が + …

There are several ways to use this form, but here I’ll just talk about the most common one I’ve seen using “自由” (freedom).

  • あなたが何をしようが自由です。
  • You’re free to do whatever you like.

In this case the part of the sentence before the が is treated like a noun phrase that is described by the part after the が。

You can stack two different actions to express freedom to choose either one, as in this example:

  • あなたが辞めろうが続けようが自由です。
  • You’re free to quit or continue as you like.

In both of these cases you’ll see the volitional form is focusing on the subjects ability to choose something.

Use 10: Volitional + が + verb (dictionary form) + まい + が   

This form is used when you want to express “whether you to do X or don’t do X…”.

  • 信じようが信じまいがどうでもいい。
  • I don’t care whether you believe or not.

I have mostly seen this form used in written, formal Japanese. (信じまい can also be written as 信じるまい)

I won’t give a detailed discussion of the “まい” form in this post, but adding ”まい” to a verb in the dictionary form roughly means the negative of that. For example, “ある + まい” = “ない” .

 

If you are interested in taking my latest mini-quiz on basic Japanese particles, please try it out here: testmoz.com/449328

Notes

1) The volitional form can also used together with the ~ている form to represent an intention or will to continually do something, as in this example:

  • ボールを見ていようね。
  • Let’s keep watching the ball.

Just as 〜ている is often shortened to 〜てる, ~ていよう is often shortened as 〜てよう。

  • ボールを見てようね。
  • Let’s keep watching the ball.

2) If you want to express a will to not do something, you can use the “negative verb form + で + いよう” pattern.

  • 今日は何もしないでいよう。
  • Let’s not do anything today.

3) I have seen the words だろう and でしょうalso categorized as volitional, and though they may have the same linguistic origin I suggest treating them as completely separate to avoid confusion. I have written a post about these words here.

 

References

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/volitional

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_verb_conjugation#Volitional_.28Presumptive.2C_Hortative.29

http://selftaughtjapanese.com/2014/02/19/でしょう-だろう-deshoudarou-in-japanese/

Short quiz on Japanese particle usage: Correction

Thanks to all who have taken my first test on basic particle usage in Japanese.

I was looking through it again and realized that question #7 had the wrong answer  (I had は but it should be が).

I had went over the test twice before publishing it, and not sure how that error got through, but will be more careful next time. My apologies!

Anyway, for those of you have already taken it you should give yourself an extra point (roughly  %12) if you got that question wrong.

For anyone who is still interested in taking the test (with this answer corrected) feel free to do to here:

testmoz.com/449328

 

Short quiz on basic Japanese particle usage

(You can take the test here:  testmoz.com/449328)

Writing posts about Japanese is fun and all, but one of the reasons I started this blog was because I like teaching, and have had some experience myself teaching a different topic at the College level.

Teaching includes not only pushing material to the student, but also feedback from the students to the teacher, including how much the students have learned. Depending on the material and the level of the students, simple written tests are one way to gauge this.

Especially for something like Japanese grammar where there is less ambiguity, tests can be quite effective.

So I’ve decided to try writing a series of tests, hoping they will be of use to my readers. I’ll be starting small, with a short 8 question test which targets fundamentals of basic Japanese particles (は、が、を、に、で, も).  In addition to this the only thing you need to have familiarity is hiragana and katakana. No worries about Kanji – I’ve given the readings for all Kanji used in the questions.

Taking the test is simple and no registration is required, all you need to do is pick a user name. Ideally you would use this across all tests so your results could be tracked as a unit.

Even if your are an advanced Japanese learner, please consider taking the test as it will help me gauge how much interest there is for these types of tests.

If things go well I’ll end up making these for all sorts of topics, including more advanced material and more involved tests (more than just multiple choice).  Also I hope to match up quizzes with articles focusing on certain topics so no prior knowledge is necessary, which is more like real classes are.

You can take the test here: testmoz.com/449328.