All the language tips...

...I wish someone had given me
when I started learning to read Japanese

I set about learning Japanese the hard way--with a stack of manga and novels and two dictionaries. Taking a language course would have been helpful, but as a graduate student in a completely unrelated field, I had neither the time nor the money for extra classes.

This is not necessarily a page for those already studying Japanese in school, for I'm sure your instructors are much better resources. Rather, this is for those who simply want to read Japanese as a hobby or in preparation for future study. This guide does not cover basic rules or vocabulary that can be found in introductory texts available at most bookstores, such as conjugating verbs into the past tense or the difference between i- and na-adjectives. What I've collected here are grammar points, figures of speech, and alternate spellings that can be next to impossible to locate in a dictionary or whose literal definitions aren't clear enough to translate meaningfully into English.

Each point is accompanied by examples. Keep in mind, however, that all capitalization and spacing in the Japanese sentences is purely imaginary, and the hyphens and apostrophes have been added strictly for visual clarity.

(Also see my companion page Fantasy in Japanese.)

Table of Contents

  1. -ba and -tara
  2. Nara(ba)
  3. -nakereba naranai
  4. Only
  5. 'tte and to
  6. Ka as an exclamation
  7. Ka with the "5 W's"
  8. Ka expressing possibility
  9. Possibility and impossibility
  10. 'kke instead of ka
  11. Na
  12. Sound shifts and guyspeak
  13. Osaka-ben
  14. Shiranai
  15. Helper verbs: shimau
  16. Helper verbs: oku and aru
  17. Helper verbs: giving and receiving
  18. Other helper verbs
  19. -te (mo) ii
  20. Hou ga ii
  21. Like
  22. -toshite
  23. Tokoro
  24. Doubled words
  25. Ki phrases
  26. Mono
  27. Datte
  28. Nan- words
  29. Despite

    Possible future list items:

  30. Speaking to an enemy

1. -ba and -tara

When a verb is conjugated into the -ba or -tara form, it signifies either "if" or "when" (depending on context).
  • Otona ni nattara, Igirisu ni sumitai n'desu.
    I want to live in England when I grow up.
  • Toukyou ni ikeba, kawaii seetaa o katte hoshii.
    If you go to Tokyo, I want you to buy (me) a cute sweater.
There are some special usages of this form that mean a little more than the literal translation.
  • Sou ieba...
    Now that you mention it.../Speaking of which...
It is often combined with 'tte (to be described below) when a person (almost always female) is calling another's name repeatedly, scolding, and/or getting frustrated with that someone.
  • Seiji! Henji shite! Seiji! Seiji'tteba!/Seiji'ttara!
    Seiji! Answer me! Seiji! For goodness' sake, Seiji!
To accentuate the "if" meaning, moshi is often added to the beginning of a phrase.
  • Moshi osoku nattara, denwa shimasu.
    If it gets late, I'll call.
This form is also used between friends to suggest a course of action. (It can sound condescending, however, depending on context.)
  • Deeto ni sasowareta ka, Megumi-chan? Ikeba?
    You were asked out on a date, Megumi? You should go. [lit. What if you go?]

2. Nara(ba)

Another way to express "if" is with the word nara (short for naraba).
  • Anata ga kangofu ni naru nara, watashi wa isha ni narimasu.
    If you're going to be a nurse, (then) I'll be a doctor.
Nara has two additional (yet similar) meanings on top of the standard "if/then" arrangement.
  1. "If you mean..." (narrowing down options by giving further details)
    • Atarashii Harii Pottaa yonda ka.
      --Himitsu no Heya nara, senshuu yonda.
      Did you read the new Harry Potter?
      --If you mean Chamber of Secrets, I read it last week.
  2. "If it's..." (expressing confidence in someone)
    • Anata nara, dekimasu yo.
      If it's you, you can do it. (Implying that if someone else tried, that person wouldn't necessarily succeed, but you can.)

3. -nakereba naranai

Adjectives also have a -ba inflection, as in the example: yoi — yoku — yokereba. This is most often seen when combined with nai, which is conjugated like an i-adjective into nakereba, meaning "if not." When naranai ("will not be[come]") is added, however, it takes on the meaning "must."
  • Ashita made owaranakereba naranai.
    I must finish by tomorrow.
What makes this tricky is that there are various ways to contract or subtitute parts of the structure. -nakereba can be contracted to -nakya in an informal setting. It can also be expressed as -nakute wa, which is contracted to -nakucha in informal speech.
Ashita made owaranakereba naranai.
Ashita made owaranakya naranai.
Ashita made owaranakute wa naranai.
Ashita made owaranakucha naranai.
The -nakereba can be changed to -nai to using the "if" meaning of the particle to.The naranai part of the construction can be changed to similar words, mainly dame, ikenai, or komaru, expressing a negative result.
  • Ashita made owaranai to dame desu.
    I have to finish by tomorrow.
In informal speech, the second part is sometimes left out entirely, like when someone says "or else..." in English and leaves the negative result up to the listener. The informal usage can generally be translated to "gotta."
  • Ashita made owannakya.
    I gotta get this done by tomorrow (or else...). [Note: this often suffers the -ra- elimination to be described below.]

4. Only

There are several ways to say "only," and each has its own set of variant meanings.
  1. -nomi is a suffix that literally means "only."
    • *-shirushi no imi wa "kyuujitsu-nomi unten."
      The asterisk means "(this bus route) driven on holidays only."
  2. -dake is used to express a limit.
    • Ato 3-jikan-dake desu.
      There are only 3 hours left.
    This "limitation" usage can be extended to mean "as much as/enough to," expressing a maximum limit.
    • Dekiru-dake hatarakimasu.
      I will work as much (hard) as I can.
    It is used as a minimum limitation when there is just "one thing" that someone wishes to do/avoid doing, or just "one person" whom someone wants/doesn't want to be the recipient of an action.
    • Aitsu-dake wa yurusenai!
      He is the one person I can't forgive!
  3. Shika (always used together with a negative) expresses "only" in a more emotional/regretful sense. It implies that the speaker feels the quantity named is not enough.
    • Ato 10-pun shika nai!
      There are only 10 minutes left!
    It is often used in emotional situations to mean "the only thing" or "the only one."
    • Kare no soba ni wa atashi shika imasen.
      I am the only one he has (at his side).
    The shika and nai parts can be widely separated in the sentence, but they both must always be present.
    • Anata shika kare o taskeru koto ga dekinai.
      You are the only one who can help him.
  4. -bakari (often written in the accentuated form -bakkari/-bakkashi and sometimes contracted to -bakka) means "only" in the sense of "nothing but." It's used to emphasize the exclusion of other options.
    • Kono eiga ni wa bouryoku-bakari. Romanchikku ja nai n'desu yo.
      This movie has nothing but violence. It's not romantic at all.
    It can also take on the meaning of "just," as in "only now."
    • Ima modotta-bakari.
      I just got back.
  5. -kiri means "only" in the sense of "no more than." It is most commonly used to express the situation of two people being alone together.
    • Kare to futari-kiri ni naru no ga kowai.
      Being alone together with him is scary.
    It can also be used to stress that a person did only one action, going no further than that.
    • Ishikawa-san wa dekaketa-kiri.
      Mr. Ishikawa only stepped out (and hasn't returned).

5. 'tte and to

There is often a lot of quoting and sound effects in Japanese. It's hard to translate the quotation indicators 'tte and to into English literally; it helps to think of them as the verbal equivalent of air quotes.
  1. 'tte is generally informal. It makes the phrase directly preceding it into a quote. It can be used when repeating yourself as well as when quoting another person.
    • Kinou itta deshou? Nagoya ni ikimasu'tte.
      I told you yesterday, right? "I'm going to Nagoya."
    It can be used to ask/order someone to say something.
    • Ohayou'tte.
      Say, "Good morning."
    It is sometimes found as an informal substitution for the topic marker wa.
    • Ore'tte, baka da na.
      (As for me,) I'm a real idiot.
    It can be especially confusing in situations where it might be mistaken for a verb in the -te form. The most common example is when it comes after the guyspeak na ("don't," described below) and resembles natte, the -te form of the verb naru.
    • Urusai! Sawagu na'tte.
      Shut up! "Don't make a fuss" (I'm telling you).
  2. To is used when quoting someone else.
    • Kare ga ikimasen to iimashita.
      He said, "I'm not going."
    It is also used when relating something that wasn't previously said, but is the contents of someone's thoughts.
    • Kaimono suru to omoimasu.
      I think that I'll go shopping.
    It is used to express sound effects, often slightly modified to 'tto.
    • Kyaa, to himei ga kikoemashita.
      I could hear a scream (that went, "Kyaa!").
    The sound effects can also be metaphorical.
    • Ho'tto shita.
      I was relieved. [I sighed "ho" in relief.]
    The "sound effect" can also represent the absence of sound.
    • Shin, to minna watashi o nagameta.
      Everyone looked at me in silence. [Shin is the "sound" of silence.]

6. Ka as an exclamation

In general, the particle ka at the end of a sentence means it is a question. However, it is also used to give emphasis to an exclamation. There are three situations in particular where this is the case.
  1. The exclamation shiru ka! does not mean "do you know?" as the non-exclamatory shirimasu ka does. Rather, it means "I don't care!"
    • Ashita wa omae no moto kanojo no tanjoubi darou.
      --Shiru ka!

      Tomorrow's your ex-girlfriend's birthday.
      --I don't care!
    It is often combined with mono/mon (below) for extra stress, becoming shiru mon ka!
  2. Mono (or the more casual mon) is added to the end of a sentence to stress the emotion, especially when the speaker is protesting. When this is followed by an exclamatory ka, it takes on the meaning "absolutely won't" or "will never."
    • Makeru mon ka!
      I absolutely won't lose!
  3. Ja nai literally means "isn't," but it is frequently used in colloquial speech with the opposite intent. This is easiest to understand when it is followed by an exclamatory ka, giving it a feeling roughly equivalent to a tag question like "isn't it" in English. Ja nai can be contracted to jan.
    • Hisashiburi, Ayumi-chan. Ara, otona ni natta ja nai ka!
      It's been a long time, Ayumi. My, you're all grown up, aren't you!

7. Ka with the "5 W's"

Usually the particle ka indicates a question or, as described above, an exclamation. When used together with words that are themselves questions, though, it performs the reverse function and reduces them to non-interrogative pronouns or adverbs. This is most easily seen when ka immediately follows the question word, giving it the meaning "some- ."
  • Dare ga tasukete kureru? — Dare ka tasukete kure!
    Who will help me? — Someone help me!
The tricky part is recognizing it when the pair of words is split. The "some-" meaning is not added; the sentence merely changes from a question to a statement.
  • Dare ga tasukete kureru ka wakannai yo.
    I don't know who will help me.

8. Ka expressing possibility

Yet another situation in which ka doesn't indicate a question is when there are choices or options involved.
  1. Ka dou ka has the straightforward meaning "whether or not."
    • Shiken o goukaku dekiru ka dou ka wa yoku wakarimasen.
      I'm not certain whether or not I can pass the exam.
  2. When providing a sample list of options or examples, each item is followed by to ka. This differs slightly from the English "or" in that it can be used even if only one example option is given.
    • Dono kuni ni ikitai? Kanada to ka... (Supein to ka, Ausutoraria to ka...)
      To which country would you like to go? Canada... (or Spain or Australia...)
  3. If options are limited to two, each is followed by ka (though the second one is optional) and the pair can be translated as "(either) ~ or ~ ."
    • Banira ka chokoreeto ka, dotchi ga tabetai?
      Which do you want to eat, vanilla or chocolate?
  4. If the speaker was uncertain about an outcome or whether an action might take place, that verb can have ka appended to indicate that it had been an option in the speaker's mind. In a similar fashion, it is used to indicate that the speaker felt "as if" something were the case.
    • Ano jishin sa, kowakatta yo. Shinu ka to omotta.
      That earthquake was scary. I thought I might die.
    • Asoko no neesan, koronda ka to mieta kedo, demo daijoubu rashii.
      It looked as if that young woman over there fell down, but it seems she's okay.
  5. Ka mo (shirenai) is a phrase that means "might be/maybe."
    • Kono keeki wa dame ka mo shirenai.
      This cake might not be any good.
  6. Ka na(a) expresses possibility in the sense of "I wonder..."
    • Kore o dekiru no ka naa.
      I wonder if I can do this.

9. Possibility and impossibility

  1. Hazu means "must" or "ought to," although when spoken with a tinge of irony it implies the speaker knows that what "must" be really isn't. Likewise, when used with a past tense verb it means "ought to have," even if the event that "should" have happened really didn't.
    • Mina wa senshuu no purinto o motteru hazu desu...
      All of you must have last week's handout (though I know some of you forgot to bring it)...
    It is also used to emphasize the speaker's certainty that something has taken place.
    • Itta hazu desu. Watashi no tanjoubi wa Kinyoubi na no yo.
      I'm sure I told you. My birthday is on Friday.
    In the negative, hazu ga nai means "it's impossible" or "can't be." It is often used in situations where the speaker is denying an obvious truth.
    • Sono saifu ga nakunatta? Sonna hazu ga nai ja nai ka!
      You lost your wallet? That can't be!
  2. Wake literally means "reason." When used in combination with sou iu or to iu (below), it can be translated as " ~ is why." The phrase sou iu wake de means "so (that's why/for that reason)."
    • Doushite watashi ga paati ni ikenai no?
      --Anata wa shukudai ga aru. To iu wake de, paati ni wa ikasenai.

      Why can't I go to the party?
      --You have homework. That's why I can't let you go.
    When used at the end of a sentence, especially in a challenging tone, wake becomes an approximation of the phrase "you mean."
    • Naze Yuki-kun ga erabareta? Watashi yori shikaku ga aru'tte wake?
      Why was Yuki chosen? You mean he's more qualified than me?
    The negative version wake ga nai means "that can't be." It often implies a sense of indignation that "that" could ever have been thought to be the case, rather along the lines of a strong "of course not!" The ga tends to be dropped in casual conversation.
    • Ore ga omae no tanjoubi o wasureta to omotta? Sonna wake nai darou.
      You thought I forgot your birthday? Of course I didn't.
    The slightly different version wake ja nai means "it's not that ~ ."
    • Ore wa omae ga kirai na wake ja nai...
      It's not that I hate you...
    When used in the phrase wake ni wa ikanai, it means "couldn't possibly"--not that it's impossible, but that it's out of the question.
    • Asa 6-ji ni shuppatsu suru wake ni wa ikanai.
      We couldn't possibly leave at 6 in the morning.
  3. Kanou is the word that literally means "possible," with kanousei as the noun "possibility." Kanousei ga aru expresses that something is possible, whether or not it's actually feasible or probable. Its opposite, fukanou, means that something is literally impossible.
    • Omae ga Buraddo Pitto ni aitai da'tte? Sore wa na, kanousei ga aru kedo...
      You say you want to meet Brad Pitt? Well, I suppose it's possible...
    • Hito ga sora o tobu nante, fukanou desu.
      It's impossible for a person to fly.
  4. Muri means "impossible" in the sense of "unreasonable." It's used when something might be physically possible, but it's so unlikely that there's no point trying. It can also mean going to an unreasonable amount of effort to accomplish a goal.
    • Kyou-juu ni kono hon o toshokan ni kaesu no wa chotto muri desu.
      Returning this book to the library today is impossible (would be too difficult).
    • Tsukaretara, muri shinai de. Yoku yasunde ne.
      If you're tired, don't push it. Rest up.
  5. Muda is used when something is pointless, not because the action can't be done, but because it won't have the desired result.
    • Kare o sekkyou suru no wa muda desu.
      It's pointless to scold him.
  6. A tricky verb suffix of possibility is -kaneru, which is confusing because it is used backwards of how likelihood is expressed in English. The negative form, -kanenai, means the verb is "likely" to happen. The positive form, -kaneru, means the verb is "impossible" or "can't be done."
    • Ame ga furikanenai, ne.
      It's likely to rain, isn't it.
    • Watashi wa wakarikanemasu.
      I cannot understand.
  7. The word arieru (or its slightly older version, ariuru) means that something is "probable" or "likely." It can be conjugated to the negative arienai to mean "not likely."
    • Tooru ga akaten o toru'tte... Sore wa arienai.
      Tooru, fail a test... That's not likely.

10. 'kke instead of ka

When asking a question, occasionally the speaker will substitute 'kke for ka. This transforms the meaning from a direct question to more of a rhetorical one. "What was it?" would take on the tone of "What was that again...?"
  • Ano hito no namae wa nan da'kke? Aa, sou da. Hiroshi da.
    What's that guy's name again...? Oh, yeah. It's Hiroshi.

11. Na

The single syllable na has a variety of different meanings depending on its place in the sentence, which can be incredibly confusing since those meanings can contradict one another if you're not careful.
  1. The most obvious usage is the na following a na-adjective. This is pretty self-explanatory.
    • Anata no suki na iro wa nan desu ka.
      What color do you like?
  2. When the syllable no follows the informal da, that da undergoes a change in pronunciation to become na.
    • Kimi wa kirei da. — Kimi wa kirei na no da.
      You're pretty.
  3. Na is commonly used as an alternative to ne at the end of a sentence, particularly by guys.
    • Samui desu ne. — Samui da na.
      It's cold, isn't it.
  4. Na indicates a sense of longing/wistfulness/wonder when expressing one's thoughts.
    • Okinawa ni ikitai na, to omotta.
      I thought, "Gee, I'd like to go to Okinawa."
  5. Na acts as a contraction for nasai ("do it"), yet it is also a guyspeak word meaning "don't do it." The way to tell the difference is that the "do" meaning is attached to the masu-stem of a verb, while the "don't" meaning follows the verb's dictionary form.
    • Jisho o motte kina.
      Bring a dictionary.
    • Kuru na!
      Don't come! [Stay away!]

12. Sound shifts and guyspeak

Since everything in Japanese is written phonetically, it can be difficult if not impossible to locate words in the dictionary if the speaker has an accent. This problem is aggravated when the speaker is male, because there are a lot of "guyspeak" pronunciation shifts.
  1. Ai/ae/oi — ee
    When a word ends in a double vowel combination such as ai, ae, or oi, it is shifted to an ee sound.
      yabai — yabee
      omae — omee
      sugoi — sugee
  2. Dropped -ra-
    When a verb in the simple negative ends in -ranai, the -ra- is dropped and the n doubled.
      wakaranai — wakannai
      tsumaranai — tsumannai
    Other r- syllables may also be dropped if they precede an n sound, particularly if the speaker is agitated.
    • Nani suru no? — Nani sunno yo!
      What are you doing?
  3. Rya contraction
    Two different syllable combinations can be shortened to rya or ryaa. The first is when a word ending in -re precedes the particle wa.
    • Sore wa sou desu. — Soryaa sou da.
    The second is when a word in the -ba form ends in -reba.
    • Hanasanakereba komarimasu. — Hanasanakerya komaru.
      You must talk. [lit. If you don't talk, we have a problem.]
  4. Nai contraction
    The negative nai can be contracted to nu (usually in masculine formal speech) or simply n. (In archaic speech, it is sometimes lengthened to nanda.)
    • sumimasen — sumanai — sumanu — suman — sumananda
  5. No contraction
    The particle no is contracted in informal situations to n', especially at the end of a sentence in the no desu construction.
    • Ashita wa yasumi na no desu. — Ashita wa yasumi na n'da.
      Tomorrow is a holiday.
    It works the same way when used as a possessive.
    • Kore wa ore no uchi desu. — Kore wa ore n'chi da.
      This is my house.
  6. Iu
    The verb iu ("to say") has an alternate pronunciation yuu. It is generally preceded by the quotation indicator to (or 'tte), which leads to yet another change. In colloquial speech, to iu is abbreviated to tsuu (with 'tte iu becoming 'ttsuu).
    • Kanojo ga daijoubu da to itta. — Kanojo ga daijoubu da tsutta.
      She said, "It's okay."
    This to iu combination, when not being used as a direct quotation, can often be translated as "called" or "named."
    • Seguchi to iu otoko ga kimashita.
      A man named Seguchi is here.
    Tsuu occasionally appears at the end of a sentence, immediately followed by the syllable no. It's an indication that the speaker is frustrated or is flinging the words in an opponent's face. An appoximate translation would be "for goodness' sake" or "I'm tellin' ya."
    • Ore no mon sawaru na'ttsuu no.
      I'm tellin' ya, don't touch my stuff.
  7. Iu koto
    The word iu (which acts differently from the verb usage and is always written in hiragana) is used in combination with the nominalizer koto to mean "style/way/kind of thing." Usually it will have a pronoun such as kou ("this") or sou ("that") preceding it to explain what kind of thing. The phrase sou iu koto desu ("it is that kind of thing") can be roughly translated to "that's that" or "that's the way it is." Particularly in guyspeak, rather than adding wa or da after it, koto can be drawled out into ko(t)taa or kotchaa.
    • Ashita Niigata ni iku. Sou iu koto da. — Ashita Niigata ni iku. Sou iu kotaa.
      Tomorrow I'm going to Niigata. That's the way it is.
    Depending on the tone, the question dou iu koto? can be interpreted as "what is the meaning of this?"

    If the speaker wants to specify more exactly what "kind of thing" it is, the pronoun is replaced by explicit details and the quote indicator to (or 'tte). The combination to iu thus takes on the meaning "kind/style of." Like the to iu above, this one can also be pronounced tsuu in colloquial speech.

    • Chou-amai to iu nomimono desu. — Chou-amai tsuu nomimono da.
      It's an ultra-sweet kind of beverage.
    Because "kind of thing" sounds incredibly awkward in English most of the time, more useful phrases include "this ~ thing (person)," "the thing (person) that is ~ ," or simply "that." Following the "what is the meaning of this?" interpretation, to iu koto wa... can be translated as "which means..."
  8. -te wa contraction
    A verb in the -te form followed by the topic marker wa is often contracted to -cha (or -de wa to -ja).
    • Itazura o shite wa dame desu. — Itazura o shicha dame desu.
      Don't play pranks.
    • Shinde wa iya da! — Shinja iya da!
      Don't die!
  9. Dropped -i
    The final -i of i-adjectives is often dropped, particularly for words that are said often, such as samui, atsui, mazui, hayai, yabai, and osoi. The words samui and atsui undergo additional changes to stress extreme temperatures, becoming sabuu and a(t)chii. Atatakai can be shortened to attakai. Omoshiroi can become omoroi and kimochi warui can be truncated to kimoi.
  10. Desu contraction
    The copula desu in the casual form is usually conjugated to da, but sometimes it is shortened to 'su instead. (This is used particularly by macho guys, notably if they're into sports or martial arts.)
    • Sono kuruma, ii desu ne. — Sono kuruma, ii'su na.
      That is a nice car. — That's a nice car.

13. Osaka-ben

Every so often someone pops up with a regional accent. This is most noticeable at the ends of sentences; there are various speech patterns that involve ending the majority of sentences with the same sound. By far the most difficult accent to understand is the Osaka accent. Different authors portray this accent in slightly different ways, but the following points are generally shared.
  1. Sentences end with ya (de) instead of desu/da. This includes variations such as yarou for darou and yakara for dakara. Ya also replaces ja in some cases, such as ya nai ka for ja nai ka.
  2. The contracted helper verb form -teru (-te iru) changes to -toru (-te oru).
  3. Verbs ending in -au are pronounced -ou. In particular, shimatta becomes shimouta.
  4. Iu is almost always given its alternate pronunciation yuu, following which to iu (tsuu) becomes chuu.
  5. The pejorative baka is replaced with aho or do-aho. (This term has spread to standard Japanese.)
  6. Sakai is used to mean dakara at the ends of sentences.
  7. The negative -nai is changed to -hen. The past tense goes from -nakatta to -henkatta.
  8. The suffix -haru is added to verbs as a form of politeness.
  9. The helper verb miru, when used as a command, loses its last syllable and becomes mi(i). Thus "try to say it" becomes itte mi.
  10. Other substitutions:







    ooki ni


    for doushita no?

    for ikenai

    for -san

    for hontou

    for chigau

    for ja

    for ii

    for arigatou

    for takusan

14. Shiranai

The verb shiru literally means "to know." However, there are special cases in which the literal meaning isn't exactly how an English speaker would express it. One is shiru ka! (described above).
  1. The question shiranai? can mean "do you know where this person is?"
    • Shinichi-kun! Ran-chan shiranai?
      Shinichi! Do you know where Ran is?
  2. When it follows a warning, shiranai means "don't blame me" or "it's not my fault/problem."
    • Rouka o hashitte korondara, shiranai kara ne.
      If you run in the hallway and trip, don't blame me.

15. Helper verbs: shimau

In Japanese, helper verbs are often tacked onto the end of the -te form of the main verb. The helper verb shimau expresses either that the main verb's action has been completed (and can't be undone) or that there is a sense of regret that the main verb happened.
  • Wasureta! — Wasurete shimatta!
    I forgot! — Darn, I forgot!
In informal speech, the -te shimau combination is contracted to -chimau/-chau (or -jimau/-jau in the case of -de shimau).
  • Wasurete shimatta! — Wasurechimatta! — Wasurechatta!
  • Shinde shimau. — Shinjimau. — Shinjau.

16. Helper verbs: oku and aru

  1. Oku is mainly used either when making arrangements/preparations for a future action or when leaving something completely alone with no interference.
    • Tesuto wa ashita dakara, benkyou shite okimasu.
      Because the test is tomorrow, I'm going to study (in preparation for it).
    • Kare o houtte oite ne.
      Leave him alone, all right?
    In colloquial speech, -te oku is shortened to -toku.
      Benkyou shite okimasu. — Benkyou shitokimasu.
      Houtte oite. — Houttoite.
    There are two expressions in which this is often encountered.
    • Makasetoke!
      Leave it to me!
    • Ittoku kedo, atashi makenai kara ne!
      Look, I'll tell you this, I'm not gonna lose!
  2. Aru indicates that the main verb was performed on purpose so that its effect remained for later, as in "has been done."
    • Kasa wa genkan ni oite arimasu.
      Umbrellas have been left (intentionally) at the entrance.

17. Helper verbs: giving and receiving

A large class of helper verbs are literally about giving and receiving. When combined with the -te form of the main verb, they are about giving or receiving services, and they frequently indicate the social standing of the people involved.
  1. Ageru is used when offering to perform a service for someone else.
    • Ogotte ageru.
      I'll treat you (to a drink/meal).
  2. Sashiageru is just like ageru except more polite, especially when offering a service to a superior.
  3. Kureru is when the focus is on another person kindly performing a service for the speaker, especially if going to a special effort to do so. It is often seen in the imperative form (kure) when requesting a favor from someone.
    • Tomoko-chan ga asobi ni kite kureta.
      Tomoko (kindly) visited me.
    • Tasukete kure!
      Save me!
  4. Kudasaru is like kureru except more polite, especially for use when the service is being performed by a superior or someone highly respected. It is usually seen in the imperative form kudasai, which is translated as "please."
  5. Morau is when the focus is on the speaker receiving a service from someone else.
    • Kono heya o souji shite morau.
      I'll have [someone] clean this room for me.
  6. Itadaku is like morau except it is more polite and may imply receiving a service from a superior. Choudai, derived from the kanji for itadaku and used mainly by women, is approximately equivalent to "gimme" and is for ordering people around. Depending on the context, it can sound extremely arrogant.
    • Doa o tojite choudai.
      Shut the door.
  7. Yaru is similar to ageru, but it is used only when performing services for plants, animals, children, or people of markedly lower status. Using it toward an equal can be taken as an insult.
    • Ombu shite yaru yo.
      I'll carry you piggyback. (Note: addressing a small child)

18. Other helper verbs

A few other helper verbs are seen on a regular basis.
  1. Miru can be translated to "give it a try" or "check it out," used when someone is attempting an action for the first time.
    • Kono miso ramen o tabete mite. Oishii yo.
      Try eating this miso ramen. It's delicious.
  2. Miseru is used when the speaker is very determined to do some action, particularly when proving a point to someone.
    • Kachimasu wa. Katte misemasu.
      I'll win. I will definitely win.
  3. Yaru means "to do." It is used as a helper verb when the speaker wants to emphasize (often defiantly or angrily) the decision to perform an action.
    • Kono jitsuryoku o misete yaru!
      I'll show you my true ability!
  4. The motion verbs kuru and iku can be used in several separate ways. Kuru is for a continuous action in the past (like "have been/done"), for going to perform an action with the intention of returning, or for motion toward.
    • Zutto hitori de ikite kita.
      I have always lived on my own.
    • Pan o katte kimasu.
      I'll go buy some bread (and come back).
    • Inu ga hashitte kita.
      The dog came running.
    Iku (sometimes pronounced yuku) is used for a continuous action in the future, for "going to," or for motion away.
    • Hito wa kanashimi no naka de wa ikite yukenai.
      People can't go on living in sadness.
    • Ano atarashii resutoran ni tabete ikimashou.
      Let's go out to eat at that new restaurant.
    • Inu ga hashitte itta.
      The dog took off running.
  5. Iru, when used as a helper verb, is generally the same as an English verb in the "-ing" form. This can include doing an action repeatedly, such as taking piano lessons. However, with a main verb that does not represent a continuous action, it is closer to saying "the state of being ~ ." In such a case, it indicates that the verb happened at some point, and the state resulting from that verb is still applicable. Following this usage, it can be used for important events that have lingering influence (such as winning an award or earning a degree).
    • Watashi wa benkyou shite imasu.
      I am studying.
    • Kare wa yotte iru.
      He is (in the state of being) drunk.
    In casual conversation, the helper verbs iku and iru lose the initial syllable to become -ku and -ru. The helper verb kuru undergoes -ru elimination before a syllable starting with n.
    • Mainichi tsuyoku natte iku. — Mainichi tsuyoku natteku.
      I continue to get stronger every day.
    • Haha o matte imasu. — Haha o mattemasu.
      I'm waiting for my mother.
    • Kaete kuru na! — Kaete kunna!
      Don't come back!

19. -te mo ii

When the particle mo follows a verb or adjective in the -te form, it means "even (if)" or "no matter."
  • Naite mo, donatte mo, shikata no nai koto desu.
    Even if you cry or yell, there's nothing you can do about it.
-te mo is sometimes represented as -tomo or -tatte, with no change in meaning.
  • Iwarenakute mo, wakatteru sa. — Iwarenakutomo, wakatteru sa. — Iwarenakutatte, wakatteru sa.
    Even without being told, I understand.
Beginning a -te mo phrase with the word tatoe gives it extra emphasis. Another word that can add emphasis, especially when something is stressed as being impossible, is ikura.
  • Tatoe nani ga atte mo, ore ga mamoru kara.
    No matter what happens, I'll protect you.
  • Ikura daijoubu da to iwarete mo, shinjikirenai wa.
    No matter how much I'm told it's all right, I can't fully believe it.
Words other than verbs or adjectives are followed by de mo to attain the same meaning.
  • Usagi de mo neko de mo, chiisakute kawaii-dake ja nai yo. Chanto seikaku ga aru'tte.
    Even rabbits and cats aren't just small and cute. They have personalities, I tell you.
  • Ikura omae de mo, kono takasa kara ochitara o-shimai da zo.
    Even if it's you, if you fall from this height it's all over.
Adding the adjective ii (or its alternate pronunciation yoi) after -te mo makes it a phrase for asking or giving permission. In the positive form, it means "may I?" or "you may." In the negative form, it means "you don't have to" or in a stronger sense "don't." The mo is often dropped in both positive and negative cases. (Kekkou can sometimes be substituted for ii.)
  • Koko ni suwatte mo ii?
    May I sit here?
  • Isogashii nara, konakute mo ii.
    If you're busy, you don't have to come.
A noun followed by de mo ii indicates that the noun is "okay" or "fine" with the speaker.
  • Kola de mo ii kara, hayaku nani ka nomitai.
    Cola is fine, I just want to hurry up and drink something.
If de mo is placed after a question word, it is like adding the prefix "any-" to the basic meaning of the word. For example, dare de mo ii is "anyone is fine" and itsu de mo ii is "anytime is okay." A special case is the phrase dou de mo ii, which means "I don't care."

20. Hou ga ii

If there is a choice between two or more objects or actions, the better option is indicated with the phrase hou ga ii. Depending on the context, this could have a tone of friendly advice ("this seems best") or a strong warning ("you had better do this"). A good approximation is "you should."
  • Asa wa hayai kara, neta hou ga ii.
    You have to get up early in the morning, so you should go to sleep.
Other adjectives may be substituted for ii if the speaker wants to indicate not that the option is "better," but that it is "faster," "cheaper," and so on.
  • Ano akai seetaa no hou ga yasui.
    That red sweater is cheaper.

21. Like

Expressing the concept of "like" is tricky, since there are several distinct variations. The ones listed here are very common.
  1. -rashii essentially means "seems like." In one usage it implies that the speaker heard from an outside source, and in another it is a judgment based on the speaker's own senses.
    • Kyou wa ame ga furu-rashii.
      It seems like it will rain today.
    A related meaning of -rashii is "like" in the sense of "typical of." This is used especially when commenting on someone's behavior or how well something suits a person. It is conjugated the same as an i-adjective.
    • Kyou wa genki nai, ne. Akiko-rashikunai wa.
      You're not very cheerful today. It's not like you, Akiko.
  2. -mitai means "seems/looks like" or "similar to." If it is used in combination with the phrase maru de, it means "just/exactly like."
    • Kinou no deeto wa maru de yume-mitai deshita.
      Yesterday's date was just like a dream.
  3. (No) you is used to express similarity between two things when followed by the particle na (conjugated as a na-adjective). It can be used when the speaker wants to say what something "seems like/to be" on a subjective basis, in which case it is followed by da/desu. (It can also be paired with maru de.)
    • Sakana no you ni oyogitai.
      I want to swim like (similar to) a fish.
    • Ano ikimono wa sakana no you desu.
      That creature seems (to me) to be a fish.
    One thing to watch out for is that you ni is also a phrase meaning "may (it be so)," especially when it comes at the end of a sentence.
    • Minna ga shiawase ni ikite iku you ni.
      May everyone live happily.

22. -toshite

  1. This is a suffix that means "as" or "in the capacity/position of." It is used when the speaker wants to emphasize only one aspect of something or someone, rather than the thing or person as a whole.
    • Empitsu-toshite kore o tsukau no wa muri desu.
      It's impossible to use this as a pencil.
    • Musume-toshite de wa naku, hitori no onna-toshite no iken desu.
      This is my opinion, not as your daughter, but as a woman.
    The suffix -toshite is easily confused with the -te form of the verb phrase to suru. The difference is that, as a suffix, -toshite will always follow the noun it modifies and will never be conjugated to any other form.
  2. A similar suffix, -toshita, is used in descriptions, particularly physical descriptions of people. (Technically, only the -to part is the suffix, and the shita part is the past tense of suru; however, it acts as a single unit.)
    • Ano otoko no ko wa rin-toshita kao o shitemasu ne.
      That boy has a manly appearance, doesn't he.
  3. The phrase to suru can be used several different ways. If it follows a verb in the volitional -ou form, it means that the verb is being attempted, not necessarily successfully.
    • Chiaki wa suupaa ni ikou to shite ita.
      Chiaki was trying to go to the supermarket.
    It can also mean that a person is speaking hypothetically.
    • Kaoru ga omae no tomodachi da to suru. Omae wa kare ni nani o iu to omou?
      Let's say Kaoru was your friend. What do you think you'd say to him?
    This is commonly encountered as the phrase to shite mo ("even if [this were/had been the case]").
    • Satoru ga wasureru to shite mo, watashi wa kanarazu oboeru yo.
      Even if Satoru were to forget, I'd definitely remember.
    • Mizuki ga ikanakatta to shite mo, onaji koto ga okotta.
      Even if Mizuki hadn't gone, the same thing would have happened.
    The phrase is sometimes used to mean "let's go with that" or "let's do that," particularly when conjugated to the volitional shiyou (or shimashou) form.
    • Kono heya ni wa...eto desu ne...shiro to ao to shimashou.
      For this room...let's see...let's go with white and blue.
  4. A related phrase is to suru to ("that means..."). This is used when the speaker is drawing a conclusion.
    • Kinou, Junya wa yoru made kaete konakatta. To suru to, hiruma ni reizouko o akeppanashi ni shita no wa Tooru no hazu da yo na.
      Yesterday, Junya didn't come home until night. That means the one who left the refrigerator door open during the day must have been Tooru, right?

23. Tokoro

  1. Literally, the word tokoro means "place." It can refer to any physical location.
    • Ano tokoro ni ikitai na...
      I wish I could go there...
  2. If you think of a place as a "point," the definition of tokoro can be stretched to include the intangible. In this sense, it is closest to the English "aspect" or "characteristic"--something you can point to as one specific part of someone or something. The phrase ii tokoro ("good place/point") is often used to describe "a good part" or "the best part" of a person, location, or object.
    • Kono machi no ii tokoro o oshiete kudasai.
      Please tell me the best part [the best thing] about this town.
  3. When used as a verb suffix, tokoro indicates how far an action has progressed. When it follows the dictionary form, it means one is "just about to" perform the verb. If it modifies the helper verb iru, it means one is "in the middle of" performing the verb. After the past tense, it means the action has "just finished."
    • Kyou ga denwa kaketa toki, ore wa denwa kakeru tokoro datta.
      When Kyou called me, I was just about to make a call.
    • Atashi wa benkyou shite iru tokoro desu.
      I am right in the middle of studying.
    • Soto ni deta tokoro ni, ame ga furimashita.
      Just when I stepped outside, it started to rain.

24. Doubled words

Many Japanese words consist of a single unit repeated. Such doubled words can be used in many different ways. I've tried to categorize them into three basic types, but this is only my attempt at organization and is in no way official.
  1. The most commonly encountered doubled words are sound effects and descriptions of appearance or movement. For example:
    batabata sound of heavy footsteps/flapping
    dokidoki rapid pitter-patter of one's heart
    nikoniko a cheerfully beaming expression
  2. For some doubled words, the repeated unit has meaning in and of itself. From looking at a single unit, the meaning of the doubled word follows logically. Sometimes the unit is merely the truncated form of a longer word or phrase. (Often the Chinese reading of the kanji character is the basis for the unit, so it bears little resemblance to its usual Japanese pronunciation, but the meaning is the same.) In many cases, the second iteration of the unit has its first syllable voiced due to linguistic reasons--"h" becomes "b" or "s" becomes "z."
    barabara (separate/varied/not coordinated together) from baramaku, "to scatter"
    sousou (immediately/soon) from hayai, "early"
    hisabisa (a long time) from hisashii, "a long time ago/old"
  3. Occasionally there are doubled words whose meanings bear no relation to the individual units that compose them. Sometimes the repeated unit has no meaning at all. Examples include nakanaka ("pretty good"), which is a repetition of naka ("inside"), and sorosoro ("soon/it's about time"), with no meaning for the unit soro.

25. Ki phrases

There are a large number of idiomatic phrases that use the word ki, which is itself difficult to translate. Its meaning varies between "mind," "intent," "spirit," and "aura." Entire books focus on ki phrases alone. I will present here a few that I believe to be the most useful.
ki o tsukeru "to take care/be careful"
ki ni iru to like/be fond of
ki ni naru to bother one/nag at one's mind
ki ni suru to worry about something/let something bother one
ki ga suru "I get the feeling..."
ki ga tsuku to realize/discover/regain consciousness
ki ga muku to feel inclined
ki no sei one's imagination/mistaken perception
ki no doku "that's too bad/such a pity"
ki ni kuwanai to dislike/not agree with
ki ni yamu to worry about/feel anxious or upset over
ki ni sawaru to be offended by

26. Mono

  1. Literally, the word mono means either "object" or "person." These two meanings are written with separate kanji, so they can often be distinguished, but when written in hiragana (or spoken) it is up to the reader (or listener) to decide.
    • Yuuki no aru mono wa ore ni tsuite kuru ga ii!
      Those with courage should follow me!
    • Omae wa ore no mono da.
      You are mine [my object/possession].
    Mono can be contracted to mon in casual speech.
    • Ore no mon wa ore no mon, omae no mon wa ore no mon.
      What's mine is mine, what's yours is mine.
  2. The "object" definition of mono can be translated as "thing." This is usally a concrete "thing," but in certain circumstances it can be more of an abstract "thing" encompassing an emotion such as "love," an ideal such as "freedom," or even an entire state of affairs.
    • Piiman? Sonna mon, tabetakunee.
      Green pepper? I don't wanna eat a thing like that.
    • Yoshi. Konna mon ka na.
      Okay. This [the current state] should do it.
  3. The sentence-ending mono is used to add emotional emphasis when providing a reason and is similar in meaning to kara. It is often seen when someone is giving an excuse, pouting, or sulking, but it can also be used to express delight or anger. It is most frequently used by women.
    • Atashi, ikitakunai. Datte, mendoukusai mon.
      I don't want to go. Because you see, it's such a bother.
    • Konna ni kawaii n'da mono. Warawanakucha, zembu dainashi yo.
      You're so cute! If you don't smile, it's all for nothing.
  4. This "reason" meaning can also be used to excuse one's actions when the original cause was beyond one's control.
    • Densha ga okureta mono de, ma ni awanakatta.
      Because the train was late, I didn't make it in time.
  5. When it comes immediately in front of the copula da/desu, mono can express "general knowledge," "common sense," or "that's the way things are." This may, however, only be "common sense" in the mind of the speaker.
    • Kodomo wa oya no iu koto o kiku mono da.
      Children do what their parents tell them [that's the way it is].
    It is easiest to translate this with a phrase such as "are people who..." or "is something that..."
    • Ken wa hito o korosu tame ni sonzai suru mono desu.
      Swords are things that exist to kill people.
  6. Another meaning of mono da is to express surprise or amazement.
    • Kare wa mou watashi o oikoshimashita ne. Kodomo no seichou'tte, sugoi mono desu.
      He has already surpassed me. A child's growth is an amazing thing.
  7. If it follows a verb in the -tai form, it expresses a deeply held longing, wish, or hope.
    • Anna kampeki na hito ga ichido de mo shippai suru tokoro o jibun no me de mite mitai mono desu ne.
      I'd love to see with my own eyes someone as perfect as that fail at least once.
  8. When used immediately following a verb in the past tense, mono da can express that the action "used to" take place, probably frequently, but doesn't happen anymore.
    • Yoku ano ko o karakatta mon da na.
      I used to tease that kid a lot [but don't anymore].
  9. Mono da and the negative mono ja nai can be used to give orders when following a verb in the dictionary form. In this case, it is almost always contracted to 'n' and can easily be mistaken for the contraction n' of no.
    • Ike! Hayaku iku'n'da!
      Go! Hurry up and go!
    • Kono koto o dare ni mo hanasu'n'ja nai!
      Don't tell this to anyone!
  10. Mono ka, discussed earlier, means "absolutely won't." When the speaker wishes to be more polite, desu is sandwiched into the phrase, making it mono desu ka.
    • Anna urusai hito to tomodachi ni naru mono desu ka.
      I will never make friends with a loud person like that.
  11. Mono nara is a phrase that has two meanings. When it is preceeded by a verb expressing possibility, it means "if it were possible to..." implying that the likelihood of the action is quite low.
    • Dekiru mono nara, itsu mo anata no soba ni itai yo.
      If I could, I'd want to be with you always.
    When the verb is in the volitional, it means that if one were to attempt the action, the result would be extremely negative.
    • Aitsu to kenka shiyou mono nara, ugokanakunaru made yarareru no ga ochi da.
      If I were to attempt to fight with him, I'd wind up getting beaten until I could no longer move.

27. Datte

  1. Datte at the beginning of a sentence is used when someone is explaining personal motivation or point of view. The closest English translation is "because you see..." or "but you see..." Depending on the tone of voice, it can sound very pouty. It is frequently paired with the sentence-ending mono given above.
    • Nigeta no wa jijitsu da kedo, shikata nakatta mon. Datte, kowakatta mon.
      It's true that I ran away, but I couldn't help it. Because you see, it was scary.
  2. Used as a suffix, -datte is a combination of "even" and "also." It emphasizes that "even ~ is also the same" where " ~ " is whatever word comes directly before it. It is very close in meaning to de mo. The main distinction is that de mo puts the stress on "even" while -datte puts the stress on "also."
    • Ano ko ga jiritsu shitai no wa touzen da to omou yo. Anata-datte sou datta n'deshou, koukousei no toki.
      I think it's natural for that child to want to be independent. Even you were the same, weren't you, when you were in high school?
    This suffix is takes on the special meaning "the exact same thing applies no matter ~ " when tacked onto a question word. Since that's extremely long, it's often simpler to use "anywhere" for doko-datte, "always" for itsu-datte, "anyone" for dare-datte, and so on. (However, be careful not to confuse this with nandatte "why?" or nan da'tte "what did [someone] say?")
    • Kare ga soko ni iru nara, doko-datte onaji.
      If he's there, then anywhere is the same.
  3. The third meaning is written exactly the same in Japanese, but instead of being a single word, it's a combination of da and the quotation marker 'tte. It's awkward to translate, but it means roughly, " what [someone] said." The "someone" could be either the speaker or another person, whether named or implied.
    • Aitsu, kyoumi nai n'da'tte.
      He says he's not interested.
    • Hontou ni daijoubu da'tte.
      It's really okay, I tell you.
    It's tricky when this combination comes at the beginning of a sentence, because then it resembles datte as "because" (above). The meaning, however, is completely different. It will always come following another person's statement, and it will be addressing a third party. It means "That's what [previous person] says" or "You heard what [previous person] said."
    • Sonna mendoukusai koto, shitakunee yo.
      Da'tte sa. Dou suru?

      I don't wanna do something that's such a bother.
      You heard him. What'll you do?
    The combination of da and 'tte follows the rest of the rules for 'tte listed earlier, so it can also be used as 'tte (topic marker), 'tteba ("for goodness' sake"), 'tte iu ("kind of [thing]"), or 'tte no ("I'm telling you").

28. Nan- words

  1. Nanda
    The easiest to recognize meaning of nan da is the question word nani followed by da/desu. The -i on the end of nani vanishes in front of the d- of da/desu/darou/deshou. (The same thing applies even if the person is speaking Osaka-ben, so nan da becomes nan ya.)
    • Nan da, kore wa?!
      What's this?!
    When used at the beginning of a sentence as a single word, nanda, it means "oh." It often expresses an air of disappointment, as if the speaker had expected something completely different.
    • Nanda, anta ka. Zannen.
      Oh, it's you. What a shame.
    At the end of a sentence, it is usually the contraction of na no da, pronounced na n'da. This has no real meaning in and of itself, it's just a way to round off a sentence. It's used especially when giving or receiving information.
    • Kono kuni wa hontou ni kirei na n'da ne.
      This country is really beautiful, isn't it.
  2. Nanka
    At the beginning of a sentence or in front of a descriptive word, nanka means "kinda" or "somewhat." The speaker is being tentative or vague about whatever description or statement is being offered. It can also be used as a filler word when the speaker is struggling to think of exactly what to say, in the sense of, "It's kinda, like, you know, sorta..."
    • Kanojo no kyou no koudou'tte ieba...nanka, hen da to omowanai?
      Speaking of her actions today...don't you think it's kinda strange?
    As a suffix, -nanka expresses distaste for or disparagement of whatever word it is attached to. This is extremely hard to translate into English. The phrase "such a [negative] thing as ~ " comes closest, but that's awkward to say.
    • Anta-nanka, daikirai!
      You horrible person, I hate you!
    When comparing oneself with another person, it is common to attach -nanka to the first-person pronoun as a way of being humble. The meaning in this case isn't quite as strong; it's more along the lines of "silly me" or "little old me."
    • Saori-chan wa ii no. Demo, watashi-nanka ga sonna koto shitara, shippai suru ni kimatteru mono.
      It's fine for you, Saori-chan. But if I [my humble self] were to do such a thing, I'd surely fail.
    A special variation of this uses -nanka- as an infix before the -nai of an i-adjective in the negative. This emphasizes the negative aspect.
    • Ano eiga, omoshiroku-nanka-nakatta yo.
      That movie wasn't at all interesting.
  3. -nanzo
    Along with the similar-sounding words -nado, -nazo, and -nanza, the suffix -nanzo also works to disparage or express disregard for the word to which it is attached. It's essentially a more masculine version of -nanka.
    • Kisoku-nanzo dou de mo ii.
      I don't care about the stinkin' rules.
  4. Nante
    When placed after a phrase, nante performs the same function as -nanka. The difference is that it can be used with parts of speech other than just nouns or pronouns, which makes it much more flexible.
    • Onna no ko o busu yobawari suru nante, hidoi!
      Doing such a terrible thing as calling a girl "ugly"--that's awful!
    The "belittling" aspect of nante can also be used in two less extreme cases. The first usage is synonymous with nanchatte (below), where it is usually followed by ne. The second implies that the phrase that came before it is unlikely or difficult to believe.
    • Kare ga hannin da nante omotta koto wa ichido mo nai yo.
      Not once have I thought [such a ridiculous thing as] that he is a criminal.
    At the beginning of a sentence, on the other hand, it expresses surprise or amazement. This usage of nante is actually short for nan to iu. It is equivalent to the exclamatory "what ~ " in English, such as "what big eyes you have!" A sentence containing this version of nante often ends with a word expressing ambiguity or doubt, like darou or kashira. Depending on the context and tone of voice, however, the meaning could take on the usual negative implications.
    • Nante yasashii hito na n'deshou.
      What a kind person!
    • Nante yatsu da!
      What an amazing guy! (spoken with admiration)
      What an awful guy! (spoken with disgust)
    One further construction is the word nani plus the quotation marker te (or 'tte). This combination means "What did [someone] say?"
    • Ima, nan te itta?
      What did you just say?
  5. Nanchatte
    This is a playful expression meaning "just kidding" or "can you believe I just said such a thing? <tee hee>" It is intended to pass off as frivolous whatever came directly before it. It can sometimes be pronounced nanchite. It is very often encountered when a person says something serious that garners an awkward reaction, so the person tries to lighten the mood by pretending it was a joke.
    • Atashi, Katagiri-kun ni hitomebore shichatta. ...Nanchatte! Joudan yo.
      I went and fell in love with Katagiri-kun at first sight. ...Just kidding! That was a joke.

29. Despite

  1. Noni is a version of "despite" that expresses regret when things don't work out as planned.
    • Mou, ima made Kaede-chan ni hanasu no o gaman shiteta noni, zembu barete shimatta.
      Darn it, despite the fact that I restrained myself from telling Kaede-chan up until now, she found out everything.
    Another use is when the outcome is in doubt and one fears that it might not go as hoped.
    • Konna ni benkyou shiteru noni, shiken ni ochitara dou shiyou?
      Despite all this studying, what'll I do if I fail the exam?
    It can express regret under other circumstances as well, such as when one would have done something differently "if only..."
    • Motto hayaku hanashite kuretara, omae o ouen shiteta noni yo.
      If only you had told me sooner, I would have supported you.
    Noni can sometimes act as an exclamatory "but!" when the speaker is struck by something that seems shockingly contradictory.
    • Kore, tabetakunai.
      —Eee?! Konna ni oishii noni!
      I don't want to eat this.
      —What?! But it's so delicious!
  2. Monono is "despite" in the sense of "contrary to" or "although."
    • Kare wa seiseki ga ii monono, joushiki ga amari nai.
      Despite the fact that he gets good grades, he has hardly any common sense.
  3. Monowo is most commonly used to complain to someone about certain actions (or unfortunate lack thereof). It means almost the same thing as noni, just with an added note of accusation.
    • Shizuka ni suwattetara kawaikatta monowo, kuchi o akechimatta na.
      Despite the fact that you would have been cute if you just sat quietly, you had to go and open your mouth, didn't you.
  4. -nagara is a suffix that denotes two simultaneous actions. Thus it can be employed when a person "says one thing but does another" or similarly acts in a contradictory fashion.
    • Seikaku ga ichiban taisetsu da to ii-nagara, kare wa aite no mune-bakari o miru kuse ga aru mon na.
      Despite saying that personality is most important, he has a habit of looking at nothing but the other person's chest, doesn't he.
  5. -tsutsu (and the longer version -tsutsumo) is for all intents and purposes identical to -nagara. I believe the only distinction is that it's slightly more formal. (Be careful not to confuse it with -tsutsuaru, which means "progressing toward completion of ~ " for whatever verb it's attached to.)