Ixrec Essential Vocabulary


Essential Vocabulary

The idea here is to list a few categories of vocabulary which are absolutely essential to understanding Japanese. For the most part, that means how numbers and pronouns work. Not only are those critical in all languages, but the way they work in Japanese is very different from English, so a dictionary alone won't cut it.

Japanese Numbers
Counting Words
Grammatical Vocabulary
Pronouns and Closely Related Words
Interrogative Pronouns
Personal Pronouns
Semi-Personal Pronouns
Impersonal Pronouns, Demonstratives and More
Less Simple Example Sentences

Japanese Numbers

Ja En For example: En Ja En For example:
ไธ€ ( ใ„ใก ) 1 ๅ ( ใ˜ใ‚…ใ† ) 10
ไบŒ ( ใซ ) 2 ๅไธ‰ ( ใ˜ใ‚…ใ†ใ•ใ‚“ ) 13 ็™พ ( ใฒใ‚ƒใ ) 100 ไธƒๅ…†ไธ€็™พไธ€ๅ„„ไธ‰ๅไบ”ไธ‡ไนๅƒๅ…ญๅไบŒ
ไธ‰ ( ใ•ใ‚“ ) 3 ๅ››ๅๅ…ซ ( ใ‚ˆใ‚“ใ˜ใ‚…ใ†ใฏใก ) 48 ๅƒ ( ใ›ใ‚“ ) 1,000 7,010,100,359,062
ๅ›› ( ใ‚ˆใ‚“ or ใ— ) 4 ไธƒๅ ( ใชใชใ˜ใ‚…ใ† ) 70 ไธ‡ ( ใพใ‚“ ) 10,000
ไบ” ( ใ” ) 5 ๅไธ‡ ( ใ˜ใ‚…ใ†ใพใ‚“ ) 100,000
ๅ…ญ ( ใ‚ใ ) 6 ็™พไธ‡ ( ใฒใ‚ƒใใพใ‚“ ) 1,000,000
ไธƒ ( ใชใช or ใ—ใก ) 7 ๅƒไธ‡ ( ใ›ใ‚“ใพใ‚“ ) 10,000,000
ๅ…ซ ( ใฏใก ) 8 ๅ„„ ( ใŠใ ) 100,000,000 or 10,000^2
ไน ( ใใ‚…ใ† ) 9 ๅ…† ( ใกใ‚‡ใ† ) 1,000,000,000,000 or 10,000^3
ๅ ( ใ˜ใ‚…ใ† ) 10 ไบฌ ( ใ‘ใ„ ) 10,000,000,000,000,000 or 10,000^4

Counting Words

Now that you've seen basic numbers, we can move on to what makes Japanese number usage very different from English number usage: counting words.

This is one of the few categories of vocabulary that not only should but must be explained before you can just look stuff up on your own. In English, we have the numbers one, two, three and so on, and you say you have one, two or three of something. In Japanese, you have the numbers ใ„ใก , ใซ , ใ•ใ‚“ and so on, and instead you say you have ใฒใจใค , ใตใŸใค or ใฟใฃใค of something. The first three are just "numbers" while the latter three are "counting words." It turns out there are several sets of counting words for different kinds of objects. Irregular ones include:

General: ไธ€ใค ( ใฒใจใค ), ไบŒใค ( ใตใŸใค ), ไธ‰ใค ( ใฟใฃใค ), ๅ››ใค ( ใ‚ˆใฃใค ), ไบ”ใค ( ใ„ใคใค ), ๅ…ญใค ( ใ‚€ใฃใค ), ไธƒใค ( ใชใชใค ), ๅ…ซใค ( ใ‚„ใฃใค ), ไนใค ( ใ“ใ“ใฎใค )
People: ไธ€ไบบ ( ใฒใจใ‚Š ), ไบŒไบบ ( ใตใŸใ‚Š ), ไธ‰ไบบ ( ใ•ใ‚“ใซใ‚“ ), ๅ››ไบบ ( ใ‚ˆใ‚“ใซใ‚“ ), ไบ”ไบบ ( ใ”ใซใ‚“ )
Animals: ไธ€ๅŒน ( ใ„ใฃใดใ ), ไบŒๅŒน ( ใซใฒใ ), ไธ‰ๅŒน ( ใ•ใ‚“ใฒใ ), ๅ››ๅŒน ( ใ‚ˆใ‚“ใฒใ ), ไบ”ๅŒน ( ใ”ใฒใ )
Days: ไธ€ๆ—ฅ ( ใ„ใกใซใก ), ไบŒๆ—ฅ ( ใตใคใ‹ ), ไธ‰ๆ—ฅ ( ใฟใฃใ‹ ), ๅ››ๆ—ฅ ( ใ‚ˆใฃใ‹ ), ไบ”ๆ—ฅ ( ใ„ใคใ‹ ), ๅ…ญๆ—ฅ ( ใ‚€ใ„ใ‹ ), ไธƒๆ—ฅ ( ใชใฎใ‹ or ใชใฌใ‹ ), ๅ…ซๆ—ฅ ( ใ‚ˆใ†ใ‹ ), ไนๆ—ฅ ( ใ“ใ“ใฎใ‹ ), ๅๆ—ฅ ( ใจใŠใ‹ ), ๅไธ€ๆ—ฅ ( ใ˜ใ‚…ใ†ใ„ใกใซใก )
Months: ไธ€ใƒถๆœˆ ( ใ„ใฃใ‹ใ’ใค ), ไบŒใƒถๆœˆ ( ใซใ‹ใ’ใค ), ไธ‰ใƒถๆœˆ ( ใ•ใ‚“ใ‹ใ’ใค )
Cylindrical or Prism-Shaped objects: ไธ€ๆœฌ ( ใ„ใฃใฝใ‚“ ), ไบŒๆœฌ ( ใซใปใ‚“ or ใตใŸใปใ‚“ ), ไธ‰ๆœฌ ( ใ•ใ‚“ใปใ‚“ )

Most counting words (including these and other irregulars) are easy to recognize if you're familiar with those above, and easy to look up in any decent dictionary, but you should remember these details:

ใƒปThe general counters stop at nine, even though every other set can theoretically go on forever with the same suffix. The closest thing to a general counter above nine would be the ใ€œ ๅ€‹ -ko set.

ใƒป ไธ€ไบบ and ไบŒไบบ are counting words for "one person" and "two people" as well as adjectives meaning "alone" and "together." ไธ€ไบบใผใฃใก and ไบŒไบบใฃใใ‚Š specify the adjective usage, though ไบŒไบบใฃใใ‚Š tends to be much closer to "just the two of us" than ไบŒไบบ (and the ใฃใใ‚Š suffix can be used similarly on ไธ‰ไบบ and up as well).

ใƒปThe day counters (like ไบŒๆ—ฅ ) can indicate days of the month ("the 2nd") as well as numbers of days ("two days"). In contrast, ไธ€ๆœˆ ( ใ„ใกใŒใค ) only means "January" while ไธ€ใƒถๆœˆ ( ใ„ใฃใ‹ใ’ใค ) only means "one month." I have absolutely no explanation for that ใƒถ .

ใƒปThe suffix ็›ฎ ( ใ‚ ) changes a "cardinal number" such as ไธ€ใค "one" into an "ordinal number" such as ไธ€ใค็›ฎ "first". So ไธ€ๆ—ฅ็›ฎ means "first day," ไบŒไบบ็›ฎ means "second person," etc.

ใƒปThe prefix ไฝ• ( ใชใ‚“ ): ไฝ•ไบบ means "how many people?," ไฝ•ใƒถๆœˆ means "how many months?," etc. For the general counters, use ๅนพใค ( ใ„ใใค ) "how many?".

ใƒปThe prefix ๆ•ฐ ( ใ™ใ† ): ๆ•ฐๆ—ฅ means "a few days," ๅๆ•ฐๅŒน means "ten and a few animals," ็™พๆ•ฐๅไบบ means "a hundred and a few tens of people," etc. Be careful not to confuse ๅๆ•ฐ with ๆ•ฐๅ .

ใƒปWhen you see something like ไบŒ ใ€œ ไธ‰ๅๅˆ† , it means "twenty to thirty minutes". Not "two to thirty", but "twenty to thirty" (or more literally: "two to three tens of minutes"). This is a really easy mistake to make since in English "twenty" and "thirty" are not the same thing as "two tens" and "three tens".

Grammatical Vocabulary

It's debateable whether or not these are particles or just really common words. Either way, they are so incredibly common that you have to learn them sooner or later to understand any remotely complex sentences, so you should start paying attention to them early. Also, many of these words are impossible to truly define, in the same way that "is" or "of" can't be directly defined in English. So, the best I can do is list some English words and phrases which come close enough that they should give you a good idea where to start.

ใ‚„ = and/or

ใ‹ใ‚‰ = so, because, from, since, starting from _

ใ ใ‹ใ‚‰ = like I said, because, therefore

ใชใŒใ‚‰ = while, during

ใพใง = until, as far as, as much as, even

ใ‚‚ใ† = already, no longer, more (can also be an interjection expressing strong displeasure)

ใ„ใใ‚‰ = how many/much/far, as far as

ใพใŸ = again

ใพใ  = still, not yet

ใฏใš and ในใ = should, ought (hazu is likelihood, beki is moral obligation)

ใ—ใ‹ใ— = however, still, but

ใ—ใ‹ใ‚‚ = not only, on top of that

ใใ‚‰ใ„ = only, at least, to the point of being (sometimes just emphatic)

ใ•ใˆ = even, as far as, just, only, not even

ใ“ใ = the very _, precisely because, the one/thing which will

ใ ใ‘ = only, just, degree, extent (placed after a noun or verb)

ใŸใ  or ใŸใฃใŸ = merely, only, just (placed before a noun or adjective)

ใใ—ใฆ = and, and then, also, in addition

ใจใ—ใฆ = as a _, in the manner of a _

ใ‹ใ‚‚ or ใ‹ใ‚‚ใ—ใ‚Œใชใ„ or ใ‹ใ‚‚ใ—ใ‚‰ใชใ„ = maybe, might, possibly

ใ—ใ‹๏ผฟใชใ„ = nothing but, no choice, no other way

ใ‘ใ‚Œใฉ or ใ ใ‘ใฉ or ใ‘ใฉ or ใ ใŒ = but, however, although

ใงใ‚‚ = even, but, something like (also modifies pronouns a lot like the "-ever" suffix in English; see pronoun list)

ใ‚„ใฃใฑใ‚Š or ใ‚„ใฏใ‚Š = as I thought, indeed, after all

ใšใค = in pieces/blocks/periods of, each/every, at a time

ใ‚‚ใ—ใ‹ใ—ใฆ or ใ‚‚ใ— = perhaps, maybe, if

ใ˜ใ‚ƒ = if/then/in the case of _

ใฟใŸใ„ = apparently, seems like, resembles

ใ‚‰ใ—ใ„ = apparently, seems like, I heard that, I was told that

ใฐใฃใ‹ใ‚Š or ใฐใ‹ใ‚Š or ใฐใฃใ‹ = nothing but, lots of (after a noun), only just finished (after a verb)

ใใ‚Œใซ = besides, however, on top of

ใใ‚Œใซใ—ใฆใ‚‚ = despite, in spite of, although

ใชใฉ = _ and the like, things such as _, etc.

ใ‚„ใ‚‰ = _ and the like, things such as _, _ever, by/with some _

Pronouns and Closely Related Words

Again, just need-to-know vocab plus a bunch that a dictionary isn't much good on. By "interrogative" I mean used to ask a question, by "personal" I mean used to denote a person, by "semi-personal" I mean used to denote either a person or a thing, and by "impersonal" I mean used to denote a thing. These are far from strict categories, and are only here to make it a little easier to wrap your head around the very large number of pronouns and other words I've listed.

Interrogative Pronouns

ไฝ• ( ใชใซ or ใชใ‚“ ) what?
ไฝ•ใ‹ something (colloquially used to mean somehow/somewhat)
ไฝ•ใ‚‚ or ใชใ‚“ใซใ‚‚ nothing (if verb is negative), everything (if verb is positive)
ใชใ‚“ใงใ‚‚ whatever, whichever, no matter what
ใชใ‚“ใจใ‹ somehow, in some way, by some means
ใชใ‚“ใจใชใ somehow, in some way, by some means, without any particular intent of doing so
ใชใ‚“ใ‹ or ใชใ‚“ใ ใ‹ something, somehow, for some reason

่ชฐ ( ใ ใ‚Œ ) who?
่ชฐใ‹ someone, somebody
่ชฐใ‚‚ or ่ชฐใซใ‚‚ no one, nobody (if verb is negative), everybody, everyone (if verb is positive)
่ชฐใงใ‚‚ whoever, whomever
ๅ…จใฆ ( ใ™ในใฆ ) or ๅ…จ้ƒจ ( ใœใ‚“ใถ ) all, everything
็š† ( ใฟใช or ใฟใ‚“ใช ) everyone, everybody
ไฝ•ๆ•… ( ใชใœ ) or ไฝ•ใง ( ใชใ‚“ใง ) why? for what reason?
ไฝ•ๆ•…ใ‹ for some reason

ใ“ใ“ here, this place
ใใ“ there, that place (relatively close)
ใ‚ใใ“ there, that place (relatively far away)
ใฉใ“ where?
ใฉใ“ใ‹ somewhere
ใฉใ“ใซใ‚‚ nowhere (if verb is negative), everywhere (if verb is positive)
ใฉใ“ใงใ‚‚ wherever
ใ„ใค when?
ใ„ใคใ‹ sometime, someday
ใ„ใคใ‚‚ never (if verb is negative), always (if verb is positive)
ใ„ใคใงใ‚‚ whenever

Personal Pronouns

ใ€œ ้” ( ใŸใก ) and ใ€œ ็ญ‰ ( ใ‚‰ ) plural suffixes for most of the following pronouns
after a name, they mean something like "_ and the other(s) with him/her"

็ง ( ใ‚ใŸใ— ) I or me the most common way of referring to oneself, since it implies a mild but not excessive degree of politeness.
ใ‚ใŸใ— I or me same as ใ‚ใŸใ— , but often preferred by middle-aged adults or teenage girls when not trying to be polite
็ง ( ใ‚ใŸใใ— ) I or me a level of politeness above ใ‚ใŸใ— , often used when addressing someone worthy of an honorific like "-sama" or "-dono."
ไฟบ ( ใŠใ‚Œ ) I or me very popular among teenage males (and tomboys)
ๅƒ• ( ใผใ ) I or me a slightly childish pronoun usually used by little boys or boyish girls
ๆˆ‘ ( ใ‚ใ‚Œ ) I or me classical pronoun implying either strong pride or authority
ๆˆ‘ใŒ ( ใ‚ใŒ ) mine an old-fashioned possessive, often used with a sense of pride or authority
ๅ„‚ ( ใ‚ใ— ) I or me used mostly by old men and women

ใŠๅ‰ ( ใŠใพใˆ ) you the default second-person pronoun (especially for males)
ๅ› ( ใใฟ ) you more friendly than ใŠใพใˆ , implying that there is some sort of relationship
่ฒดๆ–น ( ใ‚ใชใŸ ) you a second-person pronoun used by females, sometimes used specifically to address her husband
ใ‚ใ‚“ใŸ you a more colloquial version of ใ‚ใชใŸ without the strong connotations
ใฆใ‚ you used primarily to express contempt of the subject
Also, attaching ใ‚ to the end of any noun or pronoun conveys the same nuance of contempt.
่ฒดๆง˜ ( ใใ•ใพ ) you essentially a more formal version of ใฆใ‚
In some contexts this does not convey contempt, but rather an expectation of humility or submission.
ใŠไธป ( ใŠใฌใ— ) you a very old second-person pronoun

ๅฝผ ( ใ‹ใ‚Œ ) he or him sometimes implies a close relationship since it's part of the word for boyfriend: ๅฝผๆฐ ( ใ‹ใ‚Œใ— )
ๅฝผๅฅณ ( ใ‹ใฎใ˜ใ‚‡ ) she or her sometimes implies a close relationship since it also means girlfriend

่‡ชๅˆ† ( ใ˜ใถใ‚“ ) oneself i.e., can be myself/yourself/themselves/etc.
ๅทฑ ( ใŠใฎใ‚Œ ) oneself but sounds more old-fashioned. As an interjection, it acts like ่ฒดๆง˜

Semi-Personal Pronouns

ใ“ใ„ใค this can refer to a person (he/she/him/her) or an object (it),
so it is often interpreted as either belittling a person or personifying an object
ใใ„ใค that (relatively close) can refer to a person (he/she/him/her) or an object (it),
so it is often interpreted as either belittling a person or personifying an object
ใ‚ใ„ใค that (relatively far away) can refer to a person (he/she/him/her) or an object (it),
so it is often interpreted as either belittling a person or personifying an object
ใฉใ„ใค which, what, who, or whom can refer to a person (he/she/him/her) or an object (it),
so it is often interpreted as either belittling a person or personifying an object
ใ“ใฃใก this way, me, or my situation most often used to contrast with other ways/situations
ใใฃใก that way (relatively close), him/her, or his/her situation most often used to contrast with other ways/situations
ใ‚ใฃใก that way (relatively far away), him/her, or his/her situation most often used to contrast with other ways/situations
ใฉใฃใก which way?, who?, or whose situation?

Impersonal Pronouns, Demonstratives and More

ใ“ใ‚Œ this strictly a pronoun, so ใ“ใ‚ŒใŒใ„ใ„ "That is good" is correct
but ใ“ใ‚Œใ‚‚ใฎใŒใ„ใ„ "That thing is good" is wrong.
ใ“ใฎ this strictly an adjective, so ใ“ใฎใ‚‚ใฎใŒใ„ใ„ "This thing is good" is correct
but ใ“ใฎใŒใ„ใ„ "This is good" is wrong.
ใ“ใ‚“ใช this, this sort of strictly an adjective
ใ“ใ‚“ใชใซ this much, this far, to this degree strictly an adverb
ใ“ใ† this, this way, in this manner, like this
ใใ‚Œ that (relatively close) strictly a pronoun, so ใใ‚ŒใŒใ„ใ„ "That is good" is correct
but ใใ‚Œใ‚‚ใฎใŒใ„ใ„ "That thing is good" is wrong.
ใใฎ that (relatively close) strictly an adjective, so ใใฎใ‚‚ใฎใŒใ„ใ„ "That thing is good" is correct
but ใใฎใŒใ„ใ„ "That is good" is wrong.
ใใ‚“ใช that, that sort of (relatively close) strictly an adjective
ใใ‚“ใชใซ that much, that far, to that degree (relatively close) strictly an adverb
ใใ† that, that way, in that manner, like that (relatively close),
that is so, is that so?, I see
ใ‚ใ‚Œ that (relatively far away) strictly a pronoun, so ใ‚ใ‚ŒใŒใ„ใ„ "That is good" is correct
but ใ‚ใ‚Œใ‚‚ใฎใŒใ„ใ„ "That thing is good" is wrong.
ใ‚ใฎ that (relatively far away) strictly an adjective, so ใ‚ใฎใ‚‚ใฎใŒใ„ใ„ "That thing is good" is correct
but ใ‚ใฎใŒใ„ใ„ "That is good" is wrong.
ใ‚ใ‚“ใช that, that sort of (relatively far away) strictly an adjective
ใ‚ใ‚“ใชใซ that much, that far, to that degree (relatively far away) strictly an adverb
ใ‚ใ‚ that, that way, in that manner, like that (relatively far away)
ใฉใ‚Œ which?, what? strictly a pronoun, so ใฉใ‚ŒใŒใ„ใ„ "Which is good?" is correct
but ใฉใ‚Œใ‚‚ใฎใŒใ„ใ„ "Which thing is good?" is wrong.
ใฉใฎ which?, what? strictly an adjective, so ใฉใฎใ‚‚ใฎใŒใ„ใ„ "Which thing is good?" is correct
but ใฉใฎใŒใ„ใ„ "Which is good?" is wrong.
ใฉใ‚“ใช which?, what?, which sort of?, what sort of? strictly an adjective
ใฉใ‚“ใชใซ how much?, how far?, to what degree? strictly an adverb
ใฉใ† how?, what?, what way?, in what manner? see Confusing Vocabulary for common but puzzling phrases using this
ใฉใ†ใ‹ or
somehow, somewhat, in some way usually used to beseech, as in "please, if you could somehow find it in your heart to _"


ใ„ใ† (not ่จ€ใ† ) means "sort of" after ใ“ใ† , ใใ† , ใ‚ใ‚ or ใฉใ†
means "that which is/can be called _" after ใฃใฆ or ใจ
ใใ‚Œใใ‚Œ each and every, everything, all of these _ effectively a special plural of ใ“ใ‚Œ
ใใ‚Œใžใ‚Œ each and every, everything, all of those _ effectively a special plural of ใใ‚Œ
็›ธๆ‰‹ ( ใ‚ใ„ใฆ ) refers to the "other" person/group in any context with exactly two people/groups For example: the object of a crush, an opponent in a duel, a partner in an assignment, someone you talked to one-on-one, etc.
ๅ…ˆๆ–น ( ใ›ใ‚“ใฝใ† ) refers to the "other" person/group in any context with exactly two people/groups A more formal version of ็›ธๆ‰‹ ( ใ‚ใ„ใฆ ), most often used to refer to the "other party" in a legal dispute or business transaction.

I know it's a lot, but trust me, it's worth it. Thankfully a lot of them fit into neat little sets (especially the impersonals).

Less Simple Example Sentences

Same as last time , except now I'm adding compound particles and grammatical vocabulary to make the sentences a little more complicated. Verb forms will still be grayed out.

( B D T ) ็ฐกๅ˜ใชใ‚‚ใฎใ‹ใ‚‰ๅง‹ใพใ‚‹

( B D T ) ใ‚ใฎ้›ฒใ ใฃใฆ็™ฝใ˜ใ‚ƒใชใ„

( B D T ) ใ“ใ‚Œใ‚‚ๅซŒใ„ใ‘ใฉใ„ใ„ใ‹ใ‚‚

( B D T ) ่ชฐใŒ่ฉฆ้จ“ใ‚’่ฝใกใŸใฎ

( B D T ) ใใ—ใฆๅ…จ้ƒจใ‚’ใงใใ‚‹ใฏใš

( B D T ) ใใ‚“ใชใซ็ถบ้บ—ใชใฎใ‹ ๏ผŸ

( B D T ) ใ—ใ‹ใ—็š†ๅคฑๆ•—ใ—ใŸใฟใŸใ„

( B D T ) ่ชญใ‚€ใจใ™ใใซ็œ ใ‚‹ใฎใฏไฝ•ๆ•…

( B D T ) ๅคงๅญฆใธใจ้€ฒใ‚€ในใใงใ™

( B D T ) ไธ€้€ฑใใ‚‰ใ„ใงใ„ใ„

( B D T ) ไธ€ไบบใšใค่ฉฑใ™ใ‚“ใ ใฃใฆ

( B D T ) ่‡ชๅˆ†ใ‚’ๆ•™ใˆใ‚‹ใ—ใ‹ใชใ„

( B D T ) ใฆใ‚ใ€ๆœฌๅฝ“ใซๆฎบใ™ใž

( B D T ) ้ข็™ฝใ„ใจใฏ่จ€ใ†ในใใ‹ใ‚‚

( B D T ) ใพใŸๅค‰ใชใฎใŒๆฅใŸใฟใŸใ„

( B D T ) ๅฝผๅฅณใจใฎ้–ขไฟ‚ใฏ ๏ผŸ

( B D T ) ใ‚‚ใ†ๅพฉๆดปใ™ใ‚‹ใฏใšใŒใชใ„

( B D T ) ้›ฃใ—ใ„ใ˜ใ‚ƒๅˆ†ใ‹ใ‚‰ใชใ„ใงใ—ใ‚‡

( B D T ) ่‡ชๅˆ†ใฎ้ƒจๅฑ‹ใ ใ‹ใ‚‰ใงใใ‚‹

( B D T ) ็งใซใฏ่›‡ใŒๆใ‚ใ—ใ„

( B D T ) ไฝ•ใ‚‚่€ƒใˆใฆใชใ„ใ‹ใ‚‰็ต‚ใ‚ใ‚‹

( B D T ) ไธ‰ๅŒนใฎๅ…Žใพใง้ฃผใ†ใ ใฃใ‘ ๏ผŸ

( B D T ) ใ„ใใ‚‰็™ฝใงใ‚‚้ด‰ใฏ้ด‰ใ ใ‚

( B D T ) ใ“ใ†ใ„ใ†ๆ–นๆณ•ใง่ฒทใ†ใฎ ๏ผŸ

( B D T ) ไบŒใƒถๆœˆๆ›ธใใฎใŒๅฑ้™บใ ใ‘ใฉไธ€ใคใฎๅไฝœใใ‚‰ใ„ๆ›ธใใŸใ„

Next is Grammar Part 2: Conjugation .