Japanese Adjectives

Japanese Adjectives have the same function as English adjectives.  They describe the state of things and people (strong, cheap, cold, etc).

When an adjective modifies a noun, we need to follow different rules for different types of adjectives.  Before we get into such rules, let’s separate adjectives into the three different types.

i-Adjectives all end with (i).  For example – takai.  They need to be conjugated a special way for the negative and past tense, but we will get into that later.

na-Adjectives all end with (na) before they modify a noun.  Unlike the i-Adjectives, we have to add the na on our own.  For example, taisetsu is a na-Adjective and becomes taisetsu na when we use it to modify a noun.

color-Adjectives are also called no-Adjectives, and treated the same as na-adjectives.  It’s a special category I will cover at the end of this lesson.

Here is a list of common i-Adjectives and na-Adjectives.  As you can see, some na-Adjectives are disguised as i-Adjectives.  Let’s call them “sneaky” na-Adjectives.  You will have to memorize their true identities.   Don’t worry – there isn’t many!  


i-Adjectives
ひろい
hiroi

(wide, spacious)
せまい
semai
(narrow)
あつい
atsui
(hot, thick)
さむい
samui

(cold)
おもい
omoi
(heavy)
かるい
karui

(light weight)
おそい
osoi
(slow, late)
はやい
hayai
(fast, early)
あかるい
akarui

(bright)
くらい
kurai

(dark)
たかい
takai

(high, expensive)
やすい
yasui

(cheap)
とおい
tooi

(far)
ちかい
chikai

(near)
つよい
tsuyoi

(strong)
よわい
yowai
(weak)
あたたかい
atatakai

(warm)
すずしい
suzushii
(cool)
たのしい
tanoshii

(fun)
つまらない
tsumaranai

(boring)
あたらしい
atarashii

(new)
ふるい
furui

(old)
おおきい
ookii

(big)
ちいさい
chiisai

(small)
よい / いい
yoi / ii

(good)
わるい
warui
(bad)
ふとい
futoi
(fat)
ほそい
hosoi

(slim)
ながい
nagai
(long)
みじかい
mijikai
(short in length)
きれい
kirei
(clean, beautiful)
きたない
kitanai

(dirty)
あまい
amai

(sweet)
からい
karai

(spicy)
おいしい
oishii

(delicious)
まずい
mazui
(bad tasting)
やさしい
yasashii

(gentle, easy)
むずかしい
muzukashii
(difficult)
かたい
katai

(hard)
やわらかい
yawarakai

(soft)
きつい
kitsui
(tight)
ゆるい
yurui
(loose)
まるい
marui
(circular)
ひくい
hikui

(low)
あぶない
abunai
(dangerous)
かわいい
kawaii
(cute)
かなしい
kanashii
(sad)
いそがしい
isogashii

(busy)
いたい
itai
(painful)
おもしろい
omoshiroi

(interesting, funny)
わかい
wakai

(young)
つめたい
tsumetai

(cold to the touch)
ほしい
hoshii

(want)
うすい
usui
(thin)

* Some of the “sneaky na-adjectives” posing as i-adjectives can be exposed by looking at the Hiragana rather than Romaji spelling (eg. すき does not end with い).


na-Adjectives
すき
suki

(like)
だいすき
daisuki

(really like)
ゆうめい
yuumei

(famous)
ひつよう
hitsuyou

(necessary)
きれい
kirei
(beautiful)
まっすぐ
massugu
(straight)
ていねい
teinei

(politely)
まじめ
majime

(serious)
むり
muri

(impossible, unreasonable)
きらい
kirai

(dislike)
りっぱ
rippa

(splendid)
ねっしん
nesshin

(eagerly)
しずか
shizuka

(quiet)
とくべつ
tokubetsu

(special)
ひま
hima

(to have free time)
てきとう
tekitou

(appropriate)
にぎやか
nigiyaka

(lively)
けっこう
kekkou

(quite)
べんり
benri

(convenient, useful)
いろいろ
iroiro

(various)
しんぱい
shinpai

(concern)
じゆう
jiyuu
(free)
いっしょうけんめい
isshoukenmei

(with all one’s might)
じょうぶ
joubu

(robust, strong)
だいじょうぶ
daijoubu

(fine, OK)
げんき
genki

(healthy)
たいへん
taihen

(extremely)
いや
iya

(not likeable)
らく
raku

(comfortable, easy)
たいせつ
taisetsu

(precious)
じょうず
jyouzu

(skilled)
へた
heta

(unskilled)
ざんねん
zannen

(sadly)
きけん
kiken

(very dangerous)
じゅうぶん
jyuubun

(enough)

Japanese i-Adjectives

When an i-Adjective modifies a noun in the negative or past tense, we need to replace the い (i):

Positive Negative
Present い (i) くない (kunai)
Past かった (katta) くなかった (kunakatta)

Let’s apply these to our i-Adjective, takai:

Positive Negative
Present たか
takai
たかくない
takakunai
Past たかかった
takakatta
たかくなかった
takakunakatta

Finally, let’s build some sentences using our conjugated i-Adjective:

Present Positive:
これはたかいシャツです
kore wa
takai shatsu desu.
(this is an expensive shirt.)

Present Negative:
これはたかくないシャツです
kore wa takakunai shatsu desu.
(this isn’t an expensive shirt.)

Past Positive:
これはたかかったシャツです
kore wa takakatta shatsu desu.
(this was an expensive shirt.)

Past Negative:
これはたかくなかったシャツです
kore wa takakunakatta shatsu desu.
(this wasn’t an expensive shirt.)

Japanese NA-Adjectives

If the adjective does not end in (i), then it’s probably a na-Adjective.   We call them na-Adjectives because we attach “na” between the adjective and noun.  For example, if we want to attach kiken (dangerous) to road (michi), it will look like this:

kiken na michi
(dangerous road)

It is important to note that we are only required to change add な (na) like this if it is modifying a noun.  For non-modifying adjectives (when the adjective comes after the noun), nothing changes:

kono michi wa kiken desu.
(this road is dangerous)

This next na-Adjective is placed before the noun, modifying it.  Remember, we must add “na“:

koko wa shizuka na tokoro desu.
(This isquiet place.)

I will be adding to this section soon to show you how to make na-adjectives negative!  

Japanese color-Adjectives

Color adjectives can be split into Primary colors (i-Adjectives) and Non-Primary Colors (no-Adjectives):

Non-primary colors are no-Adjectives,  but they are treated exactly the same way as na-Adjectives.  We are required to use “no” to connect the adjective with the noun.

chairo no inu
(brown dog)

Primary colors are i-Adjectives and are treated as such.  We are familiar with i-Adjectives now so this should be easy.  Primary color i-Adjectives are also flexible.  We can use “no” to connect the adjective with the noun but we are not required to do so.  For example, we can say “aka no ringo” or “akai ringo” which both mean “red apple”.

This table will organize the differences between how we use primary colors (i-Adjectives) and secondary colors (na-Adjectives).

Adjective Adjective type
akai / aka no
(red)
(i-adjective)
aoi / ao no
(blue)
(i-adjective)
kiiroi / kiiro no
(yellow)
(i-adjective)
kuroi / kuro no
(black)
(i-adjective)
shiroi / shiro no
(white)
(i-adjective)
midori no
(green)
(no-adjective)
murasaki no
(purple)
(no-adjective)
chairoi / chairo no
(brown)
(no-adjective)
orenji no
(orange)
(no-adjective)
pinku no
(pink)
(no-adjective)
haiiro no / gurē no
(grey)
(no-adjective)