Nouns, Adjectival Nouns, Verbal Nouns

Japanese has common nouns, collective nouns, proper nouns, material noun and abstract nouns in the idea as well as English. However, they do not have to be distinguished as a point of the grammar, because Japanese has no number inflection of nouns. Only as for proper nouns, the orthography of Japanese Romanization requests to uses a capital letter at the first letter of them just as well as English orthography. Meanwhile, Japanese has two types of nouns, which are grammatically unique to ordinary nouns. They have two behaviors of parts of speech. One has adjectival and nominal behaviors. It is called Adjectival Nouns. The other has verbal and nominal behaviors. It is called Verbal Nouns. They are usually loan words from ancient Chinese and modern English. They substitute for verbs and adjectival Verbs, by accompanying special auxiliary verbs.

Ordinary Nouns

Ordinary nouns are Japanese typical nouns. They have no inflection of numbers. They can perform a subject or an object in a sentence. They can also perform a possessive part.

Dèsuku, kyàbinetto are ordinary nouns in the following tables.

Particle "no" is a possessive marker to connect nouns.
EnglishJapaneseJapanese Kana
a desk
the desk
the desks
dèsuku (*1)デスク
my desk
my desks
wátashi no dèsukuわたしの デスク
his desk's cabinet
a cabinet of his desk
kàre no dèsuku no kyàbinettoかれの デスクの キャビネット

Adjectival Nouns

Adjectival nouns are the nearest part of speech to English adjectives, except they need a particle to modify nouns. Indeed, if an adjectival noun is a loan word form English, the original English word is also an adjective generally. The difference between adjectival nouns and ordinary nouns is that adjectival nouns are not modified by nouns with particle "no". They do not modify nouns with particle "no", either. They use particle "na" to modify nouns. Of course a few of adjectival nouns have an exceptional behaviors that they can modified nouns and be modified by nouns with "no".

Púràiveito, pàburikku are adjectival nouns in the following tables.

Particle "na" is an attributive marker to modify nouns.
EnglishJapaneseJapanese Kana
a private documentpúràiveito na dòkyumentoプライヴェイトな ドキュメント
a public documentpàburikku na dòkyumentoパブリックな ドキュメント
my public document
the public document of mine
wátashi no pàburikku na dòkyumento (*1)わたしの パブリックな ドキュメント

Verbal Nouns

Verbal nouns generally express actions and motions. and have the same characters as ordinary nouns. They modify nouns with particle "no", they are modified with particle "no". Besides these characteristics, verbal nouns have the parts of characteristics which verbs have, although they do no have any conjugation as verbs have. They behave like verbs, followed by verb "suru". This chapter introduces two behaviors of verbal nouns. although those may be regarded as advanced usages for beginners. Those are very unique behaviors which nouns and verbs do not have.

Púrèi is a verbal noun in the following tables.

Verbal Nouns as Ordinary Nouns
EnglishJapaneseJapanese Kana
play of tennistènisu no púrèiテニスの プレイ
our play of tenniswátashì-tachi no tènisu no púrèiわたしたちの テニスの プレイ

Verbal Nouns with an objective marker "'o"
EnglishJapaneseJapanese Kana
beforebefore play of tennistènisu no púrei-màeテニスの プレイまえ
before playing tennistènisu 'o púrei-màeテニスを プレイまえ
duringduring play of tennistènisu no púrei-chuuテニスの プレイちゅう
during playing tennistènisu 'o púrei-chuuテニスを プレイちゅう
after after play of tennistènisu no púrei-gòテニスの プレイご
after playing tennistènisu 'o púrei-gòテニスを プレイご

Verbal Nouns with a subjective marker "ga"
EnglishJapaneseJapanese Kana
beforebefore our play of tenniswátashì-tachi no tènisu no púrei-màeわたしたちの テニスの プレイまえ
before our playing tenniswátashì-tachi ga tènisu 'o púrei-màeわたしたちが テニスを プレイまえ
duringduring our play of tenniswátashì-tachi no tènisu no púrei-chuuわたしたちの テニスの プレイちゅう
during our playing tenniswátashì-tachi ga tènisu 'o púrei-chuuわたしたちが テニスを プレイちゅう
after after our play of tenniswátashì-tachi no tènisu no púrei-gòわたしたちの テニスの プレイご
after our playing tenniswátashì-tachi ga tènisu 'o púrei-gòわたしたちが テニスを プレイご

You can never say "wátashì-tachi ga tènisu 'o púrei" itself in the correct grammar. However, you can say

On the other hand, you can never say "wátashì-tachi no tènisu no púrei-suru" in the correct grammar. However, you can say

Numerals and Classifiers

Japanese have rich combinations of numerals and classifiers. This correct usage sometimes bothers even native speakers of Japanese. In my opinion this rich combinations are sometimes harmful and fruitless, while the rich combinations of verbal conjugation are fruitful to express subtle ideas. Using classifiers properly is a measure of cultural knowledge among Japanese, although it contains many meaningless expressions to inform an event correctly. so a beginner of Japanese does not have to do it correctly. This chapter introduces the minimum information about numerals and classifiers. If I have a chance to arrange them, I may write an additional document about them in future.

Base Numbers

Base numbers consist of logical and plain combinations except a few sound changes. There is no special name for 11, 12, 20 as in English or in French. All combinations follow the decimal counter perfectly. Of course, there are other ways to count numbers. However, these ways are not in general but idiomatic usages.

Base Numbers
English JapaneseKana Comment
0 zero rèi れい
1 one íchi いち (*2)
2 two
3 three sàn さん (*2)
4 four yòn よん (*1)
5 five
6 six ròku ろく (*2)
7 seven nàna なな (*1)
8 eight hàchi はち (*2)
9 nine kyùu きゅう (*1)
10 ten jùu じゅう (*2)
100 one hundred hyákù ひゃく (*2)
1,000 one thousand sèn せん (*2)
10,000 ten thousand íchi-mànいちまん
100,000,000 one hundred millioníchì-okuいちおく
1,000,000,000,000one trillion ìt-chou いっちょう(*2)
Counting Rule 1
Grouping units of four columns
2,222,222,222,222,222 = {2,222,}{222,2}{22,22}{2,222} is called
ní-sèn ní-hyaku nì-juu ní-chòu
ní-sèn ní-hyaku nì-juu ní-òku
ní-sèn ní-hyaku nì-juu ní-màn
ní-sèn ní-hyaku nì-juu nì
Counting Rule 2
Skipping sound "íchi" before "jùu", "hyáku" and "sèn"
1,111,111,111,111,111 = {1,111,}{111,1}{11,11}{1,111} is called
sèn hyáku jùu ìt-chou
sèn hyáku jùu íchì-oku
sèn hyáku jùu íchi-màn
sèn hyáku jùu íchì
Counting Rule 3
Skipping columns valued with 0
2,220 is called ní-sèn ní-hyaku nì-juu.
2,202 is called ní-sèn ní-hyaku nì.
2,022 is called ní-sèn nì-juu nì.


Classifiers are one of the most annoying features of Japanese. You have to remember thousands of combinations with counted things and counting classifiers idiomatically. There is no other way but memorizing more than one hundred classifiers in order to compose Japanese expressions related to numbers exactly. This way is impossible even for native speakers of Japanese to perform perfectly, to tell the truth. The chapter picks up 3 classifiers. I hope these 3 classifiers cover more than 90% expressions conveniently in order to count objects.

people animate objects inanimate objects, things
Japanese Kana Japanese Kana Japanese Kana
1 íchì-nin (*1)いちにん ìp-piki いっぴき ìk-ko いっこ
2 nì-nin (*1) ににん nì-hiki にひき nì-ko にこ
3 sán-nìn さんにん sàn-biki さんびき sàn-ko さんこ
4 yó-nìn よにん yòn-hiki よんひき yòn-ko よんこ
5 gó-nìn ごにん gò-hiki ごひき gò-ko ごこ
6 rókù-nin ろくにん ròp-piki ろっぴき ròk-ko ろっこ
7 nánà-nin ななにん nánà-hiki ななひき nánà-ko ななこ
8 háchì-nin はちにん hàp-piki はっぴき hàk-ko はっこ
9 kyùu-nin きゅうにん kyùu-hiki きゅうひき kyùu-ko きゅうこ
10 jùu-nin じゅうにん jìp-piki じっぴき jìk-ko じっこ
100 hyákù-nin ひゃくにん hyàp-piki ひゃっぴき hyàk-ko ひゃっこ
1,000 sèn-nin せんにん sèn-biki せんびき sèn-ko せんこ
10,000 íchi-man-nin いちまんにんíchi-man-bikiいちまんびきíchi-man-koいちまんこ

Ordinal Numbers

In order to express ordinal numbers, you have only to add suffix "-me" after classifiers.