japanese-conjunctions

Common Japanese Conjunctions: Proper Use and Mistakes to Avoid

Back in the day, we could get away with speaking like this:

“I want food. I want water.”

“I like stick. I like rock. I can’t decide!”

Fortunately for us, those days are long gone, thanks to good ol’ conjunctions. 

Conjunctions: the monocles of foreign language speaking. They instantly turn you into a sir or a madam.

Observe:

“I want some food and water, Brighton.”

“Dear Jeeves, I fancy this stick but I also fancy this rock, so I shan’t choose because I want both.”

And if you’re learning Japanese, these little words might just be what you need to launch your skills out of the age of Neanderthals and into more advanced sentence construction!

Put on your own verbal monocle and sound classy with the help of these basic Japanese conjunctions.

Smashing!
 


 

Japanese Conjunctions and You: Common Connectives

Before we get down to business, let’s just take a brief look at conjunctions in Japanese.

The Japanese language has a lot of conjunction words! Luckily, the meanings tend to be similar to the English versions. However, the way you use them can vary a bit thanks to the different sentence order and construction of the Japanese language.

In this post, we’ll be looking at some basic Japanese conjunctions used in everyday situations. We’ve provided plenty of examples for each conjunction, as well as some common mistakes to avoid.

For even more examples, visit FluentU and do a search for each word or simply for “conjunctions” to see them used in authentic videos (like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks).

You can also use the video flashcards to see more examples of each conjunction or make your own vocabulary list with them until you’ve perfected them.

Now, let’s meet your new best friends: common Japanese conjunctions.

Learn a foreign language with videos

Listing Things: と、や (and)

We’ll start off with an easy and common form of conjunction: the connective.

Use these words as you would use “and”: to connect two or more nouns.

“Tom and Jimmy.”
“Pencil, paper and eraser.”

You might have noticed that there are two of these words, と and や.

That’s because と is used for complete lists, while や is used for incomplete lists.

Take a look:

えんぴつノートを買いました。(えんぴつ のおとをかいました。)
I bought a pencil and a notebook. [I bought nothing more.]

えんぴつノートを買いました。(えんぴつ のおとをかいました。)
I bought a pencil and a notebook. [I bought more but I didn’t mention the rest.]

Get it? Good! Let’s check out a few more examples of proper use when it comes to these two conjunction words:

新しいカバンジャケットを持って来た。(あたらしい かばん じゃけっとをもってきた。)
I brought a new bag and jacket.

僕は英語ドイツ語日本語が上手です。(ぼくは えいご どいつご にほんご が じょうずです。)
I’m good at English, German and Japanese languages.

ジョージさんカナさんトモミさんはこの近くに住んでいます。(じょおじさん かなさん ともみさん は この ちかく に すんでいます。)
George, Kana and Tomomi live nearby. [As do some other people.]

スイーツなら、チョコレートパフェが好きです。(すいーつ なら、ちょこれえと ぱふぇ が すきです。)
When it comes to sweets, I like chocolate and parfait. [But I also like other sweets.]

Common Mistakes:

What you don’t want to do is make mistakes like these next ones.

Wrong:

タバコビールピーナッツをください。(たばこ びいる ぴいなっつ をください。)
I’d like some cigarettes, beer and peanuts please.

This is wrong because you can’t mix up a complete list and an incomplete one into the same list. The right way is:

Right:

タバコビールピーナッツをください。(たばこ びいる ぴいなっつをください。)
I’d like some cigarettes, beer and peanuts please.

Wrong:

バスには、僕タケルしかいませんでした。(ばすには、ぼく たける しか いませんでした。)
There was no one but me and Takeru on the bus.

It can’t be an incomplete list if you mentioned everyone or everything! The correct way to write this sentence is:

Right:

バスには、僕タケルしかいませんでした。(ばすには、ぼく たける しか いませんでした。)
There was no one but me and Takeru on the bus.

Connecting Adjectives: 〜くて、〜で (and)

Ah, wonderful adjectives! In English, we simply connect them together by using “and,” which pretty much does the job.

In Japanese, however, connecting adjectives requires a special adjective ending.

To keep things simple, we’ll avoid an in-depth explanation of the grammatical construction. Instead, let’s check out the easiest way to connect two adjectives or adjectival nouns.

To connect regular adjectives (ones that end in 〜い), slice off that last syllable and smash 〜くて in its place. Done!

美味しい(おいしい) — Tasty
美味しくて (おいしくて) — Tasty (and)

凄い(すごい) — Amazing
くて (すごくて) — Amazing (and)

軽い(かるい) — Light
くて (かるくて) — Light (and)

For adjectival nouns (ones that end in 〜だ or 〜な, depending on their position in a sentence), remove the ending and place a 〜で in its place. Easy!

綺麗だ/綺麗な (きれいだ/きれいな) — Beautiful
綺麗 (きれい) — Beautiful (and)

簡単だ/簡単な (かんたんだ/かんたんな) — Simple
簡単 (かんたん) — Simple (and)

無限だ/無限な (むげんだ/むげんな) — Infinite
無限 (むげん) — Infinite (and)

Now that we know how to make this conjunctive construction, let’s have a look at some examples of using them properly.

彼女の髪は長くて黒いです。(かのじょ の かみ は ながくて くろいです。)
Her hair is long and dark.

この湖は深くて危ないです。(この みずうみ は ふかくて あぶないです。)
This lake is deep and dangerous.

あの映画は強烈で、猛烈で、壮絶でした。(あの えいが は きょうれつ、もうれつ、そうぜつでした。)
That movie was intense, violent and grand.

宿題は簡単短いです。(しゅくだい は かんたん みじかいです。)
Homework is simple and short.

Common Mistakes:

It’s very important to remember that if you simply put adjectives next to each other, they end up describing the adjective to their right until they reach the noun.

Then the last adjective before the noun steals all the glory of description from the previous adjectives for himself.

In other words, they describe each other instead of the noun!

Observe these next common mistakes:

Wrong:

彩香さんは綺麗な賢いです。(あやかさん は きれいな かしこいです。)
Ayaka is beautifully smart.

This is not wrong if that’s what you really meant to say (what is “beautifully smart,” anyway?). But if you wanted to say “beautiful and smart,” you’d write:

Right:

彩香さんは綺麗賢いです。(あやかさん は きれい かしこいです。)
Ayaka is beautiful and smart.

Let’s see this common mistake again so you get the idea:

Wrong:

この道は狭い危ないです。(この みち は せまい あぶないです。)
This road is narrowly dangerous.

This sounds bad even in English! Instead, this should say:

Right:

この道は狭くて危ないです。(この みち は せまくて あぶないです。)
This road is narrow and dangerous.

Another important note: Don’t try to connect adjectives with と or や because you’ll end up making a list. And you don’t go grocery shopping with adjectives, right?

Separating Reasons: が、でも (but)

This one is fairly easy to understand and use. It means “but,” and it’s used almost exactly like “but” in English.

No further explanation is needed so let’s just move on straight to examples of proper usage.

The first example is my all-time favorite textbook example. Literally: It’s actually from the best Japanese textbook (in my humble opinion).

父は亡くなりましたが、母は元気です。(ちち は なくなりました、はは は げんきです。)
My father died but my mother is great.

このお土産は面白い。でも高いです。(この おみやげ は おもしろい。でも たかいです。)
This souvenir is interesting. But it’s expensive.

日本へ旅行したいが、お金がありません。(にほん へ りょこうしたいが、おかねが ありません。)
I want to travel to Japan but I don’t have money.

Common Mistakes:

でも is usually used at the beginning of a sentence while が can’t start a sentence.

So to avoid the most common mistake just don’t put が at the beginning of a sentence and you’ll be good to go!

(If you really want to put が at the beginning of a sentence, you’ll have to add だ and turn it into a だが.)

Separating Choices: か (or)

This one is also quite simple. It’s the same as “or” in English. Unlike its English counterpart, you put it twice in a sentence: between the choices and afterward.

Here are some examples:

君の鉛筆はこれです、それです?(きみ の えんぴつ は これです、それです?)
Your pencil is this one or that one?

僕はみかんを三つ持っている、二つ持っている? (ぼくは みかんをみっつ もっている、ふたつ もっている?)
Do I have three mandarins or two mandarins?

As you’ve probably already noticed, this conjunction usually appears only in questions.

Common Mistakes:

This one is hard to mess up so there aren’t any common mistakes for you to watch out for. Just remember to use か after each choice, and you’re good.

Nice!

Giving Reasons: から (because, so)

This conjunction means “because,” but it’s closer in meaning to “so.”

In English, you’d say:

“I am late because the train was delayed.”

In Japanese, though, you place the reason before the outcome:

“The train was delayed, so I was late.”

Here are some examples so you can see what I mean:

昨日は忙しかったから、連絡できませんでした。(きのう は いそがしかった から、れんらくできませんでした。)
I couldn’t contact you yesterday because I was busy.

高いから買いません。(たかい から かいません。)
I won’t buy it because it’s expensive.

彼女が好きだから、照れています。(かのじょ が すきだから、てれています。)
I’m shy because I like her.

Common Mistakes:

Only one common mistake should worry you: In certain cases, this conjunction requires だ before から!

Add だ at the beginning of a sentence, after adjectival nouns, after nouns and after adverbial nouns.

You don’t need だ before から if there’s a verb or a normal adjective before the conjunction.

Wrong:

りんごが嫌いから食べません。(りんご が きらい から たべません。)
I don’t like apples so I don’t eat them.

Right:

りんごが嫌いだから食べません。(りんご が きらい だから たべません。)
I don’t like apples so I don’t eat them.

A Few More Common Japanese Conjunctions to Learn

も (too, as well)

This one can’t be used at the beginning of a sentence (which is also true of English, if you think about it).

行きます!(わたし いきます!)
I’ll go too!

し (and)

Use this one to list multiple things, like when you’re stringing together a list of excuses for not wanting to go out with someone:

私は 疲れた、忙しい、ちょっと。。。(わたしは つかれた、いそがしい、ちょっと。。。)
I am tired and busy and it’s not a good time (literally: it’s a little…).

そして (thus / and then)

そして、2杯牛乳を足してください。(そして、にはい ぎゅうにゅうをたしてください。)
And then add two cups of milk please.

しかし (however)

This conjunction usually appears at the beginning of a sentence and refers back to the previous statement. It can also come after a comma to connect two separate sentences.

しかし、誰もいませんでした。(しかし、だれも いませんでした。)
However, no one was around.

それから (afterward)

それから、前に続いてください。(それから、まえ に つづいてください。)
Afterward, proceed forward please.

 

You now have your very own Japanese linguistic monocle: conjunctions.

Go on now, be classy in Japanese. How marvelous!

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