Basic Japanese Grammar – Basic Sentence Patterns

Sentence Structure

In this guide to Basic Japanese Grammar,  we will explain in broad terms, the most used Japanese sentence patterns and how to alter them to change them from positive statements to negative statements, as well as how to ask questions while using them. We will continue this series with part II – Grammar Particles

Basic Japanese Sentence Patterns

In broad terms, Japanese sentences can be divided into the following three patterns.

Watashi wa Nihon-jin desu. I am a Japanese person. [Noun Phrase]
Meari-san wa isogashii desu. Mary-san is busy.  [Adjective phrase]
Tanaka-san wa ramen o tabemasu. Tanaka-san eats ramen. [Verb Phrase]

“Desu” has a similar function to “to be” in English, and comes at the end of Noun and Adjective Phrases.  Verb Phrases end with [-masu].
“Wa” is a particle that denotes topics and subjects. (The particles “ga” and “mo” can also indicate a subject.  

Negative Sentences

Negative Sentences are made by modifying the end of a predicate, which is typically the last part of a sentence.  This grammatical structure is the reason that one must listen to the very end of a Japanese sentence to know whether it is negative or affirmative.

Watashi wa Nihon-jin jya-arimasen. I am not a Japanese person. [Neg. Noun Phrase]
Meari-San wa isogashiku nai desu.  Mary-San is not busy. [Negative Adjective Phrase]
Tanaka-San wa ramen o tabemasen. Tanaka-San does not eat ramen. [Neg. Verb Phrase]

Interrogative Sentences (Questions)

Attach “ka” to the end of a Declarative Sentence to create an Interrogative Sentence.

Meari-san wa isogashii desu ka.        Is Mary san busy?
Tanaka-san wa ramen o tabemasu ka.        Does Tanaka-San eat ramen?

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Is this helpful to you? More Basic Japanese Grammar Series
Basic Grammar Guide Part II
Basic Grammar Guide Part III
Basic Grammar Guide Part IV
30 Must-know JLPT N5 Grammar Points

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