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Basic Connections: Making Your Japanese Flow [Paperback]

Kakuko Shoji
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Product Description

From the Author


The purpose of this book is to provide helpful information about Japanese expressions and usages that facilitate the flow of ideas and thought in written and spoken Japanese.

During my thirty-year teaching career, I have seen a great variety of mistakes, many of which were the result of cultural differences or differences in the way that second-language learners and native speakers of Japanese conceptualize language. The book attempts to help students become aware of these differences in conceptualization and to provide them with the linguistic tools to overcome these differences, thereby allowing their ideas to flow more naturally. The book focuses on those grammatical items, idiomatic expressions, and set phrases that have proven to be the most problematic to my students.

The patterns are presented with examples, and tips are provided throughout the text to highlight particularly important points. A few exercises are also included to allow students an opportunity to experiment with what they have learned.

Note that F refers to patterns that are predominantly feminine and M to those predominantly masculine.

I would like to thank the Center of Japanese Studies at the University of Hawai'i for the Japanese Studies Summer Grant (1994) which supported this project. I would also like to thank Greg Nishihara and Sarina Chugani for their hours of computer work and to express appreciation to family and friends for their encouragement and moral support. Very special thanks go to my teachers, Dr. Shiro Hattori and Prof. Fumiko Koide, and to my father, who gave me the opportunity to study and teach abroad and without whom none of this would have been possible. Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. Michael Brase and Mr. Shigeyoshi Suzuki of Kodansha International, Ltd.; without their help, this publication would not have been possible.

About the Author

KAKUKO SHOJI, a resident of Honolulu, is a longtime instructor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She is the author of Japanese Core Words and Phrases Things You Can't Find in a Dictionary and Kodansha's Effective Japanese Usage Dictionary A Concise Explanation of Frequently Confused Words andPhrases.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

[The opening pages to the first chapter of the book, with X's representing Japanese script and minus the original macrons and underlining.]


There are two basic types of sentences in Japanese, the "A is B" type and the "A does B" type. In the "A is B" type, noun or adjectival phrases are linked by a form of the copula da/desu. In the "A does B" type, a verb is present, together with nouns or noun phrases.

**"A Is B" Type**

An "A is B" sentence does not have a verb and is therefore called a verbless sentence. When B is a noun or noun phrase, B tells what or who A is. For example [A and B underlined]:

Kamaro wa Amerika no kuruma da.
The Camaro is an American car.

Piitaa wa Furansu kara no ryugakusei desu.
Peter is an exchange student from France.

When B is adjectival, B describes A:

Akiko-san no ie wa totemo ookii desu.
Akiko's house is very big.


Kono ichigo wa amakute oishii desu.
These strawberries are sweet and tasty.

In an "A is B" sentence, the topic marker wa and/or the copula da/desu may be deleted if their presence is understood from the context:
Yuka: Watashi wa osushi o morau kedo, anata wa nani ni suru no?
Mari: Watashi, tenpura. Sakana, kirai na no.
Yuka: I'll take the sushi. What are you going to have?
Marie: I'll have the tempura. I don't like fish (that's why).

In the example above, Marie dropped the particle and copula because their presence is understood from the flow of the conversation. The full form of Marie's statement would be Watashi wa tenpura desu. (Watashi wa) Sakana ga kirai na no desu.

**Two Uses of desu**

In the last example, the desu of (Watashi wa) Sakana ga kirai na no desu merely makes the sentence formal instead of colloquial, while the desu of Watashi wa tenpura desu is substituting for a verb phrase such as Tenpura o moraimasu (I'll take ~), Tenpura ni shimasu (I've decided on ~), or Tenpura ga ii desu (I prefer/want to eat ~).

When a comma immediately follows a noun -- as in Watashi, tenpura and Sakana, kirai na no in the example above -- it often indicates that a particle has been deleted. While punctuation in Japanese is generally not as fixed as in English, this is one instance that is useful to keep in mind.

**Omitted Particles & Copulas**

When the copula substitutes for a verb, the preceding particle is often deleted.

Q: Nani de iku n' desu ka.
A: Watashi wa basu desu (de ikimasu).
Q: How are you going?
A: (I'm going) by bus.

Q. Nihon de wa doko ni irassharu n' desu ka.
A: Tokyo to Osaka desu (ni ikimasu).
Q: Where are you going in Japan?
A: (I'll go to) Tokyo and Osaka.

In more informal or casual situations, the copula may also be deleted:

--- XXXX
Watashi wa basu desu.
- Watashi wa basu.
-- Watashi, basu.
--- Basu.

Tokyo to Osaka kara desu.
- Tokyo to Osaka kara.

Natural Japanese avoids mentioning or repeating what is understood from context.

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