[slightly abridged; X's represent Japanese script, and asterisks bound words that underlined in the original]
The purpose of this dictionary is to help students gain a better grasp of the basic sentence patterns of the Japanese language, either by refreshing their knowledge of what has been learned in the past or by acquainting themselves with new patterns. The dictionary contains fifty basic patterns and explains and exemplifies them through example sentences. When there are variations on these basic patterns, they are also explained and exemplified. The book can be used purely for reference or it can be read profitably from beginning to end as a textbook. The latter method has the benefit of fixing the patterns in the student's mind by means of repetition.
There are three basic types of Japanese sentences that form the basis for the entire language; all the other sentence patterns and variations contained in this dictionary are based on one or another of these three. Once the student has become completely familiar with these patterns, the other patterns and variations based upon them should not be difficult to pick up. These three basic sentence patterns are as follows:
---The Three Basic Sentence Patterns
In a noun sentence, it is the noun at the end of the sentence, followed by desu in polite usage, that provides information about the subject. In the following example, book tells you what this is; that is, book is acting as the predicate, providing information about the subject.
Kore wa *hon* desu.
This is a* book*.
In an adjective sentence, the part of the sentence providing information about the subject ("he") is an adjective (followed by desu in polite usage).
Kare wa *wakai* desu.
He is *young*.
In a verb sentence, the part of speech providing information about the subject ("she") is a verb.
Kanojo wa *tabemasu*.
She *eats*. / She will *eat*.
Noun and adjective sentences are dealt with in Part 1; verb sentences in Part 2. All patterns are exemplified in polite and informal usage, sometimes in language that is characteristic of either male or female speech. Using the sentences above, polite and formal usage might be exemplified as follows:
Kore wa hon desu.
Kore wa hon (da).
In the case of informal adjective sentences, na-adjectives (see Basic Pattern 2) are optionally followed by da but i-adjectives, as in the following example, are not.
Kare wa wakai desu.
Kare wa wakai.
In a verb sentence, polite usage calls for the masu form of the verb, while informal usage calls for the plain form. (See the Verb Conjugation Chart at the back of the book for examples of both.)
Kanojo wa tabemasu.
Kanojo wa taberu.
Informal usage is usually not given in books like the present one. By providing it as a point of reference, even though commentary is limited owing to space considerations, we hope that students who come in contact with it in daily life or in their reading will find its inclusion here of some help.
Another feature of this dictionary is the use of a "formula" to provide information on the structure of the basic pattern under consideration. For example, the formula of the sentence XXXXXXXXXXX (Kare wa Nihon-jin desu) would be appear as follows:
*N1* wa *N2* desu.
N1 = a noun acting as a subject
N2 = a noun providing information about the subject
Students who have some familiarity with the basics of Japanese can refer to these formulas to reinforce their understanding or check areas they are unsure of. By inserting their own words in the underlined slots indicating parts of speech, students can expand their range of expression. For example, by placing watashi ("I") in the N1 slot and various other nouns concerning oneself in the N2 slot (e.g., name, nationality, occupation), students can easily create sentences that could serve as a self-introduction.
*Watashi* wa *Tanaka* desu.
I'm Mr. Tanaka.
*Watashi* wa *Amerika-jin* desu.
I'm an American.
*Watashi* wa *ginko-in* desu.
I'm a bank employee.
Students who are just starting out in their study of Japanese might try the following: find in this dictionary the basic sentence you are studying in your school textbook, read the explanation, and then substitute words for the underlined elements so that you create a sentence that expresses what you wish to say. By using even one basic pattern, you can create a variety of sentences.
The conjugation of verbs has not been discussed in this book because that topic would take up entirely too much space. However, I have covered verbs in my Japanese Verbs at a Glance. Please refer to that book if you need help with conjugation. This dictionary does contain, however, charts at the end to be used as quick-reference guides to verb conjugation and adjective inflection. Students who need help with particles might refer to my All about Particles.
While the basic patterns in this book are not comprehensive in their coverage, they do represent many of the most common patterns. In fact, all of the patterns needed for passing levels 3 and 4 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test are included. Moreover, many of the basic patterns have variations that also receive individual treatment in this dictionary. Among the patterns not included, such as past tense variations, some have been intentionally excluded because they can be easily surmised from the given patterns.
Finally, the student should check the section entitled "Abbreviations and Definitions" before proceeding to the main text....