Lesson 3: Basic Sentence Structure

The following conversation is a basic exchange between two people meeting for the first time. The romaji follows the hiragana and the translation is given below.

A: おはようございます。Ohayou gozaimasu.

B: おはようございます。Ohayou gozaimasu.

A: はじめまして。わたしはAです。Hajimemashite. Watashi wa A desu.

B: はじめまして。わたしはBです。Hajimemashite. Watashi wa B desu.

A: B-さんおげんきですか。B-san, ogenki desu ka?

B: はい、げんきです。ありがとうございます。おげんきですか。

Hai, genki desu. Arigatou gozaimasu. Ogenki desu ka?

A: わたしはげんきです。ありがとうございます。

Watashi wa genki desu. Arigatou gozaimasu.

B: じゃまた。Jya mata.

A: じゃね。 Jya ne.



A: Good morning.

B: Good morning.

A: Nice to meet you. I am A.

B: Nice to meet you. I am B.

A: Mr./Mrs. B, how are you?

B: I am well, thank you. How are you?

A: I am well, thank you.

B: Well, see you later.

A: See you!

This conversation, although very simple in nature, demonstrates the first basic sentence structure you should learn in Japanese.

That sentence structure is:

Xは Yです。(X wa Y desu.)

This roughly translates to “X is Y.” The particle  は is used to mark the subject of the sentence. In this atypical case, はis Romanized as “wa” instead of “ha.” The reason for this is because the subject particle はis pronounced as “wa,” not “ha.” Usually, はis Romanized and pronounced as “ha.”

The verb at the end of the sentence is です. Even though this verb is Romanized as “desu,” it is actually pronounced as “dess.” This is another atypical case where the Romanization does not match the pronunciation. ですis the Japanese verb that means “is.”

If you wanted to introduce yourself, you would use this sentence structure. Replace X with the subject and Y with the object. In this case, the subject would be “I” and the object would be your name. The Japanese word for “I” is わたし(watashi). Here is an example:

I am Michiko. わたしはみちこです。(Watashi wa Michiko desu.)

This sentence structure can also be used for saying what something else is. For example, the Japanese word for that is それ(sore) and the word for cat is ねこ(neko). You can say “That is a cat,” by using X は Y です.

That is a cat. それはねこです。(Sore wa neko desu.)

X は Y です is a versatile sentence structure and can be used for many sentences. Below are some other example sentences using the X は Y です sentence structure.

This is a book. これはほんです。(Kore wa hon desu.)

This is a dog. これはいぬです。(Kore wa inu desu.)

That person over there is Japanese.あのひとはにほんじんです。(Ano hito wa nihonjin desu.)

There are many other important Japanese sentence structures, but this is the most basic. It is also the structure you will encounter most as you begin to learn Japanese.

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