Japanese Grammar

Advanced Adjectives: Noun Phrases & Particular Particles

Adjective with Noun Phrase

Last time, you learned how Japanese adverbs work. By utilizing adverbs, you can express degree or manner of things, e.g. “きわめてからい: extremely spicy.” ”かなりからい: quite spicy,” ”あまりからくない: not very spicy,” and ”まったくからくない: not spicy at all.” In this lesson, we will try to delve deeper into the world of Japanese adjectives as there are some points that Japanese learners are often confused by.

Three Points Which Learners Should Know Regarding Japanese Adjectives

1. Noun Phrases with Adjectives

おもしろいえい: Interesting movie
きれいな女性じょせい: Beautiful woman

The above examples are the types of adjectives that you have learned so far. However, you may sometimes want to specifically modify nouns such as “a woman with beautiful hair.” In that case, you can actually just add some elements.

ストーリーがおもしろいえい: Movie with an interesting story
かみがきれいな女性じょせい: Woman with beautiful hair

That’s very useful, isn’t it? Let’s form some sentences with noun phrases.

渡辺わたなべ は / が こえ てき 俳優はいゆう だ / です
  Subject Adjective Modified Noun  
Topic/Subject Noun Phrase: Complement State-of-Being
Watanabe is an actor with a nice voice.
寿司すし は / が わたし きな もの だ / です
  Subject Adjective Modified Noun  
Topic/Subject Noun Phrase: Complement State-of-Being
Sushi is the food that I like.
[わたし は / が] しき きれいな まち く / きます
  Subject Adjective Modified Noun  
[Topic/Subject] None Phrase: Destination Verb
[I will] go to a town with beautiful scenery.

The role of noun phrases will be determined by the particles placed after modified nouns. In the first and second examples, there is no particle, but だ / です, which indicates states-of-being. Thus, the roles should be complement. In the third example, the particle に give the noun phrase the role: Destination.

2. Adjectives with Particular Particles

When you directly modify nouns by using adjectives, some adjectives require some elements like objects and targets. For example, this sentence: “上手うまなかさん: Tanaka-san [who is] skillful” is vague because no one knows what Tanaka-san is skillful at.

Use the Particle が When Adjectives Are Related to Potential

とく: good at…, strong in…
にが: poor at…, bad at…, weak in…
じょう, 上手うまい: well, skillful
下手へた: poor, unskillful
流暢りゅうちょう: fluent

This is one of the functions of the particle が: expressing objects of potential. When you use adjectives like the ones above, you need to add objects with the particle が. Here are some examples:

[わたし は / が] 数学すうがく にが(だ / です)
[Topic / Subject] Object Predicate
[I’m] poor at mathematics.
ボブ は / が ほん とく 外国人がいこくじん だ / です
  Object Adjective Modified Noun  
Topic/Subject Noun Phrase: Complement State-of-Being
Bob is a foreigner [who is] good at Japanese.

Use the Particle に When Adjectives Are Related to Attitude and Eligibility

親切しんせつ: kind
丁寧ていねい: polite
きびしい: severe, strict
つめたい: cold
ふさわしい: appropriate
適切てきせつな: proper
くわしい: be well acquainted…
つよい: resistant, resilient, durable

When you use adjectives like the above, you need to add targets with the particle に. Here are some examples.

井上いのうえさん は / が ども 丁寧ていねい(だ / です)
Topic / Subject Target & Inclusion Predicate
Inoue-san is polite to children, too.
*Implies that he/she is polite to other people, too.
[わたし は / が] がく くわしい ひと う / います
  Target Adjective Modified Noun  
[Topic/Subject] None Phrase: Target Verb
[I will] meet a person who is well acquainted with science.

Use the Particle と When Adjectives Are Related to Interactive Relationship

したしい: close, intimate
友好的ゆうこうてき: friendly, amicable
関係かんけい: unrelated

When you use adjectives like the ones above, you need to add partners of interaction with the particle と. Here are some examples:

井上いのうえさん は / が なかさん したしい(です)
Topic / Subject Partner Predicate
Inoue-san is close to Tanaka-san.
ロシア 友好的ゆうこうてき くに ちゅうごく(だ / です)
Partner Adjective Modified Noun  
Noun Phrase: Topic/Subject Predicate
The country [which is] friendly with Russia is China.

Both the Particle に and と Are Allowed When Adjectives Are Related Positions and Similarity

ちかい: near
とおい: far
すいちょく: vertical
平行へいこう: parallel
ひとしい: equal
おなじ: same

Considering the functions of the particle に: Target, and the particle と: Interaction of Partners, it’s reasonable that you can express position and similarity either way.


3. Detailed Usage of Adjectives

Taking this opportunity that you’re learning advanced adjectives; we’d like to mention some exceptions and important usages.

いい VS. よい

とうきょうホテルはふん囲気いきが いい / よい。
As for Tokyo Hotel, the atmosphere is good.

Both いい and よい can be translated as “good.” The difference is that よい is a formal word and used in written Japanese while いい is a casual word and used in spoken Japanese. However, when you conjugate よい and いい, you can use only よい. This is applicable for other words with いい as well, e.g. “かっこいい: cool,” “なかがいい: close, intimate” and “あたまがいい: bright, intelligent.”

As for Tokyo Hotel, the atmosphere is not good (*いくない is wrong!).

When you directly modify nouns by using “good” in Japanese, you always use いい regardless whether it’s spoken or written Japanese.

いいかん(だ / です)。
[It] is about time [to do something].
いいかんじ(だ / です)。
[It] is a good sense.

Adjectives VS. The function of the Particle の: Explanation

As we explained in the previous article, the particle の can work to make an explanation like “くるまほん: book about cars.” Some adjectives require you to substitute themselves for the particle の depending on the context.

ちかくの Vs. ちか
ちかくのカフェに(く / きます)。
[I will] go to a café near [me].
ちかいカフェに(く / きます)。
=> Unnatural!

ちかい: near” and the antonym: “とおい: far” are adjectives while “ちかく: nearness” and “とおく: farness” are nouns. When you’re talking about distance from where you are, which is generally omitted in a sentence, the nouns with the particle の are more suitable.

When they are in noun phrases, you can use both of the expressions. Many textbooks say that ちかい and とおい are more natural in noun phrases; however, native speakers often use ちかくの and とおくの as well. *Note: “おおい: many” and “すくない: a little” have the same rule as ちかい and とおい.

えきからちかくのカフェに(く / きます)。
[I will] go to a café near the station.
えきからちかいカフェに(く / きます)。
[I will] go to a café near the station.

In Japanese, ちかい and とおい can express time as well. In this context, ちかくの and とおくの  cannot be used.

とおむかし: long time ago
とおくのむかし => Wrong!


Adjectives with Irregular Conjugations

おおきい VS. おおきな

When you directly modify nouns by using “おおきい: big” and “ちいさい: small,” Japanese people sometimes replace い with な like “おおきなゆめ: big dream,” even though it’s an i-adjective. The difference in nuance is not clearly defined. Thus, you can use both of them for the time being.

おなじ: same
  • When you use おなじ as a subject complement, you say おなじ(だ / です)or (じゃない / じゃありません)
  • When you directly modify nouns with おなじ, you don’t need to add anything , e.g. “おな学校がっこう: same school”
  • When you use おなじ as adverb, you add く: おなじく
  • When you use the sentence pattern “adjective + する (*you will learn this later),” you add に: おなじ に

This is the trickiest one. Although some dictionaries define this as a noun, Wasabi regards this as an adjective. The above is the conjugation rules.


  1. You can make a noun phrase with adjectives like わたしきなもの.
  2. You use the particle が when adjectives are related to potential.
  3. You use the particle に when adjectives are related to attitude and eligibility.
  4. You use the particle と when adjectives are related to interactive relationships.
  5. There are some exceptions of conjugations.

As you may notice, the knowledge of the functions of Japanese particles is really helpful for using various adjectives in place. If you have some doubts, we recommend to review them here. Next, you will try another advanced topic: Intransitive VS. Transitive Verbs.

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