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Keys for Writers, Second Edition
Ann Raimes
ESL Tip Sheet 5: Japanese

Spoken in Japan.

The written language
  • Uses Chinese characters and other Japanese alphabets (for example, Kana).
Sentence structure and word order
  • Usual pattern is S-O-V, with the verb at the end of a clause, but subject and object do not need to be expressed. 34b.
  • Information that in English would form an adjective clause or phrase precedes the noun it modifies, with no relative pronoun: *He gave me a too difficult for me book. 62b.
  • A subordinating conjunction occurs after the dependent clause. 34d.
  • Has postpositions (after the noun), not prepositions. 63.
Nouns and pronouns
  • Nouns do not have plural forms. 60b.
  • No distinction between countable and uncountable nouns. 60c.
  • Many nouns can function as adjectives and adverbs; this leads to confusion between danger and dangerous, safe, safety, and safely. 45.
  • Possessive pronouns can be omitted: *He hurt shoulder. 44b.
  • Pronoun subject not expressed: "wakarimasen" is a single word that means: I don't understand; he doesn't understand. 44a.
Verbs and verbals
  • Modal verbs follow main verbs. 41c.
  • A verb can stand alone, with subject and object understood: *Kaimasita: (I) bought (it). 38d.
  • Verb forms and tenses contain only one word. 41d.
  • Verbs do not change for person or number. Japanese writers have difficulties with agreement with third person singular subject. 41a; 43.
  • No equivalent of auxiliary do. 41c.
  • In reported speech, the tense of the direct speech is used. 41i.
  • Different limits on what can be used in the passive voice: *They were stolen their luggage. 42.
Adjectives and adverbs
  • Complex adjective phrases can precede a noun: *The responsible for the changes committee. 62b.
  • Expressions with easy and difficult are used as subject complement to refer to a person: *I am easy to fix a car. 64e.
  • No system for referring to number or to countability: *Computer is expensive. *She bought coat last week. 60.

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