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TYJ Dialogue 1

This article is in the series Teach Yourself Japanese

9.1. Dialogue 1

I will explain Japanese grammar using dialogues from now on.

In the first dialogue, a kid named しょう "Syô" comes home, and he has a tea break with his mother ひろこ "Hiroko".

しょう : ただいま。
Romanization: Ta da i ma .
Structure: (I'm back, interjection)

It's good manners to say this greeting when you are back. Its literal meaning is "just now", which came from "I came back just now", but its original meaning is not important.

ひろこ : おかえり。 おやつがあるよ。
Romanization: O ka e ri . O ya tu ga a ru yo .
Structure: (welcome back, interjection) (tea time snack, noun) (nominative marker) (exist, verb) (opinion marker)

It's good manners to say おかえり "okaeri" as a reply to the greeting ただいま "tadaima". To make it polite, you can say おかえりなさい "okaerinasai".

Hiroko's second sentence literally means "A tea time snack exists." The verb have is often used to mean something exists in English, such as "We have a tea time snack." in this case. In Japanese, the existential verbs are commonly used.

Also note that the topic marker is not used for the subject, because the whole sentence is new information. Using the topic marker here means the supposed preceding question is whether there is a tea time snack, which seems strange because the boy talks nothing about a snack.

しょう: なに?
Romanization: Na ni ?
Structure: (interrogative noun, what)

Shô asks what snack his mother has. In English, "What?" often means "What did you say?", but in Japanese, it often means "What is it?" The original sentence of it is shown below:

Kana: きょうのおやつはなに?
Romanization: Kyô no o ya tu wa na ni ?
Structure: (noun, today) (genitive marker, of) (tea time snack, noun) (topic marker) (interrogative noun, what)
Meaning: What is today's tea time snack?

ひろこ : にくまん。 なにかのむ?
Romanization: Ni ku ma n . Na ni ka no mu ?
Structure: (a Chinese bun with pork, noun) (something) (drink, verb)

Answering only with a noun without any other word is no problem in colloquial Japanese. In her second sentence, the accusative marker を "o" is omitted after the object なにか "nanika". Even though Japanese requires case markers after all nouns in a sentence, the topic marker は "wa" and the accusative marker are sometimes omitted in colloquial Japanese.

The word なにか obviously came from the interrogative なに "nani".

The chart below shows the relationship between the interrogatives and the words for indefinite things:

-InterrogativesIndefinite nouns
na ni
na ni ka
da re
da re ka
i tu
i tu ka
some day
do ko
do ko ka
na ze
na ze ka
for some reason

The accusative marker after these indefinite nouns is almost always omitted in colloquial Japanese, and they are often omitted in written Japanese too.

しょう : むぎちゃはある?
Romanization: Mu gi tya wa a ru ?
Structure: (barley tea, noun) (topic marker) (exist, exist)

Be sure to use the topic marker for barley tea here. They have talked about something to drink, and the son chooses barley tea as a topic.

ひろこ : むぎちゃは れいぞうこんあるよ。
Romanization: Mu gi tya wa re i ko ni a ru yo .
Structure: (barley tea, noun) (topic marker) (refrigerator, noun) (dative marker, to) (exist, verb) (opinion marker)

When you say the location of a thing, use the dative case marker に "ni". The function of the dative marker will be explained in detail later. Since you can change word order quite freely in Japanese, the following two sentences are semantically the same.

Kana: きがにわにある。
Romanization: Ki ga ni wa ni a ru .
Structure: (tree, noun) (nominative marker) (yard, noun) (dative marker, to) (exit, verb)

Kana: にわにきがある。
Romanization: Ni wa ni ki ga a ru .
Structure: (yard, noun) (dative marker, to) (tree, noun) (nominative marker) (exist, verb)

Both of them means that there is a tree in a yard. If you use the topic marker for them, the difference becomes clear.

Kana: きわにわにある。
Romanization: Ki wa ni wa ni a ru .
Structure: (tree, noun) (topic marker) (yard, noun) (dative marker, to) (exist, verb)
Meaning: The tree is in a yard.

Kana: にわにはきがある。
Romanization: Ni wa ni wa ki ga a ru .
Structure: (yard, noun) (dative marker, to) (topic marker) (tree, noun) (nominative marker) (exist, verb)
Meaning: The yard has a tree.

Remember the topic marker overrides the nominative marker.

As I have explained, the existential verb ある "aru" (いる "iru" for animates) is commonly used for existence in Japanese, while both be and have are used in English. The following sentence is helpful to understand more clearly:

Kana: かれにはあねがいる。
Romanization: Ka re ni wa a ne ga i ru .
Structure: (he, noun) (dative marker, to) (topic marker) (elder sister, noun) (nominative marker) (exist, verb)
Meaning: He has an elder sister.

Now, let's get back to the conversation.

しょう : わかった。 かあさんものむ?
Romanization: Wa ka t ta . sa n mo no mu ?
Structure: (understood, verb) (mom, noun) (addition marker, also) (drink, verb)

The first sentence is the same as "I see." and "I understand." in English.

The addition marker も "mo" is the second information marker we learn. (The first one is the topic marker は "wa".) It is equivalent to too and also in English. A sentence with the addition marker is parallel to something that has been already talked about. The Japanese addition marker is more precise than the English one, and you have to distinguish between the following sentences.

Kana: わたしもおちゃのむ。
Romanization: Wa ta si mo o tya o no mu .
Structure: (I, noun) (addition marker, also) (green tea, noun) (accusative marker) (drink, verb)

Kana: わたしはおちゃものむ。
Romanization: Wa ta si wa o tya mo no mu .
Structure: (I, noun) (topic marker) (green tea, noun) (addition marker, also) (drink, verb)

The addition marker overrides the nominative marker and the accusative marker like the topic marker does. The topic marker is not used when the addition marker is used. Both of the sentences mean "I drink green tea too", but what is added is different. The upper sentence means "(You drink green tea and) I drink it too", in short, "Me too", while the lower means "(I drink coffee and) I drink green tea too", in short, "Green tea too".

In the dialogue, Shô is about to drink barley tea, and he asks whether his mother also drinks the tea. So you need the addition marker after the word for mom.

Also remember that pronouns for the addressee are not commonly used in Japanese, and using names or calling words such as mom are often used.

ひろこ: うん。
Romanization: U n .
Structure: (yeah, interjection)

Then he comes back with two cups of barley tea and says the following greeting:

しょう: いただきます。
Romanization: I ta da ki ma su .
Structure: (I begin to eat, interjection)

The greetings chapter explains this phrase.

Now we have finished the first dialogue. All the sentences are shown below again.

しょう : ただいま。
ひろこ : おかえい。おやつがあるよ。
しょう : なに?
ひろこ : にくまん。なにかのむ?
しょう : むぎちゃはある?
ひろこ : むぎちゃは れいぞこにあるよ。
しょう : わかった。かあさんものむ?
ひろこ : うん。
しょう : いただきます。
Next article in the series 'Teach Yourself Japanese': Dialogue 2
Previous article in the series 'Teach Yourself Japanese': Plants in Japanese
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My name is TAKASUGI Shinji. TAKASUGI is my family name, and Shinji is my given name; a family name is placed before a given name in Japan, as in other Asian nations. My family name is capitalized to avoid misunderstanding.

I have been living in Yokohama since I was born. Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan, which is just 30 kilometers away from the biggest city Tôkyô. It takes 30 minutes to go by train from home to Shibuya, which is the hottest town now in Tôkyô.

I work as a display engineer.

One of my hobbies is creating things with computers; creating programs, computer graphics and web pages is the thing I spent a lot of time doing. I am also interested in a wide range of sciences, and linguistics is my favorite. I like English and I like using it, but my focus is mainly on Japanese, which is my native language. I'm proud of knowing the language, and the difference between English and Japanese has been fascinating me. I have been thinking whether I can introduce it to people outside of Japan. My attempt of introducing Japanese with some Java applets has had more than 1 million visitors.


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