Clauses are combinations of two or more sentences. They can describe contradictions, cause and effect, similarity, conditionality, and simultaneous and consecutive actions. Find an overview over the most common Japanese clauses below.

Using the rentaikei

This is the most common and versatile form. What you basically do is make two complete sentences and then connect them through a conjunction as you would in English.

Using the ~て (-te) form

The ~て (-te) form is the second most versatile, as it can be used, sometimes in combination with certain particles, to describe cause and effect, simultaneous actions, and consecutive actions. The ~て (-te) form has a lot of snags, please click the link to find out how the ~て (-te) form is correctly used.

Using the ren’youkei

When using the ren’youkei you can combine two sentences which describe a simultaneous or consecutive action.

In Japanese, the subordinate or coordinate cause always comes first, followed by the main clause.

Cause and effect – Conditionality

These forms can be used to describe a causal or conditional relation between the subordinate clause and the main clause.

Because

This relation can be described through the use of the conjunctions から (kara) and ので (node). ので (node) is the polite version of から (kara).

In the case of から the first (subordinate) clause should be in the same tense and politeness as the second (main) clause. から can be used in both informal and formal sentences.

In the case of ので the tense of both clauses should be the same, but the subordinate clause can be in the informal form. When using ので the main clause must be in the polite form. Also, the ~て (-te) form can be used to create this construction.

高かったから買わなかった。
Takakatta kara kawanakatta.
I didn’t buy it because it was expensive. (informal)

高かったですから買いませんでした。
Takakatta desu kara kaimasen deshita.
I didn’t buy it because it was expensive. (polite)

高かったので買いませんでした。
Takakatta node kaimasen deshita.
I didn’t buy it because it was expensive. (polite)

高かったですので買いませんでした。
Takakatta desu node kaimasen deshita.
I didn’t buy it because it was expensive. (very polite)

高くて買いませんでした。
Takakute kaimasen deshita.
I didn’t buy it because it was expensive. (polite)

The second and third example are identical in politeness.

If/When

This relation between the subordinate and main clause is described through the use of conditional forms. There are four conditional forms:

In these constructions the order of the clauses is inversed when compared to English where the subordinate clause comes first. Each conditional form has its specific application.

高いと買わない。
Takai to kawanai.
I won’t buy it if it’s expensive.

そうするならできない。
Sou suru nara dekinai.
It won’t work when you do it like that.

彼が来なくては困る。
Kare ga konakute wa komaru.
I don’t know what to do if he doesn’t show up.

高かければ買えない。
Takakereba kaenai.
If it’s expensive I can’t buy it.

Consecutive actions

These forms are used to describe when actions follow each other.

And

This form can be described through the use of the ren’youkei or the ~て (-te) form. You can use the ~て (-te) form both with and without the particle から (kara).

ご飯を食べ広島に行く。
Go-han wo tabe Hiroshima ni iku.
I’m going to have dinner and go to Hiroshima.

ご飯を食べて広島に行く。
Go-han wo tabete Hiroshima ni iku.
I’m going to have dinner and go to Hiroshima.

ご飯を食べてから広島に行きます。
Go-han wo tabete kara Hiroshima ni ikimasu.
I’m going to have dinner and go to Hiroshima.

A special case is the ren’youkei + たり (tari). This construction is used to describe alternating actions.

本を読んだりテレビを見たりします。
Hon wo yondari terebi wo mitari shimasu.
Sometimes I read books, and sometimes I watch TV.

As this form has several contractions and some special functions it is recommended check the page on ren’youkei + たり (tari).

Contradictions

These forms are used to describe discrepancies or contradictions between the coordinate and main clauses.

But

This relation can be described through the use of the conjunctions が (ga) and け(れ)ど(も) [ke(re)do(mo)]. が (ga) is a polite form. け(れ)ど(も)’s [ke(re)do(mo)] politeness depends on the form in which it is used. These conjunctions are not as strong as they are in English. On occasion they are best translated as “and”.

け(れ)ど(も) [ke(re)do(mo)] can be encountered in four variations:

  • けど kedo (informal)
  • けども kedomo (polite)
  • けれど keredo (polite)
  • けれども keredomo (very polite)
Both が (ga) and けど (kedo) can be used in informal and polite sentences, but other variations of けれども (keredomo) can only be used in polite sentences.

Both clauses should be in the same politeness level and tense. In these constructions the order of the clauses is the same as in English.

行きたかったが用があった。
(Ikitakatta ga you ga atta.)
I wanted to go, but something came up.

行きたかったけど用があった。
Ikitakatta kedo you ga atta.
I wanted to go, but something came up.

買いましたけれど欲しいのではありませんでした。
Kaimashita keredo hoshii no de wa arimasen deshita.
I bought it, but it wasn’t the one I wanted.

おりましたけれども目に掛かれませんでした。
Orimashita keredomo me ni kakaremasen deshita.
I was there, but I wasn’t able to meet you.

Though

This relation between the coordinate and main clauses is described through the use of the particle のに (noni). This particle can sometimes also be translated as “but”.

This conjunction can be used with both informal and polite constructions.

To describe “even though” the ren’youkei + ても (te mo) is used.

高い時計だったのにいつでも遅れている。
Takai tokei datta noni itsudemo okurete iru.
Even though it was an expensive watch, it’s always slow.

難しくてもやってみます。
Muzukashikute mo yatte mimasu.
I’ll give it a shot, even if it is difficult.

Simultaneous actions

These forms are used to describe various actions taking place at the same time.

And

This form can be described using the ~て (-te) form.

ご飯を食べてテレビを見ています。
Go-han wo tabete terebi wo mite imasu.
I’m eating dinner and watching TV.

While

You can use the ren’youkei + ながら (nagara) to describe simultaneous actions performed by the same person.

ご飯を食べながらテレビを見ています。
Go-han wo tabenagara terebi wo mite imasu.
I’m watching TV while I’m eating dinner.

You can use the rentaikei + うち (uchi) to describe simultaneous actions performed by different persons.

僕がご飯を食べたうち父さんがテレビを見ました。
Boku ga go-han wo tabeta uchi tou-san ga terebi wo mimashita.
While I was eating dinner, father watched TV.

Finally し (shi) can be used to give several reasons. The second and consecutive clauses connected through し (shi) get the particle も (mo) to indicate the grammatical objects.

日本語を上手に話せるし漢字も書ける。Nihongo wo jouzu ni hanaseru shi kanji mo kakeru.
He can speak Japanese well and write kanji as well.