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Japanese Adjectives and How to Conjugate Them: -i and -na

written by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 7/8/2014

Do you know the different Japanese adjectives? Learn the two different types of adjectives in Japanese, -i adjectives and -na adjectives, and how to use each of them.

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    -い Adjectives

    The first type of adjective in Japanese is the – い adjective (-i adjective). These types of adjectives have an – い at the end of the word. For example: おいしい (oishii), which translates as delicious. Before using an – い adjective, we need to conjugate it to match the tense of the sentence. Let's go over the different conjugations of an – い adjective, using おいしい as an example:

    Present Affirmative:おいしい です。(oishii desu)

    It is delicious.

    We can position the adjective in two ways. The first puts the adjective after the noun:

    この すし は おいしい です。(kono sushi wa oishii desu)

    This sushi is delicious.

    We can also place the adjective in front of the noun:

    おいしい すし です。(oishii sushi desu)

    (It is) delicious sushi.

    Present Negative: おいしくありません。(oishikuarimasen)

    It is not delicious.

    When we make an – い adjective negative, we drop the last い and add the ending くありません. For example:

    この とんかつ は おいしくありません。(kono tonkatsu wa oishikuarimasen)

    This tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) is not delicious.

    Past Affirmative:おいしかった です。(oishikatta desu)

    It was delicious.

    To make an – い adjective past affirmative, we drop the last い and add the ending かった. For example:

    この すし は おいしかった です。(kono sushi wa oishikatta desu)

    This sushi was delicious.

    Past Negative:おいしくありませんでした。(oishikuarimasendeshita)

    It was not delicious.

    The past negative form of an – い adjective follows the pattern of the present negative form, except くありません becomes くありませんでした. For example:

    この とんかす は おいしくありませんでした。(kono tonkatsu wa oishikuarimasendeshita)

    This tonkatsu was not delicious.

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    Irregular -い Adjectives

    Not all – い adjectives follow the same pattern. The exception is いい (ii), which means good. Let's go over the conjugation:

    Present Affirmative: いい です (ii desu)

    It is good.

    Present Negative: よくありません (yokuarimasen)

    It is not good.

    Past Affirmative:よかった です (yokatta desu)

    It was good.

    Past Negative:よくありませんでした (yokuarimasendeshita)

    It was not good.

    Note that when we conjugate いい, the stem changes to よく and then follows the regular pattern of conjugation.

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    -な Adjectives

    The other group of Japanese adjectives is the -な adjectives. An example is げんき (な). Note that the actual adjective is げんき (genki), which means healthy or energetic; the な is added to connect the adjective and noun. For example:

    げんき な おんあ の ひと。(genki na onna no hito)

    The healthy woman.

    When we use the long form of a -な adjective, the な is dropped. For example:

    この おんあ の ひと は げんき です。(kono onna no hito wa genki desu)

    This woman is healthy.

    Let's go over the conjugation for -な adjectives:

    Present Affirmative:げんき です (genki desu)

    (It is) healthy.

    わたし は げんき です。(watashi wa genki desu)

    I am healthy.

    Present Negative:げんきじゃありません (genkijaarimasen)

    (It is) not healthy.

    When we form the present negative form of a -な adjective, we add じゃありません. For example:

    きょう は わたし の ともだち は げんきじゃありません。(kyou wa watashi no tomodachi wa genkijaarimasen)

    Today my friend is not energetic.

    Past Affirmative: げんき でした (genki deshita)

    (It was) healthy.

    When we form the past affirmative form of a -な adjective, です is changed into its past tense. For example:

    きのう は わたし の ともだち は げんき でした。(kinou wa watashi no tomodachi wa genki deshita)

    Yesterday my friend was energetic.

    Past Negative:げんきじゃありませんでした (genkijaarimasendeshita)

    (It was) not healthy.

    To form the past negative form of a -な adjective, we use the past form of じゃありません. For example:

    いぬ は げんきじゃありませんでした (inu wa genkijaarimasendeshita)

    The dog was not healthy.