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JLPT N5 Vocabulary – Talking about Food

JLPT N5 Vocabulary – Talking about Food post image

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Talking about Monos

At the N5 level, you will see two similar looking words – 食べ物 and 飲み物. The word もの means thing in Japanese and 食べ is the -masu stem of 食べる, to eat. So, you can add them together to make a new word:

べ +    もの    = もの, food (lit. eat things)
tabe + mono = tabemono

み  +    もの    = もの, drinks (lit. drink things)
nomi + mono = nomimono

In fact, you can make a few other words like this:

り +    もの     = もの, vehicles (lit. ride things)
nori  + mono = norimono

たて   +   もの     = 建物たてもの, buildings (lit. construct things)
tate + mono = tatemono

To get the -masu stem just change a verb into masu-form then remove the ます at the end:

べる → べます - ます = 
taberu →   tabemasu    ―  masu     =      tabe

Talking about Meals in Japanese

The N5 uses あさごはん (asagohan), ひるごはん (hirugohan), and ばんごはん (bangohan) to refer to the meals of the day. These are the most commonly used, but you may also hear another set of words – 朝食ちょうしょく(choushoku), 昼食ちゅうしょく(chuushoku), and 夕食ゆうしょく(yuushoku). These tend to sound more casual / conversational.

You can write these words in all kanji (e.g. 朝御飯あさごはん(asagohan)), but it is not very common. It’s more common to write the last three moras in hiragana.

If you were wondering about brunch, you can use the katakana word – ブランチ.

飴 vs. お菓子

These two words seem to refer to the same thing. But, あめ(ame) is usually used for hard candies. I popular treat you can pick up at any neighborhood convenience store is のどあめ(nodoame), which are a type of sweet throat lozenge. のど(nodo) means throat and あめ(ame) means candy, so it is literally throat candy.
菓子かし(okashi) on the other hand, has a much broader meaning. You can use it to talk about hard candies as well as other snack like foods.

There is a special kind of お菓子かし called 和菓子わがし(wagashi) that are eaten with macha during tea ceremony. The kanji (wa) is often used to describe something ‘Japanese’, so you can think of these as ‘Japanese sweets’. Kyoto is particularly famous for its unique kind of 和菓子わがし and macha.

Drinking in Japan

You basically have 3 types of drinks in Japan – おさけ(osake), おちゃ(ocha), and ジュース(jyuusu). You might be thinking that there should be another category for soft drinks there, too. However, drinks like coke or ginger ale are commonly listed as ジュース on menus in Japan.

And although sake in English refers to a particular kind of liquor, in Japan おさけ refers to any kind of alcoholic beverage. The liquor made from rice that we know as sake is actually called 日本酒にほんしゅ(nihonshu).

Meanwhile, おちゃ means tea, but almost always refers to green tea. To refer to other types of tea, you simply add the katakana-ized name before ちゃ(cha):

ウーロンちゃ – oolong tea

アールグレイちゃ – Earl Grey tea

The many Stages of Rice

Rice is an essential part of the Japanese diet. As such, it tends to get a little more attention linguistically speaking. Japanese actually has three words for rice depending on what state it is in:

いね – rice plant

こめ – uncooked rice

はん – cooked rice / meal

Keep in mind that ごはん(gohan) can also just refer to a meal like the words mentioned above for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Wonders of お弁当

弁当べんとう (bentou) are the typical Japanese lunch. Starting in kindergarten, kids and adults bring their lunch to school or work in small 弁当箱べんとうばこ(bentoubako),  or bento boxes. These self-contained meals tend to have a lot of things in common. Most likely they are 3 parts rice, 2 parts vegetables, and 1 part meat or seafood. The best bentos will typically have 3 colors – green, yellow, and red. Commonly you will see green peppers (ピーマン, piiman), fried egg (卵焼たまごやき, tamagoyaki), and a few whole cherry tomatoes (トマト, tomato) or weiners (ウインナー, uinnaa).

There are, of course, many variations on this theme and a simple google search will reveal all sorts of colorful and creative variations on how to make a bento. And there is an enormous selection of accessories that can be used in bentos from ornamental plastic toothpicks to nori (seaweed paper) cutters.

Hot and Cold

When you are talking about the weather in Japanese you can use あつい (hot, atsui) and さむい (cold, samui).  However, you have to use あたたかい (hot to the touch, atatakai) and つめたい (cold to the touch, tsumetai) when describing drinks:

つめたいおちゃが  しいです。
tsumetaiochaga    hoshiidesu.
I want cold (green) tea.

あたたかいコーヒーを ください。
atatakaikoohiio           kudasai
Hot coffee please.

At chain coffee shops like Starbucks or Tully’s, they use the katakana words ホット (hot) and アイス (ice, as in iced coffee).

もの – Drinks

なにを みたいですか。(What do you want to drink?)
nanio nomitaidesuka


食べ物 – Food

何を 食べたいですか。(What do you want to eat?)
nanio tabetaidesuka.

Chart listing the names of foods in Japanese

Ordering Food

After you’ve been seated and had a chance to look at the menu, the waiter will often ask you:

ご注文は           お決まりですか?
gochuumonwa okimaridesuka
Have you decided on your order?

Note that this phrase uses a lot of formal language. First, 注文ちゅうもん(chuumon),  order has the honorable prefix ご(go). Then, instead of using まる(kimaru), to decide in polite or masu form, it is in a more formal form. To make this structure you simply need to take the masu-stem and put the honorable お(o) in front. This phrase and this grammar is not used on the N5.

You can respond by saying:

カレーに します。
kareeni        shimasu
(I)’ll have the curry.

They may also want to know what you’ll be drinking, by saying:

As for drink?

You can simply respond with what you would like plus ください:

なまビールを ください。
namabiiruo     kudasai
A draft beer please.

Offering some Food

In a polite situation, for instance with people you have just met,  you can offer them a drink with the expression “~がいい”:

A「ジュースと コーヒーと どちらが いいですか。」
jyuusuto         koohiito          dochiraga  iidesuka
Which is better (for you), juice or coffee?

B「ジュースが いいです。」
 jyuusuga        iidesu
Juice is good.

In a more formal situation, it is best to use いかが:

A「ジュースは いかがですか。」
jyuusuwa       ikagadesuka
How about some juice?

hai,      onegaishimasu
Yes, please.

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