N2 Grammar Resource: Nihongo So-matome N2 Grammar

I started studying for the old nikyuu test with the Nikyuu Kanzen Master book of grammar. This was generally considered the book to study for the test. I had used the sankyuu level book to pass level 3, and thought that the green book would have much of the same goodness in it.

I was sadly mistaken. I might be a little dull, but I thought it was a major snore of a book. It was boring, and I just couldn’t get that much out of it. The sentences were packed with new vocabulary that I wasn’t familiar with, and it wasn’t all that useful (in my opinion).

Now, I’ve heard from others that this is an amazing book. That this was the book that led them to victory against the mighty nikyuu test. But, alas, it wasn’t my kind of book. Although, I still do use it for reference from time to time.
N2 so-matome grammar

Enter the So-Matome Series

If you aren’t familiar with this popular series of books, the So-matome series are arranged in courses. Each book has a 6 or 8 week course that you work through. Each week has activities for every day of the week. Each week concludes with a review test.

These make the entire series very easy to work through. It isn’t a big thick book, but a step-by-step course. Each day can be finished in about 15~20 minutes (with some review). This keeps it manageable.

N2 So-matome Grammar Organization

For the N2 grammar book, about 3 to 5 grammar points are grouped together for each day of the course. These usually have something in common, for example, pronunciation, similar meanings or situations. There is then a short quiz that goes over the grammar points presented.

There are 3 kinds of questions for the quizzes every day: 1) choose the correct grammar point 2) choose whether the sentence is correct or not 3) scrambled sentences. There are always 2 scrambled sentences each day, which can be really useful practice.

I also like the fact that each grammar point has detailed information about how to use it. This includes information about whether it is casual or formal, feminine, or used in negative situations only. It also includes a Japanese re-wording of the grammar point and a full English translation of each sample sentence.

N2 So-matome Grammar Review Units

The review units are on day 7 of each week. This includes a 3 page, 25 question quiz. This quiz allows you to see what actual test questions are going to look like. There are 15 grammar selection questions (like the first part of the grammar section of the actual test). Then there are 5 scrambled sentences (like the second part of the grammar section of the actual test). Finally there are 5 more context questions (like the third part of the grammar section of the actual test).

To see what these look like, take a look at the video, or check out the sample questions for N2.

What I like about it

I like the fact that this book has full English translations of every sample sentence. A lot of die-hards will tell you that you need to learn Japanese in Japanese, but I think for grammar it’s best that you get a clear understanding of how it works, and the English translation helps you do that. Together with the Japanese re-wording/definition of the grammar point, it makes it very clear what the grammar is trying to convey.

What I don’t like about it

I feel like it doesn’t give you quite as many examples as it should for each grammar point sometimes. Other times, it will present the grammar and then present you with questions that the explanation didn’t prepare you for. I suppose this is so you learn about the grammar point through testing, but it is a little frustrating sometimes.


This is a good book to help you with the grammar for N2. I feel like the grammar together with vocabulary are two very important parts of the test. If you have a firm understanding of the grammar and vocabulary, the listening and reading sections will be a lot more easier.

I use this book every day to study and I have most of the sentences in Anki to review with.  I think this is an invaluable book and would recommend it to anyone interested in taking the N2 test.

So-Matome N2 Grammar
For those outside Japan, So-matome N2 Grammar is available at White Rabbit Express.
N2 Grammar so-matomeFor those inside Japan, Amazon.com Japan offers the best deal.


{ 8 comments… add one }
  • veg April 1, 2011, 8:08 am

    hi, I would like to know whether the book has cumulative grammar points? As in, does it touch on the grammar points that were in level N3, N4 and N5 as well?
    I am asking this because i passed the old JLPT L4 in 2008 and failed JLPT L3 in 2009. I was thinking of either taking N4 or N3 this year and was wondering whether I could just get the So-Matome N3 books? Or do I need to get the N5 books as well to revise? Thanks!

    • Mac April 2, 2011, 5:28 am

      It unfortunately doesn’t have cumulative grammar points only the grammar points that will be on the N3 or N2 test (depending on what book you buy). It will sometimes review grammar points that you should know for the test though. Each test only specifically tests you on that grammar not previous level grammar. Previous grammar will show up in reading and listening sections though, so you still need to know it.

  • Paul May 5, 2014, 12:56 am

    I agree it is short on example sentences – typically only about two per grammar point. While the grammar points are generally grouped in chapters by type (which is good), and English translations are provided (which is also good), many times the translations appear to be “rewritten” into more natural English, thus losing any connection with what the actual Japanese says, as if a native English speaker who did not know Japanese decided to paraphrase someone else’s translation. And with all the translations, the one thing they don’t translate is what the grammar point actually means – leaving you to try to figure it out from the translations. (Hmm …, what seems to be the same between these two example sentences?) So …, either you need to work with a tutor, or you need to know it all already.

    The sample questions are much easier than what is on the test, with only two choices per question, which is good enough when you just learned the grammar points, but not good enough for test prep. I would suggest using this book as entry-level study and progress to something more solid afterwards.

    • Clayton MacKnight May 5, 2014, 2:09 pm

      I think though the English translations are translated more naturally in order to give you a feel for how and when we would use that particular grammar point in English. So-Matome does include Japanese explanations (in parentheses after the Japanese sentence) to give you an idea of the meaning as well. I feel like if you combine the two you can get a good idea of the meaning of the point. Still, it is not as beefy as it should be really. It could use a lot of explanations and more examples, but almost every grammar book for N3 and above needs those. I agree you should probably have a tutor or a least a sympathetic native friend.

  • Richard Bryan Williams April 1, 2017, 6:45 am

    nihongo so matome. N2 and N3 .i would like to study these and order a purchase of them from japan. may i proceed in doing so? Quo Vide. Op Cit. Hi I’d like to buy Nihongo So Matome N2. Do you have it in stock? on the shelf? Please send . I’ll remit payment by VISA.

  • jeff June 14, 2018, 10:31 pm

    would you be willing to share you n2 grammar anki deck for this book. it would be greatly appreciated!

    • Clayton MacKnight June 27, 2018, 11:38 pm

      I don’t have an Anki deck for this book, so it would be kind of difficult to share it. 🙂

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