JLPT N2 Grammar – Sentential Questions

N2 Scrambled SentencesIf you haven’t been following along over the last few weeks, I’ve been dissecting sentential questions or ‘scrambled sentences’ as I like to call them. These are the sentences that come in the second part of the grammar section in all levels of the test. They are new to the post-2010 tests, so they can cause a lot of headaches if you are not used to them.

I also wrote up separate articles for N3, and N4 and N5. If you are taking those tests you might want to go back and read up on the specific tips for those levels. It might just give you the edge you need to pass the test!

JLPT N2 Sentential Questions aka Scrambled Sentences

At this level, sentence particles still play a role, but the main focus is going to be more on phrases and expressions. These phrases and expressions are often labeled as grammar in your favorite series of JLPT study books like Kanzen Master, and So-matome. It’s important to know how they come together, so that you can recognize the patterns when you go to try to unscramble the sentences.

Let’s take a look at an example from the JEES sample test that is freely available on the web from the good folks that bring you the test:

ふだん感情を表に出さない彼があんなに __ __ _*_ __ よほど良いことがあったのだろう。

1 みると  2 ところを  3 いる  4 喜んで

First off, if you’ve been studying N2 grammar at all, the ところを should ring a bell. This is actually going to make this question very easy to solve if you know how to use ところを because ところを can only have a few things come before it. In this example, only いる can come before ところを so you know those two have to come together first:


Next, we need something in front of いる. The most likely candidate is a ~て verb and we happen to have one – 喜んで. So we can put that at the front:


Finally, where to put the remaining みると – at the beginning or the end? Well, みる generally needs an object (implied or stated). Here, we happen to have an を after ところ which is the object marker. So, we can put the みると at the end. It also doesn’t make much sense to put it at the beginning: あんなにみると can sound almost natural to non-native ears, but unfortunately it isn’t natural to use it in this way. あんなに is typically used with feelings (like 喜ぶ). So, if we put it at the end we have:


Put it all together and we get:


(For a guy that doesn’t show much emotion to be that happy, something really good must have happened.)

I loosely translated that, if you want to be a little more literal, it would be something like:

He, who doesn’t show much emotion, to be that happy, something good must have happened.

Things to Study for this Level

At this level, the phrases are extremely important. Especially practice phrases that have a specific pattern, for example they always have a negative clause after them or they usually have a verb in it’s potential form (いく → いける) before it. These will help you to determine what gets glued to what in the sentences.

Don’t forget your particles and parts of speech either! Pay close attention to the particles and what can get connected to what. Also, be sure you know the difference between the various parts of speech. This will make things a lot easier for you.

Is your Head Okay?

This stuff makes my head hurt, how about you? What pitfalls have you run into while studying for these questions?

P.S. Do you get thrills from unscrambling sentences in Japanese? Hey, me too! Sign up for the newsletter!

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Photo by David Carroll

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Viji November 28, 2011, 12:22 am

    Hi Mac,

    Just to share some good book which I recently found great for reading/learning kanjis. This book which I have started reading is called “Breaking into Japanese Literature” by Giles Murray. Its very interesting to read bcos of the 7 classic stories of Japan written by famous novelists. Also the book runs a dictionary for all the kanjis and the translation of the story on the next page.

    Here is the link : https://www.amazon.com/Breaking-into-Japanese-Literature-Classics/dp/4770028997/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322439651&sr=8-1

    By just reading 3 stories, I have learnt more than 60 ~ 80 kanjis/new vocab/usages. I felt it to be very useful for intermediate learners.


    • Mac November 30, 2011, 3:52 pm

      I haven’t seen that book, but seems like a nice fit for N2/N1. The one book that I see a lot in bookstores is this one.

      I like the concept of these bilingual readers, but I also prefer to get my hands dirty with real Japanese books I pick up at the second hand store. Although, this really doesn’t become an option until you are pretty good at N2 kanji (and in Japan).

  • Yu Yu August 26, 2015, 2:58 am

    I like this site because I can practice the grammar from this site.

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