JLPT N5 Vocabulary – People

JLPT N5 Vocabulary – People post image

Do you think you know this already?  Take the Quiz

In addition to the words for your immediate family, the N5 also includes the more basic vocabulary you need to refer to people, starting with how to refer to a man and a woman:



And you can talk about younger people by just adding :



Note that you can sometimes abbreviate man and woman to just おとこ or おんな in writing, but not adding the ひと in conversation can sound a little rude.

To refer to people above your position, for example if you are in a customer service position, you can use かた:

Are you Japanese?

Next person, please.

And to refer to the whole group of people, you can say みなさん:

minasan, ohayougozaimasu.
Good morning everyone!

When buying train tickets or admission to a park, you will typically see two options:




How to use 自分じぶん (jibun)

The word 自分じぶん in Japanese, in general, is used to refer back to a person. In English, we have a whole series of words that we use when the object is the same as the subject in a sentence. If you are using a knife and cut your finger, you don’t say “I cut me.” Instead, you say “I cut myself.”

自分じぶん in Japanese serves a similar purpose but is used a little differently. There aren’t specific words that refer to himself or herself for example. Instead, what is being referred to is implied from context. Let’s look at a few examples:

わたしは じぶんの あしを あらいました。
watashiwa jibunno ashiwo araimashita.
I washed my own feet. (lit. I washed self’s feet.)

田中たなかさんは じぶんの でんわばんごを わすれました。
tanakasanwa jibunno denwabangoo wasuremashita.
Mr.Tanaka forgot his own phone number. (lit. Mr.Tanaka forgot self’s phone number.)

It is very commonly combined with the で particle to mean that you did something by yourself:

じぶんで ばんごはんを つくりました。
jibunde bangohano tsukurimashita.
I made dinner by myself. (lit. [I] made dinner with self.)

じぶんで してください。
jibunde shitekudasai.
Do it yourself please. (lit. [you] do it with self.)

What can be confusing is that in Kansai, じぶん can often be used in questions to refer to the listener:

じぶん、どこから ましたか。
jibun, dokokara kimashitaka.
Where did (you) come from? (lit. self, where did [you] come from?)

The speaker is, in fact, asking about you, not him or herself. This won’t come up on the test, but something to keep in mind.

People at School

A student at any kind of school is a 生徒せいと, this includes things like English conversation schools, dance schools. It’s basically the blanket term for any kind of student. Meanwhile, 学生がくせい usually refers to university student. What about elementary school, junior high school or high school? They each have specific terms:

小学生しょうがくせい – elementary student

中学生ちゅうがくせい – junior high student

高校学生こうこうがくせい – high school student

If you are studying abroad, the term is 留学生りゅうがくせい (ryuugakusei).

What about 先生せんせい (sensei)?

The word 先生せんせい is usually used as a title, which means that it is typically attached to the end of name, or used to address a teacher. It is not typically used as the name of job. For instance, the following sentence sounds a little strange:

わたしは 英語えいごの 先生せんせいです。
watshiwa eigono senseidesu.
I am an English teacher.

Most people will understand what you are saying, but the best word to use is 教師きょうし, which means a classroom teacher.

外国人がいこくじん (gaikokujin) vs. 外人がいじん (gaijin)

You may have heard that the word ‘外人がいじん’has a very negative meaning, and is derogatory. If you have had the misfortune of watching “Fast and Furious – Tokyo Drift” you will notice they throw this word around like it has a lot of weight. And indeed, it is banned from television, and is generally considered rude to use. It has the literal meaning of ‘other person’, which just doesn’t sound good.

However, you will hear this word used quite commonly in the Kansai area to refer to foreigners. Most people use it without really realizing the connotations. And of course, foreigners will use it among themselves to joke around. Generally speaking though, you should try your best to use 外国人がいこくじん when referring to foreigners.

How to use 〜たち (tachi)

The suffix たち is used to make words plural. But wait a minute, Japanese doesn’t have plurals, does it? Ahh, but it does. However, it is only used in certain circumstances. Specifically, it is usually only used to make words referring to people or animals plural. Here are a few examples:

わたしたち – we

かのじょたち – they (group of women)

かれたち – they (group of men)

ねこたち – those cats

Some other useful vocabulary:

みなさん – everybody

おまわりさん – police officer

いしゃ – doctor

ともだち – friend

Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments below. If you think you have these words mastered, go ahead and take the quiz.

JLPT N5 Resources

JEES has made the official JLPT N5 Workbook available for download free.  The N5 workbook is pretty close to the same size as the real test and the questions are made up of questions from previous exams.  Also it is free, so if you have the time, be sure to download it and give it a try.

JLPT Boot Camp Courses

JLPT Study Guide KitA subscription to the JLPT Boot Camp Courses site includes a complete guide to studying and preparing for the JLPT as well as a complete grammar guide for N5.  The grammar guide includes tips and common mistakes to look out for when taking the test.  Each chapter includes a video explanation, clear grammar explanations, several example sentences, and JLPT-style questions.  Sign up today and get started on the right path.

So-matome-N5-essential-vocabulary 1000 Essential Vocabulary for the JLPT N5

Ask Publishing is well-known for their books on the N5. This is a pretty straightforward vocabulary study book that covers all the essential vocabulary that you’ll need to learn in order to pass the test.  I like how this book offers check boxes to help you chart your progress as well as clear sentences to help you understand every word.



Japanese Pod 101 Old Level 4/N5 Prep Course

Japanese Pod 101 has a 6 lesson last minute prep course for the test as well as additional practice tests.  Also, their lessons are sorted by grammar points, so if you are having problems with a particular point, it is a great place to focus in on the one point that is giving you some trouble.


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