To get the -masu stem just change a verb into masu-form then remove the ます at the end:
食べる → 食べます － ます ＝ 食べ taberu → tabemasu ― masu = tabe
Talking about Meals in Japanese
The N5 uses 朝ごはん (asagohan), 昼ごはん (hirugohan), and 晩ごはん (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(choushoku), 昼食(chuushoku), and 夕食(yuushoku). These tend to sound more casual / conversational.
You can write these words in all kanji (e.g. 朝御飯(asagohan)), but it is not very common. It’s more common to write the last three moras in hiragana.
I personally use all of these on a daily basis and highly recommend them.
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, 飴(ame) is usually used for hard candies. I popular treat you can pick up at any neighborhood convenience store is のど飴(nodoame), which are a type of sweet throat lozenge. のど(nodo) means throat and 飴(ame) means candy, so it is literally throat candy.
お菓子(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 called 和菓子(wagashi) that are eaten with macha during tea ceremony. The kanji 和(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 and macha.
Drinking in Japan
You basically have 3 types of drinks in Japan – お酒(osake), お茶(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 お酒 refers to any kind of alcoholic beverage. The liquor made from rice that we know as sake is actually called 日本酒(nihonshu).
Meanwhile, お茶 means tea, but almost always refers to green tea. To refer to other types of tea, you simply add the katakana-ized name before 茶(cha):
ウーロン茶 – oolong tea uuroncha
アールグレイ茶 – Earl Grey tea aarugureicha
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:
稲 – rice plant inu
米 – uncooked rice kome
ご飯 – cooked rice / meal gohan
Keep in mind that ご飯(gohan) can also just refer to a meal like the words mentioned above for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Wonders of お弁当
お弁当(bentou) are the typical Japanese lunch. Starting in kindergarten, kids and adults bring their lunch to school or work in small 弁当箱(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 熱い (hot, atsui) and 寒い (cold, samui). However, you have to use 暖かい (hot to the touch, atatakai) and 冷たい (cold to the touch, tsumetai) when describing drinks:
冷たいお茶が 欲しいです。 tsumetaiochaga hoshiidesu.
I want cold (green) tea.
暖かいコーヒーを 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).
飲み物 – Drinks
何を 飲みたいですか。(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.
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(chuumon), order has the honorable prefix ご(go). Then, instead of using 決まる(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:
生ビールを 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?