JLPT N5 Vocabulary – The Basics

JLPT N5 Vocabulary – The Basics post image

Welcome to the N5 vocabulary course! We will be going over all of the basic vocabulary that is usually covered on the N5 as well as some other useful vocabulary that you will need to communicate in Japanese on a basic level. The goal of this course is to cover a little more than everything that is covered on the test. If you have any questions please make use of the comments.

Basic Building Blocks

We are going to start with some basic vocabulary and phrases that you will need to make basic conversation in Japanese. Let’s start with some basic building blocks of Japanese:

これ – this

それ – that

あれ – that (over there)

~です / ~だ – the Japanese copula, you can think of it as ‘be’.
~desu  /  ~da

これは ペンです。- This is a pen.
korewa  pendesu.

The most common explanation for これ is something that the speaker has or is touching the speaker while それ is something that is closer to the listener or touching the listener. Meanwhile あれ is for something not close to either speaker or listener. In practice though, それ usually refers to something in the same general area (e.g. room) of both speaker and listener. あれ refers to something that is quite a distance away or is something of common knowledge between the speaker and listener.

Common Pronouns

Another set of words useful when you are starting out are common pronouns:

(businessman pics)

わたし     – I

あなた – You

(teenager pics)

かれ – he

かのじょ – she

Should I use あなた (anata)?

In some situations, あなた can sound a little informal or rude. When speaking to people your age or older, superiors, strangers that you have just meet, or anyone you want to show respect toward it is best to avoid using あなた.
Does this mean you will be dragged out into the street in summarily shot if you use it in the wrong situation? Well, no, most Japanese will understand that you are learning and will be understanding. Just keep in mind that you don’t have to use it and in fact it is often dropped unless needed for clarity.

Also, wives will commonly use it to refer to their husbands. It’s kind of a term of endearment like “honey” in English, at least as long as the tone is friendly and welcoming ;).
It can also be used in a condescending way to a subordinate to emphasize that they are lower than them. In situations where ‘you’ would normally be used in English, speakers will usually use a job title or family name to refer to the person.

The word かれ can refer to he or one’s boyfriend. On the other hand, the word かれし is also used to refer specifically to one’s boyfriend. かのじょ is very similar, it can refer to she or one’s girlfriend.

Note that you use the の particle to show possession:

かれの かさは これです。 – This is his umbrella.
kareno   kasawa   koredesu.

Name Suffixes

There are a few common suffixes for names in Japanese:

~さん – used to address people or even job titles more politely

You have probably heard of さん before. This is commonly used to be more polite when referring to others. You would not use this is to refer to yourself:

X わたしは マックさんです。- I am Mr. Mac.
watashiwa makkusandesu.

O わたしは マックです。- I am Mac.
watashiwa makkudesu.

It can be used for family names, given names, occupations or titles:

田中たなかさん – Mr. Tanaka (family name)

太郎たろうさん – Mr. Tarō (given name)

パン屋ぱんやさん – The baker (occupation)

歯医者はいしゃさん – The dentist (title)

~さま   – used to address people of higher status.

This is the markedly more respectful way to refer to someone. It is often used with customers or with someone you greatly admire. You’ll often here お客様きゃくさま in places of businesses used to refer to you the customer.

~ちゃん – used to address children and usually attached to given names.

~ちゃん is a casual way to refer to young adults. It shouldn’t be used to address superiors. It has a childish tone to it, so it can be used playfully with close friends, teenage girls, girlfriend / boyfriend, etc…

~くん – used to address young men and can be used with both family and given names.

~くん is usually used with just men and shouldn’t be used to address superiors no matter their age.

The suffixes ~ちゃん and ~くん are probably a bit too casual for the JLPT N5, but you will commonly hear them in conversation.

~先生せんせい    – teacher

~先生 is also a suffix. It can be used to refer to the job as well, but another word 教師きょうし (kyoushi) is often used as the formal job title.

Agreeing and Disagreeing with Someone

Agreeing with someone is quite simple:

はい – yes

ええ – yes (more often used in conversation)

そうです – yes, that’s right.

To disagree:

いいえ – no

ちがいます – no, that’s not correct

Are you ready?  Head over to the courses site and take the quiz to check your understanding.

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