N5 Grammar – Past Form of Adjectives

Welcome everyone, this is Mac with another N5 Grammar Lesson from JLPT Boot Camp. Last episode, we learned how to describe things with adjectives. Today, we are going to take that one step further by describing how things were in the past with the past casual form of adjectives. We are going to look at a few, very short exchanges.

Conversation 1 (3:54)

Yu got back from her trip to the zoo with Matt. Her father is asking her about the trip. They are using casual Japanese.

M: たべものは おいしかったの。
       tabemonowa   oishikattano.
       Was the food delicious?

F: ええ、おいしかったよ。
       ee,       oishikattayo.
 Yeah, (it) was delicious.

Let’s break down what Yu’s dad said. First, たべもの, food, then は, the topic marking particle, and then the past tense of the い-adjective おいしい, delicious – おいしかった. In the above sentence, he was asking “Was the food delicious?” Yu responds with ええ, yes, おいしかった, it was delicious. And if you’ll notice she ended this sentence with よ, which gives this extra emphasis. She is using it here to sort of let her dad know without a doubt that the food was delicious and that maybe he should come next time.

Yu’s dad was using the casual past tense of an い-adjective, which is quite simple to form. You simply hack off the い and add かった. Why don’t you give it a try. Can you change this sentence into the past tense:

きのうは さむい
kinouwa      samui

Right, you would say:

きのうは さむかった
kinouwa     samukatta
Yesterday was cold.

To break that down, きのう is yesterday, は is the topic marking particle, and さむかった is was cold.

There is one adjective you have to look out for though and that is いい, in the past tense, it changes to よい, so if you want to talk about the past, you would say よかった.

Conversation 2 (2:29)

Now, let’s go back to Yu and her dad’s exchange.

M: 天気は わるかったの。
tenkiwa  warukattano.
Was the weather bad?

(It) wasn’t bad.

Let’s break that down. First, Yu’s dad says 天気てんき, weather. Then the topic marking particle は. Then わるかった, the past casual form of わるい – bad. Finally, he ends the sentence with の, which is a way to casually ask a question. Then, Yu responds with わるくなかった – past negative casual form of わるい. And then she finishes the sentence with the よ particle for emphasis. In a way, she is sort of correcting her dad. We can imagine this conversation in English. Yu’s dad might say:

“Was the weather bad?”

and Yu can respond:

“Actually, it wasn’t bad.”

In the Japanese exchange, Yu was using the casual negative past tense of an い-adjective, which is a little more complicated to form. To start, you need to change the い-adjective, わるい into the negative form, わるくない. Then, change that into the past tense by hacking off the い and adding かった. Why don’t you give it a try? Can you change this sentence into the past tense:

そのカレーは からくない
sonokareewa     karakunai

Right, you would say:

そのカレーは からくなかった
sonokareewa karakunakatta
That curry wasn’t spicy.

To break that down, その is that, カレー is curry, は is the topic marking particle, and finally we have からくなかった – the past negative casual form of からい – spicy. All together we have “That curry wasn’t spicy.”

Conversation 3 (4:53)

Yu’s dad asks her more questions about the zoo.

M: どうぶつえんは にぎやかだったの。
        doubutsuenwa       nigiyakadattano
       Was the zoo lively?

F: はい、にぎやかだった。
      hai,      nigiyakadatta.
      Yes, (it) was lively.

Let’s break it down. どうぶつえん, the zoo, は the topic marking particle, にぎやかだった, was lively (place), and finally の, a particle used to ask questions casually. So, all together Yu’s dad asks “Was the zoo lively?”

Yu responds with はい, yes, にぎやかだった, again was lively, as in it was a lively place. All together, she is responding with “Yes, it was lively.”

Yu’s dad was also using the casual past tense, but this time with a な-adjective, which is formed a little differently than it is with an い-adjective, but it’s extremely easy, just add だったto the end of the な-adjective. Your turn. Change this sentence into the past tense:

そのレストランは りっぱ
sonoresutoranwa       rippa
The restaurant is splendid.

Right, you would say:

そのレストランは りっぱだった
sonoresutoranwa        rippadatta
The restaurant was splendid.

To break that down, その is that, レストラン is restaurant, and りっぱ is splendid or elegant. So all together you have “That restaurant was splendid.”

Conversation 4 (6:45)

Yu’s dad asks about the cherry blossoms at the zoo.

M:さくらは きれいだったの。
       sakurawa   kireidattano
      Were the flowers pretty?

      ie,        kireijanakattayo
     No, they weren’t pretty.

Let’s break it down, さくら, cherry blossoms, は, the topic marking particle, きれいだった, were pretty, and の, the casual question marking particle. So all together dad asks “Were the cherry blossoms beautiful?”

Yu responds with いえ, no, きれいじゃなかった, weren’t pretty, and よ, a particle used for emphasis. So all together she responds “No, they weren’t pretty.”

Yu was using the casual negative past, this time with a な-adjective. The simple way to form this is to simply put じゃなかった at the end of the な-adjective. But, let me explain what is going on here. If you recall from last episode, to form the negative non-past form for な-adjective, we add じゃない. This makes it an い-adjective, which to make past tense, we cut off the い and add かった.

Your turn to try it out. Change this sentence into the past tense:

なりたは しずか
naritawa     shizuka
Narita is quiet.

Right, you would say:

なりたは しずかじゃなかった
naritawa     shizukajanakatta
Narita was quiet.

To break that down, なりた, Narita or Narita airport, は, the topic marking particle, and then しずかなかった, wasn’t quiet.

Pop Quiz! (8:48)

Can you tell me the following in Japanese?

It was hot.

The Japanese word for hot is あつい.

For “It was hot”, you would say あつかった. You take あつい, an い-adjective and cut off the い and add かった. And note that this is a complete sentence, you do not always have to have a topic or subject. It is implied from the situation.

He was skilled.

The Japanese word for skilled is じょうず.

For “He was skilled.”, you would say じょうずだった. You take じょうず, a な-adjective this time and simply add だったto make it about the past. You could also add かれは as the topic, but it is not necessary if we can understand it from the context.

It wasn’t boring.

The Japanese word for boring is つまらない.

For “It wasn’t boring”, you would say つまらなくなかった. You take つまらない, an い-adjective and first change it to the negative non-past form by cutting off the last い and adding くない. Then, to make it about the past cut the い off of that and add かった.

Last one:

It wasn’t splendid.

For “It wasn’t splendid”, you would say りっぱじゃなかった. You take りっぱ, a な-adjective and add じゃない to make it negative. Then, cut off that last い and add かった to make it about the past.


Do you have all that? Let’s quickly review.

For い-adjectives, you cut off the い and add かった to talk about the past. For the negative form, you need to first change it into the negative by cutting off the い, adding くない. Then, cut off the い of that and add かった to make it about the past.

For な-adjectives, you simply add だった to make it about the past. For the negative form, you add じゃない to make it negative, cut the い off the end and add かった.

That’s it for this episode. For notes and more practice with the grammar point, stop by the JLPT Boot Camp courses site. There you can find quizzes, study guides for this grammar point and every grammar point covered in the videos. You can also get all of your questions answered you might have. Just leave me a comment, and I’ll get back to you.

Cover of the JLPT N5 Study Guide The JLPT Study Guide for the N5 is now available at Amazon. Packed with exercises to help you master all the grammar points needed for the test, this is a must have study guide for anyone preparing for the N5. It also has reading and listening strategies and practice exercises so you can hone those skills before the exam. Once you’ve finished the book, there are 3 practice tests to check your level and 100s of audio flashcards you can use anywhere to review what you learned.

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