Japanese -I Adjectives

In English, an adjective describes, or “modifies,” a noun. Japanese adjectives can do the same—but they can also function as verbs. You’ll learn more about adjectives as verbs in a future lesson. In this lesson, we’ll concentrate on using adjectives to modify nouns, just like you’re used to in English.

There are two types of adjectives in the Japanese language. Each type follows its own simple pattern when modifying nouns in the present positive tense.

-I Adjectives

The -i adjectives are fairly simple to identify. All –i adjectives end in “i,” but not all adjectives that end in “i” are automatically –i adjectives. Memorization and understanding how –i adjectives function are key to distinguishing whether or not an adjective is an –i adjective, although you can be assured that any adjective that ends in “ii” is an –i adjective.

-i adjectives have characteristics similar to verbs in the Japanese language because they are actually conjugated like verbs according to tense and positive/negative rules. They can also act as a verb and be the only word in a sentence. This will become clearer in the next lesson.

Remove the “i” at the end of any -i adjective and you have what’s called the adjective stem. For example, the adjective stem of “oishii” is “oishi-” and the adjective stem of “warui” is “waru-.” You will need to use the adjective stem in the next lesson when you learn how Japanese adjectives are treated like verbs.

When modifying nouns in the present positive tense, -i adjectives are simply placed in front of a noun, just as they are in English. For example, “oishii tabemono” means “delicious food.” Practice using these common –i adjectives with any nouns you know:

-i Adjective English -i Adjective English
akai red mazui bad-tasting
amai sweet (taste-wise) mijikai short
aoi blue muzukashii difficult
atarashii new nagai long
atsui hot oishii delicious
chairoi brown okashii strange/odd
chiisai small omoshiroi fun/funny
chikai near osoi slow/late
furui old samui cold
hayai fast/early shiroi white
hazukashii embarrassed/shy takai expensive
ii good tooi long
isogashii busy urusai loud/noisy
kawaii cute wakai young
kiiroi yellow warui bad
kowai frightening/scary yasashii easy
kuroi black yasui cheap