Japanese - Frequently Asked Questions

Hanging around Japanese learning communities, I see the following questions all the time. In most cases, the answer is always the same and it involves a quick link to a page with (what I consider) the best explanation currently available.

Since this process of linking these pages is often automatic (most of these are bot commands in the #japanese_questions channel in the EJLX server), I figured I’d just collect all of them here too for people to browse.

NOTE: If you think you have a better resource to link, please let me know via any kind of social media (Morg) and I’ll give it a look/update this page.

If what you’re looking for is not here, consider also reading the Unlocking Japanese: Tricks# page.

General Questions

How do I learn Japanese?

How do I learn hiragana and katakana?

Is Genki / Tae Kim good?

  • Yes and yes. They are some of the most common learning resources, you can’t go wrong with them. Don’t worry too much about finding what is best, just start learning and stick to it.
  • See also: Japanese Learning Resources

What is the difference between は and が?

Why is こんにちは pronounced konnichiwa?

  • こんにちは used to be part of a longer sentence in which は was the particle, so when it got shortened to just a greeting it stayed like that.
  • Same for こんばんは.

What are onyomi and kunyomi? Why is this kanji read this way?

What is the difference between formal and polite?

Formal vs Polite

Grammar Questions

I don’t undersand this verb conjugation

What is the difference between だ and です?

What is the difference between these conditionals? (たら vs ば vs と vs …)

What is the difference between の and こと?

What does の means at the end of a sentence?

How do ていく and てくる work?

What is the difference between 小さい and 小さな / 大きい and 大きな?

  • Read this stackexchange post
  • Quick summary: the “な variant” can only go before a noun, not after.
  • The meaning is almost the same, don’t worry too much about it.

Trivia Questions

Why is “lol” w or 草?

  • To laugh is 笑う
  • 笑う -> わらう -> warau -> w
  • Lots of laughs, lots of w
  • wwwwww kinda looks like grass
  • Grass = 草

How are じ, ぢ, ず, づ pronounced?