Formal and Informal Japanese – Do You Know the Difference?


Learn Japanese fast! To come across the right way, you need to know when and how to use formal and informal Japanese. Whether you’re talking to a new acquaintance, a friend, an elder, and so on, the person you’re talking to in Japanese makes all the difference, and simple phrases can sound very different. In this Beginner Japanese article, you’ll find a comprehensive review of formal and informal adjective conjugations. See firsthand just how different a sentence as simple as, “It’s not expensive” is based on whether you’re using formal or informal Japanese. The easy charts and plentiful example sentences ensure that you’ll be completely comfortable with the nuances of both formal and informal Japanese.

Vocabulary: In this article, you’ll learn the following words and phrases:

o-baa-chan – “granny, grandma”

riyakaa – “two-wheeled cart”

jinrikisha – “rickshaw”

hayai – “fast, quick” (-i ending adjective)

kimochi – “feeling”

noru – “to ride, to take, to get on” (class 1 verb)

abunai – “dangerous” (-i ending adjective)

anzen (na) – “safe, secure” (-na ending adjective)

soreni – “besides, moreover”

Grammar: In this article, you’ll learn the following words and phrases:

Useful Vocabulary and Phrases

abunai – “dangerous”

People call out Abunai! when someone is in danger. This phrase corresponds to “Look out!” or “Watch out!” in English.

For Example:

  1. A, abunai!
    “Hey, watch out!”

kimochi ii
– “feel good”

  • Kimochi (ga) ii – “feel good”
  • Kimochi (ga) warui – “feel bad”

– “looks interesting”

When an adjective precedes soo, the meaning of “seeming” is added.

  • [adjective] + soo = “looks…” / “smells…” / “sounds…,” etc.
    For more information see Nihongo Doojoo Beginner Series Season 4 Meet the Parents: Article 7


i Ending Adjectives:

-i Adjective / Drop –i and Add soo

omoshiroi / omoshirosoo

tanoshii / tanoshisoo

-na Ending Adjectives:

-na Adjective / Drop –na and Add soo

(na)/ anzensoo

benri (na) / benrisoo


ii / yosasoo


  1. Kono keeki, oishisoo.
    “This cake looks yummy.”
  2. Kimochi yosasoo.
    “That looks comfortable.”

Grammar Review

In this article, we are going to learn more about formal and informal speech by reviewing adjective conjugations.

For Example:

  1. “It’s not expensive.”
    Takaku arimasen.
    Informal: Takakunai.

As you have learned, there are two types of adjectives in Japanese: -i ending adjectives and -na ending adjectives.

For More Information on:

Basic Usage of Adjectives see Nihongo Doojoo Newbie series Welcome to Style You: Articles 11-15.

Combining Two or More adjectives: see Nihongo Doojoo Newbie series Style You and Beyond: Articles 15 and 16.

Formal Speech:

Part of Speech / Affirmative / Negative

Verb(class 1) / kikimasu / kikimasen

Adjective(-i ending) / takai desu / takakunai desu, takakuarimasen

Adjective(irregular) / ii desu / yokunai desu, yokuarimasen

Adjective(-na ending) / anzen desu / anzen janai desu, anzen ja arimasen, anzen dewa arimasen

Noun / kuruma desu / kuruma janai desu, kuruma ja arimasen, kuruma dewa arimasen

Informal Speech:

Part of Speech /
Affirmative / Negative

Verb(class 1) / kiku / kikanai

Verb(class 2) / miru / minai

Verb (class 3) / suru / shinai

Verb (class 3) / kuru / konai

Adjective (-i ending) / takai / takakunai

Adjective (irregular) / ii / yokunai

Adjective (-na ending) / anzen desu / anzen janai

Noun / kuruma da / kuruma janai

te Form of Adjectives

We use the te form of adjectives to combine two or more adjectives.

  • -i ending adjective: Replace the final –i with –kute

For Example:

  1. taka i becomes taka kute
  2. omoshiro i becomes omoshiro kute
  3. i i becomes yo kute (irregular)
  • -na ending adjective: Add –de to the dictionary form

For Example:

  1. anzen becomes anzen de
  2. benri becomes benri de


Please rewrite the following sentences in their informal forms.

  1. Watashi wa mainichi ongaku o kikimasu.

  2. Sore wa hyaku-en desu.

  3. Doitsu no kuruma wa takai desu.

  4. Tokyo no chikatetsu wa benri de anzen desu.

Please rewrite the following sentences in their formal forms.

  1. Ashita, watashi wa gakkoo ni iku.

  2. Kono keeki wa oishikunai.

  3. Tokyo wa anzende omoshiroi machi da.

  4. Nyuuyooku no chikatetsu wa yasukute benri da.


Source by Peter Galante