Japanese Adjective Use – How to Use Yabai!

First off, Happy 令和 Reiwa Era, everyone!! It was a great 平成 Heisei, but starting 5/1/2019, we’ll see what the future brings~

Let’s start with just a giant mass of common adjective vocabulary.

日本語 Romanji Meaning Adjective Category
暑い Atsui Hot (weather) i-adjective
熱い Atsui Hot (to the touch)

i-adjective
暖かい Attakai Warm (weather) i-adjective
寒い Samui Cold (weather) i-adjective
冷たい Tsumetai Cold (to the touch) i-adjective
ずるい Zurui Tricky, sneaky i-adjective
鈍い Noroi Slow, laggy i-adjective
固い Katai Hard i-adjective
やわらかい Yawarakai Soft i-adjective
遅い Osoi Slow i-adjective
早い Hayai 1) Fast 2) Early i-adjective
小さい、小っちゃい Chiisai, Chicchai Small, little i-adjective
大きい Ookii Big i-adjective
綺麗、美しい Kirei, Utsukushii Beautiful na-adjective, i-adjective
可愛い Kawaii Cute i-adjective
かっこいい Kakkoii Cool (used like opposites with kawaii) i-adjective
おしゃれ、立派 Oshare, Rippa Stylish, fancy na-adjective
変、可笑しい Hen, Okashii Weird, strange, funny na-adjective, i-adjective
高い Takai 1) Expensive 2) Tall i-adjective
安い Yasui Cheap, inexpensive i-adjective
狭い Semai Narrow (for roads, small rooms, etc.) i-adjective
広い Hiroi Wide, vast (for open spaces) i-adjective
若い Wakai Young i-adjective
古い Furui Old (can’t be used for people, only things or places) i-adjective
痛い Itai Painful i-adjective
痒い Kayui Itchy i-adjective
しんどい、辛い Shindoi, Tsurai, Kurushii Painful, difficult i-adjective
難しい Muzukashii Hard, difficult to do i-adjective
簡単、優しい Katan, Yasashii Easy na-adjective, i-adjective
優しい、親切 Yasashii, Shinsetsu Nice i-adjective, na-adjective
有名 Yuumei Famous na-adjective
元気 Genki Energetic, healthy na-adjective
静か Shizuka Quiet na-adjective
賑やか Nigiyaka Loud, busy, lively na-adjective
自然 Shizen Natural na-adjective
大切、大事 Taisetsu, Daiji Important na-adjective
危ない、危険 Abunai, Kiken Dangerous i-adjective, na-adjective
真面目 Majime Serious na-adjective
重い Omoi Heavy i-adjective
軽い Karui Light (weight) i-adjective
嫌い Kirai Hate, dislike na-adjective
好き、大好き Suki, Daisuki Like, love na-adjective
愛しい Itoshii Beloved, lovely i-adjective
良い Ii Good i-adjective
甘い Amai Sweet (to the taste, or how someone is treated) i-adjective
まずい Mazui Bad, Bad-tasting i-adjective
美味しい、うまい Oishii, Umai Good-tasting i-adjective
上手、上手い Jyouzu, Umai Skilled na-adjective, i-adjective
強い Tsuyoi Strong i-adjective
弱い Yowai Weak i-adjective
凄い Sugoi Great, awesome, amazing i-adjective
キモイ Kimoi Gross, nasty i-adjective
楽しい Tanoshii Fun i-adjective
忙しい Isogashii Busy i-adjective
Hima Free (like free time) na-adjective

There are two different kinds of adjectives

There are two different kinds of 形容詞 keiyoushi (adjectives) in Japanese: I-Adjectives and Na-Adjectives. In general, I-Adjective words end with an “i”, while Na-Adjectives tend to be nouns that you can add a “na” or “no” to the end of to create an adjective.

The I-adjectives and Na-adjectives both conjugate differently, so it’s important to know which of these two forms you’re using.


I-Adjectives

Let’s start with the I-Adjectives, since they’re pretty basic. Note the “i” at the end of the word. Here’s the grammatical breakdown:

Positive (Present Tense) Negative (Present Tense) Positive (Past Tense) Negative (Past Tense)
高い 高くない 高かった 高くなかった
Takai (expensive, tall) Takaku nai Takakatta Takaku nakatta

To make it negative: Drop the “i”, add “ku”, then add “nai” (nai = negative)

To make it past tense: Drop the “i” and add “katta”

To make it negative past tense: Drop the “i”, add “ku”, then add “nakatta” (AKA past tense of “nai”)

Let’s try out some phrases using these vocabs:

  • この (Kono) = this (followed with the noun)
  • ゲーム (Geemu) = game
  • 全然 (Zenzen) = not at all

(Note Nooooote: “Sentence Ending Particles” explanation to come for those who find it hard to spot the difference between the “ne“s and “na“s and “yo“s.)

Positive (Present Tense) Negative (Present Tense) Positive (Past Tense) Negative (Past Tense)
このゲームは高いね… このゲームは全然高くないね! このゲーム、高かったー! このゲームは高くなかったよ。
Kono geemu wa takai ne… Kono geemu wa zenzen takaku nai ne! Kono geemu taka katta-! Kono geemu wa takaku nakatta yo.
This game is expensive… This game isn’t expensive at all! This game was sooo expensive! This game wasn’t expensive.

Na-Adjectives

Na-Adjectives have more variety in how you can use them, considering they start off as nouns that you can add a “na” or “no” to the end of to magically create an adjective.

Positive (Present Tense) Negative (Present Tense) Positive (Past Tense) Negative (Past Tense)
元気な 元気じゃない・元気ではない 元気だった 元気じゃなかった・元気ではなかった
Genki na Genki jyanai / Genki dewanai Genki datta Genki jyanakatta / Genki dewa nakatta

To make it negative: Add “jyanai” or “dewa nai” to the end

To make it past tense: Add “datta” to the end or “deshita” (for formal speech)

To make it negative past tense: Add “jya” or “dewa”, then “nakatta” (remember, “nakatta” = past tense of “nai”)

Let’s try making sentences with these vocabs:

  • Inu = Dog
  • Watashi = I, me
  • Kare = He
  • なんか Nanka = Like (“things like”, “something like”, “so”… You know how us Westerners always say “Like”? That’s nanka.)
Positive (Present Tense) Negative (Present Tense) Positive (Past Tense) Negative (Past Tense)
元気な犬だね! なんか、元気じゃないね… 私は元気だったよ。 彼は元気じゃなかったんだね…
Genki na inu dane! Nanka, genki jyanai ne… Genki datta yo. Kare ha genki jyanakattan dane…
What a lively doggo! Are you not feeling well? I felt fine. Oh, he wasn’t feeling well…

More wakamono twists

Now I’m going to add some twists on Japanese adjectives to make you sound a little more fluent (or more specifically, like a wakamono).


For sounding like a male wakamono

If you want to sound guy-ish when using I-Adjectives, just change the “ai”, “oi”, or “ii” sound to an “ee” sound.

EXAMPLES for “AI”, “OI”, and “II” ending sounding adjectives:

やばい Yabai = やべー Yabee (Spoiler! Explanation of yabai below!)

おそい Osoi = おせー Osee

かわいい Kawaii = かわぇーKawaee

If it ends in “ui”, keep the “u” and just add an “ee” after it.

EXAMPLES for “UI” ending sounding adjectives:

やすい Yasui = やすぇーYasuee

Another note for sounding male-ish is if the ending sound has a “yai”, “yui”, or “yoi” ending, drop the ending starting with “y” and just add the “ee” sound.

はやい Hayai = はぇー Haee

かゆい Kayui = かぇー Kaee

つよい Tsuyoi = つえー Tsuee


For emphasis

If you want to add emphasis to your adjectives, drop the “i”, then shorten the middle of the word by using a small “tsu” (っ).

Quick reminder: The small “tsu” creates a short pause in the word, instead of actually making a “tsu” sound.

EXAMPLES:

たかい Takai = たっか! Takka!

いたい Itai = いった! Itta!

くさい Kusai = くっさ! Kussa!


Every Japanese teenager’s favorite adjective: YABAI

「それやばい!」

“Sore yabai!”

「えっ、これやばいんだけど!」

“Eh, Kore YABAI n dakedo!”

「やべーな!」

“YabbEE na!”

「やばいね!」

“Yabai ne!”

「あの映画やばかったけど!」

“Ano eiga yabakatta kedo!”

The ways in which you can use yabai is literally countless. In short, I would translate it to how we, in the US, use “crazy”.

Crazy can have good meanings. Crazy can have bad meanings. You can use it to describe pretty much any person, place, or thing (depending on your point-of-view). You can pretty much use it anywhere, and because of that, it has kind of sort of lost any sense of meaning, so that when you say “That was crazy,” I literally don’t even know what you mean unless I can see your face directly. Because with words alone, it’s futile to understand.

That’s yabai.

Back in the day, yabai only had a negative meaning, like “not good” kind of meaning. But as times change, so do words, and now it’s mostly used by younger crowds. And it’s used to describe pretty much anything under the sun.

Another interesting factoid is that yabai is used all throughout Japan. Which might not sound that fantastic, considering Japan is a small island country. But despite its size, Japan is a country with a LOT of dialects. Where all the variation we see of English here in the US is a “Southern accent vs Vanilla”, or “soda vs pop” argument, Japanese is a language that’s very rich in local history and dialects, where entire words, phrases, vocal pitch, and accent change depending on the area of Japan.

You might think this is mostly old-school, and you’d be right for the most part, since Japanese language started using the Tokyo dialect as standard. That’s the only one they use in your textbooks, most likely (I’ve never seen a Japanese textbook that teaches other dialects). But even today, locals of a village, in say, upper Hokkaido might not even be understood by a native Japanese speaker from, say, Osaka.

But yabai, they’ll more than likely understand.

Exercise caution when using yabai with older folks. But to be fair, it might impress a few.

Yabai is an I-Adjective, so you can use it just like I’ve shown you how before. Only this time, let’s translate.

Vocab:

  • それ Sore = that (opposite side of speaker)
  • これ Kore = this (in front of speaker)
  • あの Ano = That (followed by noun)
  • 映画 Eiga = movie
Yabai examples from above EXPLAINED:
それやばい! えっ、これやばいんだけど! やべーな! やばいね! あの映画やばかったけど!
Sore yabai! Eh, Kore YABAI n dakedo! YabbEE na!” Yabai ne! Ano eiga yabakatta kedo!
That’s crazy! Bro, that’s intense!” (like crazy) OMG!” (masculine) OMG! That movie was crazy!”
(could have negative implications)

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