LearnJapanese Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese





Compound Sentences

Posted by Tae Kim

In this section, we will learn various ways to combine multiple simple sentences into one complex sentence. For example, we will learn how to chain separate sentences together to express multiple actions or states. In other words, if we have two simple sentences with the same subject, "I ran" and "I ate", we will learn how to group them together to mean, "I ran and ate." We will also learn how to do this with adjectives and nouns. (Ex: He is rich, handsome, and charming.)

Expressing a sequence of states

Vocabulary

  1. 一般的 【いっ・ぱん・てき】 - in general
  2. 静か 【しず・か】 (na-adj) - quiet
  3. 狭い 【せま・い】 (i-adj) - narrow
  4. 彼女 【かの・じょ】 - she; girlfriend
  5. いい (i-adj) - good
  6. 私 【わたし】 - me; myself; I
  7. 部屋 【へ・や】 - room
  8. きれい (na-adj) - pretty; clean
  9. とても - very
  10. 好き 【す・き】 (na-adj) - likable; desirable
  11. 学生 【がく・せい】 - student
  12. 先生 【せん・せい】 - teacher
  13. 田中 【た・なか】 - Tanaka (last name)
  14. お金持ち 【お・かね・も・ち】 - rich
  15. かっこいい (i-adj) - cool; handsome
  16. 魅力的 【み・りょく・てき】 - charming

It is very easy to combine a chain of nouns and adjectives to describe a person or object. For example, in English if we wanted to say, "He is X. He is Y. He is Z." since all three sentences have the same noun, we would usually say, "He is X, Y, and Z." In Japanese, we can do the same thing by conjugating the noun or adjective. The last noun or adjective remains the same as before.

How to chain nouns and adjectives together
  • For nouns and na-adjectives: Attach 「で」 to the noun or na-adjective.
    Examples
    1. 一般的一般的
    2. 静か静か
  • For i-adjectives and negative noun/adjectives: Replace the 「い」 with 「くて」.
    ※For 「いい」 and 「かっこいい」, the 「い→よ」 exception applies here as well.
    Examples
    1. くて
    2. 彼女じゃな彼女じゃなくて
    3. いいよくて

Examples

  1. 部屋は、きれい静かとても好き
    My room is clean, quiet, and I like it a lot.
  2. 彼女は、学生じゃなくて先生だ。
    She is not a student, she is a teacher.
  3. 田中さんは、お金持ちかっこよくて魅力的ですね。
    Tanaka-san is rich, handsome, and charming, isn't he?

As you can see, the 「で」 attached to 「お金持ち」 obviously cannot be the context particle 「で」 here because there is no verb. It might be helpful to think of 「で」 as merely a substitution for 「だ」 that can be chained together.

Expressing a sequence of verbs with the te-form

Vocabulary

  1. 学生 【がく・せい】 - student
  2. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) - to buy
  3. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  4. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  5. する (exception) - to do
  6. 遊ぶ 【あそ・ぶ】 (u-verb) - to play
  7. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) - to drink
  8. 食堂 【しょく・どう】 - cafeteria
  9. 昼ご飯 【ひる・ご・はん】 - lunch
  10. 昼寝 【ひる・ね】 - afternoon nap
  11. 時間 【じ・かん】 - time
  12. ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)
  13. 映画 【えい・が】 - movie
  14. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) - to see

In a similar fashion, you can express multiple actions. It is usually interpreted as a sequence of event. (I did [X], then I did [Y], then I finally did [Z].) There are two forms: positive and negative. The tense of all the actions is determined by the tense of the last verb.

How to chain verbs together
  • Positive: Conjugate the verb to its past tense and replace 「た」 with 「て」 or 「だ」 with 「で」. This is often called the te-form even though it could sometimes be 'de'.
  • Negative: Same as i-adjectives, replace 「い」 with 「くて」.
    This rule also works for the polite 「です」 and 「ます」 endings.
    Examples
    1. 学生学生でし学生でし
    2. 買いま買いま買いまし

Sample conjugations
Past Tense Te-form
食べ 食べ
行っ 行っ
遊ん 遊ん
飲ん 飲ん
      
Negative Te-form
食べな 食べなくて
行かな 行かなくて
しな しなくて
遊ばな 遊ばなくて
飲まな 飲まなくて

Examples

  1. 食堂行って昼ご飯食べて昼寝する
    I will go to cafeteria, eat lunch, and take a nap.
  2. 食堂行って昼ご飯食べて昼寝した
    I went to cafeteria, ate lunch, and took a nap.
  3. 時間ありまして映画見ました
    There was time and I watched a movie.

Expressing reason or causation using 「から」 and 「ので」

Vocabulary

  1. 時間 【じ・かん】 - time
  2. ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)
  3. パーティー - party
  4. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  5. 友達 【とも・だち】 - friend
  6. プレゼント - present
  7. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) - to come
  8. 田中 【た・なか】 - Tanaka (last name)
  9. どうして - why
  10. 山田 【や・まだ】 - Yamada (last name)
  11. 一郎 【いち・ろう】 - Ichirou (first name)
  12. 直子 【なお・こ】 - Naoko (first name)
  13. ちょっと - a little
  14. 忙しい 【いそが・しい】 (i-adj) - busy
  15. そろそろ - gradually; soon
  16. 失礼 【しつ・れい】 - discourtesy
  17. する (exception) - to do
  18. 学生 【がく・せい】 - student
  19. お金 【お・かね】 - money
  20. ここ - here
  21. 静か 【しず・か】 (na-adj) - quiet
  22. とても - very
  23. 穏やか 【おだ・やか】 (na-adj) - calm, peaceful
  24. 会う 【あ・う】 (u-verb) - to meet

You can connect two complete sentences using 「から」 to indicate a reason for something. The two sentences are always ordered [reason] から [result]. When the reason is a non-conjugated noun or na-adjective, you must add 「だ」 to explicitly declare the reason in the form of 「(noun/na-adjective)から」. If you forget to add the declarative 「だ」 to 「から」, it will end up sounding like the 「から」 meaning "from" which was first introduced in the section on particles, earlier.

Examples

  1. 時間なかったからパーティーに行きませんでした
    There was no time so didn't go to party.
  2. 友達からプレゼント来た
    Present came from friend.
  3. 友達だからプレゼント来た
    Present came because (the person is) friend. (This sentence sounds a bit odd.)

Either the reason or the result can be omitted if it is clear from the context. In the case of polite speech, you would treat 「から」 just like a regular noun and add 「です」.

Example 1

田中さん:どうしてパーティー行きませんでしたか
Tanaka-san: Why didn't you go to the party?

山田さん:時間なかったからです。
Yamada-san: It's because I didn't have time.

Example 2

一郎パーティー行かなかったの?
Ichiro: You didn't go to the party?

直子:うん、時間なかったから
Naoko: Yeah, because I didn't have time.

Example 3

When you omit the reason, you must include the declarative 「だ」 or 「です」.

直子時間なかった
Naoko: I didn't have time.

一郎だからパーティー行かなかったの?
Ichiro: Is that why you didn't go to the party?

Notice that we could have also used the explanatory 「の」 to express the same thing. In other words, 山田さん could have also said, 「時間なかったのです」 or 「時間なかったんです」 while 直子 could have said 「時間なかったの」 (we'll assume she wants to use the more feminine form). In fact, this is where 「ので」 possibly came from. Let's say you want to combine two sentences: 「時間なかったのだ」 and 「パーティー行かなかった」. Remember we can treat the 「の」 just like a noun so we can use what we just learned in the first section of this lesson.

時間なかったのだ+パーティー行かなかった
becomes:
時間なかったのでパーティー行かなかった

In fact, 「ので」 is almost interchangeable with 「から」 with a few subtle differences. 「から」 explicitly states that the sentence preceding is the reason for something while 「ので」 is merely putting two sentences together, the first with an explanatory tone. This is something I call causation where [X] happened, therefore [Y] happened. This is slightly different from 「から」 where [Y] happened explicitly because [X] happened. This difference tends to make 「ので」 sound softer and slightly more polite and it is favored over 「から」 when explaining a reason for doing something that is considered discourteous.

  • ちょっと忙しいのでそろそろ失礼します
    Because I'm a little busy, I'll be making my leave soon.

(「失礼します」, which literally means "I'm doing a discourtesy", is commonly used as a polite way to make your leave or disturb someone's time.)

Reminder: Don't forget that the explanatory 「の」 requires a 「な」 for both non-conjugated nouns and na-adjectives. Review Particles 3 to see why.

  1. 学生ので、お金ないんです。
    Because I'm a student, I have no money (lit: there is no money).
  2. ここ静かので、とても穏やかです。
    It is very calm here because it is quiet.
  3. ので、友達会う時間ない
    That's why there's no time to meet friend.

Just like how the explanatory 「の」 can be shortened to 「ん」, in speech, the 「ので」 can be changed to 「んで」 simply because it's easier to slur the sounds together rather than pronouncing the / o / syllable.

  1. 時間なかったんでパーティー行かなかった
    Didn't go to the party because there was no time.
  2. ここ静かんでとても穏やかです。
    It is very calm here because it is quiet.
  3. なんで友達会う時間ない
    That's why there's no time to meet friend.

Using 「のに」 to mean "despite"

Vocabulary

  1. 毎日 【まい・にち】 - everyday
  2. 運動 【うん・どう】 - exercise
  3. する (exception) - to do
  4. 全然 【ぜん・ぜん】 - not at all (when used with negative)
  5. 痩せる 【や・せる】 (ru-verb) - to become thin
  6. 学生 【がく・せい】 - student
  7. 彼女 【かの・じょ】 - she; girlfriend
  8. 勉強 【べん・きょう】 - study

Grammatically, 「のに」 is used exactly the same way as 「ので」. When used to combine two simple sentences together, it means "[Sentence 1] despite the fact that [Sentence 2]." However the order is reversed: [Sentence 2]のに[Sentence 1].

Examples

  1. 毎日運動したのに全然痩せなかった
    Despite exercising every day, I didn't get thinner.
  2. 学生のに彼女勉強しない
    Despite being a student, she does not study.

Expressing contradiction using 「が」 and 「けど」

Vocabulary

  1. デパート - department store
  2. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  3. 何 【なに/なん】 - what
  4. 全然 【ぜん・ぜん】 - not at all (when used with negative)
  5. 欲しい 【ほ・しい】 (i-adj) - desirable
  6. 友達 【とも・だち】 - friend
  7. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) - to ask; to listen
  8. 知る 【し・る】 (u-verb) - to know
  9. 今日 【きょう】 - today
  10. 暇 【ひま】 - free (as in not busy)
  11. 明日 【あした】 - tomorrow
  12. 忙しい 【いそが・しい】 (i-adj) - busy
  13. 彼 【かれ】 - he; boyfriend
  14. まだ - yet
  15. 好き 【す・き】 (na-adj) - likable; desirable
  16. いい (i-adj) - good
  17. 物 【もの】 - object
  18. たくさん - a lot (amount)
  19. ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)
  20. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) - to see
  21. 面白い 【おも・しろ・い】(i-adj) - interesting

Used in the same manner as 「から」 and 「ので」, 「が」 and 「けど」 also connect two sentences together but this time to express a contradiction. Just like 「から」 the declarative 「だ」 is required for nouns and na-adjectives. And just like 「から」 and 「ので」, either part of the contradiction can be left out.

Examples

  1. デパート行きました何も欲しくなかったです。
    I went to department store but there was nothing I wanted.
  2. 友達聞いたけど知らなかった
    I asked (or heard from) a friend but he (or I) didn't know.
  3. 今日だけど明日忙しい
    I'm free today but I will be busy tomorrow.
  4. だけどまだ好きなの。
    That may be so, but it is that I still like him. [explanation, feminine tone]

It may seem odd but 「聞く」 can either mean "to listen" or "to ask". You may think this may become confusing but the meaning is usually clear within context. In the second example, we're assuming that the friend didn't know, so the speaker was probably asking the friend. Yet again we see the importance of context in Japanese because this sentence can also mean, "I heard from a friend but I didn't know" since there is neither subject nor topic.

Similar to the difference between 「から」 and 「ので」, 「が」 has a softer tone and is slightly more polite than 「けど」. Though this isn't a rule as such, it is generally common to see 「が」 attached to a 「~ます」 or 「~です」 ending and 「けど」 attached to a regular, plain ending. A more formal version of 「けど」 is 「けれど」 and even more formal is 「けれども」, which we may see later when we cover formal expressions.

Unlike the English word for contradiction such as "but" or "however", 「けど」 and 「が」 do not always express a direct contradiction. Often times, especially when introducing a new topic, it is used as a general connector of two separate sentences. For example, in the following sentences, there is no actual contradiction but 「が」 and 「けど」 are used simply to connect the sentences. Sometimes, the English "and" becomes a closer translation than "but".

  1. デパート行きましたいいたくさんありました
    I went to the department store and there was a lot of good stuff.
  2. マトリックス見たけど面白かった
    I watched the "Matrix" and it was interesting.

Expressing multiple reasons using 「し」

Vocabulary

  1. どうして - why
  2. 友達 【とも・だち】 - friend
  3. 先生 【せん・せい】 - teacher
  4. 年上 【とし・うえ】 - older
  5. 彼 【かれ】 - he; boyfriend
  6. 好き 【す・き】 (na-adj) - likable
  7. 優しい 【やさ・しい】 (i-adj) - gentle; kind
  8. かっこいい (i-adj) - cool; handsome
  9. 面白い 【おも・し・ろい】 (i-adj) - interesting

When you want to list reasons for multiple states or actions you can do so by adding 「し」 to the end of each relative clause. It is very similar to the 「や」 particle except that it lists reasons for verbs and state-of-being. Again, for states of being, 「だ」 must be used to explicitly declare the state-of-being for any non-conjugated noun or na-adjective. Let's look at some examples.

Example 1

A:どうして友達じゃないんですか?
A: Why isn't (he/she) friend [seeking explanation]?

B:先生だし年上だし・・・。
B: Well, he's/she's the teacher, and older...

Example 2

A:どうして好きなの?
A: Why (do you) like him?

B:優しいかっこいい面白いから。
B: Because he's kind, attractive, and interesting (among other things).

Notice that 「優しくてかっこよくて面白いから。」 could also have worked but much like the difference between the 「と」 and 「や」 particle, 「し」 implies that there may be other reasons.

Expressing multiple actions or states using 「~たりする」

Vocabulary

  1. する (exception) - to do
  2. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  3. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) - to drink
  4. 簡単 【かん・たん】 (na-adj) - simple
  5. 難しい 【むずか・しい】 (i-adj) - difficult
  6. 映画 【えい・が】 - movie
  7. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) - to see
  8. 本 【ほん】 - book
  9. 読む 【よ・む】 (u-verb) - to read
  10. 昼寝 【ひる・ね】 - afternoon nap
  11. この - this (abbr. of これの)
  12. 大学 【だい・がく】 - college
  13. 授業 【じゅ・ぎょう】 - class

This is the verb version of the 「や」 particle. You can make an example list of verbs among a possible larger list by conjugating each verb into the past tense and adding 「り」. At the end, you need to attach the verb 「する」. Just like the 「や」 particle, the tense is determined by the last verb, which in this case will always be 「する」 (since you have to attach it at the end).

You can also use this with the state-of-being to say that you are a number of things at various random times among a larger list. Similar to regular verbs, you just take the noun or adjective for each state-of-being and conjugate it to the past state-of-being and then attach 「り」. Then finally, attach 「する」 at the end.

Rules for stating a list of verbs among a larger list using 「~たりする」
  • For verbs: Conjugate each verb to the past tense and add 「り」. Finally, add 「する」 at the very end.
    Example
    食べ食べんだ食べた飲んだ食べたり飲んだりする
  • For state-of-being: Conjugate the noun or adjective for each state-of-being to the past tense and add 「り」. Finally, add 「する」 at the very end.
    Example
    簡単難し簡単だった難しかった簡単だった難しかった簡単だったり、難しかったりする
  1. 映画見たり読んだり昼寝したりする。
    I do things like (among other things) watch movies, read books, and take naps.
  2. この大学授業簡単だったり難しかったりする
    Class of this college is sometimes easy, sometimes difficult (and other times something else maybe).

As you can see, the tense and negative/positive state is controlled by the last 「する」.

  1. 映画見たり読んだりした
    I did things like (among other things) watch movies, and read books.
  2. 映画見たり読んだりしない
    I don't do things like (among other things) watch movies, and read books.
  3. 映画見たり読んだりしなかった
    I didn't do things like (among other things) watch movies, and read books.