Ms. Tanaka, the project leader, talks to her team members using the informal style while the members maintain the formal style.
Tanaka：誕生日 たんじょうび はいつ? Tanjoubi wa itsu? When is your birthday?
Emily：四月一日 しがつついたち です。 Shigatsu tsuitachi desu. It’s April 1st.
Tanaka：何年 なんねん 生 う まれ？ Nan-nen umare? What year were you born?
Emily：1996年 ねん です。 Sen-kyuu-hyaku-kyuujuu-roku-nen desu. 1996.
Tanaka：ということは、平成 へいせい 8年 ねん ね。 To iu koto wa Heisei hachi-nen ne. That means Heisei 8, right?
• • • •
Tanaka：何歳 なんさい ？ Nan-sai? How old are you?
Michael: 二十歳 はたち です。 Hatachi desu. I’m twenty years old.
Tanaka ：へえ。若 わか いわねえ。 Hee, wakai wa nee. Wow! So young.
Tanjoubi たんじょうび 誕生日 birthday
＋Tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu
誕生日おめでとうございます Happy birthday.
〜nen 〜ねん 年 year(s)
nan-nen なんねん 何年 what year?
nan-nen umare なんねんうまれ 何年生まれ what year were you born?
＋umaremasu うまれます 生まれます be born
to iu koto wa ということは in another words
heisei へいせい 平成 Heisei Era
hachi-nen はちねん 八年 year 8
~sai 〜さい 〜歳、〜才 classifier for human age
nan-sai なんさい 何歳、何才 how old
hatachi はたち 二十歳 twenty years old
wakai わかい 若い young
＋toshi とし 年 year(s), age
＋nenrei ねんれい 年齢 age (formal)
＋toshi ue としうえ 年上 older
＋toshi shita としした 年下 younger
Naming and Counting Months and Years
The naming classifier for months is 〜gatsu 月 がつ 、and when naming dates, the month proceeds the day. The counting classifier is 〜kagetsu ヶ月 かげつ . It is conventionally written with the small katakana ヶ. Note the sound change /ka/ /kka/ with 1, 6, 8, and 10
The classifier for naming and counting years is 〜nen 年 ねん , but 〜nenkan 年間 ねんかん is often used for counting to avoid confusion. The question word is nan-nen 何年 なんねん ‘what year/how many years’ or nan-nenkan 何 なん 年間 ねんかん ‘how many years?’ So, 15 nen can mean either 15 years or the year 2015/Heisei 15 depending on the context. The existence or non-existence of the particle ni and/or the kind of approximation expression that is used with it, goro or gurai, tells you if it’s the naming expression or counting expression. Compare the following:
五年 ごねん に行い きました．Go-nen ni ikimashita. I went there in the year 5.
五年、行きました。Go-nen ikimashita. I went there for five years.
五年ごろ行きました．Go-nen-goro ikimashita. I went there around the year 5.
五年ぐらい行きました.Go-nen-gurai ikimashita. I went there for about 5 years.
Counting age: ~sai for people and animals, ~nen for others
~sai 才 is used to express the age of people and animals while 〜nen 年 is used to express the age of inanimate things. Note the sound change of /sai/ /ssai/ with the numbers 1, 8, and 10. People’s age are also expressed by the classifier ~tsu, and hatachi is the special form of this series for a twenty year old. To ask how old someone is you can use one of the following. The last one is polite.
何歳ですか。 Nan-sai desu ka.
(年は)いくつですか (Toshi wa) ikutsu desu ka.
(お年は)おいくつですか。 (Otoshi wa) oikutsu desu ka. (Polite)
Babies that are less than one year old are counted by days, weeks and months.
It’s often pointed out that Japanese society is very much age conscious. Age determines
many things including interpersonal relationships. Even just one year of difference in age
usually results in seniority status and affects how people talk to each other. Therefore it is
not uncommon to ask someone’s age when meeting him/her for the first time. When you
ask any personal questions, it’s safer to first say shitsurei desu kedo ‘It’s rude of me to
ask this, but…’
There are two systems of naming years in Japan. In addition to the western calendar (西暦 せいれき ), Japan uses its own calendar (元号 げんごう 、和暦 われき )． The latter is often used in official documents. The Japanese year designations are based on the year of the reign of the emperors. When one emperor dies and a new emperor ascends to the throne, a new period or era starts. The first year of a period is called gan-nen 元年 がんねん . The years are named and counted with the Chinese numbers plus 〜nen. The most recent periods include:
Meiji 明治 めいじ 1868-1912
Taisho 大 正 たいしょう 1912-1926
Showa 昭和 しょうわ 1926-1989
Heisei 平成 へいせい 1989-present
Informal Style: Noun Sentence and Adjective Sentence
All Japanese sentences take either the formal style or informal style. ~masu, ~desu, and their variants (negative forms and past forms) all designate that the sentence is in the formal style. The formal style is typically used when talking to someone who is not very close to the speaker and some formality is expected. We covered this style first in this textbook because it is socially less risky to use.
In this lesson, we introduce the informal style, which is typically used when speaking to those close to you such as friends, family, children and yourself, in casual settings. We start with the noun sentences and adjective sentences here, and the verb sentences in the next lesson. Please note the following:
For Adjective sentences, you just drop ~desu/~deshita to make the informal style.
For Noun sentences, you can replace ~desu with ~da and ~deshita with ~datta.
However, the ~da in the sentence final position is often dropped.
The question particle ka is usually dropped and replaced by a rising intonation while
other sentence particles such as yo, ne, nee, ka nee, etc. remain.
It can be challenging for learners to figure out the right speech style for a given
situation. Styles are chosen to indicate the right distance between speakers.
However, distance can change even within a course of conversation, between the
same pair of speakers. Each shift carries some linguistic and social meaning.