Along with the accompanying audio, practice each line aloud and keep adding one line at a time until you memorize the entire dialogue.
Mr. Smith and Ms. Honda, new employees, are talking about a project report.
Smith：Wakarimasu ka. Do you understand it?
Honda：Iie, amari wakarimasen nee. No, I don’t understand very well.
Smith：Wakarimasen ka. You don’t?
Additional related words, which do not appear in the dialogue, are marked with +. They are included in the drills and exercises.
wakarimasu わかります understand
ka か question particle
amari あまり (not) very much
wakarimasen わかりません don’t understand
nee ねえ particle indicating empathy
ee ええ yes, that’s right
＋zenzen ぜんぜん 全然 not at all (with negative verb)
＋yoku よく well, a lot, often
＋tokidoki ときどき 時々 sometimes
＋shimasu します do, play
＋tabemasu たべます 食べます eat
＋nomimasu のみます 飲みます drink
＋tsukurimasu つくります 作ります make
＋norimasu のります 乗ります ride, get on
Verbs, Non-Past, Form, Affirmative and Negative
Verbs occur at the end of a sentence in Japanese. A lone verb can comprise a complete sentence. Unlike English, where a subject is required, the subject and object 2 are usually not mentioned in Japanese if they are understood from the context. So, in the dialogue above, Mr. Smith simply says Wakarimasu ka in order to find out if a coworker understands the report. He does not mention ‘you’ or ‘the report’, which are obvious from the context.
A Japanese verb ends in -masu (Affirmative, Non-Past, Formal) and –masen (Negative, Non-Past, Formal) as well as other forms, which will be introduced later. Non-past refers to an act that is performed regularly or will be performed in the future. It does NOT refer to an act that is currently being performed.
Formal refers to speaking courteously. This form is used typically when speaking to superiors, people you meet for the first time, or strangers. It is a safer form to use when learners first start speaking Japanese.
Hai and Iie: Affirming and Negating
Hai means ‘what you said is right’ regardless of whether the sentence is affirmative or negative. Ee is a less formal than hai.
Wakarimasu ka. Do you get [it]?
- Hai, wakarimasu. Yes, I do.
Wakarimasen ka. You don’t get [it]?
- Ee, sumimasen. That’s right. I’m sorry.
Iie means ‘what you said is incorrect’ regardless of whether the sentence is affirmative or negative. Iya is less formal than iie.
Wakarimasu ka. Do you get [it]?
- Iie, wakarimasen. No, I don’t.
Wakarimasen ne. You don’t get [it], right?
- Iya, wakarimasu yo. No, (that’s wrong) I do get it.
Sentence Particles Ka and Ne(e)
Sentence particles such as ka and ne(e) attach to a sentence. Ka is a question marker.
Tabemasu. I eat it.
Tabemasu ka. Do you eat it?
Ne(e) with falling intonation indicates that you assume the addressee shares your feelings. It helps create the culturally important impression that you and the addressee share the same feeling or opinion. When used with a question intonation, you are checking if your assumption is in fact correct.
Yoku nomimasu nee. You drink a lot, don’t you!
Wakarimasen nee. We don’t know, do we.
Tabemasen ne? You don’t eat it, right?
Adverbs appear before the verb in a Japanese sentence and indicate how much, how often, or in what manner something happens. Amari and zenzen combine with a negative and indicate the degree to which something happens. (Zenzen combined with an affirmative indicates an unexpected degree in colloquial Japanese)
Amari tabemasen. I don’t eat it very much.
Zenzen hanashimasen. I do not speak it at all.
Yoku means ‘well, a lot, or frequently’ depending on the context.
Yoku wakarimasu. I understand well.
Yoku kaimasu. I buy it a lot/often.