Up until this point, we've been using only simple sentences, but now you'll learn how to connect sentences using words like "also", "however", "but", and "because".
"Soshite" and "Demo"
Japanese has a wide variety of phrases that show one sentence relates to the last. For lack of a better term, I'm going to call these words sentence-initial conjunctions. Here are two of the most general:
- soshite, equivalent to "also" or "and", which indicates that the speaker is giving additional information related to the previous sentence
- demo, equivalent to "however" or "but, which is used when the speaker is giving information that shows a contrast to the previous sentence
These phrases are very easy to use:
|S1。そして S2。||S1. Soshite S2.||S1. Also, S2.|
|S1。でも S2。||S1. Demo S2.||S1. However, S2.|
The main difference between soshite and demo and their English counterparts is that they are not necessarily followed by a pause (or in writing, a comma).
- このラーメンは おいしいです。そして やすいです。
Kono raamen wa oishii desu. Soshite yasui desu.
This ramen is delicious. Also, it's cheap. (= It's also cheap / It's cheap too)
- あかいドレスは きれいです。でも たかいです。
Akai doresu wa kirei desu. Demo takai desu.
The red dress is pretty. However, it's expensive. (= But, it's expensive)
You could also swap the first and second sentences in these examples, or switch soshite with demo (and vis versa), and get a reasonable result.
It's worth mentioning that "also" and "however" in English are really adverbs, which is why they can show up in various sentence positions. "Too" is an adverb as well, though it always follows the clause that it modifies (more on clauses below).
There are also ways to combine two Japanese sentences into one, just as we do in English, and that is precisely what we're going to do next.
Clauses and Conjunctions
Although I haven't stressed this point up until now, many Japanese particles have "more than one use". Put another way, there are several groups of particles with the same pronunciation but different meanings. Ga, which you learned first as the subject marker, is one of them.
Now, we're going to learn the ga that is a conjunction, a word that links two clauses to make one sentence.
But first, what's a clause? Very simply, it's a phrase (grammatical string of words) that includes a verb and a subject (which might be unpronounced in Japanese).
But that sounds like the definition of a sentence, and here's why – a simple sentence consists of just one clause, but a compound sentence contains two or more clauses linked by conjunctions.
Note: there are actually several types of conjunctions, but the types of conjunctions in English don't line up with the different types in Japanese, so I won't go into them here.
The Conjunction "Ga"
With that cleared up, let's look at how ga, which contrasts two clauses, is used.
|S1 が、S2。||S1 ga, S2.||Although S1, S2.
S1, but S2.
Note: S1, S2, etc. are used to notate clauses as well as sentences.
Here, ga is attached to the first clause, and is generally followed by a short pause (hence the comma). For this reason, it's most similar to "although" in English, since the "although" clause is followed by a pause, but "but" comes after the pause.
Note that the clauses joined by ga should either both have plain endings or both have polite endings (not one of each). Other conjunctions have different rules.
- あかいドレスは きれいですが、たかいです。
Akai doresu wa kirei desu ga, takai desu.
The red dress is pretty, but (it's) expensive.
- このアパートは あたらしいですが、ちいさいです。
Kono no apaato wa atarashii desu ga, chiisai desu.
This apartment is new, but (it's) small.
- いとうさんは しずかなひとですが、しんせつです。
Itou-san wa shizukana hito desu ga, shinsetsu desu.
Ito is a quiet person, but she's kind.
- にほんごは おもしろいですが、かんじは むずかしいです。
Nihongo wa omoshiroi desu ga, kanji wa muzukashii desu.
Japanese is interesting, but kanji are difficult.
This structure is mostly interchangeable with "S1. Demo S2.", The difference is that demo adds contrast to a sentence that would have been neutral if you had stopped at the first period, while ga immediately implies that there is contrastive information to follow.
For this reason, if you're making a simple comment about something ("What do you think of ___?" "It's A but B."), "S1 ga, S2" is generally the better choice.
Also, there's an exception to look out for: ga is sometimes used to link sentences simply for stylistic reasons. In such cases, you can think of it as meaning "and" instead of "but". (The normal way to say "and" in Japanese uses a verb conjugation rather than a particle.) You don't need to be able to use ga this way at the moment, but you should be aware that this use exists.
Often, the clause after the ga is omitted, leaving it up to the listener to fill in the blank. This is often done as a method of indirect communication, in order to appear less confrontational, or when saying something aloud might be arrogant or embarrassing.
- これは まずくないですが。
Kore wa mazukunai desu ga.
This isn't bad, but… (it isn't really good either)
- ちょっと うすさいですが。
Chotto urusai desu ga.
It's a little noisy but… (could you keep it down please?)
"Chotto" means "a little" or "a bit".
Ga is also tacked onto the end of a sentence even when there isn't really any information being implied. This is a more general form of sentence softening, which is also motivated by the speaker not wanting to appear overly direct or forceful. You can imagine the missing second clause as allowing the listener to fill in the speakers apologies, excuses, and so on without them needing to be said aloud. This use is more situation specific, so I won't go into it here.
Here's another easy one, kara, which gives one clause as a reason for another.
|S1 から、S2。||S1 kara, S2.||Because S1, S2.
Since S1, S2.
S1, so S2.
Again, we have multiple conjunctions in English that serve this purpose. (Actually, there are other conjunctions with the same meanings as ga and kara in Japanese as well.) As with ga, though, kara is attached to the clause that precedes it.
You might already be familiar with another kara, which means "from". Because of this, you can think of the conjunction kara as meaning "from the fact that…"
- ちかてつは ちかいですから、べんりです。
Chikatetsu wa chikai desu kara, benri desu.
The subway is close, so it's convenient.
- いま、いそがしいですから、ちょっと まってください。
Ima, isogashii desu kara, chotto matte kudasai.
I'm busy right now, so please wait a bit.
- このテーブルは ふるいですから、そのテーブルより やすいです。
Kono teeburu wa furui desu kara, sono teeburu yori yasui desu.
Since this table is old, it's cheaper than that table.
- すうがくは むずかしいですが、おもしろいですから すきです。
Suugaku wa muzukashii desu ga, omoshiroi desu kara suki desu.
Math is difficult, but it's interesting, so I like it.
Although the subject/topic has been the same in both clauses in most of the compound sentences I've given you, it can just as easily be different in each.
Also, note how in example (4) there's a kara clause embedded in a ga clause. It's also possible to do it the other way around, though perhaps not as common.
One More Sentence-Initial Conjunction
Remember how demo was the sentence-initial equivalent of ga? Well, there's one for kara as well: dakara, meaning "because of that" or "so".
|S1。だから S2。||S1. Dakara S2.||S1. Because of that, S2.
S1. So, S2.
As with soshite and demo, S1 is a simple statement, and dakara adds further information.
In case you're wondering, the "da" in dakara comes from the plain form of the copula. You can also use ですから/desukara, which is more polite.
Sometimes, you'll find the clause with the conjunction attached to it follows the other clause.
|S1。S2 が。||S1. S2 ga.||S1. S2 though.|
|S1。S2 から。||S1. S2 kara.||S1. That's because S2.|
If you compare these structures to demo and dakara, you'll notice that meaning is essentially the opposite.
- わたしのいえは おおきいです。ちょっと ふるいですが。
Watashi no ie wa ookii desu. Chotto furui desu ga.
My house is large. It's a bit old though.
- れきしのクラスが すきです。せんせいがいいですから。
Rekishi no kurasu ga suki desu. Sensei ga ii desu kara.
I like my history class. It's because the teacher is good.
With that, you know enough about conjunctions to last you through the rest of the Beginning Lessons!
- Japanese Verbs