9.1. Dialogue 1


I will explain Japanese grammar using dialogues from now on.

In the first dialogue, a kid named (si)(small yo)(u) "Syô" comes home and he has a tea break with his mother (hi)(ro)(ko) "Hiroko".

(si)(small yo)(u) :(ta)(da)(i)(ma)(period)
Romanization:Tadaima.
Structure:interjection
(I'm back)

It's good manners to say this greeting when you are back. Its literal meaning is "just now", which came from "I came back just now", but its original meaning is not important.

(hi)(ro)(ko) :(o)(ka)(e)(ri)(period) (o)(ya)(tu)(ga)  (a)(ru)(yo)(period)
Romanization:Okaeri.Oyatugaaruyo.
Structure:interjection
(welcome back)
noun
(tea time snack)
nomi-
native
marker
verb
(exist)
opinion
marker

It's good manners to say (o)(ka)(e)(ri) "okaeri" as a reply to the greeting (ta)(da)(i)(ma) "tadaima". To make it polite, you can say (o)(ka)(e)(ri)(na)(sa)(i) "okaerinasai".

Hiroko's second sentence literally means "A tea time snack exists." The verb have is often used to mean something exists in English, such as "We have a tea time snack." in this case. In Japanese, the existential verbs are commonly used.

Also note that the topic marker is not used for the subject, because the whole sentence is new information. Using the topic marker here means the supposed preceding question is whether there is a tea time snack, which seems strange because the boy talks nothing about snack.

(si)(small yo)(u) :(na)(ni)(question)
Romanization:Nani?
Structure:interrogative
noun
(what)

Shô asks what snack his mother has. In English, "What?" often means "What did you say?", but in Japanese it often means "What is it?" The original sentence of it is shown below:

Kana:(ki)(small yo)(u)(no)  (o)(ya)(tu)(ha)  (na)(ni)(question)
Romanization:Kyônooyatuwanani?
Structure:noun
(today)
genitive
marker
(of)
noun
(tea time snack)
topic
marker
interrogative
noun
(what)
Meaning:What is today's tea time snack?

(hi)(ro)(ko) :(ni)(ku)(ma)(n)(period)(na)(ni)(ka)  (no)(mu)(question)
Romanization:Nikuman.Nanikanomu?
Structure:noun
(a Chinese bun
with pork)
noun
(something)
verb
(drink)

Answering only with a noun without any other word is no problem in colloquial Japanese. In her second sentence, the accusative marker (wo) "o" is omitted after the object (na)(ni)(ka) "nanika". Even though Japanese requires case markers after all nouns in a sentence, the topic marker (ha) "wa" and the accusative marker are sometimes omitted in colloquial Japanese.

The word (na)(ni)(ka) obviously came from the interrogative (na)(ni) "nani".

The chart below shows the relationship between the interrogatives and the words for indefinite things:

InterrogativesIndefinite nouns
Thing
(na)(ni)
nani
what
(na)(ni)(ka)
nanika
something
Person
(da)(re)
dare
who
(da)(re)(ka)
dareka
somebody
Time
(i)(tu)
itu
when
(i)(tu)(ka)
ituka
some day
Place
(do)(ko)
doko
where
(do)(ko)(ka)
dokoka
somewhere
Reason
(na)(ze)
naze
why
(na)(ze)(ka)
nazeka
for some reason

The accusative marker after these indefinite nouns is almost always omitted in colloquial Japanese, and they are often omitted in written Japanese too.

(si)(small yo)(u) :(mu)(gi)(ti)(small ya)(ha)  (a)(ru)(question)
Romanization:Mugityawaaru?
Structure:noun
(barley tea)
topic
marker
verb
(exist)

Be sure to use the topic marker for barley tea here. They have talked about something to drink, and the son chooses barley tea as topic.

(hi)(ro)(ko) :(mu)(gi)(ti)(small ya)(ha)  (re)(i)(zo)(u)(ko)(ni)
Romanization:Mugityawareikoni
Structure:noun
(barley tea)
topic
marker
noun
(refrigerator)
dative
marker
(to)

(continued)(a)(ru)(yo)(period)
Romanization:aruyo.
Structure:verb
(exist)
opinion
marker

When you say the location of a thing, use the dative case marker (ni) "ni". The function of the dative marker will be explained in detail later. Since you can change word order quite freely in Japanese, the following two sentences are semantically the same.

Kana:(ki)(ga)  (ni)(wa)(ni)  (a)(ru)(period)
Romanization:Kiganiwaniaru.
Structure:noun
(tree)
nomi-
native
marker
noun
(yard)
dative
marker
(to)
verb
(exist)

Kana:(ni)(wa)(ni)  (ki)(ga)  (a)(ru)(period)
Romanization:Niwanikigaaru.
Structure:noun
(yard)
dative
marker
(to)
noun
(tree)
nomi-
native
marker
verb
(exist)

Both of them means that there is a tree in a yard. If you use the topic marker for them, the difference becomes clear.

Kana:(ki)(ha)  (ni)(wa)(ni)  (a)(ru)(period)
Romanization:Kiwaniwaniaru.
Structure:noun
(tree)
topic
marker
noun
(yard)
dative
marker
(to)
verb
(exist)
Meaning:The tree is in a yard.

Kana:(ni)(wa)(ni)(ha)  (ki)(ga)  (a)(ru)(period)
Romanization:Niwaniwakigaaru.
Structure:noun
(yard)
dative
marker
(to)
topic
marker
noun
(tree)
nomi-
native
marker
verb
(exist)
Meaning:The yard has a tree.

Remember the topic marker overrides the nominative marker.

As I have explained, the existential verb (a)(ru) "aru" ((i)(ru) "iru" for animates) is commonly used for existence in Japanese, while both be and have are used in English. The following sentence is helpful to understand more clearly:

Kana:(ka)(re)(ni)(ha)  (a)(ne)(ga)  (i)(ru)(period)
Romanization:Kareniwaanegairu.
Structure:noun
(he)
dative
marker
(to)
topic
marker
noun
(elder sister)
nomi-
native
marker
verb
(exist)
Meaning:He has an elder sister.

Now, let's get back to the conversation.

(si)(small yo)(u) :(wa)(ka)(small tu)(ta)(period)(ka)(a)(sa)(n)(mo)  (no)(mu)(question)
Romanization:Wakatta.sanmonomu?
Structure:verb
(understood)
noun
(mom)
addition
marker
(also)
verb
(drink)

The first sentence is the same as "I see." and "I understand." in English.

The addition marker (mo) "mo" is the second information marker we learn. (The first one is the topic marker (ha) "wa".) It is equivalent to too and also in English. A sentence with the addition marker is parallel to something that has been already talked about. The Japanese addition marker is more precise than the English one, and you have to distinguish the following sentences.

Kana:(wa)(ta)(si)(mo)  (o)(ti)(small ya)(wo)  (no)(mu)(period)
Romanization:Watasimootyaonomu.
Structure:noun
(I)
addition
marker
(also)
noun
(green tea)
accu-
sative
marker
verb
(drink)

Kana:(wa)(ta)(si)(ha)  (o)(ti)(small ya)(mo)  (no)(mu)(period)
Romanization:Watasiwaotyamonomu.
Structure:noun
(I)
topic
marker
noun
(green tea)
addition
marker
(also)
verb
(drink)

The addition marker overrides the nominative marker and the accusative marker, like the topic marker does. The topic marker is not used when the addition marker is used. Both of the sentences mean "I drink green tea too", but what is added is different. The upper sentence means "(You drink grean tea and) I drink it too", in short "Me too", while the lower means "(I drink coffee and) I drink green tea too", in short "Green tea too".

In the dialogue, Shô is about to drink barley tea, and he asks whether his mother also drinks the tea. So you need the addition marker after the word for mom.

Also remember that pronouns for the addressee are not commonly used in Japanese, and using names or calling words such as mom are often used.

(hi)(ro)(ko) :(u)(n)(period)
Romanization:Un.
Structure:interjection
(yeah)

Then he comes back with two cups of barley tea and says the following greeting:

(si)(small yo)(u) :(i)(ta)(da)(ki)(ma)(su)(period)
Romanization:Itadakimasu.
Structure:interjection
(I begin to eat)

The greetings chapter explains this phrase.

Now we have finished the first dialogue. All the sentences are shown below again.

(si)(small yo)(u) : (ta)(da)(i)(ma)(period) (hi)(ro)(ko) : (o)(ka)(e)(ri)(period)(o)(ya)(tu)(ga)   (a)(ru)(yo)(period)
(si)(small yo)(u) : (na)(ni)(question)
(hi)(ro)(ko) : (ni)(ku)(ma)(n)(period)(na)(ni)(ka)   (no)(mu)(question)
(si)(small yo)(u) : (mu)(gi)(ti)(small ya)(ha)   (a)(ru)(question)
(hi)(ro)(ko) : (mu)(gi)(ti)(small ya)(ha)   (re)(i)(zo)(u)(ko)(ni)   (a)(ru)(yo)(period)
(si)(small yo)(u) : (wa)(ka)(small tu)(ta)(period)(ka)(a)(sa)(n)(mo)   (no)(mu)(question)
(hi)(ro)(ko) : (u)(n)(period)
(si)(small yo)(u) : (i)(ta)(da)(ki)(ma)(su)(period)


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