Supplements to Tae Kim's Guide to Japanese

The common view on Tae Kim's guide is it's really great for beginners due to how terse, concise, and easy to follow everything. It is hailed as one of the best starter free resources for learning Japanese grammar. More than a few explanations can be questionable or out-right wrong, I still think Tae Kim's guide indeed nail the balance on simplicity and covered scope.

The goal of the first section is to an attempt to disambiguate how to mark subject and object. The part following trying to disambiguate は and が is. This list of grammar points is tailored for intermediate (or more experienced) learners.

Table of Contents
(Coming soon)

(Last Updated 7 September, 2017)
Below is a list of important supplements to what the guide is missing. Keep in mind that the line of between
what counts as vocabulary and what as grammar is blurry.

This FAQ by sci.lang.japan is incredibly very useful for filling out fringe knowledge. A collection of research in Japanese that's fairly useful. Both list their references.

Grammar terms explanation: A relative clause in Japanese typically refers to when a sub-sentence (clause) is used as an adjective, and the verbs arguments are typically omitted as they can be inferred. For example the section in brackets: [りんごが食べたい]人が現れた. Grammatical case is primarly used to refer to marking the nouns that a verb will reference. For example, "I went there" has two arguments in English: "I" marks the subject (nominative case) and "there" marks the direct object (accusative case). Inflection is another way of saying verb conjugation, you can say adjectives and nouns inflect, whereas you would only use conjugation for verbs.

Brackets are used for personal notes or things to add or parenthetical references (see bottom for list of references they refer to).

On Marking Case: Subjects and Objects

は vs が

  • One line explanation: は places focus on predicate (on the description). が places focus on the noun.
  • は is a semantic marking only; it never marks case. [Rubin 38] It both distinguishes topic from other topics and provides emphasis. [Rubin 33] Two main uses: topic marker, constrastive use.
  • が has three main syntactic uses: subject marker, object marker, conjunctive "but". が has two semantic uses, neutral and exhuasitive listing.
  • When added to が-marked and を-marked nouns, it deletes them を and が. [Kasier et al. 340]
    • ✘~がは~をは → ✔~は~は. [See conditional section for example]
    • While it can look like, and often is mistaken for, replacing case-marking particles を and commonly が, it does not actually mark case
  • What one should really consider is skipped-particle, は or が. One must take into preceeding question. [Rubin 32–33]
    • どうしましたか→行きまた。
    • そして、やまむるさんは。どうしましたか→私は行きました。
    • だれが行きましたか→私が行きました。
  • は vs が and another explanation. More on は.
  • Emphasize the use of は as a conversational topic linker and show how this leads to ambigious sentences (that are assumed to have meaning). Eg. 夜空は何でも知っているの?"Does the night sky know everything/anything?" or much less likely "Do you know anything about the night sky?"

    Overview of Marking Grammatical Case

    This section is an attempt to summarise the upcoming breakdown of words. There are generally two types of patterns which inflectable words (verbs, na-adj, and i-adj) can adopt case. Typically, が marks subject, を marks object, に marks indirect object but is also used for non-case-marking purposes (eg. adverbs).

    Additionally, も and は can attach after these case-marking particles (namely が、を, and に); が and を will be deleted (✔にも→✔にも, ✗がは→✔は) so always keep that in the back of your mind. は can exist separetly as a topic marker, ie. double-は sentences.
    1. が subject, に indirect object
      • Intrasitive verbs 
        • Movement words can use a special type of を
      • Transitive verbs, を-marking direct object
      • Passives verbs
        • Intrasitive passive is abrasive
        • Transitive passive is
        • Resultative acts like a regular
      • Intranstive adjectives (most adjectives)
    2. が・を marking object. A-second-が・に・other mark agent (doer of the verb).
      • There's no good way to summerise adjectives.
      • In double-が cases, が for agent marking is secondary.

      • Transitive Adjectives (二項述語) and Deseratives
      • Potential, に can also mark agent
      • Resultative
    The difference is that it's more difficult to traditionally mark the subject in most of the verb cases and in modern Japanese ~は~が is the typical way to denote agent-object respectively (deleting the が). In general, using を over が for marking the object to avoid double-が is becoming more acceptable in modern speech and perhaps in modern Tokyo dialect. However there are many cases for adjectives.

    General Forms (Verbs, na-adj, i-adj): 

    • は、も may replace other verb arguments. [Look for cite] が and を are deleted by は [Kasier et al. 340] and も. [Look for cite]
    • Only accepts only arguments (intrasitive). Prototypical form: 「~が○」
      • Most adjectives are this.
      • に can sometimes market the agent (the do-er). But do take note of に's other uses.
        Eg. 「~には~が分かる」「~に~が」「~」
        [Both に and は alone are possible, would like good explanation]
    • Accepts two+ arguments (transitive etc.). Prototypical form: 「~が~を○」
    • の as a subject marker in relative clauses. Sounds more literary.
    • There are two を's, so you can use を with intransitive verbs, but you can only use を per verb in a clause.  Using を with motion intransitive verbs. Compare with で that indicates place without implicating through or the route. Some examples. [Maybe useful paper?]
    • に、と、へ、etc. may also verb arguments (grammatical case) or serve other unrelated functions

    Passive (-areru, ~れる・~られる) and Resultative (~てある)

    • The original (indicative) を-marked object now uses が (and old subject is now the agent marked with に).
    • Regular passive 直接受動. 「~が◯」 for transitive or 「~が~に◯」  for intransitive.
      が marks patient (thing verb is done to) and に the agent (doer).
      「~が~に◯」 is the prototypical order for transitive passives.

      Eg. AがBを殴る → BがAに殴られる.
    • 間接受動 (the Japanese passive? Indirect passive doesn't work since used up later on). Also known as the adversive/adversative passive or suffering passive. JGram
      • Often, but not always, implies being negatively affected (adversely).
      • Intransitive, 「XがYに◯」.
        • Patient X, agent Y
        • X is directly affect by action of Y typically adversely [Kasier et al. 389]
      • Transitive, 「XがYにZを◯」
        • Patient X, agent Y
        • Indirect passive: If Z belongs to X, typically implies X affected adversely. [Kasier et al. 387]
        • Direct passive: If Z does not belong X (no adversity). Z (を) marks the object of the verb [Kasier et al. 387]
      • [It's very weird that Kaiser et al. calls these indirect/direct considering the Japanese names, have to check on this] 
    • Non-passive use of passive conjugation
      • Passive Honorifics (軽い敬語)
        • が (or は) marks subject [Kasier et al. 390] [or も?]
        • を、に、(or は<も) can mark arguments like normal
      • Spontaneous passive (自発), with verbs of feeling, expectation etc. [Need better link] [Kasier et al. 389] 
    • Resultative (~てある) only works with transitive verbs. が、を (or は) can mark the object of the original transitive verb [Kasier et al. ] (or も)

    Transitive Adjectives and Desideratives

    • ~たい (desideratives) act like i-adj
      • が is typically always used. を mark object of desire gives sentence a more objective ring. [Kasier et al. 40]
      • Unlike the potential, に as a case-marker only works if the original (indicative) form took に for case marking.
        • ✗私にりんごが食べたい
        • ✔私に送りたい
    • Some adjectives are transitive, they take two arguments. [Kasier et al. ] They only take two arguments.

    Potential (~れる・られる)

    • Originates from the passive form. Recall that ら抜く言葉 for 一段 verbs to form a potential-only form to avoid confusion with passive.
    • 「~は~が◯」 is the prototypical form. Eg. 私は英語を話す → 私は英語が話せす [Potential Explanation]
    • For explanation, view 「~に~が◯」 as base form. に marks agent (doer), が marks object. This order of agent and object will remain the same. Eg. 私に英語が話せす
      • All this information comes from this Potential Explanation
      • Adding は to base: 「~には~が◯」 「~は~が◯」 「~は~は◯」 (は deletes を) [Potential Explanation]
      • Adding exhaustive-listing が to base: 「~が~が◯」 [Potential Explanation] (が deletes に [need a proper citation for deletion])
      • を object-marking 「~が~を◯」, likely to avoid this double が, has now become part of Tokyo dialect or modern colloquial. [Potential Explanation][2] This gives it a more object ring. [Kasier et al. 40]
      • (You can change order of agent and object, though agent > object is more natural.)

    • [Marking agent is a double subject or nested sentence?]
    • [Note about も?]

    Particles and Inflections



    • Common Contractions. きゃ for need and しちゃう for しまう already touched and well-known.
      • ~て + いる → てる (continuative)
      • ~て + おく → とく (readying or in preparation)
      • ~て + おる → とる (continuative, おる is dialectal equivalent of いる)
      • ~ない|~ぬ → ん (negation)
      • ~ては/~では → ~ちゃ/じゃ (for colliqiual for the contractions ては)
      • ~ない → ねぇ (negative, rough)
      • ~れば → りゃ (conditional)
    • Counting up use し...しち for 4 ... 7 but counting down use なな ... よん only for the 1–10 range. Not all natives follow this rule. You count up with し and しち to escape (count away from) father Death and count down avoiding them to not close in on (count towards) Death.
    • Yotsugana. In Standard Modern Japanese, ず・づ are the same sound as ず, じ・ぢ are the same as じ. The four may have merged or split in dialects, but younger generation is becoming more two-kana based. However in Standard, ず・づ are allophones and じ・ぢ are allophones, so all sounds can technically be heard in Standard.
    • Pitch Accent and more advanced phonology stuff. [Easy summary coming soon] Dogen patron series for a more comprehensive. (A few lessons are free)

    Writing Specific:

    Etymology and Mostly Random

    References of Papers Mentioned

    Since they're links are likely to expire.

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