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Japanese Sentence Pattern: “I heard that …” using ~そうだ

Very often you want to express something that you heard. You simply attach そうだ to the end of the plain form of the sentence that you heard. For example, if you want to say “I heard that the weather would become nice tomorrow.” – You would need to express “The weather would become nice tomorrow” in plain form, and then attach そうだ (casual) or そうです (polite) to it.

To construct the plain present tense form of a phrase, check if it ends with a noun, an adjective or a verb, and do the following:

  1. Noun/な-adjective: (drop な) and attach だ to it
  2. い-adjective: leave it unchanged
  3. Verb: change it to its dictionary form (ends with う or る)
明日はいい天気になるそうです。
I hear that the weather will be nice tomorrow.
明日はいい天気になる + そうだ
そとは暑いそうです。
I hear that it is hot outside.
そと = outside, 暑い = hot
彼は、学生だそうです。
I hear that he is a student.
学生 = student
だそうです。
That’s what I heard.
だ indicates the state of being.

You would change the sentence to plain past tense form if the sentence is in past tense. If you are not sure what it means, please look up a detailed description for plain forms of noun phrases, adjectives and verbs.

In English we have tense agreement. For example, it is technically incorrect if you say “I heard that he is a student.” In Japanese, however, そうだ already implies it is something that you heard, and you do not need to change the tense of the original sentence.

毎日学校に行ったそうです。
I heard that he went to school everyday.

Modifying Japanese Adjectives to Adverbs

Recall that an adverb is usually used to modify a verb, just as an adjective is usually used to modify a noun. In English, in general, you add “ly” to change adjectives to adverbs. For example, aggressive is an adjective and aggressively is an adverb. In Japanese, there is also a regular way to change adjectives to adverbs, as follows:

い-adjective: change い to く

な-adjective: change な to に

Exception: change いい (good) to よく (well).

Examples

早いはやい)is an い-adjective which means early. When it is used as an adverb, change い to く and it becomes 早く.

早く起きてください。
Please get up early.
早い to 早く.

Unlike English, which you may put adverb either before or after the main verb in a sentence, you usually put the Japanese adverb before the main verb.

静かしずか)is a な-adjective which means quiet. When it is an adverb, it becomes 静かに.

としょかんでは静かに歩いて下さい。
Please walk quietly at the library.
静か is a na-adjective.

Japanese て-form and Action Verbs

In order to make more complex sentences, you need to use verbs or adjectives other than their simplest dictionary form. In English, in general, you add “ly” to change adjectives to adverbs. However, for example, when you change “happy” to “happily,” you need to modify “happy” to “happi” before adding “ly” at the end of the word. Technically this kind of modification is called morphological changes.

In Japanese, a widely used morphological changes is the て-form (te-form). By making a verb or an adjective in its て-form, you are ready to “glue” the word with more unit of meanings.

て-form of Japanese Verbs

If you know how to conjugate Japanese verbs to their plain past form (た-form), you shouldn’t have any problems to conjugate verbs to their て-form, as the conjugation rules are identical.

る-verbs Ending with Replace with Example
→ て 食べる → 食べて
う-verbs Ending with Replace with Example
→ して 出す→ 出して
→ いて 書く→ 書いて
→ いで 泳ぐ→ 泳いで
る, う or つ → って 作る→ 作って
む, ぶ or ぬ → んで 飲む→ 飲んで
Irregular verbs Replace with Example
する → して 勉強する → 勉強して
くる → きて 持ってくる → 持ってきて

Verb+ている and Ongoing Actions

One of the easiest applications of て-form is to represent ongoing actions. You attach いる to the verb in て-form. It is equivalent to gerund (-ing) form in English.


Verb+ている and Resultant State

However, when the verb in use are in motions, such as 行く, 来る, 帰る or 出かける, its ている form does not imply an ongoing action. Instead, it represents a resultant state, meaning that the action is already completed. You may simply consider the て-form as a connector between the motion verb and the verb いる.

田中さんは日本に行っています。
Tanaka-san has gone to Japan.
and he is there now.

In many other cases, the context or the nature of the verb implies that its ている form represents a resultant state.

けっこんしています。
I am married.
Tシャツを着ています。
I am wearing a T-shirt.
Note that the action “wearing” has been completed.
知っていますか?
Do you know?

Verb+ている and Habitual Actions

You may also use ている form to express repeated habitual actions.


Casual Speech in Japanese

It is never too much to emphasize that being polite is very important in Japanese culture, and before you really understand the difference and implication of casual speech, you will almost always want to use polite speech in your conversation. This is the disclaimer before I talk about casual speech in Japanese.

There are 2 basic rules. First, use plain forms (or so-called dictionary forms) for verbs and adjectives. Second, particles such as は(wa), を(o), に(ni), が(ga) are omitted when there is no confusion caused.

The following examples show the contrast between polite speech and casual speech. Note that ですか(desu ka) is omitted in the first question and a rising tone is used instead.


学生 is a noun, but the same idea applies to verbs and adjectives. You just need to use the plain form in each case for casual speech.

The use of particle よ(yo) at the end of the 2nd and 3rd examples is to make the sentences smoother and express a certain kind of emotion. Particle ね(ne) is also often used.

Particle は(wa) is dropped in the examples. Do not drop the particle (or any other particles) when it carries additional functions other than a “marker.” For instance, when は is used to contrast or compare two things, do not drop the particle in casual speech. A similar example is to drop を(o) when it is a purely object marker.

You may notice that “Yes” and “No” in the examples above have different forms for casual speech. In fact, there are a few special forms for casual speech, as listed in the following table:

Polite SpeechCasual SpeechEnglish Definition
はいうんyes
いいえううんno
…て下さい…てplease …
…ている…てる(continuous form)
…んですか…の?(question ending)
…んです…んだ (man)(end of a statement)
…の (woman)

Types of Korean Verb and Adjective Conjugation

To study this grammar point, please make sure you understand the following:

Similarities and Differences Between Korean Verbs and Adjectives

Conjugation is to modify of a verb or an adjective in order to fulfil a change in tense or to supplement additional meanings.

All Korean conjugation for verbs and adjectives are under one of the following 3 categories:

  1. 고-type: Original Stem + Suffix
  2. 으-type: Alternate Stem + (으) + Suffix
  3. 어-type: Alternate Stem + 어/아 + Suffix, Vowel Contractions

The basic idea is to identify the word stem and attach a suffix to the stem.

1. 고-type Conjugation

This is named after the basic 하고 conjugation. Original stem is always used, with the following exceptions:
  • For ㄹ-irregular, when the attaching suffix starts with , or (e.g. 는, 네, 습니다), alternate stem is used (i.e. ㄹ is dropped).
  • For ㅎ-irregular, use alternate stem when the attaching suffix is .

Examples

Plain Form Meaning Stem 1 Stem 2 +고 +습/ㅂ니다 +네 Remarks
하다 do 하고 하습니다 하네
먹다 eat 먹고 먹습니다 먹네
알다 know 알고 압니다 아네 ㄹ-irregular
그렇다 to be so 그렇 그러 그렇고 그렇습니다 그러네 ㅎ-irregular

Note: Original Stem = Stem 1, Alternate Stem = Stem 2.

2. 으-type Conjugation

Use alternate stem and if the stem ends with a consonant, insert after the stem.

However, there are 3 exceptions:

  • For ㅅ-irregular, 으 is always inserted.
  • For ㄹ-irregular, if the suffix starts with 면 or 러, use original stem and do not insert 으.
  • For 르-irregular, use original stem instead.

Examples

Plain Form Meaning Stem 1 Stem 2 + (으)세요 + (으)면 + (으)러 Remarks
하다 do 하세요 하면 하러
먹다 eat 먹으세요 먹으면 먹으러
알다 know 아세요 알면 알러 ㄹ-irregular
짓다 build 지으세요 지으면 지으러 ㅅ-irregular
고르다 choose 고르 고르세요 고르면 고르러 르-irregular

3. 어-type Conjugation

You can consider 어-type conjugation as a 2-step process. First you need to determine whether 아 or 어 should be attached, then you need to do a vowel contraction if necessary.

Use alternate stem as word stem for all 어-type conjugation, except that for ㄹ-irregular, use original stem instead.*

The following rules determine whether to attach 어 or 아 before the suffix:

  1. If the last vowel of the stem is a 오 or 아, attach 아 + suffix.
  2. If the last vowel is 으 and its previous hangul has a 오/아 vowel, attach 아 + suffix.
  3. Otherwise, attach 어 + suffix.
Next, if the stem has no ending consonant, contract the last vowel of the stem and the added 아/어 as shown in the table below. Pay special attention to 하다-related verbs and adjectives, and ㅅ-irregular, as they are the exceptions.*
Case Contraction Example Meaning Stem + 아/어요 Remarks
* 하 +아 → 해 공부하다 study 공부하 + 아요 → 공부해요 하다-related
1 아 +아 → 아 가다 go 가 +아요 → 가요
오 +아 → 와 오다 come 오 +아요 → 와요
돕다 help 도오 +아요 → 도와요 ㅂ-irregular
2 으 +아 → 아 바쁘다 busy 바쁘 +아요 → 바빠요 으-irregular
고르다 choose 골르 +아요 → 골라요 르-irregular
3 우 +어 → 워 배우다 learn 배우 +어요 → 배워요
춥다 cold 추우 +어요 → 추워요 ㅂ-irregular
으 +어 → 어 쓰다 write 쓰 +어요 → 써요 으-irregular
부르다 call 불르 +어요 → 불러요 르-irregular
이 +어 → 여 치다 hit 치 +어요 → 쳐요
어 +어 → 어 or 애 건너다 go over 건너 +어요 → 건너요
그렇다 to be so 그러 +어요 → 그래요 ㅎ-irregular
외 +어 → 왜 되다 become 되 +어요 → 돼요
애 +어 → 애 지내다 spend time 지내 +어요 → 지내요
여 +어 → 여 펴다 unfold 펴 +어요 → 펴요
All No Contraction 먹다 eat 먹 +어요 → 먹어요
듣다 listen 들 +어요 → 들어요 ㄷ-irregular
놀다 play 놀 +아요 → 놀아요 ㄹ-irregular*
낫다 get better 나 +아요 → 나아요 ㅅ-irregular*
Use original stem for ㄹ-irregular, and never do vowel contractions forㅅ-irregular.
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