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
…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)

Related Grammar Points