When you first begin studying Japanese, what should you study first? Vocabulary or grammar?

Well, I recommend that you study verb tenses first.


I guess a lot of you want to speak Japanese rather than reading or writing in Japanese, but when you start studying the language, you’ll know that there are so many things to learn. It's never easy to learn a language; there are tons of words that you have to remember, and grammar as well.


However, if you concentrate on memorizing all of the “verb tenses” (there are actually not that many), you’ll really start to speak Japanese. Of course, you still have to study vocabulary and grammar after you study those verb tenses, but at least you have a solid base from which to speak the language.


Have a look at this verb chart: there are 5 tenses, and 2 ways of saying each tense: in the affirmative (it has, is or will happen) or negative (it didn’t, isn’t, or isn’t going to happen).


Verb Tense  Affirmative Negative
Present ~します ~しません
Present Continuous    ~しています ~していません
Past ~しました ~しませんでした
Past Continuous ~していました   ~していませんでした
Future ~します ~しません

It`s not that difficult to remember these verb tenses (there are only 10!). But, you’ll notice how important they are to forming a sentence.


Let's practice!

Do you know how you say speak in Japanese? Speak is 話(はな)す in Japanese. Let's take this as an example:



Present tense

If it’s affirmative, you can say 話します 。
or if it’s negative, you say 話しません。

Do you speak Japanese? →(私は)(日本語を)話します/話しません


Present Continuous Tense

Affirmative: 話しています
Negative: 話していません

Are you speaking Japanese?→(私は)(日本語を)話しています/話していません


Past Tense

Affirmative: 話しました
Negative: 話しませんでした

Did you speak Japanese?→ (私は)(日本語を)話しました/話しませんでした


Past Continuous Tense

Affirmative: 話していました
Negative: 話していませんでした

Were you speaking Japanese?→(私は)(日本語を)話していました/話していませんでした


Future Tense

Affirmative: 話します
Negative: 話しません

Will you speak Japanese?→(私は)(日本語を)話します/話しません


By the way, did you notice that there isn’t any difference between Present Tense and Future Tense? For the Future Tense, you just have to include an adverb such as “in the future (未来に)”, so it’s going to be like this:

Some of you might say that there are other ways to say this in the future tense. Well, I have to say yes, but for now let’s just go for the basics. After that, then let’s study another way to say things in the future tense.


Let’s practice one more time.

This time, please fill in the blanks:

The questions (answers are below)

1 今 私は日本語を話(     )。

2 昨日 私は日本語を話( past tense please   )。

3 昨日 私は日本語を話(  past continuous tense please    )。

4 毎日 私は日本語を話(     )。

5 明日 私は日本語を話(     )。



The answers

1 話しています

2 話しました

3 話していました

4 話します

5 話します


How was it? Was it easy for you or not?

Don`t worry! I have been working on what we call a Moodle to make questions and for you to answer them online. If you’d like more practice, please just let me know! Thank you for reading.



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