Why do so many students want to learn informal Japanese speech? Learning formal speech is very important, especially when you are just starting to learn Japanese. There are many situations in which you will have to speak formal Japanese, such as with acquaintances, at the office, and with your teachers. Also, let’s not forget formal Japanese is used when you meet a person for the first time. If you do not know how to speak formally, it will cause you trouble...BIG TIME.


Many of my students and foreign friends think that learning informal speech is more important because no matter how hard you ‘study with books’, Japanese people speak informally a lot more. Certainly, we speak informal Japanese very often, but it is provisional. Basically, you should only talk in an informal manner to your friends, family or children.


Please do not misunderstand, but when you start studying Japanese, you should learn formal speech first. This is because in Japanese culture, we are always ‘polite’ first and then ‘friendly’ later. For example, if you are walking down the street in Tokyo and you say “hi” to a person you just met, are you then going to give them a hug…? No! Therefore, if you have just started learning Japanese, this article is not for you, and you should start with learning formal speech. But don’t worry, you can always come back later! 

This article is about speaking informal Japanese, on the supposition that you already know formal speech, and are ready to take your Japanese to the next level! To start things off, I call the informal or casual way of speaking a 友達ことば (friendly expression).


1. I and You

or あたし (I, female)

ぼく or おれ (I, male)

あなた ( You )
You can add ちゃん (for a girl), くん (for a boy, male, female), and さん (for anyone).
さん can be both polite and casual.


2. Make sure that you know formal and informal verbs

Formal Verb Chart

  -masu Form Past Tense Negative Negative Past Tense
Group 1 飲(の)みます 飲みました 飲みません 飲みませんでした
Group 2 食(た)べます 食べました 食べません 食べませんでした
Irregular します しました しません しませんでした
  来(き)ます 来ません 来ました 来ませんでした

Informal Verb Chart 

  Dictionary Form Past Tense Negative Negative Past Tense
Group 1 飲(の)む 飲んだ 飲まない 飲まなかった
Group 2 食(た)べる 食べた 食べない 食べなかった
Irregular する した しない しなかった
  来(く)る 来(き)た 来(こ)ない 来(こ)なかった



3. Ignore particles

You can ignore particles during casual conversation.

Polite: よしこさんは 来ましたか?
Casual: よしこさん 来た?


4. Ignore “I” and “You”

We tend to skip saying the pronouns for I, you, she, and he.

Polite: 私はきのうハンバーガーを食べました。
Casual: きのうハンバーガー食べた。


5. の, ね, よ and よね

The key for a casual speech is using の, ね, よ and よね
It is easy to make a friendly expression. You just put sentence-ending particles , , , よね, etc. at the end of informal verbs.


Using の
You can add の to make the sentence a question or tell a fact:

Polite: よるごはんは 食べましたか?
Casual: よるごはん 食べたの? (question)

Polite: 私はきのうの よる、しゅくだいを しませんでした。
Casual: あたし きのうの よる、しゅくだい しなかったの (a fact).


Using ね
When you want an agreement with some assertion:

Polite: このケーキはおいしいですね。
Casual: このケーキおいしいね。


Using よ
When you want to emphasize the whole sentence with assertion and confidence:

Polite: あのかたは 日本人ですよ。
Casual: あの人は 日本人だよ。


Using よね
When you want to confirm something, you can say it like this:

Polite: あなたは あしたのパーティーに行きませんよね?
Casual: あしたのパーティーに行かないよね?



Hero Image by Sebastien Wiertz (CC BY 2.0)