Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Two of a Kind

I know I've discussed counters on this blog, but I can't remember if I've discussed plural form. Well, it never hurts to enjoy a refresher, does it?

In English, plural form is shown by tacking the letter S on to the end of words. In Japanese, this is not the case. Japanese plural form, known as fukusuu, is incredibly complicated because it relies on context. In fact, at first glance it might seem that Japanese does not have a plural form! For example:

my book - watashi no hon
my books - watashi no hon

Notice a difference? No? That's because there is no difference. The only way to tell singular and plural apart in Japanese is context. Is the speaker holding one book or two books? Does the speaker own one dog or five dogs? Is the speaker introducing you to their daughter or their daughters?

The best solution to this confusing grammatical form is to be specific when describing amounts. Instead of watashi no hon, say watashi wa hon ga isatsu (I have one book). By using specific amounts, I've been able to avoid many misunderstandings. This lesson directly relates back to my previous language post, regarding counters, because knowing how to use counters in Japanese will make plural form significantly easier.

Obviously, this is not a good starting point for anyone who wants to learn Japanese as a second language. It is simply meant to illustrate one of the many quirks between English and Japanese. Learning how to use plural form is a first-year lesson, but usually comes after sentence structure and verb forms have been learned.

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