Ultimate Guide to Japanese Adverbs

By Norie Matsumoto | March 31, 2021 

So you want to one day live in Japan, or perhaps you are already here? There is a major step in learning the Japanese language that is absolutely crucial in expressing and correctly conveying yourself. A commonly used form of grammar are Japanese adverbs「ふくし」Fukushi. This is an important step in becoming more descriptive and adding dynamic to your conversations in Japanese!

Well, what are adverbs? Adverbs are words that slightly alter verbs「どうし」Dōshi, adjectives「けいようし」Keiyōshi, and sometimes other adverbs to delineate actions. Knowing these key grammar words can lead you one step closer to fluency. 

They are also commonly used in the English language, words such as ‘swiftly’ ‘always’ or ‘easily’. It is just as important in the English language as it is in the Japanese language. Where the Japanese and English language differs is that unlike English, adverbs in Japanese can be placed at any point in sentences when they are utilized in front of verbs. They are major in being expressive and informative in speech because they describe the where, when, how, and used daily living in Japan.

Adverbs are like the seasonings and spices of grammar, without them, your speech can sound bland and uninteresting like unseasoned chicken. In this article, we will go over lots of Japanese adverb examples, the differences and similarities between English and Japanese, how to turn adjectives into adverbs, the different types of adverbs, and how you can study them.

This article is a part of our extensive series of articles on Self-studying Japanese.

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    Japanese Adverbs: How to use them?

    If you’re just now beginning to learn about Japanese grammar, it can seem daunting to learn, but fear not, the foundation is pretty simple and straightforward. To start, in Japanese, typically, adverbs are used alongside「い」(i) and「に」(ni). Meanwhile,「な」(na) is generally turned into「に」. However, not all adjectives can be turned in to adverbs and there are a few exceptions to these rules.

    In English, usually, the words that end with ‘-ly’ are adverbs. 

    Here are some examples: 

    English

    Japanese

    Rōmaji

    I ran quickly.

    わたしははやくはしった

    Watashi wa hayaku hashitta

    To say honestly.

    しょうじきにいう

    Shōjiki ni iu

    He speaks clearly. 

    かれははっきりはなす

    Kare wa hakkiri hanasu

    She awkwardly danced. 

    かのじょはぎこちなくおどった

    Kanojo wa gikochinaku odotta

    They thought deeply.

    かれらはふかくかんがえた

    Karera wa fukaku kangaeta.

    The exceptions to the 「い」rule is the word 「いい」Ī good. When this word comes up, if an adjective conjugates to past, negative, or both, the first syllable turns into 「よ」. So it will be 「よい」(Yoi) instead. Note that this form is used more so when written in text or sometimes while texting but rarely used while speaking casually with friends. 

    Additionally, 「かっこいい」(Kakkoī) cool, turns into 「かっこよく」(Kakkoyoku) coolly. The outliers for 「な」rules are the words that end in 「い」but are actually 「な」adjectives such as, 「きれい」(kirei na) clean/pretty. 

    Japanese Adverbs: Top 15 most commonly used Japanese adverbs

    There are many adverbs used all the time in Japanese but learning these basic most commonly used adverbs in Japanese will set you off on the right foot. When you are in Japan, you may hear these words used frequently in conversations, it can help you get around and chat with others. Below are the words and example sentences, let’s see if you can come up with some on your own as well. There are many more common words to learn and study.

    Japanese

    English

    Japanese example

    Rōmaji

    English example

    きょう (kyō)

    Today 

    きょうはなんようびですか?

    Kyō wa nan'yōbidesuka?

    What day (of the week) is it today?

    いつも (itsumo)

    Always

    いつもあついです。

    Itsumo atsuidesu

    It’s always hot.

    ここ (koko) 

    Here

    ここにあります。

    Koko ni arimasu

    It’s here.

    はやく (hayaku)

    Fast

    はやくあるきます。

    Hayaku arukimasu

    Walk fast.

    もっと (motto)

    More

    もっとください。

    Motto kudasai

    Please give me more.

    いま (ima)

    Now

    いまはどこですか?

    Ima wa dokodesu ka?

    Where are you now?

    あした (ashita)

    Tomorrow

    あしたカフェにいこう。

    Ashita kafe ni ikou

    Let’s go to a cafe tomorrow.

    かなり (kanari)

    Quite

    かなりむずかしい。

    Kanari muzukashī

    Quite difficult.

    ぜったいに (zettai ni)

    Absolutely

    ぜったいにちがう。

    Zettai ni chigau

    Absolutely wrong.

    よく (yoku)

    Well 

    よくわかる。

    Yoku wakaru

    I understand well.

    やすく (yasuku) 

    Inexpensively

    バナナがやすくなりました。

    Banana ga yasuku narimashita

    The bananas are cheaper.

    あそこ (asoko)

    Over there

    あそこにいこう。

    Asoko ni ikou

    Let’s go over there.

    さいきん (saiki n)

    Lately or Recently 

    さいきんさむいです。

    Saikin samui desu

    It’s cold lately.

    たまに (tamani)

    Sometimes or Once in a while

    たまにテレビをみます。

    Tamani terebi o mimasu

    I watch TV sometimes.

    ちかくに(chikaku ni)

    Close by 

    ちかくにすんでいます。

    Chikaku ni sunde imasu

    I live close by. 

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    Japanese Adverbs: Different types

    Just like in the English language, there are many different types of adverbs that can be used in daily life. We will go over the degree, frequency, manner, place, time, and onomatopoeia type of adverbs. These can be used in specific situations you may find yourself in.

    Degree

    First is degree adverbs, these stipulate the degree or scale of action, a situation, or thing.

    Some samples are: 

    Japanese

    English

    Japanese example

    Rōmaji

    English example

    だいたい (Daitai)

    mostly

    しょくじはだいたいできた。

    Shokuji wa daitai de kita

    The meal is mostly made.

    すこし (Sukoshi)

    a little

    すこしさびしい。

    Sukoshi sabishī

    I am a little lonely.

    だいぶ (Daibu)

    greatly, much

    だいぶくらくなった。

    Daibu kuraku natta

    It's gotten much darker.

    ひどく (Hidoku)

    terribly

    かぜがひどくなった。

    Kaze ga hidoku natta.

    The cold got worse.

    Note: The adjective ひどい can not only be used to describe a state, such as describing a cold has gotten worse, it can be used to describe a way someone is acting.

    Frequency

    Next, frequency adverbs, which are good for when you are delineating how frequently a certain action takes place. 

    Here are examples: 

    Japanese

    English

    Japanese example

    Rōmaji

    English example

    まいつき (Maitsuki)

    every month 

    まいつきいく。

    Maitsuki iku

    I go every month.

    たまに (Tamani)

    rarely/sometimes/once in a while 

    たまにえいがをみる。

    Tamani eiga o miru

    I watch movies once in a while.

    つうじょう(Tsūjō) 

    normally/usually

    つうじょうくるまでかえる。

    Tsūjō kuruma de kaeru

    I usually go home by car.

    めったに (Mettani)

    seldom

    めったにりょこうしない。

    Mettani ryokō shinai.

    I rarely/seldom travel.

    Note: While living in Japan, there are a lot of まいつき maitsuki (every month) bills and payments to look out for!

    Manner

    Now for manner adverbs, they express the state of how a certain action is carried out or a thing. 

    Check these out:

    Japanese

    English

    Japanese example

    Rōmaji

    English example

    ひとりで (Hitori de)

    alone

    ひとりでべんきょう。

    Hitori de benkyō

    Study alone.

    やさしく(Yasashiku)

    gently/nicely

    やさしくおこす。

    Yasashiku okosu

    Gently wake up.  

    くらく (Kuraku) 

    darkly/gloomily

    くらくへんじをした。

    Kuraku henji o shita

    I replied darkly. 

    きゅうに (Kyū ni)

    suddenly

    きゅうにとまった。

    Kyū ni tomatta.

    Stopped suddenly.

     

    Place

    Another type, place adverbs, shows where a certain action takes place.

    These are the samples:

    Japanese

    English

    Japanese example

    Rōmaji

    English example

    どこでも (Doko demo)

    anywhere

    どこでもいきたい。

    Doko demo ikitai

    I want to go anywhere.

    なかで (Naka de)

    inside

    いえのなかでよむ。

    Ie no naka de yomu

    Read in the house.

    あっち (Atchi)

    over there

    あっちに店がある。

    Atchi ni mise ga aru

    There is a store over there.

    はなれて (Hanarete)

    away

    はなれてボールをなげる。

    Hanarete bōru o nageru.

    Throw the ball from away.

    Fun fact: In the popular Japanese kids show, Doraemon, it features a どこでもドア Dokodemodoa a door that leads anywhere. 


     

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    Time

    Lastly, time adverbs, express when something occurs, occurred, or will occur. Good for scheduling and planning. 

    Take a look at these:

    Japanese

    English

    Japanese example

    Rōmaji

    English example

    まだ (Mada)

    yet

    まだおわってない。

    Mada owattenai

    It’s not over yet.

    あとで (Ato de)

    later

    あとでたべる。

    Ato de taberu

    Eat later

    まえに (Mae ni) 

    before/previously

    まえにいったことがある。

    Mae ni itta koto ga aru

    I've been there before.

    やっと (yatto)

    finally

    やっとおわった。

    Yatto owatta

    Finally finished

     

    Onomatopoeias

    Onomatopoeias are also included in adverbs. Onomatopoeia can take a lot of different grammatical configurations and lots of them would sound repetitive or strange in English, yet in Japanese the repetitiveness is totally conventional. It is helpful to know the sounds that what is being described makes since onomatopoeias are different in almost every country, even if you are listening to the same sound!

    Japanese

    Rōmaji

    English

    かえるがケロケロとなく。

    Kaeru ga kerokero to naku.

    The frog cries *ribbit ribbit.

    ドアがガタガタなる。

    Doa ga gatagata naru.

    The door *rattles

    かみなりがごろごろとなりはじめた。

    Kami nari ga gorogoro to nari hajimeta.

    Lightning began *rumbling.

    ぽつぽつとあめがふりはじめた。

    Potsupotsu to ame ga furi hajimeta.

    It started to rain.

     

     *These are the English versions of onomatopoeias 

    Correspondence adverbs

    Moving onto something a little bit more challenging and a level up, are the correspondence adverbs which are utilized as sets together as the terms (such as the ones below) are established. There are many types of adverbs in reply, which are utilized to bring up any questions, wonder, oppose, and express desires.

    Examples below:

    Japanese

    Rōmaji

    English

    ぜひ ぼくのきょくをきいてほしい

    Zehi boku no kyoku o kiite hoshī

    I certainly want you to listen to my song.

    どうして そんなにおこっていている

    Dōshite son'nani okotte iru no 

    Why are you so angry?

    まるで アヒルのようなあるきをしている

    Marude ahiru no yōna aruki o shite iru 

    Walking like a duck.

    おそらく ことりはもどってこないだろう

    Osoraku kotori wa modottekonaidarou

    Probably the little bird will not come back.

    たとえ まけてもしてもあきらめない

    Tatoe makete mo shite mo akiramenai

    Even if I lose, I won’t give up.

    As you can see, these are used as pairs and it is crucial to remember them, what goes with what and that usually if a sentence begins with one word, the other will follow later on in the sentence. There are many more types of adverb examples, 1000 most common japanese adverbs to try out.

    Japanese Adverbs: How do I modify with/modify adverbs?

    Next, there are many ways to alter adverbs and to alter WITH adverbs. The way you modify will determine the weight of certain words or subjects and can totally change up a sentence. Here are some ways this can be done involving adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs.

    How do I turn adjectives into adverbs?

    If you’ve already read our article on adjectives, you already have a solid understanding of the two types, adjectives and adverbs go hand in hand and are pretty similar to each other, so be careful not to mix them up! Adjectives typically alter nouns or things while adverbs typically alter verbs or actions. It is important to be able to know how to create the adverbial form of adjectives, it alters a verb showing how a certain action takes place. Adverbs alter verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.

    On the other hand, adverbials act similar to adverbs to alter a verb or a clause. Adverbials can have just a single word or a whole phrase. The Japanese form is quite similar to the English language’s way of altering adjectives into adverbs, which is fairly simple, to just add a suffix to the stem word. Just like changing an adjective such as ‘quick’ to ‘quickly’. 

     

    When there are 「い」adjectives, just change the 「い」to「く」

    For example: If you want to change 「つよtsuyoi (strong) to an adverb, just drop the 「い」and it becomes 「つよtsuyoku (strongly). 

    For 「な」adjectives, put a 「に」after the base adjective. 

    For example: 

    「しずかshizukana (quiet) becomes 「しずかshizukani (quietly)

    Although it seems that all adverbs are acquired from adjectives, that is not always the case. These adverbs do not have a specific form or rule to recognize them with, so you must learn each vocabulary word and they are just as important to remember. However, they are utilized in a similar way as all the other adverbs.

    These are a few examples of adverbs that have not stemmed from a parent adjective. 

    「たくさん」Takusan a lot「たくさんいいおもいで。」Takusan ī omoide Lots of good memories.

    「ちょっと」Chotto a little「ちょっとおなかがすいた。」Chotto onaka ga suita I am a little hungry.

    「たぶん」Tabun probably「こたえはたぶんちがう。」Kotae wa tabun chigau The answer is probably different. 

    Notice how none of these adverbs end in either a 「く」or 「に」?

    Here are normal more normal adverbs that have not been derived from adjectives

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    Adverbs Modifying Verbs

    Readers of our article on Japanese verbs already are knowledgeable on verbs, but did you know, when altering verbs, the adverb can be put just about anywhere along the sentence as long as it comes prior to the verb. Usually, adverbs of manner and degree will also want to fall after the subject. However, this still gives you freedom, because the subject is commonly up in the front and the verb is at the end. Nevertheless, a handy concept to remember is that the nearer the adverb is put to the verb, the more significance it’s given.

     

    Japanese

    Rōmaji

    English

    かれはいそいでトイレへはしっていきました。

    Kare wa isoide to ire e hashitte ikimashita.

    He ran to the toilet quickly.

    かれはトイレへいそいではしっていきました

    Kare wa toire e isoide hashitte ikimashita.

    He quickly ran to the toilet.

     

    Even though both sentences got an identical fact across, the second one highlights a little more prominence on HOW he ran to the toilet, accentuating the gravity of the situation, while the first one’s precedence is that he ran to the toilet, and how he did it is not as important.

    Adverbs modifying Adjectives

    When altering adjectives, it is pretty simple, just put the adverb right in front of the specific adjective.

     

    Japanese

    Rōmaji

    English

    いれずみはほとんどいたくなかった。

    Ire-zumi wa hotondo itakunakatta. 

    The tattoo was barely painful.

    ほっかいどうの ふゆは たいへん さむいです。

    Hokkai dō no Fuyu wa taihen samuidesu.

    Hokkaido’s winters are terribly cold.

    Notice that the adverb ‘barely’ is in front of the adjective ‘painful’ and the adverb ‘terribly’ is in front of the adjective ‘cold’.

    Adverbs modifying Adverbs

    To alter another adverb with an adverb, heed the adjectives’ rules. Go infront of what you want to change.

     

    Japanese

    Rōmaji

    English

    おばあちゃんはとてもやさしくうたった。

    O bāchan wa totemo yasashiku utatta.

    Grandma sang very gently.

    もうちょっとおそくあるいて。

    Mō chotto osoku aruite.

    Walk a little more slowly.

    As you can see, when translated to English, the rule is not the same and the adverb is at the end, but do not mix them up! In Japanese, the adverb, 「やさしく」comes before the other adverb 「うたった」and the adverb「おそく」comes before the「あるいて」adverb.

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    Japanese Adverbs: Avoid these mistakes!

    It can be easy to make these simple mistakes, don’t fall for these adverb traps!

    「まるで」marude (like) 「まるで」 is an adverb of correspondence. It is used as a set with 「まるで~のよう」marude ~ no yō (it is like…) 

    It was used earlier in an example, do you remember?

    Take a look at the wrong and correct style examples.

     

    Example of a wrong style: 

    「このかがやきは まるで ダイヤモンドだ」Kono kagayaki wa marude daiyamondoda This shine is like a diamond

     

    Example of the correct style:

    まるで ダイヤモンドのように かがやいています」Marude daiyamondo no yō ni kagayaite imasu It's shining like a diamond

     

    If you make an error while using adverbs, the sentences may become difficult to comprehend or the meaning may not be understood. Be careful!


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    Japanese Adverbs: How do I study Japanese adverbs?

    Now that you know some Japanese adverbs, how can you identify and remember them in the future? 

    Keep in mind that the clue to finding adverbs is to look for a word. It is an adnominal adjective that alters the word, so let's differentiate it. 

    しばらく あわないうちにずいぶんおおきくなったね。」Shibaraku awanai uchi ni zuibun ōkiku natta ne You've grown a lot while I haven't seen you for a while. 

    In this situation,

    Not seeing/meeting あわない awanai is the verb

    The adverb is しばらく shibaraku (for a while) and ずいぶん Zuibun (a lot).

    しばらく modifies あわない while ずいぶん modifies the adjective, おおきく grown/bigger

    Note: A lot of adults say this phrase to kids whom they haven't seen in a while and have gotten taller.

    Think you can remember these?

    There are many ways to study and train your mind to recall these new words that you have learned. It is important to regularly look back and utilize them in conversation whether it be in speaking or writing so that you don’t forget! A good old-fashioned method is to use flashcards. Write an adjective “A quiet person”  「しずかひと」Shizukana hito on one side and flip it over to write the adverb version of that word, ‘Quietly read' 「しずかよむ」Shizuka ni yomu.

    Better yet, create your own Anki deck online or find one that perhaps another student has already created. Here’s one Japanese Adverbs (50 cards from Namiko Abe's Useful Japanese)

    Another method, to improve your listening comprehension of not only Japanese adverbs but overall grammar, is to listen to Japanese learning podcasts!

    Some suggestions that can be found on spotify and apple music:

    Podcasts are a convenient and easy way to learn on the go and can prepare you to hear those words you learned in action. 

    Additionally, reading books, especially those aimed towards Japanese kids will be helpful in learning sentence structure. You can simultaneously learn about Japanese culture whilst mastering the dialect. Children’s books are easier to read and comprehend, broken up into smaller segments with pictures that further encourage understanding. There are lots of picture books 「えほん」ehon that break it down simpler. There are even books that incorporate English and Japanese together! While reading, let us see if you can identify the adverbs. 

    Practice makes perfect, once you have really figured out how each word can turn into an adverb, it is easy from then on. 

    If you want to learn more than just grammar, Japan Switch provides affordable quality lessons to improve your speaking and listening skills both online and offline.


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    Conclusion

    With your newfound knowledge of adverbs in the Japanese language, go out and use them! Everyday conversations with friends, classmates, or colleagues have become easier. It can be a bit of a pain to train yourself, nonetheless, by learning accurate Japanese, you will be less likely to misinterpret the other person and you will be able to communicate what you want to say smoothly, therefore,  you will be able to figure out the wrong sentences. So let's remember them little by little.

    Hopefully, whether you are planning on one day living in Japan or already here, you can take away some important knowledge into the foundation of this language. Want to know more grammar-related Japanese? Check out this article Guide to Japanese Verbs for more handy grammar and words to know. Also, if you’re moving to Japan soon, check out this article to find inexpensive accommodation, Cheap apartments in Tokyo. Keep on learning and discovering new ways to incorporate Japanese into your life! 

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