Japanese Expressions of Time (and when to use the particle “ni”)

Time expressions are incredibly useful in any language. Sometimes, even if you can’t say much else, the ability to refer to different points in time can make a world of difference.

In this article, we’ll go over the basics of how to specify different points in time in Japanese, including the most important part – how to use these expressions in a sentence.

Before we get started, however, we need to be clear about one thing…

Expressions of time are often lumped together into a single group, but the reality is there are different types of time expressions. The main three are:

  • Timing = when something happens
  • Frequency = how often something happens
  • Period/duration = how long something happens for

In this article, we will be focusing on the first one – timing.

(For a detailed explanation of all three, with tons of examples, check out chapter 6 of my book).

Giving and Receiving in Japanese – Agemasu, Kuremasu, Moraimasu

Giving and receiving in Japanese

The words used to describe the acts of giving and receiving in Japanese can be quite confusing, but they needn’t be.

In a nutshell, there are two words that mean “to give”:

  • agemasu
  • kuremasu

And another word that means “to receive”:

  • moraimasu

What most often confuses people is the fact that there are three words to describe actions that, in English, can be expressed with just two words.

More options = more trying-to-figure-out-when-to-use-what.

Fortunately, however, there is a simple way to look at these words that will eliminate any uncertainty about their use in 99% of situations.

In this article, we will see how we can easily differentiate between the words for “giving” and “receiving” in Japanese. In doing so, we will also cover everything you need to know to form sentences using the verbs “agemasu”「あげます」, “kuremasu”「くれます」, and “moraimasu”「もらいます」.

Japanese Verb Tense Cheat Sheet

Even though Japanese has relatively few verb tenses and forms compared to many languages, there are still quite a lot of variations – all of which take time to learn and internalize.

That’s where a cheat sheet can help! Something like this…

This Japanese Verb Tense Cheat Sheet summarizes everything you need to know to understand:

  • how Japanese verbs are conjugated
  • the most useful and important verb tenses and forms, and
  • when to use each tense/form.

There are two versions – one with hiragana, one with romaji – and both are free!

Here’s a quick breakdown of the sections of the cheat sheet:

Ni vs De: How to choose between these two location-defining particles

Two of the first particles that you are likely to encounter when learning Japanese are “ni”「に」 and “de”「で」.

They are often confused with one another for a couple of fairly obvious reasons:

  • Both can be used to define a place or location
  • Both can be translated into English as “in”, “on” or “at”, depending on the situation

In most cases, however, the difference between these two particles is actually very simple. You just need a proper understanding of what they do.

In this article, I will use examples to show you the clear difference between “ni”「に」 and “de”「で」, and give you a few simple and practical rules you can apply to ensure you always choose the right one.

Desu: What It Means, and When and How to Use It

The Japanese word desu

“Desu”「です」 is one of the first words that most Japanese language students encounter, yet it is also one of the most misunderstood.

Far too many people are mistakenly led to believe that it just makes a sentence polite, and although that is effectively all it does in some cases, it is so much more than that.

In this article, I will cover it all – from the simple, beginner-level uses of “desu” in polite sentences, to all the various forms it takes and the deeper reasoning behind why “desu” seems to be completely inconsistent with everything else in Japanese grammar.