Basic Japanese Grammar Cheat Sheet

Written by Richard Webb | November 16, 2017

Learning Japanese can be a bit overwhelming at times, but it ultimately boils down to a few simple rules.

Remembering and internalising those rules will give you the biggest boost on your path to fluency, because you only need to learn them once and you can then apply them every single time you speak, read, write or listen to Japanese.

It can be hard to bring yourself to study the same things over and over again, so I’ve made a handy little cheat sheet to make it easy.

Well, really, I’ve made two – one with romaji and one with hiragana. Here’s a zoomed-out look at the hiragana version:

Japanese Sentence Structure Cheat Sheet

The best part? I’m giving these cheat sheets away for free.

Just click below to get your copy of these printable PDFs, which are available in both A4 and A3 sizes.

Click here to download the cheat sheet


Want more details before you download?

Read on for a quick breakdown of what’s included on the cheat sheet.

Sentence Structure Diagram

This first diagram is, simply, an expanded version of my sentence structure diagram explained in detail in this article, with a few tweaks and additions. It gives an overview of how different ‘things’ involved in an action are properly combined with a particle to be included in a sentence.

[thrive_tabs layout=”horz”][thrive_tab headline=”Romaji” no=”1/2″][/thrive_tab][thrive_tab headline=”ひらがな” no=”2/2″][/thrive_tab][/thrive_tabs]

This basic structure applies to almost all Japanese sentences, and can be expanded further for building more complex sentences.

The only major exception is sentences where the main verb at the end is “desu”/「です」, although the structure for these is essentially the same. I’ll write more about that soon. (Basic gist: the verb is “desu”/「です」, most element/particle combinations can’t be used since they don’t make sense, and the last word before “desu”/「です」 doesn’t need a particle.)

Confusing Particle Pairs

This section highlights four particle pairs that can be a bit confusing:

  • は vs が / wa vs ga (read a much more detailed comparison of these here)
  • で vs に / de vs ni (you can read about these two here)
  • に vs へ / ni vs he
  • Time expressions that require the particle に/ni vs those that don’t

[thrive_tabs layout=”horz”][thrive_tab headline=”Romaji” no=”1/2″][/thrive_tab][thrive_tab headline=”ひらがな” no=”2/2″][/thrive_tab][/thrive_tabs]


This next section is a simple overview of the different types of adverbs that can be used in sentences, as shown in the main diagram. A few examples of each adverb type are provided as a reminder.

[thrive_tabs layout=”horz”][thrive_tab headline=”Romaji” no=”1/2″][/thrive_tab][thrive_tab headline=”ひらがな” no=”2/2″][/thrive_tab][/thrive_tabs]

Check out this article for a more comprehensive look at using adverbs in Japanese.


Finally, the cheat sheet includes five example sentences as diagrams, with each of the particles from the main diagram represented at least once.

[thrive_tabs layout=”horz”][thrive_tab headline=”Romaji” no=”1/2″][/thrive_tab][thrive_tab headline=”ひらがな” no=”2/2″][/thrive_tab][/thrive_tabs]

That’s it!

As I said, there’s a romaji version and a hiragana version, and each comes as a printable PDF in A4 and A3 sizes. And it’s free 🙂

Download it, print it, stick it on your wall or keep a copy in your bag for easy reference wherever you go.

[thrive_link color=’green’ link=” target=’_self’ size=’medium’ align=”]Click here to get your free cheat sheet[/thrive_link]

I hope it helps you on your journey to Japanese fluency.

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  1. This is just AMAZING! A huge amount of superhelpful information that is great to have at hand, all somehow packed in just one neat page. I cannot express how awesome this cheatsheet is. Great job, thank you so much! ♥

  2. My goodness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It’s so amazing. I really found these useful. Thank you so much for making it in so simple format.

    Hoping to see advance level materials too.

    Thanks again

  3. This is the most important bit of information in understanding the particles,and sentence structure on how to speak and understand the language.I have been doing this for years,I know all the kana, and about 1000 kanji characters and it took me years to figure out how to use the kana with Kanji’s and it is truly complicated to say the least and it is not easy. You have been a very big help thanks.

  4. Hey,

    I love this, this is so helpful. I even bought the book, but I cannot seem to find this information in there.
    But still loving what is in there.


  5. You’re so cool! I do not suppose I’ve read something
    like this before. So great to discover someone with some original thoughts on this subject.
    Really.. thank you for starting this up. This site is one thing that is required on the internet, someone
    with a little originality!

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