The Ultimate Resource For Mastering Japanese Grammar

I forget where I first heard about it. I don’t even remember what compelled me to buy it. But no matter the cause, I somehow stumbled upon one of the best resources ever for learning Japanese grammar.

Absolute Mastery Of Japanese Grammar

Its official name is 日本語文型辞典. It’s a grammar dictionary that is 695 pages long. And I love it. Anyone who wants a clear and precise understanding of Japanese, or who wants to seriously level up their Japanese skills, may love it, too.

Here’s why:

It’s Comprehensive

The book covers 3000 different grammar points. That means that whether you’re wondering what exactly かな means or want to see some more examples of たとえば, chances are high, very high, that it’s included.

It has Sample Sentences Galore

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The book has sample sentences for every word like あんまり or だって that you look up. These are well-chosen to convey their exact meaning and use. They include furigana over every single kanji within them. And they are usually around five of them, so you don’t even have to understand every sentence to get a good feel for what something means.

Take one of the entries on だって as an example. The entry has four sentences, or rather four short dialogs. I’ve copied them below as they appear in the book (only without the furigana):

A:どうして外で遊ばないの。
B:だって寒いんだもん。

A:にんじん、残さずにちゃんと食べなさい。
B:だってきらいだもん。

A:夕刊まだかな。
B:だって、今日は日曜日でしょ、来ないわよ。

A:昨日はどうして待ってくれなかったの。
B:だってあそこの喫茶店、人が多くて居づらかったんだよ。

For most people, reading these sentences alone will probably clarify what だって means and how it is used. As with other entries, however, the dictionary provides still more information.

It has Clear Explanations

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The book follows the sample sentences with a clear explanation in Japanese of what the term means. In the case of だって above, for example, the book says:

理由を聞かれたときの答えとして「どうしてかというと」の意味。(2)(3)のように理由がはっきり問われなくても使える。特に子供が口答えするときに「だって。。。もの/もん」という言い方で使う。大人も使うことがある。くだけた話しことば。

These explanations are a gold mine of information. They connect the term you looked up with other terms you may (or may not yet) know, including its more or less formal equivalents. They share how the term is being used in a slightly different way in the example sentences. They let you know whether the term is typically used by men or women, by old people or young people. And, among other things, they tell you whether the term is usually spoken or written.

Of course, understanding these explanations takes some effort, at least initially. くだけた話しことば is not exactly a word that pops up in novels much. And the Japanese words for parts of speech are not likely to occur in your favorite anime, either.

To get the most out of this book, then, you have to learn those. In doing so, I found this post of twenty words you need to know to use a Japanese-only dictionary helpful. I also found a section at the start of the book, which I initially skipped over, immensely useful. It contains all those parts of speech and gives examples of each one.

Fortunately, this struggle, such as it is, is both short-lived and totally worth it. In fact, the only way that the book can provide as much value as it does is by keeping everything in Japanese. That’s how it’s able to share so much information, and so many example sentences, over so many grammar points—all in one book.

This simply wouldn’t be possible if the authors had chosen to include English explanations—or English, Chinese, and Korean explanations—and it certainly wouldn’t have been possible if it included explanations in another language plus romaji.  That would have taken three volumes and it still wouldn’t have been as good.

It Gives Examples of What Not to Say (or Write)

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In addition to all of the above, the book tells you when it’s proper to use the term being explained as well as when it’s not. For example, at the end of the entry for かならず it has two sentences, one marked wrong and the other marked correct. Like this:

(誤)かならず行きません。
(正)ぜったい行きません。

At the end of the entry for 。。。だけしか。。。ない it includes three short dialogs, again marking a wrong response and a correct one. Here, for example, is one of them showing when だけ cannot be used:

A:この花いくらでしたか。
B:(誤)二百円だけです。
B:(正)二百円しかしませんでした/たったの二百円でした。

I found these of immense value. It’s like the author hopped into my brain and knew the mistakes I was going to make before I made them and then told me what I should say or write.

But is it Really the Ultimate Resource?

You may see now why I think 日本語文型辞典 is the ultimate resource for mastering Japanese grammar.

I have read it through two times now, and each time I felt my level of understanding either rise substantially or consolidate strongly—so that I truly understood what I only hazily did before. It did more in this respect probably than reading 10 novels.

For learning grammar in particular, and for learning it in Japanese, I don’t know any other book that comes close. I think it’s the perfect companion to JALUP’s series of Anki decks, the go-to source for almost any grammar question, the best resource of its kind I’ve ever used. Needless to say, I highly recommend it.



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Daniel

Daniel

I love reading books in Japanese and plan to start translating them into English in 2015.

Comments

The Ultimate Resource For Mastering Japanese Grammar — 55 Comments

  1. I own this and I agree that it’s really really helpful! Amazing resource to have if you are learning through immersion, and much more useful than asking an average Japanese person, as most can’t actually explain why things are used how they are.
    It’s weird that you chose だって as an example because I can remember using this book to work that one out!!

    • Thanks for commenting! I’m glad I’m not the only one who has been helped by this book. And I agree: this is an especially good resource for anyone studying through immersion.

  2. Recently, I was actually thinking about searching the internet for a Japanese-only grammar book like this as it seems like it’d be useful to clear up my Japanese, J-J style. Thanks for cutting out that work for me!

    • My pleasure. If you get the book, please come back here and let me (as well as others here) know what you think about it.

      • I did get the book and have certainly had enough time by this point to get a feel for it.

        Having gotten busy with some other things the past few months though, I have only looked through the book for a relatively limited amount of time. But when I have, I find myself so much clearer on the grammar and words that I’m looking to clear up on more. It’s kind of like, “Alright かろう is crystal clear now… Ooh, I definitely need to read this explanation on かける…” Actually at the point I am at my studies, I think I’m going to significantly bring down my new anki cards per day to give myself more time for this book (at least for awhile).

        Like you mentioned in the post, understanding the explanations really does get easier to comprehend the more of them you read. These explanations combined with the great amount of example sentences makes this book really amazing for the Japanese learner wanting to solidify their grammar. I definitely recommend this book to Japanese learners at an intermediate level and above.

        • Thanks for coming back here and reporting on your experience with the book. I’m so glad it’s proved helpful to you!

  3. Okay, now someone just needs to make it into an Anki deck and we will all be happy. I tried, but there were ridiculously many entries and sample sentences under each one of them…

  4. Thank you for the thorough review. This looks like the perfect J-J companion for the Jalup decks. This is going in my next Amazon JP order.

    • You’re welcome. The idea for this post actually originated in an old recommendation to you (in the comments of a post which I’ve now forgotten). After I wrote that, I thought that this book deserved much more than just an off-the-cuff recommendation. And that’s why it got such a thorough review. So, though I hope everyone gets to see for themselves how useful this book is, I especially hope you do too!

  5. 辞典をおすすめしてくれてありがとう。
    クリスマス前に、サンタさん(夫♡)に手紙を書くつもりです!
    *<[]:-{D}「ホーホーホー本!」

  6. I’m ordering this book ASAP. I wish I knew about this sooner; I could’ve cut English out of my grammar learning a lot more effectively!

    • I know what you mean. I also wish I knew about this sooner. And I wish Adam had already made the JALUP decks when I started, too! Like I said in the post, I think these complement each other very well.

  7. I’ve finished all the JLPT-oriented grammar review books so this will be nice for polishing up my Japanese. Especially now that I live in Japan I feel like I no longer have an excuse for poor writing.

    • I’d love to hear your thoughts after using this dictionary. It’s also good to hear that I’m not the only one in the I-need-to-finally-get-good-at-writing club.

  8. I saw this book referenced in an earlier comment (likely yours) and I purchased it right after. I’d been looking for a good grammar dictionary and this thing was perfect!

    • Speaking of awesome Anki decks, and of things I wish I had known sooner, I would have loved to have used your Core 5000 deck instead of iKnow’s Core 6000. Anyway, I agree with you. That series is good. I’d just say that this dictionary is significantly better.

      • I was just about to ask how this book compares to the “Dictionary of [Basic/Intermediate/Advanced] Japanese Grammar” series, since I’ve been considering diving into that after reading some good reviews on Tofugu. I was a little reluctant to purchase (up to) three books though, especially since I’m trying to rid myself of English.

        Sounds like this might be a perfect fit! I hope they have it at my Kinokuniya…

        Thanks for the review!

    • I am fairly certain that the book you linked to is not a new version of this book. For example, it has different authors and a different publisher.

      That said, it does seem like a variation of it. I looked through the book using the “look inside” feature on Amazon and noticed some differences: this one has translations into English, Chinese, and Korean for the grammatical terms; includes illustrations; devotes more space to things like verb conjugations; and is around 150 pages shorter.

      Does that help any? Depending on where you are in your studies, this may (or may not!) be better for you. You know that better than I possibly could, though, so I’ll leave you to decide.

      • Thanks for your reply. For some reason, Amazon isn’t giving me the “look inside” feature like it used to these days. Maybe it has to do with my browser settings or something. Also, I didn’t mean to say that it was a newer edition, just that it was a newer book. Sorry for the confusion.

        Well anyway, it seems like the first (1998) book might be a better one for me. Thanks for the recommendation!

        • I can confirm that they are different books. I own the one you linked, which is J-E and covers roughly the same content as the Basic Dictionary of Japanese Grammar. Pro: No romaji. Con: Very basic descriptions. Overall, the dictionary series is better.

          The book this article describes is a J-J book.

  9. I have a question (again). I am having the same problems I had with the Dictionary of Grammar series. These books are very informative and helpful if you want to use them like a dictionary… but are too detailed to be used as a textbook and read cover to cover.

    Is there any book which lists grammar points in a similar manner (as this one) BUT with ONLY commonly used and useful points so that it can be used as a textbook?
    Edit: Is this good? http://goo.gl/ZsBJ3B

  10. I read and then reread this cover to cover, at a pace of roughly six pages per day. I plan to read it again soon, at an even slower pace of just three pages per day. So that’s an option at least.

    But I understand not wanting to do that–or, rather, of wanting to master a smaller selection of grammar points first. The book you linked to looks good, and it’s got some good reviews, but that’s about all I can say (not having read it and not having time to read much of it via the “look inside” feature).

    Hope you discover something that works for you, whether this book or another. And sorry I couldn’t be of more help with this question.

  11. If anyone likes the concise and casual Tae Kim’s guide to grammar, but doesn’t want to reread it in English, I have something that might be of interest to you. A grammar guide intended for Chinese students learning monolingual Japanese at university, and it is absolutely fantastic. It’s written in layman’s terms and is subsequently a cinch to understand. I highly recommend you have rikaisama(firefox only)installed with Sanseido mode on (accesses Sanseido webs: デイリーコンサイス国語辞典 if you intend to read this. Don’t forget the F function which has a native speaker pronounce words for you!

    Once again, this guide is brilliant. I’ve only read the  文節相互の関係, 文節わけ, 名詞,
    and 動詞 sections. But if those are indicative of the whole corpus, I can give my utmost candid recommendation.

    Anyway, here’s the link: http://www.geocities.jp/nm3032nakatsu/kokubun/index.html

    Credit to Matt V for finding this guide,
    enjoy!

      • Haha, I was confused for a sec, like “wait what’d I miss? 0_o”.

        Thanks for sharing this, though! I didn’t even think to post it on the site =)

    • Haha, I’ve had similar experiences in the past where your mind skips one kanji, and the entire meaning changes.

      However, this is still a good resource!

  12. For anyone who owns this. At what Jalup level/After what Jalup deck can one tackle this amazing resource?

    • I think you’d be able to get a lot of value out of this book once you’ve finished the JALUP intermediate deck–and even more if you’ve completed the advanced deck. There will definitely be words you don’t know, but that’s what dictionaries are for (or, alternatively, the other sentences which you can understand).

      • Thank you for the speedy reply! A few more questions if you do not mind:
        1.Does the book cover JLPT N1 grammar too?
        2.Does the book cover slang? If not, do you know a resource that covers slang?
        3.Is this + Jalup decks = Grammar Greatness?

        The book is in my amazon cart right now a click away from ordering.

        • This book covers N1 grammar, but if you’re looking to pass the N1, I’ve heard it’s best to consult many sources (as there are going to be strengths or weaknesses, and gaps, in them all).

          Some of the sentences contain slang, but it’s nowhere close to being a resource for that.

          As for achieving grammar greatness, I think JALUP decks combined with this book will get you very far toward that goal, especially if you’re immersing yourself in the language.

    • I’d like to add my two cents.

      I would say if you want a relatively painless read (don’t want to look every second word), it’s best to use this after Expert 2. You shouldn’t even need this before that.

      Imo, this book works best as a review book to improve/correct your understanding of known concepts I.e. there is no reason to read it from cover to cover or learn “everything new” (if you *want* to do this, then it’s a different story)

      The order should be Immerse -> Find new grammar -> Anki it-> Refer this Book.

      • Thanks for commenting! There’s definitely a sliding scale in terms of vocabulary. The less anyone knows, the more he’ll spend time looking up words, and the tougher the book will be to use.

        I also agree that it works best to consolidate what you’ve “gotten used to” via immersion. However, I’ve found it valuable to read the book through (slowly) while immersing and then again, to consolidate what I’ve understood. The value of that first read through, to me, was that it helped me to notice things more; it helped me to connect and understand things faster than otherwise.

        This is probably another one of those things that each individual has to decide for himself, however, based on his own likes, abilities, and goals.

  13. I just ordered it, though I am still at the beginning stages. I probably won’t crack it open until I visit Japan next summer for 3 months just to immerse myself in the language and culture. I should be almost done with the advanced material by May 2017 when I arrive. Thanks for the recommendation!

  14. I got this a few months ago and it’s a total godsend. I agree with some of the comments above, it’s not really useful until you’ve finished JALUP intermediate and you still won’t get a lot of it.

    The explanation are really quite detailed, which makes it difficult for people at the intermediate level (like me), but the gold here is the plethora of example sentances for an insane amount of grammar. The example sentances are awesome and I love mining this book for sentances. If I don’t totally get a new grammar point brought up in the JALUP decks, I peek in here to see other examples which usually helps me grasp the meaning better. It can be quite hard to find example sentances for grammar online without having it translated into English, so this book is awesome just for that.

    A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar is an amazing J-E resource for beginners with grammar, and this is the logical evolution of it for J-J learners. Highly recommended!

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