中級日本語ー Specifying Japanese Year

October 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Specifying Japanese Year

The Japanese use two different systems to refer to the year: the Western system and the Japanese system. To specify the toshi (toh-shee; year) using the Western system, add the counter -nen after the number that expresses the year – for example, 1998-nen (sehn-kyooo-hyah-koo-kyooo-jooo-hah-chee-nehn; 1998). Follow this advice and you’ll be understood perfectly in Japan.

In the Japanese system, you express years by using the nengo (nehn-gohh; era name) and the counter -nen, as in Hesei 14-nen (hehh-sehh jooo-yoh-nehn; 2002). A new nengo is created every time a new Japanese emperor ascends the throne and continues until another emperor takes his place. 

If you want to count years, use either -nenkan or -nen as counters. So “one year” is ichi-nen (ee-chee-nehn) or ichi-nenkan (ee-chee-nehn-kahn), and “two years” is ni-nen (nee-nehn) or ni-nenkan (nee-nehn-kahn). In conversation, the shorter version, -nen, is used more frequently than -nenkan, but again, it’s good to be aware of both forms

To specify a date in Japanese, start from the largest unit of time, the toshi (toh-shee; year), and move to successively smaller units, the tsuki (tsoo-kee; month), the hi (hee; day of the month), and the yobi (yohh-bee; day of the week) in that order, as in 2002-nen 8-gatsu 29-nichi, mokuydbi (nee-sehn-nee-nehn hah-chee-gah-tsoo nee-jooo-koo-nee-chee moh-koo-yohh-bee; August 29, 2002, Thursday).

Specifying dates and times

To specify when something happens or happened, insert a time phrase into the sentence. You can place the time phrase anywhere in the sentence as long as it’s before the verb. If you’re dealing with a specific time – a specific day, month, year, or hour – like getsuyobi (geh-tsoo-yohh-bee; Monday), shi-gatsu (shee-gah-tsoo; April), or 7-ji (shee-chee-jee; 7:00), place the particle ni (nee) after the time phrase.

If you’re dealing with relative time expressions like kyonen (kyoh-nehn; last year), kyo (kyohh; today), or raishu (rah-ee-shooo; next week), you don’t need to use the particle ni. Check out the following examples:

  • 12-gatsu 28-nichi ni ikimasu. (jooo-nee-gah-tsoo nee-jooo-hah-chee-nee-chee nee ee-kee-mah-soo; I’ll go there on December 28.)
  • 1989-nen ni Hawai ni ikimashita. (sehn-kyooo-hyah-koo-hah-chee-jooo-kyooo-nehn nee hah-wah-ee nee ee-kee-mah-shee-tah; I went to Hawaii in 1989.)
  • Nan-gatsu ni umaremashita ka. (nahn-gah-tsoo nee oo-mah-reh-mah-shee-tah kah; Which month were you born in?)
  • Kyo ega o mimasu. (kyohh ehh-gah oh mee-mah-soo; I’ll see a movie today.)
  • Senshu o-kane o haraimashita. (sehn-shooo oh-kah-neh oh hah-rah-ee-mah-shee-tah; I paid last week.)

To list a number of activities in the same sentence, put all the verbs except the last one in the te-form. You don’t need to use a particle that would correspond to and in English – converting all the verbs except the last one into the te-form handles the and concept. The last verb expresses the tense of all the activities, as in these examples:

  • Kind wa ku-ji ni ginko ni itte, ju-ji ni depato ni itte, go-ji ni kaerimashita. (kee-nohh wah koo-jee nee geen-kohh nee eet-teh, jooo-jee nee deh-pahh-toh nee eet-teh, goh-jee nee kah-eh-ree-mah-shee-tah; Yesterday, I went to the bank at 9:00, went to the department store at 10:00, and went home at 5:00.)
  • 15-nichi ni itte, 18-nichi ni kaerimasu. (jooo-goh-nee-chee nee eet-teh, jooo-hah-chee-nee-chee nee kah-eh-ree-mah-soo; I’ll go there on the 15th, and I’ll be back on the 18th.)
  • Raigetsu Furansu ni itte, Supein ni itte, Itaria ni ikimasu. (rah-ee-geh-tsoo foo-rahn-soo nee eet-teh, soo-peh-een nee eet-teh, ee-tah-ree-ah nee ee-kee-mah-soo; Next month I’ll go to France, Spain, and Italy.)
Words to Know
karenda kah-rehn-dahh calendar
ryoko ryoh-kohh trip/travel
tabi tah-bee journey
toshi toh-shee year
tsuki tsoo-kee month
shu shooo week
hi hee day
yobi yohh-bee day of the week

Changing With the Seasons

Does your part of the world have shiki (shee-kee; four seasons), or does it have only some combination of haru (hah-roo; spring), natsu (nah-tsoo; summer), aki (ah-kee; fall), and fuyu (foo-yoo; winter)?

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