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Japanese::Contraction (grammar)

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Japanese Some contractions in rapid speech include ~っす (-ssu) for です (desu) and すいません (suimasen) for すみません (sumimasen). では (dewa) is often contracted to じゃ (ja). In certain grammatical contexts the particle の (no) is contracted to simply ん (n).

When used after verbs ending in the conjunctive form ~て (-te), certain auxiliary verbs and their derivations are often abbreviated. Examples:

Original Form Transliteration Contraction Transliteration
main}} -te iru / -te ita / -te imasu / etc. main}} -te ru / -te ta / -te masu / etc.
main}} -te iku / -te itta / etc.* main}} -te ku / -te tta / etc.*
main}} -te oku / -te oita / -te okimasu / etc. main}} -toku / -toita / -tokimasu / etc.
main}} -te shimau / -te shimatta / -te shimaimasu / etc. main}} -chau / -chatta / -chaimasu / etc.
main}} -de shimau / -de shimatta / -de shimaimasu / etc. main}} -jau / -jatta / -jaimasu / etc.
main}} -te wa main}} -cha
main}} -de wa main}} -ja
main}} -nakute wa main}} -nakucha

* this abbreviation is never used in the polite conjugation, to avoid the resultant ambiguity between an abbreviated ikimasu (go) and the verb kimasu (come).

The ending ~なければ (-nakereba) can be contracted to ~なきゃ (-nakya) when it is used to indicate obligation. It is often used without an auxiliary, e.g., 行かなきゃ(いけない) (ikanakya (ikenai)) "I have to go."

Other times, contractions are made to create new words or to give added or altered meaning:

  • The word 何か (nanika) "something" is contracted to なんか (nanka) to make a colloquial word with a meaning along the lines of "sort of," but which can be used with almost no meaning. Its usage is as a filler word is similar to English "like."
  • じゃない (ja nai) "is not" is contracted to じゃん (jan) which is used at the end of statements to show the speaker's belief or opinion, often when it is contrary to that of the listener, e.g., いいじゃん! (ii jan!) "What, it's fine!"
  • The commonly used particle-verb phrase という (to iu) is often contracted to ~って/~て/~っつー (-tte/-te/-ttsū) to give a more informal or noncommittal feeling.
  • といえば (to ieba), the conditional form of という (to iu) mentioned above, is contracted to ~ってば (-tte ba) to show the speaker's annoyance at the listener's failure to listen to, remember, or heed what the speaker has said, e.g., もういいってば! (mō ii tte ba!), “I already told you I don't want to talk about it anymore!”.
  • The common words だ (da) and です (desu) are older contractions that originate from である (de aru) and でございます (de gozaimasu). These are fully integrated into the language now, and are not generally thought of as contractions; however in formal writing (e.g., literature, news articles, or technical/scientific writing), である (de aru) is used in place of だ (da).

Various dialects of Japanese also use their own specific contractions which are often unintelligible to speakers of other dialects.


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