Best grammar book after N4 level?

I know this is an age old discussion, but I’m gonna ask (again) anyway. I’m trying to really move forward with grammar, but I’m not sure what to do next. Here’s what I’ve already done:

  • Japanese From Zero book 1-3
  • Bunpro N5 and N4
  • Shin Kanzen Master N4 (in progress)
  • Plus a scattering of N3 stuff just from random things I’ve looked up while reading

According to Bunpro, I’ve cover near 100% of Genki 1 and 2. I don’t feel like counting, but I’d also guess I’ve covered 20-30% of Tobira just from random self study and Bunpro.

So with that said, what should I do next? I want something more structured and explanatory than Shin Kanzen Master N3 (though I’ll probably use that for review). I’m considering jumping right into Tobira, but someone (I believe @neicul) indicated that there might be a better book to do in between my level and Tobira, and that I might miss key grammar points if I go right into Tobira. So would Tobira be appropriate to use next or is there in fact something more suited to my level? Is Tobira better for self study or with a study partner, or does it work equally well for both?

Any suggestions would be appreciated! :blush:

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I’m roughly around the same level of grammar study as you, and these are my current grammar bibles. Obviously they’re not to be read cover to cover, but I just read any entries that seem to be relevant:

https://www.amazon.com/Handbook-Japanese-Patterns-Teachers-Learners/dp/4874246788

https://www.amazon.com/Dictionary-Intermediate-Japanese-Grammar/dp/4789007758

I should add that I am also going through the Shin Kanzen Master books, but I have found their grammar books to be only good for doing exercises. Their explanations are not thorough at all.

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I don’t know which one is the best one since my experience is limited. Last time in Japan, I spent some time looking through a lot of different books that I could use after Genki 2 and I ended up with “An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese”. I had not planned to do that initially but it just felt the most appealing to me. Have you looked into it?

The jump from Genki was smooth and I like the format better than Genki. I hardly ever did the exercises in Genki (even though I had both text book and work book :roll_eyes: ) so I’m glad that there are not a lot of them.

I bought Tobira too and I’m still planning on going through it eventually once I’m done with AIATIJ. As far as I’ve read, some people do both, others want to go faster and do only one.

I do for example own the Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar but after the initial excitement I didn’t open it once. It doesn’t seem to fit into my study style for now.

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I don’t know anything about Tobira, but I’ve been using the TRY! series. They feel a bit like the Shin Kanzen Master books (one book for each JLPT level), but much easier to tread from cover to cover, because they structure grammar in a different way and don’t group all the similar stuff together, which feels kind of exhausting. They also have a section text each chapter (that’s also on the CD), 4 or 5 example sentences for each pattern (usually even more when you count the exercises following). After about four chapters they have more review and also some listening questions. The grammar explanations are not very extensive, though, but have an English translation. Although I think the example sentences are more valuable for better understanding than a long-winded explanation anyway.

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As I am not big on studying for tests, (both on a practical and self-interest basis), I find it to be more enjoyable and effective for the beginning levels of Japanese to progress with Tobira from a typical set of ‘first year Japanese books’ like Genki. I am currently finishing up Tobira, and in addition to speaking the language everyday/Wanikani/reading newspapers/books, I quite like it, both for the relevant and interesting 読み物 and the quality of the explanations. I would comfortably say that if you do that whole book and complete the workbook that goes with it (and could also understand/produce the grammar and vocabulary), you would be comfortably around the ‘N3/N2’-ish level.

I might also add that like you, I sort of felt I understood alot of Tobira before I started using it a 9 months ago or so back, but found that although I could understand the grammar, the intricacies of understanding each point, ability to produce it and ability to distinguish similar grammar (i.e. しないと、しなければならない、しなきゃ etc ) was not quite as good as I had thought~ just my two cents

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Also would add that I recently took N2 and felt more or less sufficiently prepared for it having done the mentioned activities

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I really like the Shinkanzen Master books. I did Genki I and II, then went through Shinkanzen Master N4 to see what I lacked, and continued with N3 and N2. Worked really well for me.

But do you really need a grammar book ? I really thought I need one, until I had an unexpected experience very recently that changed a bit my view :

To prepare for last December N3, I was working through shin kanzen master grammar book. It’s a good book, but my god it’s such a slog. I was doing all the exercises and it was killing me. One month before N3, I was only one third in and I realized I could never finished it in time… So I tried a desperate move : forget about shin kanzen master, use only Bunpro and cram the hell out of it. I had more than 150 grammar point to cover, so I grinded 5 to 10 new points every day. For each grammar point, if unclear, I would cross-check the meaning with A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar or imabi or tae Kim, or the link provided by bunpro., but didn’t do any dedicated exercise, just the regular review.

I was so sure it was going to be a failure, there was no way all this grammar could stick, my understanding of it would be a disaster… However, after one month, I discovered that Bunpro review were much more manageable than I expected, that the points were sticking fairly well thanks to the SRS, and more importantly, that my reading comprehension had shot up like crazy, probably the biggest and quickest jump I had ever had in Japanese.

In hindsight, I think it because starting around N3 most grammar is not anymore about the fundamentals of Japanese, but more and more about smaller expression, limited in scope. One expression = one pattern. But, THERE IS SO MANY OF THEM. So many low hanging fruit grammar point which are fairly easy to learn but change completely the understanding of a sentence.

So anyway, maybe at your stage you also need to focus on quantity and grab as many small point as possible ?

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What would you say is better after GENKI II, TRY N4 or N3 ?

I would say Genki II covers most of N4, so going for Try! N3 should be okay.
Tagging @eefi because I think she did TRY! N4 after Genki? So maybe she can elaborate.

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I’m a fan of these books as well, I can always just look it up in my grammar dictionary or online if I need a more complete explanation.

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I did Try N4 and then Try N3 after Genki II.
Try N4 was very easy but it did have a few new grammar points; I finished it very fast because I could easily understand everything. Perhaps it could be skipped.
Try N3 was extremely difficult though, barely manageable after both Genki II and Try N4. A lot of sample sentences were incomprehensible and I had to google them or ask on hinative about the meaning of the ones I couldn’t figure out. Finally I added ALL sample sentences from the book to Anki, with my own rough translation, and learned them this way. This helped my comprehension a lot though.
After that I picked An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese, and after Try N3 it was a breeze until about Chapter 11, where things started to get somewhat difficult again. Overall this textbook is much easier than Try N3. The sample sentences are short and usually just illustrate the related grammar point, while sample sentences from Try N3 tend to be longer and include a lot of different stuff at once.

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Well, my only advice is definitely don’t bother with So Matome series then … it’s more of a crash-course compared to Shin Kanzen, definitely the opposite direction from where you’re trying to go.

But they do have those cute covers.

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I went into Tobira immediately after finishing Genki 1 and 2 and it didn’t cause me any problems. I don’t know how the Genki textbooks compare with what you’ve done up until now, but it looks like you might have covered the same stuff, if not more.

Edit: derp, you already said you covered 100% of Genki. My bad :sweat_smile:

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Thanks everyone for the ideas so far.

I think I need a little more structure than Bunpro gives, hence why I want to try another textbook. More likely I’d use Bunpro alongside a textbook.

I don’t like the “studying for the test” approach you get from Shin Kanzen Master, so I’m not inclined to check out the Try series either. Thanks for the suggestion though.

I have the Handbook of Japanese Grammar Patterns one and the Basic dictionary. I’ll probably get the Intermediate one eventually too. But as you said, not really a textbook like I’m looking for.

According to Bunpro’s index of Genki at least. I’ve never used or even looked at Genki.

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Thanks for the very detailed answer! (I bookmarked it for when I’m finished with Genki II) :kissing_heart:

I used An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese after Genki and felt like I understood the grammar it taught pretty well. I easily passed N3 after finishing the book with WK ~30-35 (I forget what level I was when I took the test). I took all of the sentences and made a “grammar” anki deck, with the sentence on the front and the sentence with furigana on the back, and the main grammar point I was looking for, but no translation. If I couldn’t understand the sentence or grammar points, I marked them wrong. This worked really well for me. I enjoyed working through the book. I also have Tobira, but I haven’t started using it. I didn’t use any test specific preparation books before taking the test. My guiding theory was that I wanted to learn Japanese, not study for the test, so whatever general Japanese knowledge I had should be good enough for my purposes.

The next book after AIATIJ, 中級から上級への日本語 is quite a step up in difficulty though, as it pretty much gets rid of all English. It’s shorter, but took me a lot longer to work through.

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Do you have to buy a separate workbook for that?

I’m using Tobira at the moment and I love it. I did Genki I and II before I started. If you do decide to use Tobira, I 200% recommend getting the teacher’s guide to go along with it. It has suggestions and further explanations for each section in every chapter, and imo the most useful is that it breaks down each grammar point with additional usage and nuances, warnings, etc. (It also has English translations of all readings, dialogues, and example sentences in the back). It’s all in Japanese, which was daunting at first, but now it’s become a normal part of studying grammar for me.

I find the balance between the English textbook and the Japanese teacher’s guide is perfect. I don’t know if I would have been ready for Kanzen Master right away. But because of the guide being all Japanese, I’ll feel prepared for Kanzen Master N2 after I finish Tobira.

To round out my grammar routine, I ask my italki tutor, Atsushi, any remaining questions I have. Sometimes the extra explanation in the guidebook raises more questions than it answers, or I just don’t understand what’s written. I linked him specifically because he has both the Tobira textbook and teacher’s guide, so it’s really easy to ask him stuff.

Good luck with whatever you choose!

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There is a separate workbook, which has the grammar exercises, but I don’t remember if I bought it. If I did, I can’t find it on my bookshelf, which means it’s packed up in a box somewhere. There aren’t grammar exercises in the main book.

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