Imabi vs A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar

I finished TextFugu a few months ago and have been hungering for some more grammar knowledge lately so I’ve been shopping around for my next resource. I thought it would be as easy as just do Tae Kim, but upon deeper investigation, it seems it’s not (supposedly Tae Kim has lots of misinformation?). I started to lean towards Imabi, but then realized that if I’m gonna go over 500 pages anyway, why not just do the highly praised A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar (which I already own, so the cost isn’t a factor). What do you guys think?

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Currently I’m content with the grammar Bunpro provides. As for books, I have no strong opinion. I have some experience with ‘An introduction to modern Japanese’ by Richard Bowring. I thought that book had some intuitive explanations. It’s supposed to be used in a classical setting though, so the workbook has only exercises, no answers.

I’m surprised by your Tae Kim remark. I’m not in a position to judge whether there is misinformation, but I see his guide recommended quite frequently. Can you elaborate a bit more? Maybe give some example(s) of misinformation?

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I like A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar, but am not convinced I would use it for a main learning resource, though it depends on your strategy. As you probably know, it’s alphabetical, vs a textbook where they kind of follow increasing difficulty and building on each other. Reading it front to back would teach you a lot, but might feel a little haphazard.

I find it really helpful when I’m trying to read, because it lets me look up a grammatical form, get a grasp of what it does, and see a bunch of examples. I really like it for contextual learning - seeing something and learning how/why it works that way. I don’t think it would be as useful for building knowledge systematically, but you can always try it.

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Well, what do you think of DBJG, since you already have it? How much have you used it?

I like it and I’ve learned grammar from it. It’s not my only resource, but I do use it quite often. I’ll flip through, find a new grammar point I’ll find useful, bookmark it and practice it.

There are some discussions about this on Reddit including these:


To be fair, some of the accusations come from the creator of Imabi, so I’m sure they’re biased. On the other hand, the creator of Imabi clearly is very knowledgeable.

Not satisfied with his word for it, though, I did further research and found this from Tofugu, which, of course, I trust (more than anyone else):

If you scroll down to the Tae Kim review, it states, “Some grammar explanations may contain errors.”

I initially found this to be alarming, but I recently reread the chapter on how to learn grammar in The Art and Science of Learning Languages and the authors stated that all grammar books contain errors to a greater or lesser extent. So, maybe I shouldn’t be so worried about Tae Kim. While the creators of the other resources would surely argue that they contain no errors, surely they do as well.

Truth be told, while it has a great reputation, it really is a reference work and not ideal for teaching yourself grammar from nothing (or, almost nothing, since I did do Textfugu, so I have some basics already). Ultimately, as I’ve explored in another thread (Most concise grammar resource), I think it may just be better to find something more concise. I’m thinking Imabi and DBJG will be of use in the future to get a deeper understanding of things, but not well suited in the beginning.

The creator of Imabi argues that you need to know everything about grammar to really know grammar. I can’t argue with that. However, I can argue that you don’t really need that to get good at a language. Most of us could speak our native language reasonably well before ever learning any grammar. And grammar experts in your native language aren’t as a rule the best speakers of that language. There is far more involved in being good at a language than having a command of rules. Therefore, I think taking a shallow approach is generally better. You review the grammar rules as a whole periodically. But you actually learn to use the grammar the same way you did in your native language - by your brain naturally picking up the patterns until things start to sound right or wrong. You can refine, clarify, and reinforce through grammar books as you go.

So, yeah, I should proly just get Genki and call it a day. :joy:

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Thanks for the links! I was completely unaware of the discussion. Reading the discussion, I thought the creator of miyabi was actually pretty reasonable. There were some other comments I liked less, even though they might’ve been technically correct (some weren’t even correct). Purely based on these discussions, I don’t think there’s much harm in using Tae Kim. Obviously, one should be critical of any used source.

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May have errors can be said of a wide swath of textbooks or reference books. Just take a gander at the WK changelog thread. It’s not as if even this site is error-free. Even something highly regarded like Genki has dozens of errors in it.

Now that’s not to say that all errors are equally as bad (and the ones in Tae Kim might be bad shrug), but no resource is 100% perfect.

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When I restarted learning Japanese a few years back, I started out with Genki, which was ok. The kaiwa is quite focused at school environment, which is a bit awkward given that I was already out of school for awhile. The grammar points themselves were good enough for me at that point of study. (:

Recently, I started using Minna no Nihongo for reviewing lower level grammars, and I found the full Japanese environment to be very nice (the kaiwa is more geared towards working environment as well). It may be hard to use since it’s fully in Japanese, but with some online references to cross reference on, I don’t think it’d be too bad.

As you may have guessed, I prefer cross referencing online resources, as it gives me different flavors of explanations for the given grammar points. Sometime a grammar explanation from one site just doesn’t click for me, but another will. If I were to restart from beginning, I’d probably use Minna no Nihongo with Google for grammar points. d:

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