Is A Dictionary of Basic/Intermediate/Advanced Japanese Grammar necessary with textbooks?

Right now I’m using Genki 1 and 2. After I finish those, I’ll use Quartet, then maybe Shin Kanzen Master N1. Would A Dictionary of Basic/Intermediate/Advanced Japanese Grammar provide any useful information that isn’t covered in those textbooks?

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It’s a reference book.
It’s not strictly necessary. You can find all information spread over the internet or in other books as well. But I would say it is pretty authorative in that the contents are really well reserached and go into some depth you wont find in other books.
As a negative some points other books consider “grammar” is not in there since they strictly only cover grammar and not words.

So no they are not necessary and can be quite pricy. If you are interessted maybe you can get the first one used for cheap to get a feeling for how and what they cover. It is sometimes quite fun to look up grammar points in them. Another good alternative for a reference book is for example (exists in pure Japanese and I think in other languages as well if that tickles your fancy).


I would say the Handbook of Japanese Patterns is the one that’s easier to replace with internet explanations – it covers a lot more entries than the Do{BIA}JG, but each is in a lot less detail. It’s a nice reference (I have and like the J-J version) but if I were trying to economise on grammar references I’d keep the Dictionaries and skip on buying the Handbook.

The advantage of the Dictionaries as a reference is that they provide an alternate point of view and explanation for the grammar your textbook covers (and which to some extent the textbook may be expecting a classroom teacher to be available to explain). If you’re a “pick things up by example and immersion” type of student you probably won’t get so much from them. If you’re the more theoretical type who wants explanations of “how it works” then they’re very good.

Also, because they’re a reference it’s much easier to find the material in them compared to leafing through a textbook trying to remember which chapter it was that talked about the use of を with verbs describing movement, or whatever.


they aren’t too expensive if you shop around a bit, check non amazon spots to compare. i like the more involved explanations and the format plus a lot of explanations in the first book particularly about basic language grammar terminology that, at least for me, i’d long forgotten the intricacies of from high school english courses. i regret now how much i thought it was useless to learn your own native grammar as now i spend so much time trying to apply my knowledge to learning japanese lol.


I hear people swear by them but I think its one of those books you buy after you’ve finished your text book phases and are strictly relying on input. Personally I find them to be too dry to use as anything other than a reference. I once got the idea to maybe write a sentence per point and instantly gave up because it was such a boring task that I would get little benefit from. I was better off just trying to express an idea in a journal and looking up a grammar point to support it online. Then trying it out and getting feedback.


I agree with many of the points here. I got the Basic early in my studies, but didn’t really start using it till after I’d finished Genki I/II. It covers some topics that aren’t in Genki, and the different way of explaining things can help things make sense or “stick” better. It’s a nice reference. Also, though I wouldn’t read through the whole thing, some of the appendices are worth reading.


Haven’t used them myself, but I’ve seen extracts. They do seem quite well received by those of us on these forums who do use them, and most of what I’ve seen looks good. I’ll leave you to read everyone else’s experiences. I think one obvious advantage of using them is that like any other reference work, they’re probably going to be easy to find information in, which may save you some time, at least until you discover what search terms give you the best results for Japanese grammar explanations in English (or in Japanese).

However, what I will say about the more advanced levels is this: once you’re able to use online resources written in Japanese yourself – which is an ability you can acquire before you’re able to ace the N1 – you might not need the DoJG series anymore. Also, as good and detailed as they are, some of the explanations in the DoJG have left certain WK forum users confused, particularly when conditions for using an expression are mentioned, followed by a counter-example that doesn’t clearly fail the conditions. Obviously, this points to our not seeing something that we ought to, but to me, this also means the books aren’t always clear enough: I’ve bought books from top French language reference publishers meant to help careful French writers avoid common errors and understand obscure rules. They’ve never left me confused, for all the technical language they use. I don’t see why the DoJG can’t do the same for Japanese. Finally, I tend to find any advanced reference book on a language not written in that language suspect, because it’s rarely of the same quality as books written for natives of that language, but that’s just my personal bias, albeit based on experience.

I will say, however, that I own two Japanese dictionaries that frequently detail how certain structures should be used, and I find them surprisingly concise given how much information is provided. Similarly, I’ve recently acquired a very lightweight book (literally pocket-sized and just over 200 pages long) that explains things like the difference between 思う and 考える in great detail – and with historical insights – in a way I’ve never seen in any textbook or other reference book. Thus, again, once you know enough to read Japanese resources, even if you still need a dictionary to help you along, you might not need – or want – to use English resources.

Having used some of these books (yes, at the N1 level), I really wouldn’t recommend treating this series as a textbook. Only the grammar and kanji volumes are designed in a way that allows you to learn something from context even if you don’t look anything up, albeit you’ll definitely be much better off after looking things up. The rest are clearly designed for the purpose of test prep, with a heavy focus on being knowledge repositories and providing exercises and exam tips. SKM N1 is worth doing if you’re training to pass the N1, but that’s about it.

If you’re looking for a textbook that gives you context to learn and coherent texts/recordings you can immerse yourself in, I’d recommend getting one of these instead, in ascending order of difficulty:

  • Try!日本語能力試験N1: 文法から伸ばす日本語 – this is meant for test prep too, but it’s actually built like a textbook, with readings that allow you to see words being used in context. The grammar explanations are given in English and Japanese, so you can check your understanding of the Japanese against what’s said in English.
  • 日本への招待/Images of Japan – this is a textbook from the University of Tokyo that’s meant for ‘advanced and pre-advanced learners’. I’d say it’s an N2-to-N1 textbook. Lots of technical terms, short translations in vocabulary lists that accompany lesson texts, and some exercises.
  • 文化へのまなざし – also from the University of Tokyo. ‘Advanced learners’. It’s almost definitely harder than Images of Japan, maybe something like high-N2-to-N1.

If you want to have a look, you can use the links to the last two on Amazon here:

They’re completely in Japanese, which is fairly common for N1 materials. However, at least they stitch words and structures you’d need at the N1 level into the fabric of texts and recordings that might make learning more memorable. SKM rarely does that.


As you venture in N3/N2 are there will be LOTS of different ways of saying things with different nuances. I find myself using the Handbook of Grammar Patters all the time. For me, its explanations are clear than the Dictionary of Grammar. It may omit details but its explanations are way cleaner. I also prefer its example sentences. Of course, if you finish N1 grammar then you will not need any grammar references but I assume you are reading native material and not only textbooks. So often you will find some structure that you have not seen before and it is much easier to use the Handbook (or the Dictionary) to understand it than to try to locate the grammar structure in one of the textbooks…


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