Struggling with understanding grammar/sentence organization

Hi guys, my first post here.

I’m trying to learn basic grammar, but it feels like nothing is sticking, the biggest problem I’m having is that I’m having an incredibly hard time understanding sentence order and the basics of how things need to be organized.

I read a little bit of Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese Grammar, along with trying to use bunpro and stopped at various points. I was trying to use Tae Kim’s path on Bunpro to see if it would help me understand the material better, since reading the textbook on its own But it feels like the progression is fragmented and I quickly lose all control and motivation on the SRS, and and my confidence in learning anything new at all right now is pretty shot. I’ve already reset Bunpro progress once and I’m about to reset it again.

My biggest problems are understanding how multiple verbs work in a sentence, what the different verb conjugations are for、 (て form, いる /ある ) and particles.

any resources or help would be appreciated.


Have you tried a traditional textbook with exercises like Genki or Japanese From Zero? Maybe something like that would work better for you. I personally find exercises to be very important at the ultra-beginner stage of learning grammar.

It also may be worth checking out this blog post:


I can wholeheartedly suggest cure dolly. Some find it hard to listen to (though I don’t think that at all), but it’s definitely great. She showes you actual japanese sentences (from alice in wonderland) at some point, and before that just example sentences and explains what everything means in detail. It’s great.


My personal opinion on grammar:

If you are working through tae kims, I would really just recommend getting the general idea for how stuff works and not worry about grasping any specifics. Really just stuff like ok heres what conjugations look like, heres roughly how conjugations happen, heres all these particles and they roughly do xyz, etc…

From there, I would just do your best to look at as many basic sentences as you can that use the basic grammar you want to learn and “get a feel for them” that way. There are a handful of places to get sentences like this from and some places will even break the grammar down for you for each of the sentences which is also not a bad idea.

Basically, don’t feel like any piece of basic grammar is something you need to have down pat. Its a little counterintuitive since people might think that you need to have a really solid foundation and that you gotta really grasp the fundamentals, but I think its wasted effort at the beginning of your studies.


I’m seconding both of @seanblue’s recommendations! That blog post was really helpful to me when I was just starting out, and doing the exercises in Minna no Nihongo has been fantastic practice for me.

I also recommend Japanese Ammo with Misa’s Grammar Lessons for Absolute Beginners playlist. I started watching these videos with almost zero grammar knowledge, besides the blog post linked above, and they were a fantastic help for me, much more so than the little bit I tried reading of Tae Kim.


Also, as most things, grammar can be a thing that relies heavily on amount of input. In some cases at least. Just seeing a bunch of it in use will make you better and better at it, provided you can reasonably figure out what is said

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If you’re worried about stuff ‘sticking’ I would definitely agree with @seanblue.

Exercises help hugely with retention. Reading comprehension exercises are especially useful in my experience — of course, as you progress, I would suggest less reading exercises and more just ‘reading’. :wink:

With regards to resources, I think you’ve got a pretty solid set solely using Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide, but I also suggest JLPT Sensei and Maggie Sensei for more specific grammar points. There are other great resources like Imabi, but, despite them offering the earlier stuff, I’d say that they’re more beneficial at later stages.

If you’re struggling to remember conjugations (which I know was a struggle for me at the beginning), then I would really suggest Conjugation City (if you’re on IOS; I’m not sure if there’s an Android version).

Some people swear by Bunpro; I personally do not find SRS all that necessary for something more contextual like grammar, but it could work for you. I know you said you’ve tried it, so continue going with it along with a bunch of other stuff and drop the stuff that isn’t working as you go along. :wink:

Finally, beginner textbooks are all bs. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Obviously I’m exaggerating. I just mean that their classroom orientated, very slow approach did not work for me at all.

If you’re learning style is quite like mine, I recommend starting clear of them until you’re at a level where you can start looking at Tobirawhich, as I look at their website, I see has just released a beginner’s textbook :thinking:. Huh, I obviously haven’t tried it, but if it’s half as good as their intermediate textbook, I’d suggest giving it a shot.

Anyway, this post has become quite rambly, so I’ll shut up and leave you to it. Hopefully this post has given you a good idea of what my personal suggestion are though.


Lingo Deer is good for basic grammar IMO. Also, I personally like the style of Paul Noble’s “Learn Japanese with Paul Noble for Beginners - Complete Course” on Audible. It’s not free but has 12 hours of audio with basic grammar and sentence structure info/practice. Some people will probably not enjoy the approach but I like the verbal drills where you are asked in English how to say something in Japanese and being given time to formulate and say it out loud before the answer is provided. It starts simple and builds progressively towards more complex sentences including past/present tense and various particles. It’s not a vocabulary builder but is very focused on teaching how to formulate complete sentences with a basic set of vocabulary. Unfortunately (for me at least) the “next steps” version of the course does not release until January 2022 :-(.

Thank you for the reply, Conjugation City sounds right up my alley!

I’m very interested in finding content that has exercises, and especially anything that has immediate feedback, It was the main thing that drew me to WaniKani and now, Bunpro, I’m very prone to doubting myself when reading, understanding concepts, etc. I like how these tools tell you immediately if you’re wrong or right.

If you’re learning style is quite like mine, I recommend starting clear of them until you’re at a level where you can start looking at Tobirawhich, as I look at their website, I see has just released a beginner’s textbook :thinking: . Huh, I obviously haven’t tried it, but if it’s half as good as their intermediate textbook, I’d suggest giving it a shot.

So when you say to steer clear, do you mean textbooks in general? or just beginner textbooks?
Quite honestly, this is my first time trying anything like this on my own, I’m learning about as much about “how I learn” as I am actually learning Japanese.

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Beginner textbooks.

This may just be some sort of PTSD I have from classroom lessons with Genki, but I found it awful. :sweat_smile: I then started independent with Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide and things took off from there.

I’m not saying that you won’t find them useful, but just that in my experience they were not.

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This is something that seems to be pretty individual, so I wouldn’t take any one person’s opinion on textbooks as absolute gospel. Some people don’t learn well from textbooks and have much better luck just diving straight into native materials and learning that way. Other people find immersion without a solid foundation to be really frustrating and not fun, causing them to give up or burn out. I’ve seen people reach a high level of proficiency in the language with both methods (starting with beginner textbooks, or skipping textbooks entirely), and I have also seen people burn out and quit with both methods.

If you’re not someone who does well with textbooks, you might have better luck trying to just read native materials and learn as you go. But if you try this and it doesn’t work for you, trying a beginner textbook might give you the grammar foundation you’re looking for.

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I would love to try immersion, personally, but searching for content that’s interesting enough to hold my attention is really difficult, and it is just very intimidating, in general. Do you know of any good way to find or curate Japanese language content?

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I think you’re better off learning basic grammar before trying to learn from immersion. Without knowing at least the basics, it’ll just be a wall of text with no meaning. At least if you know the basics, it’ll be easier to break down sentences to try to figure out what you don’t understand.


I wrote a post on understanding basic Japanese sentence structure years ago. You might find it useful:

Japanese word order is in many ways inverse of English, since it’s known as a “left-branching” rather than “right-branching” language. In English, descriptive phrases come after the thing they describe, while in Japanese, they come before. This is tough for beginning readers because 1) it’s unfamiliar and 2) you need to keep a “buffer” in your head of the whole descriptive phrase before you find out what it’s describing.

I would also recommend going through Genki or the equivalent to make sure you get your verb and adjective conjugations down. That’s another foundational item that will help a lot with reading.

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Quite a lot of it Is in English so just find something you really like and then get the Japanese version.

Yeah, I figured (and experienced) as much when I tried immersion for the first time, sometimes it’s made out to be a lot easier or simple than it actually is.

I second Japanese Ammo with Misa, also the first five videos in that playlist were remade kinda recently and are even better, but definitely watch the rest in the playlist. I just got to lesson #28 and I am blown away by how easy it feels to learn now compared to when I was just using Genki.

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regardless of the method anyone picks, this is my general recommendation as well. It will click into place on its if you let it.

my tool of choice is grammar books. Not semester length textbooks, but grammars that get straight to the point. I could read those things for hours.

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That article was amazing! thank you so much, For some reason it wasn’t clicking with me that what was behind the particle in word order was more important than what was in front of it, Now everything makes a lot more sense.

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Yeah, my biggest problem with Bunpro right now is that it seems to skip around a lot, switching between casual and polite speech, inconsistent input instructions for the reviews, and the actual lessons don’t really feel like lessons, the meaning pages are brief and kind of cryptic, too. When I tried to supplement with Tae Kim, sometimes bunpro skipped concepts explained in the book, and sometimes it added things that weren’t explained yet, either.

I’m keeping it on the backburner for now, It will probably become more useful as you consolidate knowledge, like you said. but for now it’s been a huge headache.