Tobira study group - chapter 2

Nope, I haven’t seen it. It sounds interesting though. I might see if it’s available elsewhere (legally as much as possible, of course: studios and actors need to be paid!) since I don’t have Netflix. (I could try to get it some day, but I won’t for now.)

This is true, but I’ve also heard that sometimes you need explicit permission. (That’s probably in hierarchical situations like when you have someone who’s technically your senpai, but who’s also roughly your age.) I guess I’ll find out how to navigate it some day. What I meant though, was when people switch for no particular reason. I remember that my textbook contained a dialogue between a woman and her husband, and I believe she switched between 丁寧語 and 砕けた話し方 at some point, and only for one sentence. When I sent the sentence to my friend, he said it was bizarre. What I’m saying is that speech styles shouldn’t switch unless the relationship between those involved in the conversation has changed.

One thing I do know for sure about speech styles though: university students of the same age/at the same level in their studies usually all address each other in タメ口. That’s normal.


Did any of you watch the video on the Tobira web site? As usual, the first couple of minutes was vocab practice, but the last part of the video was a real conversation between 2 teachers. I could understand most of it so that was a win!


I didn’t realise they had conversations filmed. I tried listening. Honestly, it wasn’t easy. I mean, I understood most of it, but I felt like there were things that I was missing because I didn’t get the context. (I’ve also forgotten some of the places mentioned in the textbook.) I believe one of them mentioned a しょうこちゃん at some point, but I really wasn’t sure.

EDIT: Ok, I increased the volume and it was a little easier. Caught a bit more. Also, it really was しょうこちゃん. I guess I just couldn’t hear them earlier since it was recorded in a room with some echoing and not in a professional recording studio (which is just as well, because it’s good to get exposure to such difficulties). I guess this is what happens when you’re used to listening to anime (or dramas), in which voices usually are very clear. On the other hand though, the pace of speech in anime is often faster, and the words used are usually more complex.


Been a busy few days, but yes, I’ve managed to do the dialogues and exercises, currently working on the lesson 2-grammar-exercises. The dialogue wasn’t too hard, let’s see about the exercises! :smiley:

What I find difficult with the whole 敬語 in general, 尊敬語、謙譲語、タメ口、丁寧語 is that I can’t fit those huge tables of one expression in several different politeness-levels into my head :smiley: It feels overwhelming. Probably comes with practice though, as most things do.

Thanks for the reminder there’s a video, I shall watch that!

Terrace House is quite good for conversation (listening-to-natural-conversation) practice! I haven’t watched too many episodes yet, but certainly plan to as soon as I’ve finished a few more Ghibli-movies, haha. It’s getting recommended a lot as a resource. This is another great point about Netflix for JP: Recently, all the Ghibli-movies were added. Well, I can only speak for Germany, Netflix does weird things with the region you’re in, so they might not be available there :confused:


Not that I would ever try VPN or anything… :wink:

Can you recommend any Ghibli movies? I have heard so much about them but I have never watched any of them.

I quite liked Terrace House too, even if it’s nothing like what I usually like! I watched the first half of the “boys and girls in the city” season, then the residents changed and I didn’t like them so I stopped :sweat_smile:
But the dialogs are real conversations and it was fun trying to understand them! I paused once to analyse the JP subtitles during an argument, because the tension was rising and I really wanted to know what she was saying :joy:

@Marifly I’ve also been watching Ghibli movies on Netflix – I think they’re available everywhere except Japan and the USA. I only knew Totoro, Spirited Away, and Castle in the Sky before – but now I’ve also seen Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Ponyo and Princess Mononoke.
My favorites so far are Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke! I also really loved the backgrounds in Ponyo :heart_eyes:

(I’ve only ever watched Ghibli movies in Japanese, so I probably missed enough details to be able to happily watch them again in a few months time)


Netflix, like many of these services, can actually detect whether you’re using a VPN or not (because they have long lists of the VPNs addresses). There’s still VPNs that Netflix doesn’t know yet, but as I understand it it’s a cat-and-mouse-game, where Netflix and Co constantly add to their list. Well, Netflix won’t ban your account when you try one (and it’s absolutely not illegal in general!), anyway, just not play, so it’s worth testing out a few I guess. There’s probably guides for that on the internet :man_shrugging:

So far I’ve seen となりのトトロ、物の怪姫、魔女の宅急便 and 千と千尋の神隠し, Spirited Away, where I don’t get the 千と千尋-part of the title. 千尋 is bottomless, or very high, but 千と千尋? Might be an expression?

Anyway, those I’ve watched in English, and am now watching in Japanese with JP-subtitles, but my plan is to go through them all :smiley: I can recommend となりのトトロ for the beginning, but 魔女の宅急便 (Kiki’s Delivery Service) is also cool ^ ^


@skymaiden and @ArTKurama, thanks for the recommendations! I think I’ll start with Kiki and maybe a few more. It’s fun to watch something in Japanese and see how much I understand!

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If it helps, you might want to think of them as steps on a stairs. Use one form as your default form. (I’d say the dictionary form, since it’s the shortest.) All you need to do is to learn the method for converting from one form to the next. To go up to 丁寧語, you just change the endings and add ます. To go up to 敬語, you either change the verb (which happens for some things) or you add します/いたします to お+ masu-stem. Or, if you’re talking about someone else’s actions, you add になります to お+ masu-stem. You just need to learn the ‘algorithms’. The bit that’s actually important is the nuances of different types of 敬語. That’s what really requires study. Changing forms is just something to get used to.


Just got my physical Tobira textbook! I’ve studied Tobira before, but I rushed throught it an didn’t study it properly, so this time I’ll go slow. We got this guys!


Perfect! I’m so glad that you want to study with us!

I have a question about a very long sentence on page 29. It starts on line 37 and runs all the way to the end of line 39. It says (insert long sentence here) を使う男性は少なっていますが、でも、 (long sentence) びっくりされてしまいます。So the structure has desu/masu before a comma and at the end of the sentence. I thought that you could only have desu/masu at the end of the sentence and that you should have plain form in the middle of the sentence, but obviously I was wrong. Do any of you know where I can read more about how to use desu/masu in the middle of a sentence? Or does it happen here because the first sentence feels like a complete sentence, therefore desu/masu, even though there is a comma and a new sentence behind it?

Not sure about the grammar-y reasons, but I’ve often seen the “but/however” が following ます/です forms :woman_shrugging: I think it depends on the speech level…

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I have seen it, and used it, and felt that it was wrong, but not sure why. Maybe I didn’t get it wrong after all!

@Marifly It depends on what comes after the verb. That determines whether です・ます is permissible. By the way, it’s 「少なくなっています.」Also, ‘middle of a sentence’ has nothing to do with it.@skymaiden It’s not just speech level. That just determines whether or not です・ます is the default form.

There are some forms that strictly speaking shouldn’t be preceded by です・ます, but which often are in formal speech for the sake of politeness. I’ve been told it’s nonsense, but I guess it works if the person you’re speaking to would get offended by insufficiently polite speech (though it’s honestly not impolite given the nature of the structures). ので is one of them. The ‘grammatical justification’ I would give is that ので contains の, which is similar to こと, and thus needs to be modified by a plain form (non-です・ます) verb. On the other hand, から can be freely used after です・ます forms. The strange thing is that ので is the more formal of the two structures that mean ‘because’. Another example of a structure that is normally preceded by a plain form verb is と, the quotation particle. The only time it should be preceded by です・ます forms is when you’re quoting someone word for word, and that person used です・ます.

There are other structures that, as far as I know, must be preceded by a plain form. こと、もの、方(ほう)and だけ are some examples. の is another one, when it’s used as a nominaliser (as in 「毎日するのは日本語の勉強です。」). Generally speaking, these things are objects that perform grammatical functions and which tend to act like nouns. Other examples are found when you need a verb/verb phrase that modifies a noun. In that case, the verb (which is next to the noun) has to be in its plain form.

Final thought:

It’s not wrong at all. が is much more common in writing and formal speech, as is けれど・けれども. For that matter, が is usually avoided with the plain form (except in writing). In casual conversation, people usually say けど instead of が. I’m not sure why and how I learnt this (my friend probably taught me that during one of our conversations), but I’ve found it to be true, and also quite logical. が is such a small syllable, especially since the Japanese G row is often pronounced nasally as something like ‘nga ngi ngu nge ngo’ in the standard Tokyo accent. I can imagine it easily getting lost in a casual conversation where words are very short and people move rapidly from one sentence to the next. Also, ending a sentence with だが in casual conversation probably sounds strange or abrupt: imagine hearing 楽しいが, with your voice dropping because the pitch of 楽しい drops after the し, and then adding the が. I think it’s a lot easier to ‘rebound’ into the next clause/sentence with a けど. Listen to some informal Japanese (like in anime) and you’ll see what I mean. Technically, けど should be pronounced high-low, but it’s quite common to hear the ど higher than the け in anime, especially when a character is using it for emphasis e.g. 「ちょうウケるんですけど!!!」(‘That’s hilarious!!!’) (PS: If you want a very specific anime example… Konosuba episode 6 (not 4/5, my mistake), where the main cast faces a dullahan (headless evil knight). Look out for Aqua (the girl with blue hair fastened with a little blue bobble) laughing her head off at the dullahan. 「ちょうウケるんですけど!!!」is one of her signature lines. Should be an easy scene to spot. EDIT: forgot to specify that it’s Season 1. Here’s a link to a reaction video for that episode, right before she starts laughing:


Ah ok I assumed ます・です before が was due the speech level – because I’ve seen both sentences like
and 見ましたが、弟は見ませんでした

(the bit before が matches the end) :sweat_smile:

Oh, I see… yeah, well, with が, it’s true that speech level is a factor, but that’s because が links two sentences/thoughts that are usually comparable (it’s usually, but not always, like ‘but’ in English). That’s why the speech level stays the same. It would be weird, even in English, to suddenly become informal/formal halfway through a sentence.

Yep, except like you said earlier, some other structures require the plain form regardless of the speech level :woman_shrugging::sweat_smile:

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@Jonapedia thank you! This is obviously more complex than I thought…

I did a search on Tatoeba for “ますが” and found lots of examples like: “中国語は話せますが、読むことは出来ません。” In this case, there are 2 complete sentences bound together with が. I could also have said: “中国語は話せます。読むことは出来ません。”

A dictionary of Basic Japanese says that: “The sentences in “S1 が S2” must be in the same form whether formal or informal, because they are both independent clauses.” So I guess that’s the answer: Both sentences are independent clauses and therefore they must be in the same form, desu/masu or plain. 勉強になりました。


Yup. They’re both independent clauses, and all independent clauses are given the same speech level for consistency’s sake.

By the way, I was just talking to my friend, and it seems he wasn’t the one who taught me the difference between が and けど… I have no clue how I learnt it then. It might turn up later in Tobira. You guys can tell me if you see something specific later. All I saw while looking through old pages just now was that んだけど and んですが are listed as a pair, which I find a little strange to do without any explanation. The funny thing is that I must have got this from a source I felt was reliable, because Wasabi-jpn and the Japanese people on HiNative agree with me… how in the world did I learn this…? (PS: my best guess, especially if no one finds it in Tobira, is that I learnt it from an answer in HiNative, because I saw an answer just now that triggered a memory. But I’m still not certain.)