French Grammar Rules - Le Passé Simple

French Grammar Rules: Reading Le Passé Simple

There is one French verb tense that you will likely only come across in literature, the passé simple. French tutor Carol Beth L. shows you how to recognize and understand this tense…

The passé simple is a unique tense in the French language. Perhaps one or two centuries ago, it was commonly used like the simple past in English. For example:

  • J’allai au magasin.
    I went to the store.
  • Je couru deux kilometres.
    I ran two kilometers.

The passé simple is similar to the simple past in English in that it condenses the past tense into a single word, instead of using two parts. But with the passage of time, language changes. The passé simple fell into disuse in spoken French, in favor of the passé composé and the imparfait.

But in writing, authors still preferred using the passé simple to speak about the past. In effect, it became a literary tense. In modern times, authors are beginning to use it less frequently to make their writing sound more like everyday spoken language.

But many important works through the mid to late 20th century still use the passé simple. Want to read Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s famous Le Petit Prince in its original form, for example? You’ll need to be able to recognize the passé simple.

Conjugating Regular Verbs in The Passé Simple

For regular verbs, formation of the passé simple is not too difficult. Like other verbal forms, remove the ending (-er, –ir, and –re) and add the appropriate endings. See below for an example of an –er verb, an –ir verb, and an –re verb.

French Verbs Passe Simple

Conjugating Irregular Verbs in Le Passé Simple

Beyond these basic forms, irregular verbs also have irregular roots. It is helpful to think of the accent circonflex (^) as being the first reliable part of the ending, and the vowel upon which it sits as being sometimes determined by the vowel patterns of the verb itself. For example, for the verb avoir (to have), in the past tense is j’ai eu. The past participle eu comes back as the root for the passé simple, and the circonflex sits nicely on the “u.”

J’ → eus
Tu → eus
Il/elle/on → eut
Nous → eûmes
Vous → eûtes
Ils/elles → eurent

The roots for most irregular verbs, however, do come back in some form or another in one of the verb’s other tenses, or looks similar in some way. Here are the roots for some irregular verbs in French:

aller (to go) →  all-
pouvoir (to be able) → pu-
connaitre (to be familiar with) → connu-
devoir (to have an obligation), → du-
naître (to be born) → naqu-
savoir (to know) → su-
venir (to come) → vin-
tenir (to hold) → tin-

The Verb Être

Probably one of the most difficult verbs to recognize in the passé simple is the verb être. However, it is also one of the most common and most easily recognizable. Its conjugation is as follows:

Je → fus
Tu→  fus
Il → fut
Nous → fûmes
Vous → fûtes
Ils → furent

Time to Practice!

Many teachers will tell you that the most important thing to master about the passé simple is recognition. For everyday, common usage of French, that is true.

To take yourself to another level, however, try to master its usage, as well. Here are a few exercises to begin your practice. For the sake of simplicity, conjugate each verb in the passé simple; don’t worry about other past tenses for now.

1) Nous ________ (être) au parc.
We were at the park.
2) Tu ________ (avoir) cinq ans.
You were five years old.
3) Tu ________ (tenir) la main de ta soeur, la soeur qui ________ (être) aussi ta meilleure amie.
You held your sister’s hand, the sister who was also your best friend.
4) Nos parents ________ (parler) de leur propres enfances innocents.
Our parents spoke of their own innocent childhoods.
5) Ils ________ (finir) leur conversation et un coup de tonnerre ________ (éclater).
They finished their conversation and a clap of thunder struck.
6) Trop tôt, il ________ (être) temps de rentrer.
Too soon, it was time to go home.

Check your conjugations below:

1) fûmes
2) eus
3) tenis, fut
4) parlèrent
5) finirent, éclata
6) fut

Did you do all right? Now try creating some of your own.

Want to learn more about the passé simple? Taking lessons with a private instructor is a great way to master new topics of the French language. Search for your French tutor today!

CarolPost Author: Carol Beth L.
Carol Beth L. teaches French lessons in San Francisco, CA. She has her Masters in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

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Japanese Verbs

It’s All in the Past: Conjugating Past Tense Japanese Verbs

Japanese Verbs

Want to learn to describe past events in Japanese? Here, Ann Arbor, MI teacher Elaina R. shares some helpful hints to conjugate past tense Japanese verbs…

Unfortunately, past tense verbs are not as easy to conjugate as present tense and future tense Japanese verbs. Past tense Japanese verbs are still surprisingly simple to conjugate, however, compared with verbs in many European languages.

By breaking down the different verb endings and learning some memorization tips, you can give yourself a jump start to describe the past in Japanese.

Using Past Tense in Japanese

Japanese past tense is much like English past tense. It’s used to describe events that have already happened.  For example, “I saw a film,” is 映画を見た in informal past tense.

The Japanese past tense can also be used as the equivalent to the past perfect tense in English. “I have seen that film” is “あの映画を見た” in informal past tense; the only thing I had to add was the word “that.”

Past Informal Japanese Verb Endings

Past informal Japanese verb endings for consonant-stem verbs are kind of tricky, so let’s start with vowel-stem verbs and irregular verbs.

Verb Type  Conjugation Example
Vowel-Stem Verbs Stem+ta miru (みる) → mita (みた)
kuru (くる) and suru (する) Stem+ita kuru (くる) → kita (きた)
suru (する) →   shita (した)

To conjugate consonant-stem verbs into informal past tense verbs, we have to sort them into five categories.

Verb Ending  Conjugation Example
-ku Stem+ita naku (なく) → naita (ないた) – cry/cried
-gu Stem+ida oyogu (およぐ) → oyoida (およいだ) – swim/swam
-su Stem+shita kaisu (かいす) → kaishita (かいした) – give back/gave back
-nu, -bu, mu Stem+nda tobu (とぶ) → tonda (とんだ) – fly/flew
-u, -tsu, -ru Stem+tta utsuru (うつる) → utsutta (うつった) – reflect/reflected

This may seem like a lot to remember, but here are some helpful hints:

  • Try memorizing just one conjugation in each category. If you work backwards, you can figure out the rule from the verb. For instance, if you know that the past tense of nomu (to drink) is nonda (drank), you can infer that the –mu stem changes to –nda in the past tense.
  • Utsuru is a Japanese word with several meanings, including “to reflect” and “to transfer” (a disease). If you remember this word, you can remember that –u, -tsu, and –ru verb endings are all in the same group.

Formal Past Tense Japanese Verbs

After all that work, you may be relieved that formal past tense is a breeze. Instead of –masu, the present-tense ending, past tense formal uses the verb ending –mashita.

Verb Type  Conjugation Example
Vowel-Stem Verbs Stem+mashita mimashita (みました)
Consonant-Stem Verbs Stem+i+mashita arukimashita (あるきます)
kuru (くる) and suru (する) Stem+imashita kimashita (きました)
shimasu (しました)

Practicing Past Tense in Japanese

 As with everything, practice makes perfect. With past tense Japanese verbs, your Japanese teacher may recommend mastering the easier formal verb endings first before moving on to the more complex consonant-stem informal verb endings.

With some elbow grease and the right teacher, it wont take long to learn to talk about bygones in Japanese.

Want to learn more Japanese grammar? Find a Japanese teacher near you! 

Elaina RPost Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches singing in Ann Arbor, MI. She is acquainted with many languages and speaks English, Japanese, Italian, and German. She earned a Bachelor of Music from the University of Southern California, and she is currently working on her Master of Music from the University of Michigan. Learn more about Elaina here!

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Translating French to English

3 Important Tips When Translating French to English

Translating French to English

Translating French to English is a common way to study the language and improve your skills. Tutor Nadia B. shares three big tips so you don’t get lost in translation…

Are you learning French and need to translate some of your French homework into English? Or perhaps you want to translate a French text just to be sure that you have understood the meaning?

Translation is a useful tool for improving comprehension and fluency, so read on for three important tips for translating French to English. These tips will ensure you translate quickly and accurately on your first try!

1. Don’t translate idiomatic expressions literally.

There are many French expressions that shouldn’t be taken literally when translating French to English. The literal translation won’t reflect the meaning of the expression. If you come across an expression that, when translated literally makes no sense in context, you’ve probably found an idiomatic expression.

Here are some examples of French idiomatic expressions and how they can be translated into English:

  • une bouche d’incendie – fire hydrant (Since “bouche” means “mouth” in English, “a mouth of fire” isn’t a correct translation!)
  • une bonne fourchette – a hearty eater (or, literally, “a good fork,” but that lacks meaning to English speakers!)
  • faire le pont – to make a long weekend (literally, to make a bridge, but it refers to the French habit of taking a four-day break by adding Friday or Monday to the weekend plus the mid-week day that a holiday falls on)

To improve your skills when translating French to English, try to learn as many idiomatic expressions as possible. If you’re listening to a French speaker and you don’t understand an expression they use, inquire as to the meaning so you can continue to build your knowledge base. Over time, this will make French translation easier and more rapid as you draw on the knowledge you already possess.

2. Use online forums and dictionaries to get help when needed.

When translating French to English, sometimes you can get stuck with certain expressions or usages. If you just can’t figure out how to appropriately translate something, forums like WordReference offer valuable help from native French speakers and highly knowledgeable second-language French speakers. There is a huge archive of threads covering a wide range of topics in French, so you can type in a phrase or word to learn more details about it.

Online French dictionaries are another excellent resource. A well-respected one is Larousse. Here, you can access a French-English dictionary, as well as a French monolingual dictionary, in which you can find words and definitions all in French. The monolingual dictionary can be an especially great way to increase your knowledge and your proficiency in French as you research your translation query.

3. Use cognates, but watch out for false cognates.

Cognates are a great help when trying to increase fluency in a language and translate quickly. Here is a short list of French-English cognates:

  • immense – immense
  • amusant – amusing, fun
  • la page – the page
  • la musique – the music
  • la tomate – the tomato
  • le candidat – the candidate
  • l’hôpital – the hospital

translating French to English

The only thing to remember with cognates is that there can also be faux amis (false cognates). These tricky French words sound like a word in English but are not equal in meaning. Here are some French false cognates to watch out for:

  • actuellement – currently (not actually)
  • attendre – to wait (not to attend)
  • assister – to attend (not to assist)
  • bras – arms (not bra)
  • blessé – injured (not blessed)
  • une librarie – bookshop (not library)
  • un raisin – grape (not raisin)

translating french to english

If you follow these three tips, you should be translating with confidence in no time! The more attention you pay to the details and work on increasing your vocabulary and knowledge of idiomatic expressions, the more you will find that your translations are accurate and thorough.

Want to learn more about translating French to English? Taking French lessons with a private tutor is a great way to increase your proficiency in the language, because you can receive individualized instruction that best fits your needs. Find your French teacher today!

Nadia BPost Author: Nadia B.
Nadia B. teaches Italian and piano in New York, NY, as well as through online lessons. She speaks Italian, English, and French and received her degree in Music Performance from New York University. Learn more about Nadia here!

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French Grammar

French Grammar Rules: Conjugating Verbs in the Conditional

French Grammar

If you knew how, would you use the conditional in this sentence? French tutor Carol Beth L. can help you find the answer…

As a beginner or intermediate French speaker, you have likely come across various French verb tenses, such as le présent, passé composéimparfait, futurand perhaps even the subjunctive mood. These various features of French grammar express particular time frames, such as what is happening, happened, will happen, or even what may or may not happen. But what about expressing what would have happened? For French speakers, that’s where le conditionnel comes in.

The conditional tense in French (le conditionnel) is used to express actions or events that can or will happen if certain conditions are met. Here are some examples:

  • J’irais au supermarché s’il était ouvert.
    I would go to the supermarket if it were open.
  • Elle assisterait a l’école si elle était assez agée.
    She would attend school if she were old enough.

Note that le conditionnel is used for the action that is NOT part of the “if” phrase. The second verb in these two examples is conjugated in the imparfait.

Le conditionnel can also be used on its own in a sentence if you are making a polite request or stating something you would like to see happen. Here are two examples:

  • Je voudrais du rosboeuf avec des pommes de terre.
    I would like some roast beef with potatoes.
  • J’aimerais aller au Quebec cet été.
    I’d like to go to Quebec this summer.

French Grammar Rules

How to Conjugate le Conditionnel

The conditional form is relatively easy to conjugate, because it combines roots and endings you have most likely seen before. Use the same root you would for le futur (usually the infinitive form of the verb, or the infinitive form minus a final -e where applicable), and add the same endings you would for the imparfait. For the verbs parler (a regular verb) and vouloir (which has an irregular root), the conjugations would look like this:

Je → parlerais, voudrais
Tu → parlerais, voudrais
Il/elle/on → parlerait, voudrait
Nous → parlerions, voudrions
Vous → parleriez, voudriez
Ils/Elles → parleraient, voudraient

If in doubt as to which roots are irregular, you can review some of the irregular future roots here.

French Grammar Rules

Time to Practice!

Now that you know how and when to use le conditionnel, try your hand at the example sentences below. Be careful with the sentences that contain two verbs: One will be conjugated using the imparfait, and the other using the conditionnel.

  1. Si j’ ___________ (étudier) avec lui, je ___________ (pouvoir) réussir mon exam.
    If I studied with him, I would be able to pass my exam successfully.
  2. Ils ___________ (aimer) parler avec leur frère.
    They would like to speak with their brother.
  3. Si tu ___________ (finir) tes devoirs tous les jours, tu ___________ (avoir) de bonnes notes.
    If you finished your homework every day, you would have good grades.
  4. Nous ___________ (vouloir) de la salade.
    We would like some salad.
  5. Si vous ___________ (vouloir) aller au Quebec, vous ___________ (garder) votre argent.
    If you wanted to go to Quebec, you would keep / save your money.

How do you think you did? Check your answers below:

  1.  étudiais, pourrais
  2. aimeraient
  3. finissais, aurais
  4. voudrions
  5. vouliez, garderiez

If you didn’t do well, keep reviewing and practicing your French grammar skills. Either way, begin looking and listening for uses of le conditionnel as you listen and read to seek out opportunities to practice using it as you speak and write. Look for someone to correct your usage if you make a mistake, and you will improve quickly!

Want even more practice with le conditionnel? A private French tutor can give you expert advice, study tips, and answers to your questions about French grammar. Search for a French tutor today!

CarolPost Author: Carol Beth L.
Carol Beth L. teaches French lessons in San Francisco, CA. She has her Master’s in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

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fastest way to learn spanish

6 Science-Backed Study Hacks for Learning Spanish [Infographic]

fastest way to learn spanish

Learning a second language can be a difficult task. However, with the right study habits and a drive to succeed, it can become a much easier, quicker, and enjoyable process. To help, we’ve rounded up six study hacks that will prep your mind and body for learning Spanish more easily. Check out the tips below for ideas on the fastest way to learn Spanish.

1) Write your notes by hand.

We know you’ve heard this seemingly outdated tip before, but it’s one of the best and simplest Spanish study hacks that exists. Studies suggest that you are more likely to recall information if you hand-write the information, because your brain has to focus on writing out the actual words. So, ditch your keyboard or your iPad, and resort to an old-fashioned pen and paper. If you feel like you have to type your notes in lessons in order to keep up with your teacher, rewrite them by hand when you get home to help you study and retain the information.

2) Exercise.

This might sound like a weird tip, but a 2009 study showed that physical activity can improve brain function, learning, and memory. Try combining the two when you can by listening to a Spanish language podcast while at the gym. Instead of watching TV during a study break, take a jog around the block. Leading an active lifestyle will help you recall Spanish better.

3) Chew gum while you study.

A recent study showed that those who chewed gum while they learned had higher accuracy rates when recalling information than those who did not chew gum. There is also a potential link between level of focus and gum chewing. So, the next time you’re struggling to concentrate, pop in some minty-fresh gum, and get back to studying!

4) Immerse yourself in the language.

A 2012 study shows that students who immerse themselves in the language instead of only learning in a classroom setting are more likely to absorb it. Furthermore, the study suggests that immersion can help the brain process the language like a native speaker. Try speaking and writing in Spanish whenever possible to better immerse yourself in the language!

5) Say it aloud.

This study shows that people who say information out loud are more likely to remember it than people who read everything silently. This study also suggests that our brain likes to remember oddball information, so you should choose to say aloud the information that is most important, not all of the facts that you have in front of you.

6) Don’t stress; get some sleep.

Even though cramming for an exam or your trip to Spain might seem like a good idea, studies have proven that sleep is more beneficial than extra hours of studying. Getting a sufficient amount of sleep in the days leading up to your exam or trip will help you to better recall information.

Here’s a recap of all these Spanish study hacks in one handy infographic:

6 Science-Backed Study Hacks for Learning Spanish

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So, what’s the fastest way to learn Spanish? You’ll find by using these study hacks, alongside the expertise of a qualified Spanish tutor, you’ll learn the language quicker than you might think! Good luck!

Ready to start learning? Search for a tutor near you!


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How to Choose the Right Key for Your Song

3 Simple Steps to Choose the Perfect Key to Sing In

How to Choose the Right Key for Your Song

How do you figure out what key you should sing in? Here, Brooklyn, NY teacher Liz T. shares the 3 easy steps to make the right adjustments…


As a singer, you’re probably well aware of your vocal range. You feel comfortable singing in a particular key, and you know the high notes and low notes you’re going to struggle with. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you’ll always be limited in your vocal repertoire. If you’re singing with a band, you’re lucky in that you can ask your bandmates to play a song in a different key, resulting in a lot more options for songs to sing!

Sometimes, though, finding the appropriate key to sing in can be challenging. And you don’t want to make it any harder on your band! Here are some tips to help you through this process of finding the right key to sing in.

Know Your Range

First things first: you’ll need to know the limits of your vocal range. Picking a song that is too low or too high for your voice will feel very uncomfortable for you to sing, and the audience will likely notice your stress. By knowing the general idea of the highest note you can sing and the lowest note you can sing, you right away should be able to tell when looking at a new piece of sheet music if it will sound good within your voice type. If you’re not sure of how to find your vocal range, start off on the piano, singing up and down the scales, and see where you feel comfortable singing!

How to Find Your Range

Here’s a great video that guides you through the process of finding your range:

Test Out Different Keys

I always try out a few different keys when I am singing a new song. I encourage students to try singing a song in three different keys before you make a decision. You can try singing the song in three similar keys, close in pitch, or challenge yourself and try a lower key or a higher key. Sometimes a song may sound more interesting if it is flipped around. Trying something completely different can give the song a fresh, new element. Have fun with this and explore!

Listen to the Song

After experimenting with a few different keys, I suggest recording yourself and listening to how the song sounds. If you can hear yourself feeling and sounding vocally fatigued, perhaps this key is not for you. If you hear yourself missing notes or not quite reaching them, you will want to try a more comfortable key. These are just some of the indicators that will help you when choosing a good key to sing in.

Listen to your gut as well; if you are feeling any pain or discomfort when singing a song in a particular key, find a more suitable one. I also encourage you to go more in depth with learning about the style of the song you are singing. For example, an opera aria meant for a soprano may not sound the best in a low key like a jazz standard will. For these specific styles, try to stay as true as you can to the song and its original key.

Here’s a recap of the steps for finding the right key to sing in:

3 Simple Steps to Choosing the Right Key (1)

Finding the appropriate key to sing in may take some time and effort, but in the long run it will be worth it! If you need further help, I encourage you to schedule a lesson with a TakeLessons vocal instructor, who can give you guidance on finding the right key for your next audition or performance. Good luck!


LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

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Learn Romaji

Japanese Writing Systems for Beginners: Learn Romaji

Learn Romaji

When you are learning Japanese you will be introduced to the writing systems hiragana, katakana, and kanji. You may also encounter a fourth writing system called romaji. Here, Japanese teacher Kaoru N. explains what you need to know about romaji… 

Romaji simply means “Roman characters.” Japanese people use the letters to write other languages based on the alphabet, and also to write Japanese syllables. You will typically use romaji when you type Japanese sentences with a computer keyboard.

Romaji is the representation of Japanese sounds using the western, 26-letter alphabet,” says Donald Ash, creator of “Romaji puts Japanese into a format that most Westerners can read and understand.”

Although romaji is one way to write Japanese syllables, it’s not a completely functional system.

“First of all, there are ways in which the Japanese sound system is different from English – especially in some of the ways things are allowed and not allowed to combine,” says Tofugu writer Linda Lombardi. “Second, there’s more than one way to write even some English sounds in English.”

Romaji isn’t used as often as kanji, katakana, and hiragana, but it’s still a good idea to be familiar with it when you’re learning to speak Japanese.

Let’s take a look at romaji, and the the standard Japanese syllables.

Hiragana is the basic writing system that is commonly used in Japan. Hiragana uses 46 letters, so there are 46 romaji variations to represent all hiragana (chart 1). Japanese syllables, however, have more variations than 46 because hiragana letters can be combined to describe variations of sounds.

* Read this chart from right to left, top to bottom

romaji chart 1

(Chart 1)

 1) Dakuon and Han-dakuon

Japanese syllables consist of dakuon (impure sounds) and han-dakuon (half-impure sounds). Dakuon sounds occur in the  か(ka), さ(sa), た(ta), は(ha) rows. Consonants for each rows; k, s, t, h should be changed to; g, z, d, b. (chart 2).

Han-dakuon only occur on the “h” consonant row, which changes the sound to a “p” (Chart 3). In Japanese writing, dakuon is described by simply adding two dots right next to the original letters. Han-dakuon uses a small circle instead of dots.

romaji chart 2

(Chart 2 dakuon)


*Be aware of that “zi”, and “zu” are used twice for different letters.

romaji chart 3

(Chart 3, han-dakuon)

Here are some quick notes:

  • The romaji for じ(zi) and ぢ(zi), ず(zu) and づ (zu) are the same
  • Spelling “zi” to describe the sound can be confusing, because from an English speaker’s perspective, it should be spelled “ji.” The same thing applies for “し” (si/shi)and “つ”(tu/tsu), too.
  • Romaji uses the Hepburn system of romanization, which is a Japanese-English translation system. For example, if you type “ji” on a computer, it will be translated to “じ” automatically.


Yôon (twisted sound) is formed by combining hiragana. You have already been introduced to the  や(ya), ゆ (yu), and よ(yo) letters in chart 1.

When these three letters follow other letters, except for “あ” vowel row or わ (wa),を (wo), and ん(n), it’s going to create distinctively different sounds. This conjugation happens to dakuon and han-dakuon sounds as well (Chart 4).

romaji chart 4

(Chart 4, yôon)

You must know the rule when や,ゆ, and よ are conjugated with other letters, the size of those three letters has to be smaller. If you write the letters in the same size, it’s not considered a conjugation. It’s just two syllables happening successively.

For example, “きや” is read and written as “kiya” instead of “kya,” one syllable sound. ちゃや which means “tea shop,” is written as “tyaya” in romaji.


Tyôon means “long sound.” It often happens in Japanese that two vowels are written successively. Also, since all Japanese syllables have a vowel, the vowel in tje first syllable can be connected with another vowel directly. When this happens, it creates the feeling of a longer sound.

In Japanese hiragan, tyôon is written as ちょうおん. If you write each syllable in romaji, it would be “tyouon.”

Now let’s focus on the first two syllables of the word, ちょう. The vowel “o” in “tyo” is connected with the vowel “u.” This “ou” sound is considered a “longer sound.”

In official romaji writing, this is supposed to be written so as “tyôu” with a circumflex (a mark placed over a vowel to indicate a contraction or change in length or tone). Longer sound is a very important part of Japanese pronunciation.

You can see this in two common Japanese last names; おおの (Ôno) and おの(ono). These two names are similar but distinctively different.

If you don’t know about longer sound, you may not understand the difference. You can see two vowels are written in the same row for the first word. When you see two “O’s,” you may be tempted to say “oo” as in the word “ooze.” Using a circumflex can help to eliminate this confusion.

Of course, there are exceptions to these rules. For example, when the vowels “e” and “i” are combined, you can’t use a circumflex. So romaji writing for the term “movie,” えいが, should be written as “eiga.” Just write each syllable rather than “êga,” even though this is still one of the longer sounds.

On the other hand, if two “e’s” are combined, you still have to follow the circumflex rule, even though the pronunciation for “ei” and “ee” are the same. It’s a very confusing rule.


Sokuon means urging sound. I’d describe this as a skipping or jumping sound. These kinds of words are written with a small “tu” in hiragana (いった (went) and やった (did)).

Just like yôon, there is a smaller letter in between. In romaji, you should write the two examples as “itta” and “yatta.”

Here’s another example: “きて”(please come) is written in romaji as “kite.” If you make add  consonant on “t”, it will be “kitte,” which is written in hiragana:“きって.” And that means “postal stamp.”

Most of time, romaji writing works when you type on the keyboard. It doesn’t always work perfectly, however, describing Japanese syllables with the alphabet sometimes requires adjustments.

For instance,  じ、ず、and ぢ、づ are the same in romaji: “zi, zu.” When you need to type ぢ and づ on the keyboard, you can actually use “di” and “du” because  ぢ and づ  belong to the だ(da) row. (Chart-1)

Also, new Japanese syllables have been added since foreign words and new terms were imported. These new syllables combine vowels and consonants. These new syllables are still controversial, and most of them are not even officially acknowledged, even though you can see them everywhere in Japan.

Romaji is a very unique component of Japanese language. The amount of romaji you will use during your studies will vary based on your individual experience. Ask your Japanese teacher what he or she thinks of romaji.

AndyWPost Author: Kaoru N.
Kaoru N. teaches Japanese, guitar, and classical guitar lessons in Brighton, MA. Originally from Tokyo, he graduated from Berklee College of Music with a dual major, and is available for in-home, in-studio, and online lessons. Learn more about Kaoru here!

Photo by Benjamin Krause

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Japanese Verbs

Japanese Grammar for Beginners: Learn to Conjugate Japanese Verbs

Japanese Verbs

If you’re learning Japanese, here’s some good news: Conjugating Japanese verbs is much easier than you think! Here, Ann Arbor, MI teacher Elaina R. shares some simple tips to help you conjugate Japanese verbs…

I love conjugating Japanese verbs. Why? In most romance languages, conjugations are based on tons of factors, including subject, number, and even gender.

For example, in Italian, “I am tired” is Io sono stanca; but if you are male, it’s Io sono stanco. If there are several speakers, it becomes: Noi siamo stanchi.

What a headache! Do you ever feel tired after conjugating verbs? I know I do!

In Japanese, on the other hand, “I am tired” (female or male) and “we are tired” are the same. Isn’t that nice?

As you learn present and future tense Japanese verb endings, keep in mind just how wonderful it is to ignore all these additional factors.

Types of Japanese Verbs

For an overview of the two main types of Japanese verbs, check out this article: 3 Simple Ways to Remember Japanese Grammar Rules.

Here’s a quick recap: There are two main types of Japanese verbs, vowel-stem verbs and consonant-stem verbs. Vowel-stem verbs only have two components: the stem and the ending.

Consonant-stem verbs have three components: the stem, the base, and the ending.


verb ending chart

There are a few “rebel” –iru and –eru verbs that are conjugated like consonant-stem verbs.

  • iru (いる) (to need)
  • kaeru (かえる) (to return)
  • kagiru (かぎる) (to limit)
  • kiru (切る) (to cut)

*Note kiru着る)can also mean “to wear.” This rule only applies to the kiru that means “to cut.”

  • hairu (はいる) – to enter
  • hashiru (はしる) – to run
  • shaberu (しゃべる) – to talk
  • shiru (しる) – to know

There is also a third category comprised solely of the verbs suru (to do – する) and kuru (to come – くる). These two verbs have irregular stems: suru’s stem is shi– (), while kuru’s is ki– ().

Present and Future Tense in Japanese

Present tense in Japanese, like present tense in English, is used to describe actions that are ongoing and habitual (“I go to school,” or 学校え行く in informal present tense).

Unlike English, however, Japanese present tense doubles as future tense (“I’ll go to school” is also 学校え行く).

Here’s how to form this tense in both informal and formal Japanese.

Present Informal Japanese Verb Endings

Informal Japanese verb endings are easy! The infinitive, also called the dictionary form, is the same as the present informal verb.

For example, neru (ねる) means “to sleep,” “I sleep,” and “I will sleep.”

Present Formal Japanese Verb Endings

For present formal Japanese verb endings, you need to remember the three kinds of verbs. Present formal verbs all have –masu endings.

present formal verb endings

Practice Conjugating Japanese Verbs

Japanese verbs, especially informal verbs, are incredibly easy to learn. In what other language are the infinitive, present, and future tenses all the same?

By taking the time to memorize infinitive verb forms, learning whether they are vowel- or consonant-stem verbs, and adding the correct formal ending, you will be able to say many things in your new language!

Get started with Japanese lessons today. Find a Japanese teacher here

Elaina RPost Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches singing in Ann Arbor, MI. She is acquainted with many languages and speaks English, Japanese, Italian, and German. She earned a Bachelor of Music from the University of Southern California, and she is currently working on her Master of Music from the University of Michigan. Learn more about Elaina here!

Photo by Elvin

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family bike

3 Wonderful Reasons Your Child Should Learn Japanese

family bike

When you’re considering language studies for your child, don’t rule out Japanese lessons. Here, Montgomery, TX teacher Emily G., explains the benefits of learning Japanese… 

There are several great reasons for children to learn a second language.  Learning another language can help your child think faster, and help your son or daughter develop effective problem-solving skills.

While Japanese may not be the first language that comes to mind when you consider options for your child, there are a number of excellent reasons why your son or daughter should learn Japanese.

Besides the workplace benefits your child will experience in adulthood, learning Japanese can impact a child in a number of positive ways. So as you consider the best language-learning path for your child, here are three fantastic reasons for your son or daughter to learn Japanese.

1. Introduce Your Child to a New World

koi pond

You’re probably already aware that it’s important to introduce your son or daughter to different cultures, but have you considered the most effective way to do this?

While Spanish, French, and German are generally the most popular choices for language studies, they may not be the best options to truly broaden your child’s horizons. Mexico is just a hop across the border from America, while Spain, France, and Germany are just across the pond. In fact, these neighbors get even closer to home when you consider their impact on American culture.

What we tend to forget, however, is that America has another neighbor; Japan. This neighbor is both as close and as distant as they come. Unlike Western countries which have had a huge influence on American culture, Japanese culture is still very foreign to us.

You could expose your child to the familiar differences of other Western cultures, or you could introduce him or her to a whole new world!

2. A Deeper Level of Understanding (of English)

Children's art school expo

This benefit may not be listed on most language-learning blogs, but in my number of years as a Japanese teacher, I have witnessed this first hand.

Students actually gain a better grasp on English grammar when they learn a second language. This is especially true for Japanese students, because the language is drastically different from English.

One benefit I see with my students is improved awareness of syntax. Syntax is the way words are ordered within a sentence.

In Japanese syntax, the main verb is always the last word in the sentence. After learning this, students realize, often for the first time, that in English, the verb appears immediately after the subject.

This is just one example of how learning Japanese can help a student gain a deeper understanding of his or her native language.

3. Freedom of Thought


This is my favorite benefit to learning any language, but especially Japanese! Every language has words and expressions that aren’t found in any other language, but Japanese seems to be full of these.

Aside from just being fun, these kinds of expressive differences help students think in new ways and recognize and appreciate differences between individuals.

For example, while an English speaker must resort to poetry to describe sunlight filtering through a canopy of trees, Japanese has a single word for this; komorebi.

On the other hand, learning Japanese can also teach students that humans are just humans, the same in many ways no matter where they’re from. You may have heard the French phrase raison d’etre (the reason for existence), but did you know that the Japanese have a word for this too? Ikigai, which means “the reason for living.”

Find more one-word wonders in Japanese here.

Learning Japanese isn’t just beneficial to students academically and economically, but also on an individual level. It opens a child’s mind to a new culture, helps a child learn to express him or herself, and encourages a child to celebrate the differences in others.

Learning Japanese is a great choice for any child’s future; plus, learning about different aspects of Japanese culture like manga and anime can be a lot of fun!

Want to sign your child up for Japanese lessons? Find a teacher near you today!


Emily GPost Author:
 Emily G.
Emily G. teaches Japanese, Latin, and Greek lessons in Montgomery, TX. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Classics from Texas A&M University and later went on to receive her Master’s Degree in Ancient History from the University of Nottingham. She has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Emily here!

Photos by grrsh, Jakob MontrasioLuxTonnerreLuxTonnerre

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Distinguishing Crucial Differences in Spanish

3 Key Word Pairs You MUST Memorize in Spanish

You’ve learned verb conjugations, memorized some basic vocabulary words, and have begun sneaking Spanish practice into your daily life. But before you move on: do you know the difference between ser and estar? There are a few key distinctions that you MUST know to speak well. Here, Fairfax, CA Spanish tutor Jason N. explains…


The Spanish language makes distinctions that do not exist in English. These differences can be especially confusing for native English-speaking when they are learning Spanish, and therefore tend to occupy several chapters in most Spanish textbooks. They also are common class or lecture topics Spanish professors address, especially when transitioning from beginning to intermediate level. While knowing these differences is vital to knowing the language, many Spanish learners get turned off when trying to decipher them.

The purpose of this blog is to make this clearer. The exciting part is that grasping these differences powerfully enriches your command of the language. This will allow you to articulate your experience in unprecedented ways and identify more culture-specific aspects of the Spanish language.

Let’s start with the first three most common distinctions in Spanish that don’t exist in English.

What’s the difference between ser and estar? Why does it matter?

While both these verbs translate in English as ‘to be,’ they refer to different types of being. Ser refers to permanent, stable, non-changing attributes, such as your gender, personality qualities, where you’re from, what you do for a living. Estar, on the other hand, refers to time- and situation-dependent attributes, conditions, and states, such as emotions or behavior. Ser is also used with events.

Interestingly, ser is used with time and estar is used when referring to death, revealing fascinating implications about how most Spanish-speaking cultures regard life and death, stemming for their proclivity toward belief in the after-life and the Spanish language’s Catholic legacy.

Here is a useful example: When you use ser referring to boredom, you are saying, “He is boring,” (referring to a boring person) whereas when you use estar referring to boredom, it means “He is bored.”

Because Spanish makes this distinction between these ways of being, there is no actual difference between the words ‘bored’ and ‘boring’ in Spanish, underscoring how important it is to learn these distinctions to boost your language skills and accurately convey what you mean. Similarly, if someone tends to be quiet across many contrasting situations, I would use ser, and if they are only being quiet now, I would use estar.

Here’s a great visual representation of the difference between ser and estar:

Difference between ser and estar

Now, practice which to use in the following contexts (don’t scroll down to the answers until you try the practice!):

1) It’s 11 o’clock.
2) I am from San Francisco.
3) I’m feeling happy about my new promotion.
4) The fly is dead.
5) Jim is tired.
6) I’m usually energetic but know I’m lethargic (note the two distinctions present here).

Answer Key:

1) S
2) S
3) E
4) E
5) E
6) S, E

What’s the difference between por and para? Why does it matter?

While they both refer to the word ‘for’ in English, they are quite distinct. The general distinction is that por tends to emphasize movement, exchange, process and motion, while para emphasizes outcomes, deadlines, goals, results and/or destination. Aside from referring to ‘for,’ in many situations, por can also mean ‘by’ or ‘through’ and para often means ‘in order to.’

difference between por and para

Practice which to use in the following contexts (again, don’t scroll down until you’re ready!):

1) I work to earn a living for my family.
2) The river passes through the valley.
3) The book was by Pablo Neruda.
4) I work for Juan Sanchez.
5) I paid $4 for the soup.
6) Thanks for playing.
7) For example…
8) I’ll bring tomato for the party.

Answer Key:

1) Para
2) Por
3) Por
4) Para
5) Por
6) Por
7) Por
8) Para

What’s the difference between saber and conocer? Why does it matter?

Saber and conocer both mean ‘to know’ in English, but again they’re strikingly different types of knowing. Saber is more about book knowledge, memorization, and procedural skills whereas conocer is about familiarity, ‘knowing of’ things, and when you meet someone and/or know them.

difference between saber and conocer

Practice which to use in the following contexts:

1) I know Mr. Big Boss.
2) I know the lyrics to that song perfectly.
3) I know how to cook.
4) I know that city.

Answer Key:

1) C
2) S
3) S
4) C

Did any of the answers confuse you? Your Spanish tutor can help you master these key differences! Don’t have a tutor yet? Search for a Spanish tutor near you.

JasonNPost Author: Jason N.
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Fairfax, CA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here!

Photo by Steve Goodyear

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