Review: Understanding basic Japanese grammar

Review: Understanding basic Japanese grammar

There are countless Japanese textbooks around but few of them are good and give you a basic foundation to continue with your Japanese learning journey. My aim always was to read native material to play Japanese games and just be able to dive deeper into Japan’s culture. But before you can do that you need to know some basic grammar and have a grasp of how Japanese works as a language.

I initially bought this textbook back in early 2015 but gifted it to a friend of mine because I thought I would be done with it. Big mistake. A few years later now in 2019, I re-bought it because I missed the simplicity and focus for the very basics that reall matter which Understanding basic Japanese grammar provides like no other textbook. I’m still puzzled why this title is not more popular.

Genki is a great textbook that I always recommend. Minna no Nihongo is another popular example that is often used in a classroom setting. And that’s definitely where it belongs. I’m a self-learner and I always write about the books from my perspective. And for me Minna no Nihongo just doesn’t work because it starts with Japanese when you don’t even know how to read Hiragana. Genki, on the other hand, gives you a great overview of basic Japanese grammar and vocabulary in two volumes. With simple on-point explanations that are not overly academical. I wrote reviews about both so I won’t go into more detail about the two books here.

Recently I discovered this great textbook called Understanding basic Japanese grammar. It starts from zero and can definitely be used on its own but when used with Genki that’s where it really shines. Learn with Genki which has a terrific flow and get a second explanation of things from this lovely textbook here.

Why this is such a great textbook

The basic premise is to give you a very quick way to lookup an overview of the most important particles, grammar terms, and sentence enders. They call it a “bird’s view” and that’s quite a fitting description. Everything is very clean. On the first pages, you can easily look up a certain expression you want to use in Japanese and flip to it in a few seconds. This was the main feature I found so intriguing about his book. Sometimes I’m just thinking about how I could express something in Japanese and if you don’t exactly know how this grammatical term you’re searching for is called it’s pretty tough to look it up. I think it’s best if you just check the pictures below which will instantly give you an idea of what’s so great about this textbook.

Understanding basic Japanese grammar is certainly similar to the dictionary of basic Japanese grammar series but the explanations here are a little more in-depth and explain even the most basic Japanese expression and forms.

Each entry gets a bunch of different example sentences that explain the different ways of usage. But the most important difference is that they don’t just explain the て-form (for example) but let you search for every expression that you can build with it. And with the search, I mean that just by a quick look into content tabs you get all the basic usages including their translation. That’s what makes this book so great and handy to have.

Like everything, you need to learn: Repetition is king. And having this little textbook by your side gives you the possibility to check to have a quick peek at a certain grammar form and while doing so you can re-learn the ones that are very similar to it. This is important because after repetition, being able to separate different grammar terms (and vocab as well) is very important for your learning process. Double important for the ones that read and sound very similar. And Japanese being Japanese you’ll encounter this on more than a few instances.

  • Buy Understanding basic Japanese grammar at WhiteRabbitJapan
    If you buy the book through my link I’ll get a small referral fee which will be used to buy even more awesome books for review. Thank you!

Review: Understanding basic Japanese grammar

Review: Understanding basic Japanese grammar

Review: Understanding basic Japanese grammar

Understanding basic japanese grammar 4

Understanding basic japanese grammar 5

Review: Understanding basic Japanese grammar

Review: Understanding basic Japanese grammar


  • Buy Understanding basic Japanese grammar at WhiteRabbitJapan
    If you buy the book through my link I’ll get a small referral fee which will be used to buy even more awesome books for review. Thank you!

I highly recommend this book for a quick overview of Japanese grammar. It’s nice to write about the books but I think having a look for yourself is always the better way to judge if you could benefit from the textbook or not. Maybe some of you already own a copy?

Comments 13
  1. Thank you for the review I have ordered the book and can’t wait to receive it.

    1. Let me know how you like it once you received it. I still think it’s a marvelous book for learning Japanese covering all the important basic grammar points.

      1. Yes I Will. I have also ordered Genki series Textbooks, workbooks and the answer key based on your recommendations. I received it yesterday and started with the Greeting lesson. So far I love it. I was also curious about the app from the Genki team and I think that it could be a good help with the book. Again thanks a million for your reviews and advise.

      2. Hello. I have received the book one week ago and wanted to go through some pages before posting my thoughts. This book never leaves my desk. I always open it to read about the grammar. I want to first go through the entire book in a linear reading before using it as a reference book. So far I love this book and it will help a lot along the Genki series. I am pretty glad I found your site. Before, I did not have any guideline on where to start. Thanks a million.

        1. So glad my post helped you a little Cherif. I found it very tough in the beginning jumping from one textbook to the next which was probably the biggest mistake you can make. It’s great to get a second explanation on things when you don’t really get something but you really need a line which guides you through all the learning. And with line a mean a nice book which you can trust. Understanding Japanese Grammar is really a great one. Wish I had discovered it sooner.

  2. I’m wondering about how much points it covers. Would you say buying this means I wouldn’t need dictionary of basic grammar? or does it not cover a number of points and dictionary of basic grammar is still recommended? The thing that attracts me to this is no romaji! It’ll be hard to force myself not to read them in dictionary of jp grammar >.<

    1. I just included a picture with all the contents included in the book (second to the last one). Understanding basic Japanese grammar is similar to the dictionaries but covers everything in greater detail and is even talking about the most basic grammar points. But the main difference is the easy to look up way for the different forms and that it you can actually look up what the forms are expressing. And not just how they’re built in Japanese.

  3. Thanks, Jakob. Always enjoy your book reviews. On a different note, for the pictures you take, did you do any post-processing, or are the pictures that crisp and clear right out of the camera?

    1. Thanks a lot Zao. I’m actually doing no post-processing at all. Maybe pulling the brightness up a little bit but that’s about it.
      I was always shooting RAW when using a DSLR but when I switched to my Fuji X-E2 I completely switched to JPEG as well. Saves a lot of time and the out of the box results are simply gorgeous.

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