Japanese study books: Grammar

“Japanese sentences are
in no way familiar
with any English
or Dutch
structure of sentences”

Now you mastered kana you can start with learning your first Japanese grammar. This is really necessary, because Japanese sentences are in no way similar with any English or Dutch structure of sentences. That is also the reason translating with google translate make no sense what ever. So in Today’s post (Part 2) I will talk about Japanese study books: Grammar.

Japanese study books: Grammar

Looking on the internet you can find many book series about Japanese grammar. But is you read a bit you will find out that there are only 2-3 series that are mentioned quit a few times. In this post I will tell a bit on these popular series, but I will also talk on some not so famous books.

Most of the book series in this post or for total beginners. You only need to be able to read hiragana. I will also talk about about one intermediate series and a grammar dictionary.

Books for total beginners

 Japanese for busy people (book 1)

Japanese study books: Grammar
Japanese for busy people: 1 By: AJALT

With this series I learned my first steps of Japanese. There aren’t any kanji in the first book, so if you want to concentrate on conversation, and you have little free time, then this book is perfect. The vocabulary per chapter is limited, compared to other book series, and both themes and vocabulary are mostly for use in business context. The book includes a CD with dialogues and listening exercises.

Here you can find the official website, where you can find more information over all the books in this series.

My experience

The pace of the book is fairly slow. At the end of the first book you’ll have learned about 1/3 of the grammar you find in the Genki series. I think it is perfect when you do not want to study to much new thing at once.

Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese  (book 1-2)

Japanese study books: Grammar
Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese By: Eri Banno

This is the most well-known series at the moment. The series is consisting of two books and is used at GenkiJACS (see previous blog). The first book starts at the very beginning. The first chapters have rōmaji so you can slowly get used to hiragana. The books offer in each chapter all aspects that you need to progress quickly. At the beginning of each chapter, you find a wordlist that you need to learn to be able answer further exercises. The book includes a CD-rom with dialogues and exercises. There is also an extensive exercise book that you can buy separately.

Japanese study books: Grammar
Wordlist you can find on the beginning of every new chapter

Here you can find the official website, where you can find more information over all the books in this series.

My experience

This book is good to use for self-study, but the difficulty is that you are not able to check yourself when you do the drill exercises. After each chapter, you can learn some kanji. But furigana is used until nearly the end of the book. Concentrating on kanji is therefore not necessary.

A Course in Modern Japanese (book 1-2)

Japanese study books: Grammar
A course in modern Japanese published by: The university of Nagoya press

These books were used at the Catholic University of Leuven (since academic year 2014-2015, they use a self-made syllabus). As with the Genki series, there are an extensive vocabulary list, grammar and reading exercises and kanji in each chapter. They also included extensive listening exercises. The CDs with the soundtracks are not included with the books, so if you want to do these exercises you’ll have to buy the CDs separately. There are drill exercises, but these are less extensive than the exercise in the Genki series.

Here you can find the official website, where you can find more information over all the books in this series.

My experience

Overall, this series is more focused on an academic way of learning Japanese. All grammar is explained in a more detailed way and tries to link everything to the English equivalent to explain certain structures. It is also necessary to start learning the kanji from the start, because furigana isn’t used all the way through the book. If you want to progress quickly you have to focus on the kanji of the vocabulary.

—The way
grammar points
are explained
on a structured way
with example sentences.—

Japanese study books: Grammar
Question word: itsu explained



 Minna no nihongo

Japanese study books: Grammar
Minna no nihongo By: 3A Network

If you have already looked at all the Japanese learning books out there, you’ve certainly heard of this series before. I don’t have a lot of experience with this series, but in contrast with the Genki and A Course in Modern Japanese series, this series doesn’t give you all the different facets of learning Japanese in one book. The grammar book explains grammar very compactly and I think this is quite a difficult way to learn Japanese especially if you are just starting.

Here you can find the official website,  where you can find more information over all the books in this series.

My experience

So I won’t advise to use this book if you want to study by yourself, because I think you’ll need a teacher’s guidance to get everything out of this book. The book contains a large amount of exercises, which is definitely a plus if you needs lots of practice.

Nihongo fun and easy (survival Japanese conversation for beginners)

Japanese study books: Grammar
Nihongo funand easy By: Kenkyusha

If you want to learn Japanese seriously this book will probably never be on your wanted list, but this doesn’t mean that it’s not a useful book. The themes in this book are very useful for people who plan to travel to Japan. A few examples of subjects are: introducing yourself Japanese, where to find an ATM and how to order pizza. I think this book is ideal for travelers who want to go one step further than using a travel guide from which you just read predetermined sentences.

Here you can find the official website, where you can find more information over all the books in this series.

My experience

Japanese study books: Grammar
Kanji that can help you understand a menu

The basic grammar is explained in an easy-to-understand manner. This makes you understand what exactly you’re saying. All kanji have furigana and the ‘Good to know’ sections in the book give tips that may come in handy.

First lessons in Japanese

Japanese study books: Grammar
Fist lessons in Japanese By: ALC

This book focuses mainly on listening skills and pronunciation. Just like the previous book, it gives a limited amount of grammar but is centered around listening and speaking skills. The explanation of the grammar is completely worked out to explain the dialogues. And there is a lot of additional information about how to pronounce the words.

Here you can find the official website, where you can find more information over all the books in this series.

My experience

If you want to learn Japanese but want to concentrate primarily on listening and speaking this is a useful book, but the shallow explanation of the grammar makes it difficult to create your own sentence constructions.

Intermediate grammar books

Nihongo so Matome: Grammar

Japanese study books: grammar
Nihongo so Matome: Grammar By: Matsumoto Kiko

I bought this series because in December I’m going to try to pass level three of the JLPT (see blog). This book contains only the grammar for JLPT N3. There is little to no English explanation, so you have to understand the new grammar from the example sentences and the really short explanation.

*I couldn’t find a official website of this series*

My experience

I definitely don’t recommend this book if you are a complete beginner, but if you know the basics, this book gives all grammar points you need for JLPT N3 in a structured way.

Japanese study books: Grammar
Grammar is explained in a really short way.

Grammar dictionaries

A dictionary of basic Japanese grammar

Japanese study books: Grammar
A dictionary of basic Japanese grammar By: Seiichi Makino

This is my bible of Japanese grammar. All basic grammar is explained with several example sentences. It is a must have if you’re studying Japanese profoundly. Buying only this book is not recommended because of the structure of the book. This book is perfect for when you read something and don’t quite understand it. This is the first book of a series of three.


Japanese study books: Grammar
The grammar is good structured

Here you can find the official website, where you can find more information over all the books in this series.

Which books do I like best?

For the normal beginner

My preference goes to the Genki series, if you are a beginner. The books are structured in a relaxed way, so you can learn at your own pace. The books also have an extensive vocabulary. Once you’ve finished both Genki books, you have good vocabulary and kanji knowledge (enough for JLPT N4). When I want more information about a particular grammatical structure, I look it up in A dictionary of basic Japanese grammar.

For the more intensive beginner

A Course in Modern Japanese is an old-fashioned book. The books were released even before I was born. That is evident in the vocabulary and the storyline, but the explanations are good and plentiful. Because of this I rarely have to look up additional information. But because you need to buy the CDs separately it will get more expensive than when you go for the Genki series. Because it’s old and out of print, it is difficult to find.

For the “I want to take it slow” beginner

If you want to learn Japanese less intensively then ‘Japanese for buzy people’ and ‘First lessons in Japanese’ are a good starting point. Are you planning to go to Japan and want some phrases and background information that you can say to break the ice? Then ‘fun and easy Nihongo’ is a good book to start with.

For the intermediate learner

If you already mastered the basic grammar you need to start looking for the more intermediate series. Most of the beginner series give you the grammar you need to complete JLPT N5 and N4. So if you start looking for books to learn N3 grammar you should be able to find the books on your level. The Nihongo so matome series can give a good start. You can buy all the different aspect separate so you can create your own tempo.

Other post on Japanese study books:

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