Studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)? If you’ve been looking for resources for the N3 level, you’ve come to the right place! We have collected some grammatical points that you can expect to encounter in the actual exam.
As you know, there are 5 JLPT levels, N5 being the easiest and N1 as the most difficult. Historically, there were only 4 levels, where Level 4 was the easiest and Level 1 was the hardest. The old test aimed to assess people’s fluency with the Japanese language just as the JLPT we know today does. Back then, however, people seemed to struggle moving up from Level 3 to Level 2.
Thus, the Japanese Ministry of Education developed a new system in 2010, and renamed the levels as N5-N1 (where “N” can stand for “new” or “Nihongo”). They developed the N3 level to address the struggle. The ministry strictly conceals most information behind the making of the test, so we can only speculate that this level contains the more difficult Level 3 items and the easier Level 2 items of the old test.
Table of contents
- JLPT Guide: Essential N3 Grammar Points
- Part 1 – Similar Points
- Part 2 – Connective Points
- Part 3 – Points of Estimation
JLPT Guide: Essential N3 Grammar Points
The JLPT is cumulative. If you’ve taken the N5 and N4 tests before, you should already have mastered different grammar points in those levels. You can expect them to show up on your N3 test here and there. If you’re jumping to the N3 level for your first time, you should review all basic grammar points covered in N5 through N4 on top of the transitional N3 lessons.
The N3 exam tests your knowledge of intermediate-level Japanese. This level really gets into conjunctions and discourse markers! Grammar in the N4 level may have more complicated nuances that are considered too simple for N2 level. N3 grammar covers these grammatical points as it pretty much bridges the higher N4 items with basic N2 lessons.
Many online grammar lists contain only the best estimates as there is no exact telling what shows up on the actual exam. In any case, we have gathered some significant grammar points that every N3 taker should master:
Part 1 – Similar Points
In this section, we list down some grammar points that can be confused with each other. These similar points may appear to have the same root word or same equivalent in English, but have subtle changes in nuance that are used in very different cases.
Kawari ni is an expression for alternatives. You can use this with nouns, verbs, and い-adjectives or な-adjectives. This can mean “instead of” in the context of doing one thing over the other.
This morning, I drank tea instead of coffee.
Today, instead of driving, I rode a bike.
I have no chopsticks, so I’ll use a fork instead.
Ni kawatte is also an expression that can mean “instead of.” However, this is only used with nouns, and more often when people are the subjects of replacements. In other words, this is used when someone does something on behalf of another.
Please accept my greetings in place of my boss, who is currently away on a business trip.
Robots do dangerous tasks in place of humans.
My younger brother made dinner instead of my mom.
Ni taishite or ni taisuru（に対して・に対する）
Ni taishite or ni taisuru is used to express how a person or object is as it is with regard to something. This is combined with plain verb forms, nouns, and い-adjectives or な-adjectives. This can mean “in contrast to” or “in regard to.”
There must be answers (with regard) to these questions.
There were many questions about his explanation at the meeting the other day.
This school has very high standards when it comes to its teachers.
Ni kurabete is used when comparing a noun’s action, condition, or behavior with that of another object, or even of itself. It can mean “compared to” or “in comparison to.”
His Japanese is better than before.
Harumi’s new computer runs much faster compared to my old one.
Phones can relay information faster than letters.
Bakari means “only,” and is added to nouns and て-form verbs to express that someone does or there is “nothing but” those things. Depending on context, this can also express disappointment that there is “only” or “just” that thing.
You’ll gain weight if you only eat sweets.
My daughter just watches TV.
There’s nothing to lose, but everything to gain.
Kiri also means “only,” but only when used with nouns. When attached to casual verb forms, its English equivalent becomes “since.”
We should cherish our lives because we only live once.
My big brother hasn’t returned since he went out this morning.
I’ve only met her once.
Koto da means “should,” in the sense that you are giving suggestions or advice. It is attached after short forms of present tense verbs.
When you’re anxious, you should think less and use your muscles more.
You shouldn’t overdo it.
Be patient. Everything will work out in the end.
Beki also means “should,” but has a more obligatory nuance. It is also attached to short forms of verbs.
Every company must nurture talented people.
You should keep your promises.
I should have done this a long time ago.
Part 2 – Connective Points
This section contains grammar points that are found in-between or after statements.
Naze nara or nazeka toiuto（なぜなら・なぜかというと）
Naze nara or nazeka toiuto connects a resulting statement with its reason. This is the Japanese equivalent of “because” or “the reason is.”
Japanese people of the past didn’t eat meat because it went against Buddhist teachings.
I cannot quit my job even if I want to because I have debts to pay.
He bought a new business suit and tie because he has a job interview.
Sono kekka expresses the consequences of an action. It connects phrases together and is the equivalent of saying “as a result.”
I stuck to my diet for half a year. As a result, I lost 10 kilos.
My mom worked much harder than anyone else. Thus, she prospered in her career.
As investments grew, the ability of workers to purchase the products they produced became severely constrained. The result was the Great Depression.
Darake is added after a noun to express that it covers something. It’s like saying that something is “full of” or “covered with” the said noun.
A face covered in sweat.
The sidewalk was cracked and full of litter.
His freckled face turned pale.
Kuseni is connected with plain verb forms, nouns, and い-adjectives or な-adjectives to express criticism or blame. The criticism comes after this grammar point, so it’s like saying “yet.” It can also mean “although” or “despite.”
They passed the test even though they didn’t study at all.
This room is small yet the rent is high.
Although Tanaka’s mother is Japanese, he doesn’t know the language.
Mama is connected to plain verb forms, nouns, and い-adjectives or な-adjectives to indicate that they remain as they are.
I accidentally left without locking up.
We remained silent as we looked at the moon for a while.
I was answering calls while lying in bed.
Tabi ni is added after nouns and dictionary forms of verbs. This expresses repetition in the sense that “each time” or “whenever” something happens or is done.
My friend gets me a souvenir every time they travel.
I remember my family every time I hear this song.
Several times today, Jack urged me to wait each time I tried to proceed with the conference.
Furi O Suru（ふりをする）
Furi o suru is a unique grammar point used specifically to express that someone is pretending or acting as if something is untrue. This is added after casual verb forms, nouns, and い-adjectives or な-adjectives.
He acts as if he knows about politics, but it doesn’t seem that way to me.
She pretended not to hear.
Sometimes he naps during meetings, but I just pretend not to notice.
Part 3 – Points of Estimation
This section contains grammar points that express uncertainty, estimation, or guesses.
Kurai Or Gurai（くらい・ぐらい）
Kurai or gurai are used when describing an approximate amount of something, or when assessing the quality of an object. Either of these are added after casual verb forms, nouns, and い-adjectives or な-adjectives. People used to consider Kurai more formal over the colloquial gurai, but many agree that there are no distinctions in modern Japanese. English equivalents can be “approximately” or “to the extent of.”
My girlfriend is about as tall as I am.
How long did you practice?
Getting enough sleep is just as important as getting good nutrition.
Ndatte is used to express a quote, rumor, or something you might have heard. This is placed after casual verb forms, nouns, and い-adjectives or な-adjectives. It’s the equivalent of saying “I heard that…”
I heard that the exam will cover pages 100 to 150.
I heard that she got into the University of Tokyo.
I heard he’s getting married.
Dakke is used to express confirmation or recollection of information. Before adding this grammar point, you must convert nouns, adjectives, and verbs alike into their past forms.
When were you heading to Tokyo, was that next week?
Have I introduced myself yet?
Oh, where did I put my glasses?
Rashii is used after casual verb forms, nouns, and い-adjectives or な-adjectives to express something as far as the speaker knows or sees. This can mean “apparently” or “it seems like.”
Apparently, oversleeping is bad for your body.
He doesn’t seem to be in his room.
It’s unlike him to be this late.
Gatai is added after stem forms of verbs to express that they are nearly impossible to do.
His story was farfetched.
It’s only a matter of time when ignorance is inexcusable.
Crimes against children are unforgivable.
If you’re studying for the N3 level JLPT, you should definitely check out books that specifically cater to test-takers. Any grammar book with N3 or JLPT on the cover is the best resource for this standardized test. Get your hands on as many of these as you can! There’s no telling which exact grammar points will appear on your test, so you better stay prepared.
Finally, remember to trust your Japanese skills. You can go through countless grammar listings online or in books, but the JLPT tests your fluency over your ability to memorize. Good luck!
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