8 Ways to Make Your Japanese Sound More Natural

Have you tried practicing lines out of a Japanese textbook only to get blank stares from native speakers? As you may already know, the material in textbooks can sound stiff and unnatural.

Take a look at the following two examples; which do you think sounds more natural? 

1a. 私はお酒を飲みに行きました。すごく楽しかったです。
(Watashi wa osake o nomi ni ikimashita. Sugoku tanoshikatta desu.) 
I went drinking. I had a lot of fun. 

1b. お酒を飲みに行って、すごく楽しかった。
(Osake o nomi ni itte, sugoku tanoshikatta.) 
I went drinking, and it was really fun. 

While sentence 1a is grammatically correct, it sounds very stiff. It might be okay to use it in a formal situation like a speech. If you want to speak more casually, sentence 1b sounds much more natural. 

Today we’ll learn 8 ways to sound more natural when speaking and telling stories in Japanese. We’ll include learning points such as how and when to omit particles, how to piece things together with conjunctions, and more! 

1. Using The Plain Form of Verbs

A “quick fix” to sounding more natural is by using verbs in plain form (instead of the masu-form) and not using “desu” at the end of your sentences.  

When you can use the plain form (also called dictionary form) of verbs, many other paths to sounding more natural also open up—such as using te-form or replacing longer sounds with the –n sound (both described later in this article). 

Of course, it isn’t possible to use plain form in all situations; if you’re speaking with a superior at work, it’s best to stick with formal speech. Give it a try when you’re in more casual circumstances, such as talking to friends. 

Examples: Masu-Form to Plain Form Verbs

ます (Masu) FormPlain (Dictionary) FormEnglish
to walk
to go
to eat
to play/do

Example: Textbook Japanese (Masu-Form Verb)

(Imakara shukudai o shimasu.)
I will do my homework now.  

Example: Casual Japanese (Plain Form Verb)

(Imakara shukudai o suru.)
I’ll do my homework now.  

*Note:  While this sentence is in the casual/plain form, it would still sound stiff in actual conversation.  This is because there is not context around this sentence:  so it just sounds like a factual statement.  Also, in casual conversations, sentences like these usually have a sentence-ending particle like よ (yo), ね (ne), から (kara), or んだ (nda) to name a few.   

Plain Past Tense Verbs

Using the plain form of past tense verbs also works to make sentences casual.  

Examples:  Masu-Form Past Tense to Plain Past Tense Verbs

ます (Masu) Past Tense Plain Past Tense English

Example: Textbook Japanese (Past-Tense Masu Form Verb)

(Ohirugohan ni piza o tabemashita.)
I ate a pizza for lunch.  

Example: Casual Japanese (Plain Past Form Verb) 

(Hirugohan ni piza o tabeta.)
I ate pizza for lunch.  

**Note:  As mentioned in the *note above, in casual conversations, sentences like this would normally have a sentence ending particle like よ (yo), ね (ne), から (kara), or んだ (nda).  

Volitional Form Verbs

Don’t forget the volitional form of verbs that brings a meaning of “let’s ~” or “shall.”  

Examples: Volitional Form

~ましょう (Mashō) FormVolitional FormEnglish
Let’s walk /
Shall (I/we) walk
Let’s go /
Shall (I/we) go
Let’s eat /
Shall (I/we) eat
Let’s play/do /
Shall (I/we) play/do

Example: Formal Japanese (Mashō Verb Form)

(Asatte eiga o mi ni ikimashō.)
Let’s watch a movie the day after tomorrow. 

Example: Casual Japanese (Plain Volitional Verb Form)

(Asatte eiga o mi ni i yo.
Let’s watch a movie the day after tomorrow.

Note that when using the plain form of verbs in conversation, particles like ね (ne), よ (yo), or わ (wa) are often used after them. This makes it sound less abrupt and more natural. The particle you use will depend on the situation and (sometimes) your gender or the status of the person you speak with. 

2. Using Te-Form of Verbs

The (te)-form of verbs allows you to take short, abrupt sentences and combine them smoothly into one sentence.

This grammar point is taught in Japanese classes, and mastering it will help you become closer to speaking like a native. 

Examples:  Plain Form to Te-Form Verbs

Plain (Dictionary) Formて (Te)-FormEnglish
to walk (and)
to go (and)
to eat (and)
to play/do (and)

Example: Formal Japanese (Same Action/Event Broken Into Multiple Sentences)

(Kinō kazoku to sukiyaki o tabemashita. Osashimi mo tabemashita. Oishikatta desu.) 
Yesterday, I ate sukiyaki with my family. I also ate sashimi. It was delicious. 

Example: Casual Japanese (Using Te-Form Verbs to Connect Clauses/Sentences)

(Kinō kazoku to sukiyaki o tabete, osashimi mo tabete, oishikatta.) 
Yesterday I ate yummy sukiyaki and sashimi with my family.

3. Omitting Particles

All grammatically correct sentences need particles. This is especially true of writing.

However, when speaking conversationally, particles are often dropped in Japanese. Specifically, を (o)、が (ga)、and は (wa) are often omitted in casual conversations. に (ni) can sometimes be dropped, but へ (e) and で (de) usually can’t be. 

Example: Formal Japanese (Use of Particles)

(Kinō rāmen o tabemashita.)
I ate ramen yesterday.

Example: Casual Japanese (を(O) Particle Omitted)

(Kinō rāmen tabeta.)
I ate ramen yesterday.

4. Omitting the Subject From A Sentence

In English sentences, there is always a subject. “I like Marvel.” “We went to the movies.” 

However, subjects like “I” and “we” are often omitted in Japanese. Unlike in English, saying “I” in every sentence sounds repetitive and unnatural.  

Example 1a : Formal Japanese (Use of a Subject in a Sentence)

Watashi wa Māberu ga suki desu. 
I like Marvel. 

Example 1b: Casual Japanese (Subject Omitted From Sentence)

Māberu ga suki.
I like Marvel. 

Example 2a: Formal Japanese (Use of a Subject in a Sentence, Masu Form Verb)

(Anata wa sakana o taberaremasu ka.) 
Are you able to consume fish? 

Example 2b: Casual Japanese (Subject Omitted From Sentence, Plain Form Verb)

(Sakana o taberareru?)
Can you eat fish? 

5. Using Conjunctions: だけど (Dakedo) / けど (Kedo)

Combining 2 sentences into 1 with conjunctions is a great way to sound more fluent and natural. For example, instead of using でも (demo) for but, try connecting the sentences with けど (kedo) instead. 

けど (kedo) and だけど (dakedo) technically mean “but. ” However, they can sometimes mean “so,” depending on context.

Example: Formal Japanese (Multiple Sentences Using でも (Demo))

(Kono mae Fukuoka ni ittekimashita. Demo, ichinichi shika taizai shimasen deshita.) 
The other day I went to Fukuoka.  However, I was only able to stay for one day. 

Example: Casual Japanese (Connecting Sentences With けど (Kedo))

(Kono mae Fukuoka ni ittekita kedo, ichinichi shika taizai shinakatta.) 
I went to Fukuoka the other day, but I could only stay for one day. 

6. More Conjunctions: それで (Sore De)、すると (Suru To)、and しかも (Shikamo)

These conjunctions are very commonly used when telling casual stories in Japanese. Imagine talking to someone without using “and then,” “also,” or “after that.” You can still get your point across, but it would sound unnatural and disconnected.

The following are only some simple examples of connector words. There are dozens more, but I find these 3 particularly useful when telling stories.

  • それで (sore de): after that, so, because of that
  • そうしたら/そしたら (soushitara / soshitara): thereupon 
  • しかも (shikamo): moreover, and yet

Example: Formal Japanese (No Conjunctions)

(Kono mae, watashi wa suki na hito to dēto shita.)
The other day, I went on a date with someone I like.  

(Dinā ni ittekita. Yakitori o tanonda.)
We went to dinner. We ordered yakitori.  

(Sugoku ōkii osara de detekita. Meccha karakatta.)
It came out on a huge plate. It was very spicy.  

(Tsugi no hi watashi wa onaka ga itakunatta.)
The next day my stomach hurt. 

Example: Casual Japanese (Using Conjunctions)


(Kono mae, suki na hito to dēto shita no.  Sore de, dinā ni itte yakitori o tanondan da yo. Soshitara, sugoku ōkii osara de dete kita no. Shikamo meccha karakatta. Sore de tsugi no hi onaka itakunatta.)

The other day, I went out on a date with this (guy/girl) I like.  So we went to dinner and got yakitori which came out on a huge plate.  Moreover, it was super spicy, so I got a stomachache the next day. 

7. Using ~N To Shorten Words (Contraction)

Sometimes when conjugating a verb into its negative form, the ない (nai) is replaced with ん (n), and anything after is dropped.  

Examples: Negative Verbs Contraction

Negative Plain FormContracted FormEnglish
won’t go
can’t do 
don’t know 
don’t know/understand 

Important Points to Remember

There are 2 important things to remember about this pattern:

  1. It is very informal, and you would only use it with people you have a close relationship with (like friends or family). It sounds very rough and rude if used with someone you don’t know well or who has a higher social status than you. 
  2. This contraction doesn’t work with all verbs. You just need to learn which ones are commonly used through experience. However, using some of these verbs can still sound rough. Start by using 知らん (shiran) and 分からん (wakaran) to people you are close with. These two verbs commonly use this contraction and sound natural in certain areas of Japan***.  

Potential Form Contraction

Here is a contraction for the negative potential form of group 2 verbs:

〜られない (〜rarenai) → 〜れん (〜ren): Cannot Do ~

The ra is dropped depending on the verb. 

For example, instead of saying 食べられない (taberarenai), it’s common to say 食べれない (taberenai) or 食べれん (taberen)*** to mean “can’t eat.”  

This contraction also doesn’t apply to all group 2 verbs, as some verbs would sound strange. 

***Note:   The contraction of replacing ない (nai) with ん (n) is only used in certain parts of Japan.  If you said contracted verbs like 分からん (wakaran) 知らん (shiran) in places like Kanto, the people there will probably understand you, but they might be surprised.  Saying casual words like this could also be considered rude, so make sure to use these words only with people you know well, and in an area that uses them.  This contraction can often be heard in the Kansai area of Japan.  

8. Other Common Contractions

When speaking naturally, native speakers often “slur” sounds together or drop certain letters. Of course, this is done in English as well— such as when you say “wanna” or “gonna” instead of “want to” and “going to.” 

This is so common that there’s enough to write about as another topic entirely, but we’ll briefly go over just a few common contractions in Japanese. 

1. 〜ておく(Te Oku) → 〜とく (Toku)

A verb in te-form plus おく (oku) means “to do something in advance.” 


Examples: Te Oku to Toku

~ておく (Te Oku) FormContracted とく (Toku) FormEnglish
(junbi shite oku)
(junbi shitoku)
Prepare in advance 
(katte oku)
Buying something in advance 
読んでおく (yonde oku)読んどく
Read something in advance

*Important:  Te-form verbs that use ~でおく (de oku) will change to どく (doku) using this contraction.  

Example 1a:  Full, Uncontracted Verb Version

(Kurumayoi ga shinpai nara maemotte kusuri o nondeoku to ii yo.)
If you are worried about getting car sick, you should take medicine in advance.

Example 1b: Casual, Contracted Verb Version

(Kurumayoi ga shinpai nara maemotte kusuri o nondoku to ii yo.)
If you are worried about getting car sick, you should take medicine in advance.

Example 2a:  Full, Uncontracted Verb Version

(Musuko ni, shukudai wa yorugohan made ni yatteoku yō ni itta.)
I told my son to finish his homework by dinner time.

Example 2b:  Casual, Contracted Verb Version

(Musuko ni, shukudai wa yorugohan made ni yattoku yōni itta.)
I told my son to finish his homework by dinner time.

2. 〜てしまう (Te Shimau) → 〜ちゃう (Chau)

The てしまう (te shimau) pattern is usually used to express something you’ve done by accident and is typically negative. Depending on the sound before, the abbreviation can be either “chau” or “jau.” 

Examples:  Te Shimau to Chau

~てしまう(Te Shimau) FormContracted ちゃう (Chau) FormEnglish
(tabete shimau
To eat completely or accidently 
(itte shimau)
To go somewhere completely or accidently 
(nonde shimau)
To drink completely or accidently 

Example 1a: Full, Uncontracted Verb Version

(Tanaka san ni denwa suru no o wasurete shimatta.)
I forgot to call Tanaka san.

Example 1b:  Casual, Contracted Verb Version

(Tanaka san ni denwa suru no o wasurechatta.)
I forgot to call Tanaka san.

Example 2a: Full, Uncontracted Verb Version

(Oishisō na kēki o miru to tsui katte shimau.)
When I see a cake that looks delicious, I buy it without really thinking.

Example 2b:  Casual, Contracted Verb Version

(Oishisō na kēki o miruto tsui kacchau.)
When I see a cake that looks delicious, I buy it without really thinking.

 3. かもしれない (Kamoshirenai) → かもしんない (Kamoshin-nai)

 This is also shortened to かもしれん (kamoshiren) or even just かも (kamo) sometimes. 


忘れたかもしれない (wasureta kamoshirenai) can be shorted to:

  • 忘れたかもしんない (wasureta kamoshin-nai)
  • 忘れたかもしれん (wasureta kamoshiren)
  • 忘れたかも (wasureta kamo)

Example 1a: Full, Uncontracted Version

(Kono densha wa Nara ni ikanai kamo shirenai.)
This train might not go to Nara.

Example 1b:  Casual, Contracted Version

(Kono densha wa Nara ni ikanai kamo shin nai.)
This train might not go to Nara.

Example 2a: Full, Uncontracted Version

(Sono koto nara shitteita kamoshirenai.)
I might have known about it.

Example 2b:  Casual, Contracted Version

(Sono koto nara shitteta kamo.)
I might have known about it.

4. それは (Sore Wa) → そりゃ (Sorya)

The same format also applies to this (これ) and that (あれ). This is also only used with close friends and family, as it can sound rude when misused.  


(Sorya nai darō.)
There’s no way that happened.

5. ですか (Desu Ka) → っすか (Ssuka)

This is also only used in informal situations with people you know well. It doesn’t sound rough like other contractions on this list, but it is informal and can sound lazy, which can offend people. Just be careful not to use it with people with a higher social status than you.  

Examples:  っすか (Ssuka)

Standard JapaneseContracted っすか (Ssuka) FormEnglish
(nan desu ka
What’s that?
(ittan desu ka
Did he/she/it go?

6. 〜ているの (Te Iru No) → 〜てんの (Tenno)

The ている (te iru) form is the progressive tense of a verb. An example usage for this would be saying, “今走ってんの?” (ima hashitten no) instead of “今走っているの?” (ima hashitteiru no) to ask if they are running.  

Examples: Te Iru to Tenno

ているの (Te Iru No) FormContracted てんの (Ten No) FormEnglish
(nani shiteiru no) 
(nani shiten no)
What are you doing?
(kangaeteiru no
(kangaeten no)
Are you thinking (right now)?

Example Dialogues 

Now, let’s put everything we’ve learned together. Look at the following conversations and how they changed from the formal textbook version to the casual version. We’ll use the contractions and conjunctions explained in this article and add sentence-ending particles to make it sound more natural.  

Example 1a: Formal, Textbook Conversation

(Shigoto de atarashii koto ga ippai arimasu. Demo watashi wa ganbaritai to omotteimasu. Senpaitachi ga yasashikattara ureshii desu.)
I have a lot of new things (to learn) at work. However, I want to try my best. I hope my coworkers (about me in seniority) are kind.  

Example 1b: Casual Conversation

(Shigoto de atarashii koto ga ippai aru kedo, ganbaritai to omotteiru yo. Senpaitachi ga yasashikattara ureshii nā.)
I have a lot of new things (to learn) at work, but I’ll give it my all. I hope my coworkers (above me in seniority) are kind.  

Example 2a: Formal, Textbook Conversation

(Raishūmatsu yūhan o tabe ni ikimasen ka? Watashi wa ii omise o shitteimasu. Demo, issho ni iku hito ga imasen.)
Next weekend, would you like to get dinner? I know a good restaurant. However, I don’t have anyone to go with. 

Let’s look at the casual version with the formal masu-form verbs replaced with the plain form verbs. I also used the connector “kedo” and snuck in a “n” contraction for shitteiru kedoshitten dakedo. 

Example 2b: Casual Conversation

(Raishūmatsu yūhan tabe ni ikanai. Ii omise o shitten dakedo, issho ni iku hito ga inain da yo ne.)
Do you want to grab dinner next weekend? I know a good place, but I don’t have anyone to go with. 

Example 3a: Stiff, Textbook Conversation

(Kyō shigoto de iya na koto ga atta. Chotto hanashi kiite kurenai? Hontō ni hidoi. Watashi wa tsukareta.)
Something terrible happened at work today. Will you listen to me talk for a bit? It was terrible. I’m tired. 

This sentence uses the plain form and is casual, but it still sounds choppy and unconnected. In the casual, natural version below, we use the connector けど (kedo) to make a complex sentence and omit the subject 私 (watashi), as well as dropping the particles が (ga) and に (ni). 

Example 3b: Casual, Natural Conversation

(Kyō shigoto de iya na koto atta kedo, chotto hanashi kiite kurenai? Hontō hidokute, tsukareta.)
Work sucked today, so can you lend me your ear for a bit? It was so bad it tired me out.


That’s a wrap on how to tell stories more naturally in Japanese! 

Now that you have a repertoire of these 8 tools be sure to try them out! Please let us know if you enjoy these types of “natural/casual” Japanese lessons!

Photo of author

Sonya S

An Arizonan living in Tokyo, Sonya is in love with all things nature, art, and food, and--in pursuit of all three--moved to Japan right after college. She works full time in translation and medical assistance in order to put food on the table for her rescue cat.

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