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Issue 22: J-Book Review

July 19, 2010


Learn how to use Japanese expression the correct way


explanation-3awhiten today’s issue we’ll review the well-known『どんな時どう使う日本語表現文型500』aka『500 Essential Japanese Expressions – A Guide to Correct Usage of Key Sentence Patterns』. This book is actually part of a 4-book『どんな時どう使う日本語文型 series』helping you understand and use Japanese Expressions (read grammar). Because I’m planning to take the JLPT N2 at the end of the year, I bought『どんな時どう使う日本語表現文型500』which is aimed at 1•2 test takers. Now I have to tell you, there is a free copy (in PDF form) floating around somewhere on the internet which I did download (you pirate!) but, unless you have absolutely nothing to spare and happen to like crappy scans, just get the book. Nothing beats a good book when it’s definitely worth it (unlike a lot of other books). I always say, you can’t put a price tag on a language! So what makes『どんな時どう使う日本語表現文型500』great? Let’s find out…!


explanation-3aExpressions and Grammar
Even though the title reads “Japanese Expressions”, it’s rather more grammar-ish stuff about learning how to use sentence patterns. It’s one thing to learn and remember grammar out of your textbook, another thing to actually be able to use it. For example, if your native language is English, translating an English sentence to Japanese word-for-word, doesn’t work. Just because Japanese is NOT English (shut up!). You might get away with just words, but putting everything together and expressing yourself correctly takes a bit more work. Though『どんな時どう使う日本語表現文型500』doesn’t teach you how to form a sentence, it does teach you how to express (hence “Japanese Expression”) yourself using, well, grammar.

explanation-3aThe Method
The core of this book is learning and understanding expressions through sentences. Since there is no English translation and everything is all Japanese ばかり (apart from the title and two pages on “how to use the book”), everything is understood from usage in context. Expressions are explained using easy-to-understand terms followed by a couple of example sentences. This enables you to grasp the meaning naturally by reading and comparing different sentences.

Because translation and meaning of the sentences are not given (not even in Japanese), you’ll put more effort in trying to understand its meaning and often you’ll find yourself reading a difficult sentence over and over until that *click (ahh-I-get-it!) moment. This way, you’ll just put in a lot more effort rather than going straight to the translation to understand the meaning. The book uses functional sentences that can be used as good reference material and words used are also great for vocabulary building. Similar expressions are grouped together for comparison and pointers are given on how to use certain expressions as well.


The book consists of 30 lessons, each covering certain expressions such as: Time and Place of an Action, Comparison, Conveying Information etc. Each lessons first starts with two small tests on how well you know the material presented in that lesson. After checking the answers yourself, you’ll be presented with an overview of expressions to learn in that lesson (divided between 2 and 1). Then, each expression is explained using easy-to-understand terms followed by the expression in context. After you have learned the expressions you can test yourself using the exercises found at the end of each chapter to check your ability. Answers are provided at the back of the book which also hold an expressions index for easy look up.

The Book
The layout is pretty straighforward. Apart from the 植木鉢 (flower pot) here and there, no pictures and all black and white. A splash of color would’ve been nice, but, it gets the job done. Everything is written in a clear and easy way and kanji have furigana. Flower pots mark what is 2 and what is 1 material and several other visual markings are used throughout the book for easy recognition (though the number of different markings rather confuses at first. Apart from the standard arrows and brackets, you’ll find birds, neckties, envelops, pencils, hands etc.).


If you are a 上級 Japanese learner and want to understand how to use Japanese expressions and sentence patterns, you might want to check out『どんな時どう使う日本語表現文型500』. Learning and understanding how to use Japanese expressions through sentences and context is a natural way to improve your sentence building ability. Familiarize yourself with the expressions by seeing, reading and copying patterns used in the book. Then, the many exercises will test your knowledge helping your further grasp the material. The supplementary book『どんな時どう使う日本語表現文型500 – 短文完成練習帳』(sold separately) will let you drill the material by putting into practise what you have learned in『どんな時どう使う日本語表現文型500』.

Book Info
title: どんな時どう使う日本語表現文型 500 – 500 Essential Japanese Expressions
pages: 233
dimensions: 25.7 x 18.5 cm
extra: n/a
language: Japanese
publisher: ALC (
ISBN: 978-4-87234-589-6
special Chokochoko rating: 90%

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Hagit permalink
    July 20, 2010 8:05 am

    funny, i have it on my computer but i never really used it. after reading your review, i opened it and well, once again you are right. it’s a really good book, and i like it that all the words are grouped together. But still, i think that it wouldn’t have been worth so much without the exercises.
    Do you have the workbook? do you think it’s worth getting? again, not just for us the book-a-holics.. 🙂

    • July 21, 2010 7:22 pm

      I don’t have the workbook, but I think it might be useful for practise. If you have the extra money to spend, get it. 🙂

  2. July 20, 2010 2:09 pm

    YES! I certainly have found this text to be very helpful. It was first thrown onto my desk last year when I went to Kyoto to study through the KCJS Summer program ( It is very insightful and I have had my share of those *click* aha! moments that you mentioned whilst reading/studying this book.

    HIGHLY Recommended.

    ~Dorian Wacquez

    • July 21, 2010 7:23 pm

      Hey Dorian! I know, to whole thing about forcing yourself to understand and the *click satisfation is what makes learning a language fascinating!

  3. September 10, 2010 12:19 am

    Nice review. Just ordered it about a week ago, and today I see this 🙂

  4. August 2, 2011 7:55 am

    Would you recommend this book to someone who doesn’t know much kanji as well? Or would you recommend they wait until they know more kanji before getting it?

    • Squire Starsquid permalink*
      August 2, 2011 12:52 pm

      I would recommend knowing a little bit more kanji before you buy this book. It’s aimed at N2 & N1 test takers so there’s quite a lot of kanji and no english explanation throughout the whole book (grammar as well as vocab).

  5. December 22, 2011 3:57 pm

    I just wanted to drop by and say Hi. I love your posts on all the book reviews. They have been very useful to me. I hope you would post more!


    • Squire Starsquid permalink*
      December 22, 2011 4:01 pm

      Hi Eri!

      Thanks for dropping by and the kind words! I’m actually planning new stuff for upcoming year, so please visit back soon! Thanks for the review on your blog (just visited it 🙂 )


  6. gakusei107 permalink
    February 10, 2013 8:03 pm

    Any good books for a person who is having trouble understanding the grammar and vocabulary of JLPT N5? 😀
    Any really simple, easy to read books or articles?

    • February 10, 2013 11:59 pm

      You could try the Chokochoko Library for articles of your level

      • gakusei107 permalink
        February 11, 2013 12:08 am

        Thanks! The Chokochoko library will be helpful to me!!!

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