ALC – Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar

UBJG-cover-upload“Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar” is a grammar review book written by Nishiguchi Koichi and published by ALC. The publish date of my copy appears to be June 2002. I purchased this book in 2004 and used it as a refresher for Japanese grammar. The book seems to be targeted at people who are interested in taking the JLPT level 3 test. The author mentions that it includes grammar neccessary for the test (with a few exceptions). He also mentions that he restricted the vocabulary to those words necessary for JLPT 3. This is the pre-2009 level 3 which should be similiar to level 4 of the 2009 test.

The book is organized into three major stages which break down into six major parts:

  1. Fundamental Structure of Japanese Sentences
  2. Introduction to Different Forms of the Verb
  3. Expressions Using different Forms of the Verb
  4. Grammatical Items
  5. Grammar Points
  6. Grammar structures

One and Two are the introductory stage, Three and Four are the Expanding stage and Five and Six are the Advanced Stage. The Table of Contents is 12 pages long and is very thorough. It shows exactly what grammar will be discussed on each page of the book with the structure written in Japanese and the meaning summarized in English. For example: 「いつ:when・・・・・28」 This is very useful when using this as a grammar reference.

The suggested use for this book is on page v and I highly recommend reading it before using the text. The basic idea is to use the table of contents for referencing the structure that you wish to study and to 「read the Japanese sentences aloud over and over until you can capture the flow of the meaning」. He also advises that you should use your imagination and intuition when studying, otherwise you will never understand grammar. This is some of the best advice that I have heard in the introduction of a study book.

The author suggests that this book can be used as a main text for an elementary course, as a supplementary grammar book, as an alternative grammar book to accompany a course book or as grammar review for JLPT 3 (pre-2009). With the lack of practice exercises, I think it might be difficult to use this as a primary textbook.

In conclusion, I feel that this is a wonderful review book before taking the (2009) JLPT level 4 test. If you plan on taking level 5 this book is a bit more advanced for you but using it can help you get ahead and may make the test easier for you. I used this text and it helped me pass JLPT 3!


  • Simple explanations of grammar points
  • A lot of example sentences, paragraphs and conversations
  • Great translations into English
  • It follows the grammar and vocab guidelines for JLPT 3 (pre-2009)
  • No romaji!


  • No practice exercises.
  • No CD / listening


ALC Japanese Study Books

About steve

I have lived in Japan since 2004. I love Japan and studying Japanese.