How to Say You Like Something in Japanese (Sentence Patterns #1)
Updated: Apr 13, 2021
To express that you like something in Japanese, say the thing you like and then say が好きです (ga suki desu).
If you want to say that you like doing something, you must place the particle の after the dictionary form of the verb and before が好きです.
好き conjugates as a なadjective when you want to make a sentence negative or put it in the past tense.
Sentence Structure #1
私は [noun] が好きです。
わたしは [noun] がすきです。
Watashi wa [noun] ga suki desu.
I like [noun].
Expressing your likes can be tricky since 好き "like" is a verb in English but an adjective in Japanese. Because of this, you might be tempted to use the particle を before 好き. However, because を must be followed by a verb, this would result in an ungrammatical sentence.
(Watashi wa) Neko ga suki desu.
(I) like cats.
Why do you use が instead of は?
When I was learning this sentence pattern (with the subject 私 dropped), I wondered why you have to use が instead of は. For example, why can’t you say「猫は好きです」to express that you like cats? After all, you can say「猫はかわいいです」to say "Cats are cute," so why doesn’t「猫は好きです」translate as "Cats are likeable" (or, in other words, "I like cats")?
As a beginner, I still don't fully understand why, but I know part of it is that は has other functions besides marking the topic of a sentence—it can also be used when you want to contrast two things. And when you use は before 好き, native Japanese speakers will interpret your use of は as a contrast marker, not a topic marker.
So,「猫は好きです」actually does mean "I like cats" in Japanese, but with an important added nuance. Phrases like this are usually contained in two-part expressions—for example,「猫は好きです。でも、犬は好きじゃないです。」This means "(I) like cats, but (I) don't like dogs."
However, when you leave out the second part (でも、犬は好きじゃないです), the only way the listener can make sense of「猫は好きです」is to imply that you mean to contrast cats with everything other than cats. So, by itself,「猫は好きです」means "I like cats, but I don’t like any other animals."
Sentence Structure #2
私は [verb] のが好きです。
わたしは [verb] のがすきです。
Watashi wa [verb] no ga suki desu.
I like to [verb]. / I like [verb]ing.
When stating that you like doing something, you need to add the particle の after the dictionary form of the verb. This creates what is called the nominal form of the verb. If you leave out の, the sentence will sound strange to a native speaker.
For example, to a Japanese speaker,「歌う (うたう) が好きです」would sound similar to "I like sing" in English. When you add の to 歌う, the verb now carries the meaning of "singing" or "to sing."
Utau no ga suki desu.
I like to sing. / I like singing.
Anime o miru no ga suki desu.
I like to watch anime. / I like watching anime.
Additional Sentence Structures
[Noun] ga suki deshita.
I liked [noun].
[Noun] ga suki ja nai desu.
I don’t like [noun].
[Noun] ga suki ja nakatta desu.
I didn’t like [noun].
好き is a な adjective. Therefore, if you know your な adjective conjunctions, you can talk about things you don't like and things that you liked in the past.
Ano ramen ga suki deshita ka.
Did you like that ramen?
Oyogu no ga suki ja nai desu.
I don’t like swimming.
Ano eiga ga suki ja nakatta desu.
I didn’t like that movie.