This page provides links to 66 Flash animations of various grammatical structures in Japanese and 12 downloadable appendices.

Before you begin, check the vocabulary items by clicking on the link. To begin an animation, click on a picture. After each animation, check your comprehension by taking a short quiz.
This site has been funded in part by a grant from the Japan Foundation. Updated on 5/3/2008.

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Table of Contents
Unit 1: Sentence types
This unit explains three basic types of sentences in Japanese: those ending in a noun phrase and the copula, those ending in an adjective (and optionally the copula), and those ending in a verb.

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See also Unit 20.
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Unit 2: Word order
This unit explains that the verb must appear last in a Japanese sentence. The exact word order of noun phrases is not as important, so long as they appear before the verb and are accompanied by correct particles.

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Unit 3: Simple noun phrases
This unit explains how to form simple noun phrases of the types [noun + no + head noun] and [adjective + head noun].

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See also Units 4 and 37.
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Unit 4: Spatial relations
This unit explains that spatial relations in Japanese are expressed with noun phrases in the form of [reference point + no + relative position] as in watashi-no ushiro “behind me.”

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See also Unit 3.
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Unit 5: Adjectives
This unit first explains two types of adjectives: i-adjectives and na-adjectives. In addition, it explains the properties of adjective-like nouns that are somewhat difficult to distinguish from na-adjecitves.

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See also Units 18, 19, and 22.
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Unit 6: Location particles
This unit explains the particles e, ni, de, kara, and made. In addition, the so-called “traversal” use of the particle o is explained.

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Unit 7: Transitivity 1
This unit explains the proto-typical distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs. Apparent exceptions to the principle are also explained.

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See also Units 16, 29, 36, 53, and 63.
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Unit 8: Particle wa
This unit explains that the main function of the particle wa is to link related sentences into a coherent passage.

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See also Unit 9.
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Unit 9: Particle mo
This unit explains that the particle mo adds a thing to a set of items that meet a certain condition. It also shows that the function and the distribution of the particle mo are very similar to those of the particle wa.

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See also Units 8 and 55.
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Unit 10: Particles in communication
This unit shows that particles in Japanese are very useful in communication on their own.

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See also Units 16, 17, and 58.
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Unit 11: Demonstrative pronouns
This unit explains how to use the demonstrative series ko-, so-, a-, and do- in the concrete as well as abstract domains.

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Unit 12: Counters
This unit contrasts two different methods of using numeral expressions containing counters such as mai “sheet” and satsu “volume.” In one, numeral expressions are used to count items. In the other, numeral expressions are used to characterize a specific group in terms of its size.

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Unit 13: Wh questions
This unit illustrates that Japanese wh questions (questions containing counterparts of who, what, why, etc.) are structured exactly like their answers and that this feature makes it quite easy to construct and answer complex wh questions in Japanese even though they may be difficult to translate into English.

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See also Units 35, 37, and 47.
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Unit 14: Expressing change of state
This unit explains how to describe change of state. Specifically, the following two types of patterns, the adjectival type and the nominal type constructions are illustrated: ku-form of adjective + naru “become”; noun-ni + naru.

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See also Units 18 and 41.
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Unit 15: Measuring and telling time
This unit explains how to use expressions like ichi-jikan “one hour” and ichi-ji “one o’clock.”

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Unit 16: Verbs and noun phrases 1
This unit classifies verbs into categories on the basis of semantic characteristics of their associated noun phrases. It also shows what particles can go with what verbs. The verbs in this set are primarily transitive, or take a target.

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See also Units 7, 10, and 17.
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Unit 17: Verbs and noun phrases 2
This unit continues with the task of classifying verbs on the basis of their associated noun phrases. The verbs in this unit are mainly intransitive.

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See also Units 6, 10, 16, and 52.
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Unit 18: Adverbs and modifiers of nouns
This unit explains that Japanese makes a sharp distinction between elements modifying verbs and elements modifying nouns.

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See also Units 5, 14, and 41.
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Unit 19: Speech styles
This unit introduces the distinction between direct-style forms and polite forms. The primary factor for this distinction is the nature of the audience.

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See also Units 20, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 46, 47, 50, 56, and 65.
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Unit 20: Verbal conjugations
This unit explains how to derive various conjugational forms of so-called one-step verbs, five-step verbs, and irregular verbs.

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See also Unit 19.
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Unit 21: Cause and effect
This unit explains how to express cause-effect relationships. It clarifies that the cause always precedes the effect in Japanese.

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See also Unit 22.
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Unit 22: Connecting sentences
This unit focuses on te-forms as a means of connecting very closely related events.

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See also Units 21, 37, 38, and 44.
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Unit 23: Continuative 1
This unit explains the basic use of the continuative construction [te-form + iru] in the sense of progressive aspect.

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See also Units 25 and 26.
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Unit 24: Directional verbs
This unit focuses on the use of kuru “come” and iku “go” as auxiliary verbs.

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See also Units 49 and 53.
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Unit 25: Continuative 2
This unit explains the other meaning of the te iru construction introduced in Unit 9, namely the continuation of a resultant state.

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See also Units 23, 26, 53, and 64.
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Unit 26: Describing clothing
This unit examines an application of the concept explained in Unit 10. It shows how the resultant continuative construction is used to describe how a person is dressed.

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See also Units 23 and 25.
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Unit 27: Comparison of objects
This unit explains the pattern used for comparison.

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See also Unit 46.
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Unit 28: Combining particles
This unit explains how the particles wa, mo, and no are combined with other particles.

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Unit 29: Expressions of desire
This unit compares the pattern for expressing one's desire for one's own action and the pattern for expressing one's desire for other people's action.

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See also Unit 7.
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Unit 30: Probability
This unit explains sentence-final elements deshô “it is probably the case” and kamo shirenai “there is the possibility” which mark the likelihood of an event.

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See also Unit 36.
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Unit 31: Temporal clauses with nagara
This unit explains how to use nagara. The differences between nagara and its closest English equivalent while are pointed out.

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Unit 32: Purpose phrases 1
This unit describes the purpose construction [location + ni/e + verbal stem + ni + verb of movement], which is used in sentences such as umi-ni oyogi-ni iku “I go to the beach for a swim.”

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See also Units 43, 44, and 45.
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Unit 33: Listing options
This unit explains how to give examples of things, actions, or events. The expressions involved are ka, ya, toka, and tari.

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Unit 34: Elements appearing with negative endings
This unit explains constructions such as daremo … nai “no one” and shika … nai “nothing but.”

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See also Unit 35.
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Unit 35: More on wh expressions
This unit continues with the topic of the construction [wh element + mo] and expands into the construction [wh element + ka].

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See also Units 13, 34, and 37.
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Unit 36: Tentative forms
This unit describes the constructions mashô and , which roughly correspond to let's in English.

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See also Units 7, 30, 40, and 53.
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Unit 37: Complex noun phrases
This unit explains how to form and use Japanese counterparts of complex noun phrases such as the cake that Mr. Kimura made and a woman who was waiting for a bus.

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See also Units 3, 13, and 22.
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Unit 38: Nominalization 1
This unit explains how to form and use Japanese counterparts of constructions like the bracketed parts below:
I remember [my mother cooking in our old kitchen].
[For me to cook] is a major event.
It is surprising [that you should cook].

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See also Units 22, 50, and 52.
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Unit 39: N-desu
This unit explains the so-called “extended predicate” construction, n-desu and its variations, which is used when making explanatory comments on personal circumstances.

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See also Unit 38.
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Unit 40: Quoting statements and assertions
This unit explains how to quote statements or beliefs.

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See also Units 19, 36, 38, and 56.
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Unit 41: Source of information 1
In Japanese, the “source of information” is typically marked at the end of a sentence by a noun-like element. Representative of this type of construction are: “evidence,” hazu “common understanding,” tsumori “intention, belief,” and “hearsay.” This unit explains the first of these.

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See also Unit 42.
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Unit 42: Source of information 2
This unit continues with the topic of marking the source of information and explains how to use hazu “common understanding,” tsumori “intention, belief,” and “hearsay.”

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See also Units 41 and 44.
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Unit 43: Purpose phrases 2
This unit describes two more purpose constructions, [direct sentense + no-ni] and [direct sentence + tame-ni]. Differences between these constructions and the other purpose construction studied in Unit 32 are also pointed out.

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See also Units 32 and 44.
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Unit 44: vs.
This unit contrasts two markers of source of information, and , as seen in taka-sô-da and takai yô-da. It points out that , which takes a stem form, marks the judgment as more intuitive and immediate than , which takes a direct-style sentence and marks the judgment as more objective and detached.

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See also Units 22, 32, 42, and 43.
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Unit 45: Quoting requests
This unit explains that quoting requests indirectly requires a different pattern from that for quoting statements.

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See also Units 19, 40, 41, 42, and 44.
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Unit 46: Comparison of events
This unit explains how to compare two events using yori “than” and “option.” The pattern is essentially the same as the pattern described in Unit 27 for comparing two things, except that direct-style sentences are used.

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See also Unit 27.
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Unit 47: Patterns of uncertainty
This unit contrasts the embedding of a question with ka and the tara-conditional pattern, both of which can be translated into English with if.

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See also Units 5, 13, and 48.
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Unit 48: Two more conditionals
This unit explains two more conditional patterns, the reba-conditional, which is more hypothetical, and the to-conditional, which leads to an inevitable consequence.

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See also Unit 47.
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Unit 49: Verbs of giving
This unit first explains the basic difference between two verbs corresponding to give. Their auxiliary usage is explained next.

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See also Units 24 and 53.
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Unit 50: Nominalization 2
This unit explains a number of constructions that contain the nominalizer koto.

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See also Units 38, 40, and 52.
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Unit 51: Tense
This unit explains that the tense (past or non-past) in the subordinate clause in Japanese is determined relative to the main clause rather than to the point where the speaker is.

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Unit 52: No and koto
This unit contrasts the pronominal and nominalizing functions of no and koto.

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See also Units 38 and 50.
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Unit 53: Patterns of consequence
This unit summarizes a number of patterns involving te-forms and those verbs that can be used as auxiliary verbs. Specifically, the verbs described are ageru, kureru, iru, kuru, iku, oku, aru, shimau, miru, and miseru. In combination with a te-form, these verbs indicate that the event or action has some consequence or impact to a receiver, a destination, a future point, an observer, etc.

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See also Units 7, 24, 25, 49, 54, and 64.
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Unit 54: Temo
This unit discusses the use of te-forms followed by the particle mo. The basic meaning of this construction is that different conditions lead to an identical consequence.

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See also Units 22, 53, and 55.
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Unit 55: Permission and prohibition
This unit describes the patterns for permission, exemption, prohibition, and obligation, which are created by combining a positive or negative te-form with mo ii (permissive attitude) or wa ikenai (restrictive attitude).

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See also Unit 54.
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Unit 56: Honorifics
This unit describes the system of honorifics in Japanese, beginning with honorific kinship terms and ending with honorific verbs.

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See also Unit 19.
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Unit 57: Apologies and thanks
This unit describes the patterns for apologies and thanks consisting of a te-form and an expression of apology or appreciation.

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See also Unit 53.
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Unit 58: Requests and commands
This unit describes various patterns for requests and commands from the more polite type to the more brusque type.

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See also Unit 10.
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Unit 59: Passive
This unit first explains the contrast between active and passive sentences in English. How to form passive sentences in Japanese is explained next.

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See also Unit 60.
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Unit 60: Adversity passive
This unit explains another type of passive construction known as “adversity” or “affective” passive. This constuction utilizes the same passive verb forms studied in Unit 59, but for a different effect. It indicates that the subject is adversely affected by someone’s action.

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See also Unit 59.
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Unit 61: Patterns of control 1
This unit explains the causative constructions in which the subject lets or forces someone to do something.

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Unit 62: Patterns of control 2
This unit explains the te morau construction, which is similar to that of the let causative. The subject in this construction is grateful for the action performed by someone.

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See also Units 60 and 61.
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Unit 63: Transitivity 2
This unit describes how to use pairs of closely related transitive and intransitive verbs. The effect of using such intransitive verbs with the resultant continuative construction te iru is also discussed.

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See also Units 7 and 25.
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Unit 64: Te aru and te iru
This unit discusses the differences between te aru and te iru when paired with the type of intransitive verbs studied in Unit 63.

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See also Units 25, 53, and 63.
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Unit 65: Male and female differences
This unit describes differences between male and female casual speech patterns with the focus on the endings.

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See also Units 19 and 58.
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Unit 66: Common errors
This unit illustrates a number of errors that a student of Japanese should avoid (although we admit that teachers of Japanese love them).

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Appendices

Download the PowerPoint shows by right-clicking on the links. Units for which they may be helpful are indicated in parentheses.
  1. Conjugation summary (Unit 19)
  2. Direct forms (Units 19-22, 30, 33, 36-39, 41-48)
  3. Kinship terms (Unit 56)
  4. Na- and no-adjectives (Unit 5)
  5. Numbers (Unit 12)
  6. Particles (Units 2 and 10)
  7. Potential forms (Units 7 and 59)
  8. Stem forms (Units 22, 28-32, 36, 43-44, 58, and 64)
  9. Te-forms (Units 5, 22-26, 29, 33, 36, 49, 53-55, 57-58, 62, and 64)
  10. Temporal expressions (Unit 15)
  11. Transitive pairs (Unit 63)
  12. Wh expressions (Units 2, 13, 34-35, and 54)