This article describes particles – a kind of a grammatical glue in the Japanese language. They convey meanings such as direction, ownership and topics.
There are many particles in Japanese, and this section covers some of the most important ones and their basic usages. Each particle may have several other additional usages. And there are many particles not described in this section. Please note that as you progress in your learning.
Particles arranged by Topic
Introduction to Particles
Particles used with Verbs
Alphabetical List of Particles
The following, non-exhaustive, list shows the particles covered in this section:
Watashi wa honya de hon o sansatsu kaimashita.
I bought three books at the bookstore.
By, mean, using:
Tanaka san wa basu de kaisha ni ikimasu.
Mr. Tanaka goes to the office by bus.
pen de kaku
to write with a pen
kuroi inku de kaku
to write in black ink
Out of, made by, comes from:
Teeburu wa ki de dekite imasu.
The table is made of wood.
By, amount of people:
Ashita eiga ni futari de ikimasu.
Tomorrow the two of us are going to a movie.
The direction marking particle e 「へ」 is used after a place, to mark the direction something is moving. This particle can always be replaced with ni 「に」 and still be grammatically correct, although the reverse may not be valid. It does however look better to use e 「へ」 in some cases. Please note that the particle “e” is written with the hiragana character “he” 「へ」 although it is pronounced “e” when used as a particle.
Nihon e ikimasu ka.
Are you going to Japan?
The particle ga 「が」 is a subject marker. It is used instead of wa 「は」 when you want to emphasize the subject. It can also sometimes be used for variation if the topic marker already has been used in a sentence. It feels stronger than the topic marker wa 「は」.
Watashi wa sushi ga suki desu.
I like sushi. (Literally, As for me, sushi is likable.”)
Ga 「が」 is also used in the end of a sentence. It is then often used for softening the sentence, or to show that something else is in contrast with what you first said. Much like “but…” can be used for in English.
Tanaka san wa kimasu ga, Watanabe san wa kimasen.
Mr. Tanaka is coming, but Mr. Watanabe isn’t.
kono terebi o kaitai n desu ga.
(I think) I would like to buy this TV.
The particle ka 「か」 is used for showing options, much as “or” is used in English.
Ocha ka koohii ikaga desu ka.
How about tea or coffee?
The question marker ka 「か」 is put in the end of a sentence to mark it as a question.
Gakusei desu ka.
Are you a student?
Ka to 「かと」 is a construct that can be used to mark a quotation of something that is uncertain.
おいしい か と 思いました。
Oishii ka to omoimashita
Maybe it’s tasty, I thought.
行く か 行かない かと 考えました。
iku ka ikanai ka to kangaemashita.
I was thinking “Shall I go or not”.
The particle kara [から] marks where something comes from, or when talking about time, the start of something.
Originating, coming from:
Ano hito wa Nihon kara kimashita.
He is from Japan.
Start in time:
Depaato wa juuji kara desu.
The department store opens at 10:00 o’clock.
Kara conveys a reason. It sounds a bit casual, and in writing or formal language ‘node’ together with the masu form of the verb is to prefer.
Isogashii kara, eiga ni ikanakatta.
Because I was busy, I didn’t go to the movie.
Made 「まで」 marks the end of something. It is frequently used for time, marking the end of a period, such as store opening hours or a destination. But it can also be used to show extent of something, how far something has gone.
Depaato wa rokuji made desu.
The department store closes at 6:00 o’clock.
Depaato wa juuji kara rokuji made desu.
The department store is open from 10:00 o’clock until 6:00 o’clock.
Toukyou kara Yokohama made arukimashita.
(I) walked (all the way) from Tokyo to Yokohama.
Even, to the extent of:
Watashi no gohan made tabemashita.
(He) even ate my food.
The particle mo 「も」 is used to connect two or more things that have something in common.
Watashi wa ocha ga suki desu. Koohii mo suki desu.
I like tea. I also like coffee.
Ocha mo koohii mo nomimasu.
I drink both tea and coffee.
Ocha mo koohii mo nomimasen.
I drink neither tea nor coffee.
Nagara shows that something is happening at the same time as something else.
Aruki nagara, mondai ni tsuite kangaemashita.
While walking, I thought about the problem.
tabenagara terebi wo mimashita.
While eating, I watched TV.
The sentence ending ne 「ね」 is very common in casual Japanese. It is a request for agreement or a confirmation, but often it is just used rhetorically. In most cases the answer to a “ne”-question would just be an agreeing ne 「ね」.
Gakusei desu ne.
You are a student, aren’t you?
「この寿司、おいしいね。」 「ねぇ」 (casual language)
“Kono sushi, oishii ne” “nee”
“Isn’t this sushi tasty?” “Yea.”
no [の] Possession, description (using a noun to describe another noun), apposition (description set off by commas or parentheses)
The word no marks a possession, that something belongs to something else. It can be used both in a direct, physical case such as “My umbrella. – watashi no kasa.”. Or it can also be used in a abstract manner, such as “Mr Yamada from Sony. – Sony no Yamada-san.”.
Simon wa musume no neko desu.
Simon is my daughter’s cat.
Nihon no tabemono wa oishii desu.
Japanese food is delicious.
Tomodachi no Tanaka san wa sensei desu.
My friend, Mr. Tanaka, is a teacher.
The particle “ni” has several uses. Here are some of them.
Marking a location or direction of movement.
Hiromi san wa Toukyou ni imasu.
Hiromi is in Tokyo.
Toukyou ni ikimasu.
I am going to Tokyo.
Kinou watashi wa hayaku uchi ni kaerimashita.
Yesterday I went home early.
Marking the direction of an action
Watashi wa otouto ni ame o moraimashita.
I received candy from my (younger) brother.
Watashi wa otouto ni ame o agemashita.
I gave candy to my (younger) brother.
Watashi wa Tanaka san ni hon o kashimashita.
I loaned Mr. Tanaka a book.
Marking a point in time
9ji ni aimashou.
Let’s meet at 9 o’clock.
|午後十時に||ごごじゅうじに||gogo juuji ni||at 10 PM|
|日曜日に||にちじょうびに||nichiyoubi ni||on Sunday|
|七月に||しちがつに||shichigatsu ni||in july|
|２００１年に||にせんいちねんに||nisen ichi nen ni||in the year 2001|
The object marker o 「を」 is used to mark the object in the sentence. That is, the word that the verbs directly act on.
Torako wa kotori o mite imasu.
Torako is looking at the bird
The particle し (shi) is commonly used as “and”. It can also be used to give a reason or conclusion.
1. Usage as “and”
It can be used to join several parts of a sentence. But it’s a little different from English “and”. As you can see in the following sentence, all phrases generally have “し” at each of the end of them.
uchi no neko wa saikou da yo. Kawaii shi, atama wa ii shi, ato otonashii shi.
Our cat is the best – it’s cute, smart and calm.
2. Used to indicate reason (advanced use)
Used in this way, し (shi) has the same function as ので (node) and から (kara). Shi gives the nuance of that more reasons than the ones stated do exist. This use has the nuance of slang, and may not be considered as proper Japanese.
Beginners are recommended to use ので (node) and から (kara) to indicate reasons, rather than し (shi), as し will not work in all cases. Please refer to a advanced grammar book to read more about this.
ie mo chikai n da shi, tama ni wa yore yo.
Since you live nearby, drop in us at times.
Please be careful using shi in this way, as it may not be exactly as when using kara and node, as illustrated by the following examples.
Since I was so sleepy at that time, I couldn’t answer the question.
I was so sleepy at that time and I couldn’t answer the question.
Since my watch was broken, I was late at school.
My watch was broken, (and… anyway) I was late at school.
Example (2) is used commonly, but (4) is a bit awkward and possibly the person can be quite rude or childish because the speech tends to be heard his poor excuse. “し” is often used in coloquial speaking way, and it’s often used when the person doesn’t have decent or proper reason of the result, I think.
After saying a fact or condition, the latter clause implies the conclusion indicated by し (shi).
ryokou ha shitai kedo, hima wa nai shi.
I want to take a trip, but I don’t have enough time. (therefore I can’t)
Compare it with the following sentence that does not have “し”:
ryokou wa shitai kedo, hima wa nai.
I want to trip, but I don’t have enough time.
Example (2) is a simple statement, but in (1), the listener/reader can feel something negative, as if the speaker is complaining, has frustration or so.
The particle to 「と」 is a marker with the same meaning as “and”, but also conveys that the list of things said is complete. If there may be more things, the particle ya 「や」 is used. The particle to can also show involvement, for instance “I talked with him – Kare to hanashimashita”.
The particle can also be used to mark quotation, and to indicate a consequence. (examples missing)
Sono gakusei wa pen to enpitsu o motte imasu.
That student has a pen and a pencil.
Watashi wa yoku tomodachi to hirugohan o tabemasu.
I often have lunch with my friends.
To quote someone, follow the quotation by 「と いいます」 to iimasu, or whatever tense and form is appropriate. To say what someone has said without making a quotation, use to iimasu but put what was said into the plain form. It’s common to omit da when reporting on questions. The verb iimasu may be used to ask how to say something in English or Japanese.
Maiku san wa, “Hayaku hashiru koto ga dekimasen,” to iimashita.
Mike said, “I can’t run fast”.
Maiku san wa, “Ashita yakyuu o shimasu,” to iimashita.
Mike said, “I’m playing baseball tomorrow”.
Maiku san wa, ashita yakyuu o suru to iimashita.
Mike said he’s playing baseball tomorrow.
Watashi wa Amerikajin ka to kikimashita.
He asked if I was American.
“Autumn” wa Nihongo de nan to iimasu ka. “Aki” to iimasu.
How do you say “autumn” in Japanese? It’s “aki”.
The particle 「は」 is used to mark the topic of a sentence. It may be easiest to think of it translated as “regarding …” or “.. as for ..”
Kono hon wa omoshiroi desu.
This book is interesting.
Youko san wa daigakuin no gakusei desu.
Youko is a graduate student. (Literally, “As for Youko, she is a graduate student.”)
Watashi wa kaze wo hiita kedo, otouto wa genki desu.
I have caught a cold, but my kid brother is all right.
The particle ya 「や」 works as the English word “and”, but also indicates that the list of things listed may not be complete. Compare with the particle to 「と」.
Watashitachi wa Kyouto ya Ousaka (nado) e ikimashita.
We went to Kyoto, Osaka, etc.
よ (yo) can be added to the end of a sentence to put emphasis on the sentence.
あなたはテレビを見ていいよ。 (casual language)
anata wa terebi o mite ii yo.
You can watch television.
２時間も待てないよ。 (casual language)
nijikan mo matte nai yo.
Two hours is too long to wait.
juppun to kakarazu ni tsukimasu yo.
You’ll get there in less than ten minutes.
If the sentence ends with a noun or -na adjective, as it often does in casual language, よ (yo) must be preceeded with a だ (da).
だめだよ。 (casual language)
Dame da yo.
An exception is if using feminine language, where usage of よ (yo) and ね (ne) without だ (da) is correct.
あれ は いぬ よ。
are wa inu yo (casual, feminine language)
That’s a dog!
kirei yo (casual, feminine language)
This page is edited by the StudyJapanese team, based on a part of “Some Notes on Japanese Grammar” published for your personal use, with the kind permission of Keith Smillie (http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~smillie/)