Post Reply [Japan] Particles
Posted 5/3/09
In Japanese,
grammatical parts of the sentence are shown very clearly by "particles." These particles are placed after the word (or
phrase) they modify. The best way to learn to use them is to memorize useful examples and say them!

は wa - overall topic particle - shows the main topic of the conversation [NOTE: it is a hiragana ha but
pronounced as "wa"]

Example:
あなた は やさしい。
anata wa yasashii.
You are nice.
[Makes "you" the main topic]

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がga - the subject
particle - sometimes the difference between wa and ga are hard to tell. Sometimes they can be used interchangeably with only a slight change in meaning. Don't worry about this now!

ねこ が へん。
neko ga hen.
The cat is strange.
[Makes the "cat" the subject]

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をo - The Direct
Object particle

本 を よみました。
hon o yomimashita.
(I) read a book.
[NOTE: it makes "book" the object. If we were to say
"I" it would be watashi wa at the beginning.]

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にni -
usually shows movement (to)

日本 に いきましょう!
nihon ni

ikimashou!
Let's go to Japan!
[There is movement going to Japan]

or shows time (at)

6時 に いきましょう!
roku ji ni
ikimashou!
Let's go at 6.
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で de - Shows location (at, in)

日本 で 遊びましょう!
nihon de

asobimashou!
Let's play (have fun) in Japan!
[Notice there is no movement]
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Here is a parallel article

* Note: these are by far not the only meanings for these particles, they are only the most common usages. Other uses for these particles will be discussed at a later time. wa marks the topic of a sentence. Very often this topic is the subject of the sentence, but not always. It most closely resembles the phrase "as for"
* ga marks the subject of a sentence and puts emphasis on it. It is very confusing at first to distinguish between the uses of wa and ga since both can label a subject, but they are very different sometimes and I will strengthen this distinction as we go along
* no signifies that the item before it posesses the item after it. This meaning can be broadened to the sense of attatching attributes to nouns.
* o marks the direct object of a sentence. It tells what or who receives the action of the verb.
* e shows the direction or destination of a motion.
* ka shows that a sentence is a question. In English, questions can often be very different from their corresponding statements, for example, "Does he go to the store?" has a rather different word order from "He goes to the store." In Japanese, this is usually not the case and a statement can be changed to a question simply by tacking a ka onto the end.

To put it simply, after many of the words in a sentence, you have a particle telling what the word "was" to that sentence.

Nakamura san wa sensei desu.
[Nakamura (as for) teacher is./As for Nakamura, he is a teacher.]
Nakamura is a teacher.

After the words "Nakamura san", the "wa" tells us that Nakamura is the topic of the sentence - the sentence will be about Nakamura.

Let's add something to the sentence. Let's modify what kind of teacher he is:

Nakamura wa anata no sensei desu.
[As for Nakamura, he is you('s) teacher.]
Nakamura is your teacher.

We can turn it into a question by adding ka:

Nakamura wa anata no sensei desu ka.
[Nakamura is your teacher?]
Is Nakamura your teacher?
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