Post Reply Japanese Particles
78167 cr points
Send Message: Send PM GB Post
31 / M / Japan
Posted 5/28/09 , edited 6/9/09
If there is one thing that confuses students of the Japanese language as far as grammar is concerned, it would most probably be the elusive particle. A particle is an element of speech, and in most cases, corresponds to no equivalent in the English language. As an element of speech, it usually serves as a form of "direction", more or less "pointing out" to the listener what role a certain part of speech plays in the overall thought of the sentence.

It's for this reason that Japanese has often times been referred to as a left-branching language. This means that any modification to a word is done towards the left, in a manner like so:


where (C1) and (C2) represent clauses, and (X) represents either a noun or verb being modified. Similarly, words that branch from the left of particles give us an idea of the function of the said word in the context of the sentence as a whole.

This compilation of the various functions of particles has been made to aid the student in understanding the various uses of these particles. As a rule of thumb, remember that particles are elements of speech and grammar, and have no direct meaning in English. Any English equivalents used to aid in understanding are not meant to serve as direct translations for the different particles.

List of Particles

は (WA)
が (GA)
を (O)
78167 cr points
Send Message: Send PM GB Post
31 / M / Japan
Posted 5/28/09 , edited 6/9/09
は (WA)

The particle は serves as a marker for the topic of a sentence. In casual conversations, a topic may eventually be omitted through the discourse as is understood by context, but the first statement with a word or phrase preceding the は particle is universally recognized as the topic of all subsequent discussions, unless explicitly stated that the topic has been changed. The yellow words in example 2 are an example of an omitted topic with the particle は.

1) カメラどこですか?
kamera wa doko desu ka?
Where is the camera? (Lit. As for the camera, where is it?)

2) A: この映画面白い?
kono eiga wa omoshiroi?
Is this movie interesting?

B: はい、(この映画は) 面白いですよ。
Hai, (kono eiga wa) omoshiroi desu yo.
As a matter of fact, it is. (Lit. Yes, [the movie] is interesting.)

3) 鈴木さんの時計高そうでしたね?
Suzuki-san no tokei wa takasou deshita ne?
Suzuki-san's watch sure looked expensive, huh?

A topic preceding は can indicate a contrast to a previously introduced topic or idea. In the following example, "not eating anything" is contrasted with the previous idea of "eating breakfast everyday". The particle は may also serve as a contrastive element in negative sentences.

Watashi wa mainichi asa gohan o tabemasu. Demo, kesa wa nani mo tabemasen deshita.
I eat breakfast everyday. However, I had nothing to eat this morning.

Chûgoku ni itta toki, Peikin e wa ikimashita ga, Shanhai e wa ikimasen deshita.
When I went to China, I went to Beijing, but I didn't go to Shanghai.
78167 cr points
Send Message: Send PM GB Post
31 / M / Japan
Posted 5/28/09 , edited 6/9/09
が (GA)

Subject of the Sentence
Before you get your hairs in a twist, what is meant here is that the particle が serves the function of presenting a NEW subject that is, otherwise, not known to the person you are speaking to. If a person asks "Who went with you on your trip", your answer could be "my brother", for example. When this is presented, the particle for "brother" would be が instead of は. This rule can be seen in the following example:

A: あの本を読んでいる人は誰
Ano hon o yondeiru hito wa dare ga?
Who is that person reading a book over there?

B: あの人トムさんだよ。
Ano hito ga Tomu-san da yo.
That would be Tom. (Lit. That person is Tom.)

The particle が, therefore, presents NEW information, just as much as how you would say "It was my BROTHER" or "It's TOM", with added stress on these new bits of information.

In addition to this, if a question word (i.e. Who, what, when, where, why) is the subject of a sentence, the particle to follow it is ALWAYS が, and not は. Similarly, the subjects of any statement that answers a question asked with "WH-words" will use the が particle.

1) 明日、十一時に田中さん来ます。
Ashita, jûichi ji ni Tanaka-san ga kimasu.
Tanaka-San will come at 11 o'clock, tomorrow. (Lit. [In case you didn't know], Tanaka-san will come...)

2) A: この教科書はとてもいいですね。
Kono kyôkasho wa totemo ii desu ne.
This textbook is very good, isn't it?

B: はい、私の先生書いたんですよ。
Hai, watashi no sensei ga kaitandesu yo.
It is. One of my teachers wrote it, you know.

3) A: どのビル郵便局ですか?
Dono biru ga Yûbinkyoku desu ka?
Which building is the Post Office?

B: あのビルそうです。
Ano biru ga sou desu.
It's that building

Subject of a Subordinate Clause
A subordinate clause is a small part of a sentence that expounds on the main subject of a bigger sentence. On a basic level, we'll focus on two types of subordinate clauses: temporal clauses and expounding clauses

Take a look at the following sentence:

"When my son graduated from college, I decided it was time for me to retire"

This is an example of a sentence with a temporal clause, namely when my son graduated from college. When we say temporal, we're referring to a certain instance in time. The subject, the persona "I", is given the temporal clause to indicate that if there's any point in time I'm pertaining to, it's the time when "my son graduated", and not any other time.

In this sense, the subject "I" receives further clarification from the subordinate clause. The sentence can stand on its own as simply "I decided it was time for me to retire", but is further clarified with the addition of the subordinate clause. "I", in this case, is the main topic, and receives the particle は in Japanese. The other subject, "my son", would receive the が particle. Take note of the articles and the topics they refer to in the following translation:

Musuko ga daigaku o sotsugyôsuru toki, ore wa shigoto o yameyô to omoimasu.
When my son graduated from college, I decided it was time for me to retire.

The second type, expounding clauses, look like the following in English:

This is the book my girlfriend gave me for my birthday last year.

Everything pertaining to what type of book is being talked about is part of the subordinate clause known as the expounding clause. It does just that: it expounds more on an object which, in this case, is the book.

Take a look at what this sentence looks like in Japanese, and compare it to the same sentence with the subordinate clause taken out:

Kore wa kyonen no tanjôbi ni kanojo ga kureta hon desu.
This is the book my girlfriend gave me for my birthday last year.

Compare with:
Kore wa hon desu.
This is a book.

Long sentences like this that modify single nouns are quite common in Japanese. Whenever a sentence modifies a noun to expound on it, the subject of that sentence will use the particle が (or の in some contexts).

In the following examples, note the subjects that are underlined, and notice what particles were used for each subject:

1) お父さん死んだ時、山下さんは十才です。
Otôsan ga shinda toki, Yamashita-san wa jû sai desu.
When his father died, Yamashita-san was 10 years old.

Buraian-san ga jugyô de neteita kara, Yamada sensei wa okottan desu.
Yamada sensei was mad because Brian was sleeping in class.

3) お姉さん作ったケーキはいつもおいしそうですね!
Oneesan ga tsukutta keeki wa itsumo oishisou desu ne!
The cakes your sister makes always look so tasty!

Direct Object
が is the particle of choice for direct objects of Auxiliary adjectives such as たい (volitional), 欲しい (want/desire), and いい (good), and Stative verbs (see list at the end). In case you don't know what a direct object is, a direct object is a word which is the recipient of an action of a verb (i.e. transitive verbs). You can usually figure out the direct object of a verb by asking the question as to "whom" or "what" was done by the verb. In the sentence "I read a book", for example, you can ask "I read what?" ~ the answer being the word "book", thus making it the direct object.

1) 果物の中で、林檎一番大好きです。
Kudamono no naka de, ringo ga ichiban daisuki desu.
Of all the fruits, apples are my favorite.

2) 子供の時、誕生日プレゼントにテレビゲーム欲しかったです。
Kodomo no toki, tanjôbi purezento ni terebi gêmu ga hoshikatta desu.
When I was a kid, I wanted a video game as a birthday present.

3) その気持ちよく分かります。
Sono kimochi ga yoku wakarimasu.
I understand your feelings very well.

4) 日本語とても習いたいです。
Nihongo ga totemo naraitai desu.
I really want to learn Japanese.

5) クラスの中でアメリカ人の留学生いるの?
Kurasu no naka de Amerika-jin no ryûgakusei ga iru no?
Is it true that there's an American exchange student in your class? (Lit. Is there an American exchange student in your class?)

There are other auxiliary adjectives and stative verbs which require が as a particle:

Stative Verbs
いる > iru > to exist (animate objects)
ある > aru > to exist (inanimate objects)
要る > iru > to need
できる > dekiru > can do
見える > mieru > can see
聞こえる > kikoeru > can hear
分かる > wakaru > understand

Auxiliary Adjectives
好き > suki > to like/to be fond of
嫌い > kirai > to hate/not fond of
上手 > jôzu > to be good/skilled at
下手 > heta > to be bad at
78167 cr points
Send Message: Send PM GB Post
31 / M / Japan
Posted 6/7/09 , edited 6/9/09
を (O)

Direct Object
Most verbs call for the particle を when it acts upon a noun as a direct object. Besides the stative verbs and auxiliary adjectives mentioned, action verbs use the particle を.

1) 今日本語の勉強しています。
Ima nihongo no benkyô o shite imasu.
I am studying Japanese right now. (Lit. I am doing Japanese language studies right now.)

2) キムさんはケーキ作った。
Kimu-san wa kêki o tsukutta.
Kim made a cake.

3) 彼女に時計もらいました。
Kanojo ni tokei o moraimashita.
I received a watch from my girlfriend.

Place with a verb of motion
The particle を indicates a place through which a certain motion verb (i.e. 行く ~ to go) takes place. Similarly, it may indicate the place where a motion verb begins or starts.

1) 次の角曲がって下さい。
Tsugi no kado o magatte kudasai.
Please turn at the next corner.

2) この道通って行こうか?
Kono michi o tôtte ikô ka?
Shall we pass through this street?

3) 何時に家出ますか?
Nanji ni ie o demasu ka?
What time did you leave the house?
You must be logged in to post.