Japanese Basic Grammar Guide Part II – Particles (wa, ga, o, ni, de)

Posted by on February 1, 2018 – Japanese Study

Creating longer sentences in Japanese typically involves inserting different kinds of information in between the subject and predicate. Grammatical unites known as “particles” help simplify this process.

Japanese particles are similar to English prepositions, words like “in” and “at”. As shown below, while English uses prepositions, which precede the noun, clause, or phrase they modify, Japanese uses postpositions, which come after the clause or phrase.

Kare no heya de bangohan o tabemashita.  We had dinner in his room.

彼の部屋晩御飯を食べました.

Maiasa roku-ji ni okimasu.  I wake up at six o’clock every morning.

毎朝六時起きます.

Although particles themselves do not carry any meaning, they provide an important role in sentence formation. For example, English does not use particles and thus relies on word order within a sentence. Changing the order of words in an English sentence can result in a completely different meaning.

I gave her my dog. ≠ I gave my dog her.

Howwever, what is crucial in a Japanese sentence is not word order, but the units of information made up of a particle and the noun, clause, or phrase it modifies.

Watashi wa kanojo ni inu o ageta. = Watashi wa inu o kanojo ni ageta. (I gave her my dog.)

私は彼女上げた. = 私は犬を彼女にあげた.

Even if the words of a sentence appear in a different order, as long as the particles remain the same, the meaning of the sentence does not change.

There are different types of particles.  Take a look at the different particles and their functions below.

Wa ー は

[Subject]
Watashi wa Tai-jin desu.  I am a Thai Person.
タイ人です.
Kore wa gohyaku-en desu.  This costs 500 yen.
これ五百円です.

[Topic]
Kino wa izakaya ni ikimashita.  Yesterday I went to an izakaya.
昨日は居酒屋に行きました.
Natsu-yasumi wa nani o shimashita ka.  What did you do over the summer break?
夏休み何をしましたか?

[Comparisons]
Sushi wa suki desu ga, sashimi wa kirai desu.  I like sushi, but I don’t like sashimi.
寿司好きですが刺身嫌いです.

o (wo) – を

[Object]
Shimbun o yomimasu.  I read newspapers.
新聞読みます.
Kohi o nomimasu.  I drink coffee
コーヒーを飲みます.

ni – に

[Object]
Tomodachi ni aimasu.  I’m going to see my friend.
友達会います.
Chichi ni nekutai o agemasu.  I’m going to give my dad a necktie.
ネクタイを上げます.

[Destination]
Chugoku ni ikimasu.  I’m going to China.
中国行きます.
Nihon ni kimasu.  I’m coming to Japan.
日本きます.
Uchi ni kaerimasu.  I’m going back home.
うち帰ります.
*The particle “e” is used to indicate a general direciton as well as a destination, and is interchangeable with “ni”.

[Time]
Shichi-ji ni okimasu.  I get up at seven o’clock.
七時起きます.
Juichi-ji ni nemasu.  I go to bed at eleven o’clock.
十一時寝ます.
San-ji ni modorimasu.  I’ll come back at three o’clock.
三時戻ります.

[Location]
Ototo no heya ni terebi ga arimasu.  There’s a TV in my little brother’s room.
弟の部屋テレビがあります.

de – で

[Place of action]
Resutoran de bangohan o tabemasu.  I eat dinner at restaurants.
レストラン晩御飯を食べます.
[Means]

Basu de ikimasu.  I’ll go by bus.
バス行きます.
[Selection]
– Waiter: Would you like bread or rice? –
Pan de onegaishimasu.  Bread please. (I’d like a bread.)
パンでお願いします.