Japanese Basic Grammar Guide Part II – Particles (wa, ga, o, ni, de)
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.
Maiasa roku-ji ni okimasu. I wake up at six o’clock every morning.
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.)
私は彼女に犬を上げた. ＝ 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
Watashi wa Tai-jin desu. I am a Thai Person.
Kore wa gohyaku-en desu. This costs 500 yen.
Kino wa izakaya ni ikimashita. Yesterday I went to an izakaya.
Natsu-yasumi wa nani o shimashita ka. What did you do over the summer break?
Sushi wa suki desu ga, sashimi wa kirai desu. I like sushi, but I don’t like sashimi.
o (wo) – を
Shimbun o yomimasu. I read newspapers.
Kohi o nomimasu. I drink coffee
ni – に
Tomodachi ni aimasu. I’m going to see my friend.
Chichi ni nekutai o agemasu. I’m going to give my dad a necktie.
Chugoku ni ikimasu. I’m going to China.
Nihon ni kimasu. I’m coming to Japan.
Uchi ni kaerimasu. I’m going back home.
*The particle “e” is used to indicate a general direciton as well as a destination, and is interchangeable with “ni”.
Shichi-ji ni okimasu. I get up at seven o’clock.
Juichi-ji ni nemasu. I go to bed at eleven o’clock.
San-ji ni modorimasu. I’ll come back at three o’clock.
Ototo no heya ni terebi ga arimasu. There’s a TV in my little brother’s room.
de – で
[Place of action]
Resutoran de bangohan o tabemasu. I eat dinner at restaurants.
Basu de ikimasu. I’ll go by bus.
– Waiter: Would you like bread or rice? –
Pan de onegaishimasu. Bread please. (I’d like a bread.)