Basic particles in Japanese

Discover and learn more about the basic particles in japanese!

The particles are small grammatical elements, usually written using a single syllable of the Japanese alphabet in hiragana, and do not have a specific translation.

The function of particles in Japanese is purely grammatical, serving as a tag to identify the function of words within a text or sentence in the Japanese language. Without the particles, it would be impossible to understand any Japanese sentence.

In today's article, I intend to comment on the most basic particles of the Japanese language, talking a little about their most common uses and meanings. Don't worry if you don't understand a lot now, as we advance further in our studies, everything will become clearer.

Although they are written using the Japanese alphabet in hiragana, some syllables of this alphabet may change pronunciation when being used as particles. A good example of this is particles  and . Although they are written using the syllables there iswo and he, they have the pronunciation waO and and.

Basic particles in Japanese

From now on, we will comment on each of the most basic particles of the japanese language, following a short list of the most common particles in Japanese.

the topic particle

The topic of a sentence is the main subject we are talking about or something we want to emphasize. The topic is usually marked by the particle .

The concept of topic is something very confusing for Brazilians, since it does not exist in the Portuguese language, but it is not as complicated as many think. Let's use the sentence below as an example.

は日本人です。

 is the main subject of the sentence, the most important part of the sentence. This happens because after  the particle appears .

If we change the sequence of words in the same sentence, we change the topic or the part that we give more importance, but the translation usually doesn't change.

日本人は彼です。

Now the topic of the sentence is 日本人, since it appears before the particle .

the subject particle

the particle  is the mark that indicates which word is the subject of the sentence. That is, the word that appears before the syllable  is the one who performs or suffers the action of the verb. For example:

お腹が痛いです。

In the sentence above お腹 is the subject of the sentence, as it appears before the particle . And if we look closely, it's お腹 that suffers the action of hurting.

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to knowing when to use the particle  or the particle . This happens because there is no concept of topic in our mother tongue, and also because the topic of sentences in Japanese ends up becoming the subject of sentences within a free translation from Japanese to Portuguese.

Through living with the Japanese language, students end up assimilating the difference between the use of these two particles. So be a little patient with yourself. Right?

the possessive particle

the syllable , when used as a particle, usually makes the relationship between two nouns; giving a sense of owner and thing possessed.

彼女本。

In the example above, the particle  indicates that 彼女 is the owner of . In other words, "her book” or “the book that belongs to her“. Note that the word before the particle  is the owner of the word that comes after the particle.

You possessive pronouns in japanese use the particle  in its formation, taking advantage of the possessive function of this particle.

A particle of many functions

despite the particle  have many functions, it is not necessary to know all of them now. For now, it is enough to know three basic functions of the particle : Direct contact, location and indirect object.

Direct contact

It is used to express when two things are very close, coming into direct contact with each other. For example:

黒板字を書く。

Localization

In that case, the particle  is used together with verbs that have a sense of existence, such as あるいる or 住む. So the particle  indicates the place where something is located or simply lives.

ここ犬がいる。

indirect object

The indirect object of a sentence is usually marked with the particle , and is usually the indirect object that over the effects of the action in Japanese sentences. Note the sentence below:

太郎ビデオをあげる。

Like 太郎 is a proper name and is followed by the particle , we understand that it is he who receives the video and suffers the effects of the action of the verb.

Location particle and instrumentality

the particle , may have some other meanings, but in this article we will focus on two basic functions: place where an action takes place and instrumentality.

Place where an action takes place

when the particle  is used in conjunction with a “place”, it serves to indicate what is happening in the place indicated in the sentence. For example:

学校で勉強する。

Instrumentality

In cases like this, the particle  serves to inform that the action indicated by the verb will be performed through an instrument or utility. For example:

フォークで食べましょう。

電車で行く。

Particle to indicate a direction

the particle  usually indicates the direction of an action, and is often used with verbs 行く, 来る and 帰る; as well as a few other verbs.

Note that the syllable sound , when used as a particle, changes to and in the same way as the syllable  change to wa and  change to O.

日本へ行く。

direct object particle

the particle  is used to indicate the direct object of the sentence, the one that suffers the action of the verb. In the sentence below, りんご is the one who suffers the action of 食べる, so it must be marked with the particle .

りんごを食べる。

お茶を飲む。

Another particle of many functions

To conclude our journey through the basic particles of japanese language, let's know the particle . Although it has many functions, let's talk about the two most basic ones: Comprehensive lists and citations.

comprehensive lists

Understand comprehensive lists, like declaring a list of objects, where all objects are mentioned. For example, a shopping list is a comprehensive list, although large, where we have a list of all the things that we are going to buy in the market. Lists like these are called comprehensive lists because it is possible to remember all the objects in the list.

In Japanese, a comprehensive list is created by placing the particle  between each object in the list. For example:

ペンと車とパン

In Japanese, it is easier to find phrases like “pencil and pen and paper” than “pencil, pen and paper”. The Japanese generally use the particle  instead of separating objects with commas.

The same usage also happens when the list elements are people. But in this case, we have a sense of company, of having done something together with other people. For example:

私と佳子は日本へ行く。

Quote

the particle  it is also often used to quote, or say what other people have said. For example:

「愛している」と言う。

Note that in the sentence above, the symbols “「” and “」” are used as our quotation marks indicating what was said. Then the particle appears  to indicate the quote followed by the verb say (言う).

Conclusion

For now, that's all we need to know about particles in Japanese. These are basic usages and commonly found in Japanese language texts.

Over time, we will go deeper and deeper into our study and comment on other functions and situations not mentioned here.

Kanji calligraphy exercise

Below are the Japanese ideographic symbols used in this article. Selecting the desired kanji, copy and paste them into Worksheet for Kana and Kanji Practice , a new window will open where you can view the printable file and practice Japanese calligraphy by covering the gray symbols and then trying to write yourself. Just print and practice.

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