fundamental japanese grammar

learn more about fundamental japanese grammar for you nihongo student!

In today's article, we will understand some of the fundamentals of the Japanese language, understanding the formation of simple sentences.

fundamental japanese grammar

Today's content will also help you better understand everything we've learned in previous articles. Despite this, don't expect much in-depth knowledge. This is a very basic part of the Japanese language, and over time, we will deepen our grammatical knowledge even further.

Hover your mouse cursor over Japanese letters to see their pronunciation and translation.

Japanese grammar and particles

the calls particles, they are Japanese alphabet syllables used to mark the words of a sentence or period. They play a very important role in Japanese grammar as they indicate the function of each word within a sentence.

Thus, the particles determine which word is the subject of the sentence, which is the direct or indirect object, which part of the sentence is the predicate, etc. In Japanese grammar, particles do not have a specific translation, in many cases they do not even have a translation, but when they are translated, they usually play a role similar to our prepositions, articles and conjunctions.

Another important phenomenon about particles in Japanese grammar is the fact that they sound different from writing. Some syllables can change their sound when being used as particles. This is the case for particles  and , which despite being written with the syllables HA and HE, they are read as WA and E.

Don't worry if you don't understand a lot now, everything will get easier as time goes on and you get deeper into Japanese grammar.

Knowing the WA Particle and the Pattern THE  B です

It is very common to find Japanese sentences using the particle . It usually indicates that the word before it is the main topic or subject of the sentence. The concept of topic does not exist in Portuguese, because of this, the topic of Japanese phrases often ends up assuming the position of subject in a free translation from Japanese to Portuguese.

THE wa particle is also often used to create the pattern THE  B です (A is B), where the pattern THE is the main topic of the sentence, B that's what we're talking about THE and です is a word similar to the verb to be in the Portuguese language. With this pattern, we can create several different phrases like:




In the sentences above, です has equivalent meaning to the verb to be and ではありません has the negative meaning, as a kind of "not being" or "is not". In addition, the syllable  found in ではありません it's a particle. Therefore, it is read as wa and not as ha.

There are other words in the Japanese language that use this particle in their composition. like the words こんにちは and こんばんは.

In many cases, when the main topic is already clearly explicit in the sentence, the Japanese omit both the particle  as the topic itself. For example:



Note that the two sentences talk about the same subject “She”, and as in the second sentence the topic is already clearly known, it can be omitted without causing damage to the understanding of the sentences. Another thing worth mentioning is that usually the verb always appears at the end of Japanese sentences.

Japanese grammar and questions in Japanese

According to Japanese grammar, the basics of creating interrogative sentences in Japanese consists of the proper use of the particle , which is added to the end of sentences as if it were our question mark.

In colloquial usage, to ask questions in Japanese, it is common for our oriental friends to use the particle  (depending on the region of Japan) in place of the particle , or simply not using particles, characterizing the interrogative sentence by the intonation of the voice.

Because of this, during conversations, we need to be careful to know when the sentence is an affirmation and when the Japanese are asking questions. For example:

彼は日本人です。 – Affirmative sentence in Japanese.
彼は日本人ですか? – Formal interrogative sentence.
彼は日本人ですの? – Informal interrogative sentence.
彼は日本人です? – Completely informal phrase. It is only perceived that it is interrogative by the intonation of the voice or the sign ?.

Notice I used the question marks? only to facilitate the distinction between interrogative and affirmative sentences, since, according to Japanese grammar, their use is optional. When it comes to texts and books, the Japanese generally write in a formal way. This makes it easy to tell the difference between questions and statements.

How to answer questions in Japanese

The most basic way to answer questions in Japanese is using the words はい or いいえ, and then add the answer with the です in the appropriate way. Look at the example below:

If you want to know more about desu, read the article: DESU the verb to be in Japanese with.



For this type of question, there are two ways to answer. One affirmative:


And the other negative:


Asking questions in Japanese with the WA particle

During informal conversations, it is very common to create questions in Japanese using only the topic and particle . In cases like these, it is only possible to perceive that the sentence is a question because of the intonation of the voice. For example:




Japanese grammar and exclamatory sentences

Forming Japanese sentences in an exclamatory way is as simple as interrogative sentences in Japanese. For this, we will use the particle , as Japanese grammar teaches us.

the particle  is another very simple particle to learn. just like the particle Japanese phrases come at the end and have an exclamatory character, as if emphasizing the sentence. This particle is used in the same way as our exclamation point (!).

in spoken language  is quite pronounced, always calling the attention of the listener. For example:


Japanese grammar and the ne particle

When the Japanese wish to place greater emphasis on the phrase, or simply to get a listener's attention, they usually use the particle  at the end of Japanese sentences. In this way, the particle  ends up taking on the same meaning as the expression “isn’t it?” used in Portuguese. Check it out:



The expression “não é?”, in some regions of Brazil, is used in the same way as the particle  from Japan. Both “grammatically” (if I may say so…) and phonetically.

I've come across some friends who asked me: Are you a Japanese teacher. Huh?. just like the particle . It is not? 😀

According to Japanese grammar, the particle  can be classified as a confirmation request, but it doesn't always happen that way. In some cases it is as if the speaker is just getting the listener's attention, not necessarily needing confirmation. But these are rarer cases.

As for the level of formality, as far as I know, the particle  can be used without any restrictions. It doesn't matter if it's a formal, informal, oral or textual conversation.

Well… I hope you are enjoying the articles. If not, don't forget to get in touch. If you have any criticism or suggestions, I'm always willing to listen and try to improve.

Kanji calligraphy exercise

Below are the Japanese ideographic symbols used in this article. Selecting the desired kanji and copy and paste them into Worksheet for Kana and Kanji Practice  by clicking on the Generate button, a new window will open where you will be able to see the file for printing. Then just print the symbols and try to write it yourself. Just print and practice!