We’re going to cover some important stuff this lesson! None other than Japanese “particles”.
If you’ve done any Japanese study before you will know that Japanese particles can be extremely helpful, but also a bit difficult to understand and use.
Many websites and books out there give a lesson about Japanese particles with a one liner. I know that when I started studying particles I though, “Wow! This is easy!” However, it’s not as simple or straight forward as many “information” sources make out.
I’m not trying to scare you. I just want to let you know that I am going to give you the benefit of having studied and re-studied this stuff and attempt to really explain the particles to you.
So, let’s get started!
When I give you a particle rule, I will give you an example sentence.
Note that the particle marks the word before it, eg. “A ga B”, ga marks A.
It’s a toss up between wa and ga, but I think ga has to be the most misunderstood of the Japanese particles.
We could simply say ga is the subject marker, but what does that really mean?
Think of ga as the particle that marks a subject that is not the topic of the sentence.
Ex. haha wa purazuma terebi ga hoshii desu
My mother wants a plasma TV.
Ex. chichi wa eru shi di terebi ga hoshii desu
My father wants an LCD TV.
ga should always be used with wakarimasu (understand), dekimasu (can do), suki desu (like), kirai desu (don’t like) and hoshii desu (want).
Ex. nihongo ga wakarimasu
I understand Japanese.
Ex. furansugo ga wakarimasen
I don’t understand French.
Ex. indogo ga dekimasen
I can’t speak Indian.
Ex. suterio ga hoshii desu
I want a stereo.
Ex. mushi ga kirai desu
I don’t like insects.
Ex. ongaku ga suki desu
I like music.
ga replaces wa when a noun is modified.
Ex. obaachan wa tegami o kakimashita
My grandmother wrote a letter.
Ex. obaachan ga kaita tegami desu
This is a letter written by my grandmother.
In most texts wa is simply described as a topic marker, and it is, however it is a little more detailed.
wa marks topic (in the example below we are talking about kim, so kim is the topic)
Ex. kimu san wa omoshiroii desu ne
Kim is funny, isn’t she
wa marks the elements in a contrastive sentence
Ex. midori ringo wa dai suki desu kara, akai ringo wa dai kirai desu
I love green apples, but I hate red ones.
wa marks the negative element of a sentence
Ex. watashi wa nihon ryouri ga suki desu demo, natto wa suki ja arimasen
I like Japanese food, but I don’t like natto (note: if you’ve never heard of natto, take my word for it!)
That’s the most difficult Japanese particles out of the way! Pheww…
Probably the most flexible particle.
ni marks existence
Ex. tsukue no shita ni arimasu
It’s under the table.
Ex. meeri san wa uchi no mae ni imasu
Mary’s in front of her house.
ni marks direction
Ex. senshuu osaka ni ikimashita
I went to Osaka last week.
ni marks time
Ex. juu ji ni aimashou ka?
Should we meet at 10 o’clock
Ex. paati wa san gatsu san juu nichi ni desu ka?
Is the party on the 30th of March?
ni marks a person an action is directed at
Ex. kanojo ni denwa o kaketai
I want to call my girlfriend (on the phone).
o marks the object of a sentence
Ex. tegami o kakimashita
I wrote a letter.
Ex. shimbun o yomimashita
I read the newspaper.
de marks the place something happened/is happening
Ex. kanai wa depaato de kaimono o shimashita
My wife is doing shopping at the department store.
de shows “by what means”
Ex. kuruma de kimashita
I came by car.
de modifies a noun to be the cause of something
Ex. ame de kasa ga itta
I need an umbrella because of the rain.
de marks ingredients
Ex. hamu to chiizu to tomato de piza o tsukutta
I made pizza with ham, cheese and tomato.
de indicates usage
Ex. borupen de tegami o kaita
I used a pen to write a letter.
de marks volume
Ex. donatsu wa rokko de sen en desu
As for donuts, for six it’s 1000 Yen.
Okay, that’s the end of the Japanese particles lesson.
I recommend you print this one out and hang it on the wall.
Go over this a few times and then as you start to learn more words, put the Japanese particles to use and try to make some sentences.
Once you have these little fellows worked out sentence structure becomes so much easier.
I hope you’ll join me soon for the next lesson.