Japanese postpositional particles 1
Updated: Nov 10
A particle is a word that fleshes out the meaning of the word. In this article, I will explain different types of particles and how to recognise them and use them, with examples. Just swapping out the particles can completely change what the writer is trying to say. The particles play an important role in connecting words to words and fleshing out the subtle meanings. There are many different types of particles such as a particle indicating that it is a subject and particle expressing the reason for something.
Features of postpositional particle
There are two main characteristics of particles. Keep them in mind because these two are really important.
The particle is an adjunct
A particle is a word that doesn't make sense on its own and often just one letter, such as "が/ga" or "の/no". They are called adjuncts because they are attached to other words. For example, unlike autonomous words that can make sense on their own such as "走る/はしる/Hashiru/Run (verb)" and “野菜/やさい/Yasai/Vegetable (noun)," a single particle alone is not enough to make sense. Keep in mind that a particle is a one to three letters accessory word attached to an autonomous word (verb, noun, adjective, adjective, etc.) that has no conjugation.
There is no conjugation
No conjugation means that the form remains the same. There is an auxiliary verb (助動詞/じょどうし/Jodo-Shi) which has a similar name to post-positional particle (助詞/じょし/Jo-shi) in Japanese, but the difference between a particle and an auxiliary verb is whether it has a conjugation or not. Supplementally, the auxiliary verb (aux) is a verb that helps the main verb and is also called a helping verb. It includes verb such as “am”, “does” and “can”. Conjugation means that the form of the verb changes depending on the word that comes after it. Remember, a particle has no conjugation in any sentence.
There are four types of particles. I will now explain each type of particle, along with a list and its usage. This article will cover only the first two, and later part will be published in the following weeks.
List of all the types of particles
格助詞/かくじょし/Kaku-Jo-shi/Case marking particle, nominative particle
This particle mainly acts to indicate the relationship of a nominal word to the other words in the sentence.
There are 10 case marking particles in Japanese, which are “が/ga・の/no・を/wo(o)・に/ni・へ/he(e)・と/to・より/yori・から/kara・で/de・や/ya”.
“が/ga” “の/no” has a function to indicate that word placed before them is a subject of the sentence. I will give an example of just one, “が”, and will fully explain others in the different article.
ひまわりが咲く/ひまわりがさく/Himawari ga saku/Sunflowers are in bloom.
As shown in this sentence, が is indicating that word before が which is ひまわり, is the subject of the sentence.
“の” “を” “に” “へ” “より” “で” are called compound modifiers. “の” modifies the word (noun) immediately behind it.
Example:子供の運動会/こどものうんどうかい/Kodomo no undou kai/Children’s sports day
In this example, “の” is modifying the noun “sports day” with the word “children”.
“を” “に” “へ” “より” “で” also modifies the word (verb, adjective, adverb).
Example: ラーメンを食べる/らーめんをたべる/Ramen wo taberu/Eat ramen
In this example, を is modifying the verb “eat” with the word “ramen”.
“と”, “や”, “の” create parallel structures.
Example: 浴衣と下駄を買う/ゆかたとげたをかう/Yukata to geta wo kau/Buy yukata and geta.
In this example, yukata and geta are put in parallel structure.
A conjunctive particle is a particle that connects the clauses before and after a phrase and can be found mainly behind the noun or auxiliary verb. Examples of conjunctive particles include the following:
“は/ha(wa)” “と/to” “ても/temo” “けれど/keredo” “ながら/nagara” “が/ga” “のに/noni” “から/kara” “など/nado”
Again, I will give examples just using three of them, “ので/node” “のに/noni” “ながら/nagara” and I will give examples using rest in another article.
Conjunctive particles have three functions: sequential, paradoxical, and simple connection.
The conjunctive particle that acts as a sequential joint, is followed by a natural consequence after it. This includes “ので” “から” “ば” “と” and “で”
Example: 走ったので間に合った/はしったのでまにあった/Hashittanode maniatta/I ran and I made it in time.
The conjunctive particle that acts as a paradoxical joint, is followed by an unexpected result after it. This includes “が” “ても” “ところで” “のに” “ながら” and “けれど”.
Example: 寒いのに汗をかいている/さむいのにあせをかいている/Samui noni ase wo kaiteiru/ It’s cold but I’m sweating.
The conjunctive particle that has a simple connection role just connects two clauses together. This includes “が” “し” “ながら” “たり” “て” “で”.
Example: 食べながら考える/たべながらかんがえる/Tabenagara kangaeru/Thinking while eating.
I have explained two main postpositional particles in this article, case marking particle and conjunctive particle. Other two, adverbial particle and sentence-ending particles will be covered in another article that will be published soon. Thank you so much for reading and I hope this helps you learn Japanese grammar.