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Japanese postpositional particles 1

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

ひまわり咲く/ひまわりさく/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:子供運動会/こどもうんどうかい/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: ラーメン食べる/らーめんたべる/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: 浴衣下駄を買う/ゆかたげたをかう/Yukata to geta wo kau/Buy yukata and geta.

In this example, yukata and geta are put in parallel structure.