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Japanese postpositional particles 2

Continuing on from last week, this article summarises the function of Japanese postpositional particles. There are four categories of particles and we will cover the latter two in this article. Before we start, here is a review from last week.


Post positional particle review

Particles connect words to words and give subtle meanings. There are 4 main types, which are case marking particle, conjunctive particle, adverbial particle and sentence-ending particle. Particle is a word that doesn’t make sense on its own, and they need to be attached to other words. Also, there is no conjugation which means the form remains the same.


副助詞/ふくじょし/Fuku-jo-shi/adverbial particle

Adverbial particles work to add meaning to various words. By adding adverbial particles, it adds more meaning to a sentence. While other particles are connected to specific types of words such as nouns or verbs, this adverbial particle can be added to any type of words. Example of the adverbial particle include the following;

“は/ha(wa)”, “も/mo”, “こそ/koso”, “さえ/sae”, “でも/demo”, “ばかり/bakari”, “など/nado” and “か/ka”. There are over 20 adverbial particles and here we will explain the subtle differences in the meanings of the commonly used "は”, “こそ”, “も”, and “さえ". There will be articles focusing only on adverbial particles later weeks.


は/Ha(pronunciation is wa)

The adverbial particle "は" has three meanings.

  • Distinguish from others

Example: 部長素敵だ/ぶちょうすてきだ/Bucho wa suteki da/My boss is nice

For example, by saying, "部長は," you distinguish your boss from other people and imply that other people are not nice. On the other hand, if you say, "部長が", there is no sense of distinction between him and others, so the implication that others are not nice is lost. If you don't intend to make a distinction, try to use "が/ga" instead of "は/wa" for example.

  • Emphasise

Example: 彼がやったと思えない/かれがやったとおもえない/Kare ga yatta to wa omoenai/I can’t believe he did it

The sentence makes sense without は. But by adding は after と, it emphasises the speaker’s thought that “I can’t believe he did it”, rather than saying without は.

  • Repetition

Example: 箱をひっくり返して戻している/はこをひっくりかえしてもどしている/Hako wo hikkuri kaeshite wa modoshite iru/Keep turning the toy box over and putting it back.

In this sentence, by adding は, it shows that whoever the person doing this action is repeating it.


こそ/Koso

This adverbial particle こそ has the meaning of designated emphasis. The use of こそ expresses a very strong intention.

Example:こそリーダーにふさわしい/かれこそりーだーにふさわしい/Kare koso leader ni fusawashii/He is the one who deserves to be a leader.

By saying “彼こそ/he is the one” rather than just saying he deserves to be a leader, it specifies and emphasises him among many others.


も/Mo

The adverbial も has three meanings as well.

  • Similarity

Example:縄跳び得意だ/なわとびとくいだ/Nawatobi mo tokui da/I’m also good at jump rope

By adding も, it indicates that the speaker is also good at something else too.

  • Emphasis

Example:そこまで行くのに二時間かかった/そこまでいくのににじかんかかった/Soko made iku noi ni jikan mo kakatta/It took me two hours to get there

In this example, the sentence makes sense without も but adding it emphasises that it took 2 hours, and also indicates that 2 hours were longer than the speaker’s prediction.



  • Parallel

Example:ないし仕事ないし/かねないししごとないし/Kane mo naishi, shigoto mo naishi/I don't have money, I don't have a job.

も adds the meaning to the facts that the speaker has no money and no job is in the same juxtaposition.



さえ/Sae

さえ has the meaning of analogy, limitation (emphasis), and addition.

  • Analogy

Example: 触れることさえできない/ふれることさえできない/Fureru koto sae dekinai/I can't even touch

By adding さえ, readers can guess that there are other things speaker can’t do.

  • Limitation (emphasis)

Example:さえいればいい/きみさえいればいい/Kimi sae ireba ii/You are all I need

By adding さえ, it added the sense of limitation and refinement.

  • Addition

Example: ひらがなさえかけない/Hiragana sae kakenai/I can’t even write hiragana

In this example, adding さえ indicates the fact that I can’t write other types of Japanese letters as well as Hiragana.



終助詞/しゅうじょし/Shu-Jo-shi/Sentence ending particle

Sentence ending particles add a variety of meanings to the end of a sentence. They add subtle nuance to a sentence. Some of them can be added to the end of the clause, and in that case, it will be called 間投助詞/かんとうじょし/Kanto jo shi/interjectory particle. Example of a sentence-ending particle includes the following: “か/ka”, “な/na”, “ね/ne”, “よ/yo”, “ぞ/zo”, “とも/tomo”, “なあ/naa”, “や/ya”, “わ/wa” and “ねえ/nee”. These are common ones but there are many more and can’t include all here. More detailed explanation with examples will be available in later articles.

  • Questioning

“か/ka” “の/no” “ね/ne” “かしら/kashira”

Adding those to the end of sentences makes sentence question form.

  • Prohibition

“な/na” adds the meaning of the prohibition.

  • Impression

“な/na” “なあ/naa” “や/ya” “かよ/kayo”

By adding those particles to the end of adjectives, it changes it to the speaker's opinion and adds an impression.

  • Reminder

“よ/yo”, “ぞ/zo”, “ね/ne”, “な/na” and “や/ya”

Adding those particles changes the normal sentence into a reminder.

  • Calling out

Adding “や/ya” and “と/to” after someone’s name changes them into a call. But this isn’t always necessary to call someone, you can only use names and it’s not necessarily required to add them.

  • Emphasis

“とも/tomo”, “ぞ/zo”, “ぜ/ze” and “よ/yo”

Adding those to the end of sentence emphasises the objective of the sentence.

  • Affirmative

“さ”, “の” and “わ”

Those particles add a mild degree of affirmation of what’s being said in the sentence.


Here is a chart of postpositional particles that show where they are placed and which one to use according to their function.


The Japanese language is well developed in terms of expressing the writer’s emotions, and this is especially shown in particles and auxiliary verbs. There are a wide variety of particles and auxiliary verbs, and by using them in a way that suits our emotions, we can express ourselves in a profound way. Thank you for reading and from next week, I will be explaining each of the postpositional particles in more detail.

Momoka Yamaguchi


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