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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.