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Summary of Japanese grammatical terminology

Grammar is the rules and regulations of writing. Understanding the rules of Japanese writing will help you to write sentences that are easy for the reader to understand. This article will explain Japanese grammar and key points to keep in mind when writing Japanese. We all know that it is better to use grammar correctly, but even Japanese natives are not really aware of this when we read and write Japanese in our daily lives. When you are writing to friends and family, there’s not much problem with incorrect grammar, but when you are writing or speaking for business purposes, you need to use correct Japanese. This is because incorrect grammar can lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding your intentions.

Understanding the “units” of language

Japanese sentences can be divided into several units just like English can. It’s difficult to see which part is wrong when it’s in a long sentence. By breaking a sentence down into smaller units, you can understand how each one works and how to use it.

Units of language

  • 文章/ぶんしょう/Bunsho/Article: Group of sentences

  • 段落/だんらく/Danraku/Paragraph: Article divided into several groups

  • 文/ぶん/Bun/Sentence: a group of word that has coherent meaning and ends with a punctuation mark.

  • 文節/ぶんせつ/Bunsetsu/Clause: Separated sentences that don’t distort the meaning

  • 単語/たんご/Tango/Word/: The smallest unit of speech

One of the most important units of language to be aware of is the clause. A clause of a sentence segment that separates a sentence without confusing its meaning. Nouns, adjectives, verbs and other freestanding words are separated by a sentence clause.

Understanding the types of clauses

There are five types of sentence functions: subject, predicate, modifier, conjunction and independent word.


A subject is a phrase that corresponds to what or who in a sentence. Nouns are often combined with particles such as "は/ha(wa)", "が/ga" or "も/mo" to form the subject.

Example: は学生だ。/わたしはがくせいだ/Watashi wa Gakuseida/ I am a student.


A predicate is a phrase that corresponds to what to do, what it is, that is (or is not) in a sentence. The predicate is often at the end of a sentence and explains the subject.

Example: 田中さんが走る。/たなかさんがはしる/Tanaka san ga hashiru./Mr.Tanaka runs.


A modifier is a phrase that describes another phrase in detail.

Example: 母は赤い本を読んでいた。/はははあかいほんをよんでいた/Haha wa akai hon wo yondeita./Mother was reading the red book


A conjunction is a sentence clause that acts to connect the sentences or clauses before and after it.

Example: 急いで歩いた。だから遅刻しなかった。/いそいであるいた。だから