The Japanese language has a highly regular agglutinative verb morphology, with both productive and fixed elements. Typologically, its most prominent feature is topic creation: Japanese has prominent topics (although it is possible for topics and subjects to be distinct). Grammatically, Japanese is an SOV dependent-marking language, with verbs always constrained to the sentence-final position, except in some rhetorical and poetic usage. The word order is free as long as the order of dependent-head is maintained among all constituents: the modifier or relative clause precedes the modified noun, the adverb precedes the modified verb, the genitive nominal precedes the possessed nominal, and so forth. Thus, Japanese is a strongly left-branching language; to contrast, Romance languages such as Spanish are strongly right-branching, and Germanic languages such as English are weakly right-branching.
Some scholars romanize Japanese sentences by inserting spaces only at phrase boundaries (i.e., "taiyō-ga higashi-no sora-ni noboru"), in effect treating an entire phrase as the equivalent of an English word. There is a good reason for this: phonologically, the postpositional particles are part of the word they follow, and within a phrase the pitch accent can fall at-most once. Traditionally, however, a more basic concept of word (単語 tango) forms the atoms of sentences. Words, unlike phrases, need not have intrinsic meaning, therefore admitting particles and auxiliary verbs. It must be noted that some classical auxiliary verbs such as -ta (which might have developed as a contraction of -te ari) are grammaticalized as conjugations or verb endings in modern Japanese, not individual words.
Subjects are de-emphasized in Japanese: they are most commonly found at introductions of topics, or in situations where an ambiguity might result with their omission. Thus, the following sentence has more than one possible translation
Independent words divide into a conjugable (活用語 katsuyōgo) class containing verbs (動詞 dōshi), i-type adjectives (形容詞 keiyōshi), and na-type adjectives (形容動詞 keiyōdōshi), and a non-conjugable (非活用語 hikatsuyōgo or 無活用語 mukatsuyōgo) class containing nouns (名詞 meishi), pronouns (代名詞 daimeishi), adverbs (副詞 fukushi), conjunctions (接続詞 setsuzokushi), interjections (感動詞 kandōshi) and prenominals (連体詞 rentaishi).
Ancillary words also divide into a non-conjugable class, containing grammatical particles (助詞 joshi) and counter words (助数詞 josūshi), and a conjugable class consisting of auxiliary verbs (助動詞 jodōshi). There is not wide agreement among linguists as to the English translations of the above terms.
|rice||飯 meshi||ご飯 go-han|
|money||金 kane||お金 o-kane|
|body||体 karada|| お体 o-karada|
|word(s)||言葉 kotoba|| お言葉 o-kotoba|
Lacking number, Japanese does not differentiate between count and mass nouns. (An English speaker learning Japanese would be well advised to treat Japanese nouns as mass nouns.) A small number of nouns have collectives formed by reduplication (possibly accompanied by rendaku); for example: 人 (hito, person) and 人々 (hitobito, people; the 々 means the preceding kanji is repeated). Reduplication is not productive and though they always refer to more than one, these words are not true plurals. Hitobito, for example, means "a lot of people" or "people in general". It is never used to mean "two people". A phrase like 江戸の人々 (edo no hitobito) would be taken to mean "the people of Edo", or "the population of Edo", not "two people from Edo" or even "a few people from Edo". Similarly, 山々 yamayama, the duplication of yama, mountain, means "many mountains".
A limited number of nouns have collective forms that refer to groups of people. Examples include 私達 (watashi-tachi, we); あなたたち anata-tachi, you (plural); 僕等 bokura, we (informal male). One uncommon personal noun, 我 (ware, I, or in some cases, you) has a much more common reduplicative collective form 我々 (wareware, we).
The suffixes 達 (-tachi) and 等 (-ra) are by far the most common collectivizing suffixes. These are, again, not pluralizing suffixes: 太郎達 (tarō-tachi) does not mean "some number of people named Taro", but instead indicates the group including Taro. Depending on context, tarō-tachi might be translated into "Taro and his friends", "Taro and his siblings", "Taro and his family", or any other logical grouping that has Taro as the representative. Some words with collectives have become fixed phrases and (commonly) refer to one person. Specifically, 子供 (kodomo, child) and 友達 (tomodachi, friend) can be singular, even though -[t]omo and -[t]achi were originally collectivizing in these words; to unambiguously refer to groups of them, add an additional collectivizing suffix: 子供たち (kodomotachi, children) and 友達たち (tomodachitachi, friends), though tomodachitachi is somewhat uncommon. Tachi is sometimes applied to inanimate objects, 車 (kuruma, car) and 車達 (kuruma-tachi, cars), for example, but this usage is colloquial and indicates a high level of anthropomorphisation and childlikeness, and is not more generally accepted as standard.
|first|| 僕 (boku, male)|
あたし (atashi, female)
私 (watashi, female)
|私 (watashi)||私 (watakushi)|
|second|| 君 (kimi)|
| 貴方 (anata)|
|third|| 彼 (kare, male)|
彼女 (kanojo, female)
A large number of daimeishi referring to people are translated as pronouns in their most common uses. Examples: 彼 (kare, he); 彼女 (kanojo, she); 私 (watashi, I); see also the adjoining table or a longer list. Some of these "personal nouns" such as 己 onore, I (exceedingly humble), or 僕 boku, I (young male), also have second-person uses: おのれ (onore) in second-person is an extremely rude "you", and boku in second-person is a diminutive "you" used for young boys. This further differentiates daimeishi from pronouns, which cannot change their person. Kare and kanojo also mean "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" respectively, and this usage of the words is possibly more common than the use as pronouns.
Like other subjects, Japanese de-emphasizes personal daimeishi, which are seldom used. This is partly because Japanese sentences do not always require explicit subjects, and partly because names or titles are often used where pronouns would appear in a translation:
While there is no lexical difference between nouns and daimeishi, the possible referents of daimeishi can be constrained depending on the order of occurrence. The following pair of examples (due to Bart Mathias) illustrates one such constraint.
|History repeats itself.|| *歴史は自分を繰り返す。|
*Rekishi wa jibun o kurikaesu.
|the target of jibun must be animate|
|??Hiroshi talked to Kenji about himself.|| ひろしは健司に自分のことを話した。|
Hiroshi wa Kenji ni jibun no koto o hanashita.
Hiroshi talked to Kenji about himself (=Hiroshi)
|there is no ambiguity in the translation as explained below|
|*Makoto expects that Shizuko will take good care of himself.|| ??誠は静子が自分を大事にすることを期待している。|
??Makoto wa Shizuko ga jibun o daiji ni suru koto o kitai shite iru.
either "Makoto expects that Shizuko will take good care of him", or "Makoto expects that Shizuko will take good care of herself."
|jibun can be in a different sentence or dependent clause, but its target is ambiguous|
In practice the main action is not always discernible, in which case such sentences are ambiguous. The use of jibun in complex sentences follows non-trivial rules.
There are also equivalents to jibun such as mizukara. Other uses of the reflexive pronoun in English are covered by adverbs like hitorideni which is used in the sense of "by oneself". For example
that one over there
(of) that over there
like that over there
what sort of?
| asoko *|
that way over there
|-u **|| kō|
in this manner
in that manner
| ā *|
in that (other) manner
how? in what manner?
Demonstratives occur in the ko-, so-, and a- series. The ko- (proximal) series refers to things closer to the speaker than the hearer, the so- (mesial) series for things closer to the hearer, and the a- (distal) series for things distant to both the speaker and the hearer. With do-, demonstratives turn into the corresponding question form. Demonstratives can also be used to refer to people, for example
Demonstratives limit, and therefore precede, nouns; thus この本 (kono hon) for "this/my book", and その本 (sono hon) for "that/your book".
When demonstratives are used to refer to things not visible to the speaker or the hearer, or to (abstract) concepts, they fulfill a related but different anaphoric role. The anaphoric distals are used for shared information between the speaker and the listener.
Soko instead of asoko would imply that B doesn't share this knowledge about Sapporo, which is inconsistent with the meaning of the sentence. The anaphoric mesials are used to refer to experience or knowledge that is not shared between the speaker and listener.
Again, ano is inappropriate here because Sato doesn't (didn't) know Tanaka personally. The proximal demonstratives do not have clear anaphoric uses. They can be used in situations where the distal series sound too disconnected:
The application of conjugative suffixes to stem forms follow certain euphonic principles (音便 onbin), which is discussed below.
Verbs in Japanese are rigidly constrained to the ends of clauses in what is known as the predicate position.
|Cats eat fish.|
Verbs can be semantically classified based on certain conjugations. Stative verbs: indicate existential properties, such as to be (いる iru), can do (出来る dekiru), need (要る iru), etc. These verbs generally don't have a continuative conjugation with -iru because they are semantically continuative already. Continual verbs: conjugate with the auxiliary -iru to indicate the progressive aspect. Examples: to eat (食べる taberu), to drink (飲む nomu), to think (考える kangaeru). To illustrate the conjugation, 食べる (taberu, to eat) → 食べている (tabete-iru, is eating). Punctual verbs: conjugate with -iru to indicate a repeated action, or a continuing state after some action. Example: 知る (shiru, to know) → 知っている (shitte iru, am knowing); 打つ (utsu, to hit) → 打っている (utte iru, is hitting (repeatedly)). Non-volitional verb: indicate uncontrollable action or emotion. These verbs generally have no volitional, imperative or potential conjugation. Examples: 好む (konomu, to like, emotive), 見える (mieru, to be visible, non-emotive). Movement verbs: indicate motion. Examples: 歩く (aruku, to walk), 帰る (kaeru, to return). In the continuative form (see below) they take the particle ni to indicate a purpose. There are other possible classes, and a large amount of overlap between the classes.
Lexically, nearly every verb in Japanese is a member of exactly one of the following three regular conjugation groups. Group 2a (上一段 kami ichidan, lit. upper 1-row group): verbs with a stem ending in i. The terminal stem form always rhymes with -iru. Examples: 見る (miru, to see), 着る (kiru, to wear). Group 2b (下一段 shimo ichidan, lit. lower 1-row group): verbs with a stem ending in e. The terminal stem form always rhymes with -eru. Examples: 食べる (taberu, to eat), くれる (kureru, to give). (Note that some Group 1 verbs resemble Group 2b verbs, but their stems end in r, not e.) Group 1 (五段 godan, lit. 5-row group): verbs with a stem ending in a consonant. When this is r and the verb ends in -eru, it is not apparent from the terminal form whether the verb is Group 1 or Group 2b, e.g. 帰る (kaeru, to return). If the stem ends in w, that sound only appears in the irrealis form before a.
Historical note: classical Japanese had upper and lower 1- and 2-row groups and a 4-row group (上／下一段 kami/shimo ichidan, 上／下二段 kami/shimo nidan, and 四段 yodan), the nidan verbs becoming most of today's ichidan verbs (there were only a handful of kami ichidan verbs and only one single shimo ichidan verb in classical Japanese), and the yodan group, due to the writing reform in 1946 to write Japanese as it is pronounced, naturally became the modern godan verbs. Since verbs have migrated across groups in the history of the language, conjugation of classical verbs is not predictable from a knowledge of modern Japanese alone.
Of the irregular classes, there are two: sa-group: which has only one member, する (suru, to do). In Japanese grammars these words are classified as サ変 (sa-hen), an abbreviation of サ行変格活用 (sa-gyou henkaku katsuyō, sa-row irregular conjugation). ka-group: which also has one member, 来る (kuru, to come). The Japanese name for this class is カ行変格活用 (ka-gyou henkaku katsuyō) or simply カ変 (ka-hen). Classical Japanese had two further irregular classes, the na-group, which contained 死ぬ (shinu, to die) and 往ぬ (inu, to go, to die), the ra-group, which included such verbs as あり (ari, the equivalent of modern aru), as well as quite a number of extremely irregular verbs that cannot be classified.
The following table illustrates the stem forms of the above conjugation groups, with the root indicated with dots. For example, to find the hypothetical form of the group 1 verb 書く (kaku), look in the second row to find its root, kak, then in the hypothetical row to get the ending -e, giving the stem form kake. When there are multiple possibilities, they are listed in the order of increasing rarity.
|使・ (tsuka(w).)||書・ (kak.)||見・ (mi.)||食べ・ (tabe.)|
| Imperfective form|
| 使わ (tsukaw.a)¹|
| 書か (kak.a)|
|見 (mi.)||食べ (tabe.)|| さ (sa)|
| Continuative form|
|使い (tsuka.i)||書き (kak.i)||見 (mi.)||食べ (tabe.)||し (shi)||来 (ki)|
| Terminal form|
|使う (tsuka.u)||書く (kak.u)||見る (mi.ru)||食べる (tabe.ru)||する (suru)||来る (kuru)|
| Attributive form|
|same as terminal form|
| Hypothetical form|
|使え (tsuka.e)||書け (kak.e)||見れ (mi.re)||食べれ (tabe.re)||すれ (sure)||来れ (kure)|
| Imperative form|
|使え (tsuka.e)||書け (kak.e)|| 見ろ (mi.ro)|
| 食べろ (tabe.ro)|
| しろ (shiro)|
The above are only the stem forms of the verbs; to these one must add various verb endings in order to get the fully conjugated verb. The following table lists the most common conjugations. See Japanese verb conjugations for a full list. In cases where the form is different based on the conjugation group of the verb, arrows point to the correct formation rule.
|formation rule||group 1||group 2a||group 2b||sa-group||ka-group|
|cont. + ます (masu)|| 書く (kaku)|
| 見る (miru)|
| 食べる (taberu)|
| する (suru)|
| 来る (kuru)|
|cont. + た (ta)|| 書い・た|
|imperf. + ない (nai)|| 書か・ない|
+ なかった (nakatta)
|-te form (gerundive)||cont. + て (-te)|| 書いて|
|conditional1||hyp. + ば (ba)|| 書け・ば|
|provisional1||cont. + たら (tara)|| 書いたら|
|volitional||imperf. + う(u)|| 書こ・う|
|imperf. + よう (-yō)||↑|| 見・よう|
|passive||imperf. + れる (reru)|| 書か・れる|
|imperf. + られる (-rareru)||↑|| 見・られる|
|causative||imperf. + せる (seru)|| 書か・せる|
|imperf. + させる (-saseru)||↑|| 見・させる|
|potential||hyp. + る (ru)|| 書け・る|
|imperf. + られる (-rareru)||↑|| 見・られる|
The polite ending -masu conjugates as a group 1 verb. The passive and potential endings -reru and -rareru, and the causative endings -seru and -saseru all conjugate as group 2b verbs. Multiple verbal endings can therefore agglutinate. For example, a common formation is the causative-passive ending, -sase-rareru.
Japanese has two main classes of adjectives:
Unlike adjectives in languages like English, adjectives in Japanese inflect for aspect and mood, like verbs. Japanese adjectives do not have comparative or superlative inflections, which have to be marked periphrastically using adverbs like もっと (motto, more) and 一番 (ichiban, most). Nearly every Japanese adjective can be used in a predicative position; this differs from English where there are many common adjectives such as "major", as in "a major question", that cannot be used to in the predicate position (that is, *"The question is major" is not grammatical English). The handful of Japanese adjectives that cannot predicate — 大きな (ookina, big), 小さな (chīsana, small), おかしな (okashina, strange) — are all stylistic na-type variants of normal i-type adjectives. Every adjective in Japanese can be used in an attributive position.
All i-type adjectives except for いい (ii, good) have regular conjugations, and ii is irregular only in the fact that it is a changed form of the regular adjective 良い (yoi) permissible in the terminal and attributive forms. For all other forms it reverts to yoi. All na-type adjectives conjugate regularly.
|i-type adjectives||na-type adjectives|
|安・い (yasu.)||静か- (shizuka-)|
| Imperfective form|
|安かろ (.karo)||静かだろ (-daro)|
| Continuative form|
|安く (.ku)||静かで (-de)|
| Terminal form¹|
|安い (.i)||静かだ (-da)|
| Attributive form¹|
|安い (.i)||静かな (-na)|
| Hypothetical form|
|安けれ (.kere)||静かなら (-nara)|
| Imperative form²|
|安かれ (.kare)||静かなれ (-nare)|
Like verbs, we can enumerate some common conjugations of adjectives. Also, ii isn't special-cased, because all conjugations are identical to yoi.
| i-type adjectives|
安い (yasui, "cheap")
| na-type adjectives|
静か (shizuka, "quiet")
|term. + copula です (desu)|| 安いです|
|root + copula です (desu)|| 静かです|
| cont. + あった (atta)|
(u + a collapse)
| cont. + あった (atta)|
(e + a collapse)
|cont. + (は)ない ((wa) nai)¹|| 安く(は)ない|
|cont. + (は)ない ((wa) nai)|| 静かで(は)ない|
shizuka de (wa) nai
|cont. + (は)なかった ((wa) nakatta)¹|| 安く(は)なかった|
|cont. + (は)なかった ((wa) nakatta)|| 静かで(は)なかった|
shizuka de (wa) nakatta
|inf. neg. non-past + ありません(arimasen)¹|| 安くありません|
|inf. cont + (は)ありません ((wa) arimasen)|| 静かではありません|
shizuka de wa arimasen
|inf. neg. non-past + naiない + copula です (desu)¹|| 安くないです|
|inf. cont + (は)ないです ((wa) nai desu)|| 静かではないです|
shizuka de wa nai desu
|inf. neg. past + ありませんでした (arimasen deshita)||安くありませんでした|
yasuku arimasen deshita
|inf. cont + (は)ありませんでした ((wa) arimasen deshita)|| 静かではありませんでした|
shizuka de wa arimasen deshita
|inf. neg. past + copula です (desu)¹|| 安くなかったです|
|inf. neg. past + なかったです (nakatta desu) ¹|| 静かではなかったです|
shizuka de wa nakatta desu
|-te form||cont. + て (te)|| 安くて|
|conditional||hyp. + ば (ba)|| 安ければ|
|hyp. (+ ば (ba))|| 静かなら(ば)|
|provisional||inf. past + ら (ra)|| 安かったら|
|inf. past + ら (ra)|| 静かだったら|
|volitional²||imperf. + う (u)||安かろう (yasukarō)|| imperf. + う (u)|
= root + だろう (darō)
|静かだろう (shizuka darō)|
|root + に (ni)|| 静かに|
|degree (-ness)||root + さ (sa)|| 安さ|
|root + sa|| 静かさ|
Adjectives too are governed by euphonic rules in certain cases, as noted in the section on it below. For the polite negatives of na-type adjectives, see also the section below on the copula だ (da).
| Imperfective form|
|では (de wa)|
| Continuative form|
| Terminal form|
| だ (da, informal)|
です (desu, polite)
でございます (de gozaimasu, respectful)
| Attributive form|
|である (de aru)|
| Hypothetical form|
| Imperative form|
Note that there are no potential, causative, or passive forms of the copula, just as with adjectives. The following are some examples.
In continuative conjugations, では (de wa) is often contracted in speech to じゃ (ja); for some kinds of informal speech ja is preferable to de wa, or is the only possibility.
|respectful||でございます (de gozaimasu)|
|past||informal|| cont. + あった (atta)|
|respectful||でございました (de gozaimashita)|
|informal||cont. + はない (wa nai)|
|polite||cont. + はありません (wa arimasen)|
|respectful||cont. + はございません (wa gozaimasen)|
|informal||cont. + はなかった (wa nakatta)|
|polite||cont. + はありませんでした (wa arimasen deshita)|
|respectful||cont. + はございませんでした (wa gozaimasen deshita)|
|conditional||informal||hyp. + ば (ba)|
|polite||cont. + あれば (areba)|
|polite||same as conditional|
|respectful||でございましょう (de gozaimashō)|
| adverbial and|
|polite||cont. + ありまして (arimashite)|
|respectful||cont. + ございまして (gozaimashite)|
| あ＋う (a + u)|
あ＋ふ (a + fu)
| い＋う (i + u)|
い＋ふ (i + fu)
|う＋ふ (u + fu)||うう (ū)|
| え＋う (e + u)|
え＋ふ (e + fu)
|お＋ふ (o + fu)||おう (ō)|
| お＋ほ (o + ho)|
お＋を (o + wo)
|auxiliary verb む (mu)||ん (n)|
|medial or final は (ha)||わ (wa)|
|medial or final ひ (hi), へ (he), ほ (ho)|| い (i), え (e), お (o)|
(via wi, we, wo, see below)
|any ゐ (wi), ゑ (we), を (wo)||い (i), え (e), お (o)(*)|
Modern pronunciation is a result of a long history of phonemic drift that can be traced back to written records of the thirteenth century, and possibly earlier. However, it was only in 1946 that the Japanese ministry of education modified existing kana usage to conform to the standard dialect (共通語 kyōtsūgo). All earlier texts used the archaic orthography, now referred to as historical kana usage. The adjoining table is a nearly exhaustive list of these spelling changes. Unlike the tradition found in English-speaking countries, where people learn that Middle English (e.g., Chaucer) was pronounced differently from the modern language, it is not generally understood that the historical kana spellings were, at one point, reflective of pronunciation. For example, えふ (lit. efu) for "leaf" (葉, modern ha) was pronounced something like [epu] by the Japanese at the time it was borrowed. However, a modern reader of a classical text would still read this as [yoo], the modern pronunciation.
As mentioned above, conjugations of some verbs and adjectives differ from the prescribed formation rules because of euphonic changes. Nearly all of these euphonic changes are themselves regular. For verbs the exceptions are all in the ending of the continuative form of group when the following auxiliary has a ta-sound, i.e., た (ta), て (te), たり (tari), etc.
|continuative ending||changes to||example|
|ひ hi, ち chi or り ri||っ (double consonant)|| *買ひて *kahite → 買って katte|
*打ちて *uchite → 打って utte
*知りて *shirite → 知って shitte
|び bi, みmi or に ni||ん (syllabic n), with the following タ t sound voiced|| *遊びて *asobite → 遊んで asonde|
*住みて *sumite → 住んで sunde
*死にて *shinite → 死んで shinde
|き ki||い i||*書きて *kakite → 書いて kaite|
|ぎ gi||い i, with the following タ t sound voiced||*泳ぎて *oyogite → 泳いで oyoide|
There is one other irregular change: 行く iku (to go), for which there is an exceptional continuative form: 行き iki + て te → 行って itte, 行き iki + た ta → 行った itta, etc.
The continuative form of proper adjectives, when followed by polite forms such as ございます (gozaimasu, to be) or 存じます (zonjimasu, to know), undergo a transformation.
|[not し] + く||う, possibly also combining with the previous syllable according to the spelling reform chart|| *寒くございます *samuku gozaimasu → 寒うございます samū gozaimasu|
*おはやくございます ohayaku gozaimasu → おはようございます ohayō gozaimasu
|しく||しゅう||*涼しくございます *suzushiku gozaimasu → 涼しゅうございます suzushū gozaimasu|
Respectful verbs such as くださる (kudasaru, to get), なさる (nasaru, to do), ござる (gozaru, to be), いらっしゃる (irassharu, to be/come/go), おっしゃる (ossharu, to say), etc. behave like group 1 verbs, except in the continuative and imperative forms.
|continuative||ーり changed to ーい|| *ござります *gozarimasu → ございます gozaimasu|
*いらっしゃりませ *irassharimase → いらっしゃいませ irasshaimase
|imperative||ーれ changed to ーい|| *くだされ *kudasare → ください kudasai |
*なされ *nasare → なさい nasai
In speech, common combinations of conjugation and auxiliary verbs are contracted in a fairly regular manner.
|負けてしまう (makete shimau, lose) → 負けちゃう/負けちまう (makechau/makechimau)|
|死んでしまう (shinde shimau, die) → 死んじゃう (shinjau) or 死んじまう (shinjimau)|
|食べてはいけない (tabete wa ikenai, must not eat) → 食べちゃいけない (tabecha ikenai)|
|飲んではいけない (nonde wa ikenai, must not drink) → 飲んじゃいけない (nonja ikenai)|
|寝ている (nete iru, is sleeping) → 寝てる (neteru)|
|しておく (shite oku, will do it so) → しとく (shitoku)|
|出て行け (dete ike, get out!) → 出てけ (deteke)|
|何しているの (nani shite iru no, what are you doing?) → 何してんの (nani shitenno)|
|やりなさい (yarinasai, do it!) → やんなさい (yannasai)|
|やるな (yaruna, don't do it!) → やんな (yanna)|
Often, especially for sound symbolism, the particle to ("as if") is used. See the article on Japanese sound symbolism.
Examples of conjunctions: そうして (sōshite, and then), また (mata, and then/again), etc.
Examples of interjections: はい (hai, yes/OK/uh), へえ (hē, wow!), いいえ (īe, no/no way), おい (oi, hey!), etc.
Particles in Japanese are postpositional, as they immediately follow the modified component. A full listing of particles is beyond the scope of this article, so only a few prominent particles are listed here. Keep in mind that the pronunciation and spelling differ for the particles wa (は), e (へ) and o (を): This article follows the Hepburn-style of romanizing them according to the pronunciation rather than spelling.
As an abstract and rough approximation, the difference between wa and ga is a matter of focus: wa gives focus to the action of the sentence, i.e., to the verb or adjective, whereas ga gives focus to the subject of the action. However, a more useful description must proceed by enumerating uses of these particles.
However, when first being introduced to the subject and topic markers wa and ga most are told that the difference between the two is simpler. The topic marker, wa, is used to declare or to make a statement. The subject marker, ga, is used for new information, or asking for new information.
''See Topic marker: Japanese: は.
A common linguistic joke shows the insufficiency of rote translation with the sentence 僕は鰻だ (boku wa unagi da), which per the pattern would translate as "(Speaking of me), I am an eel." Yet, in a restaurant this sentence can reasonably be used to say "I'd like an order of eel", with no intended humor. This is because the sentence should be literally read, "As for me, it is an eel," with "it" referring to the speaker's order. The topic of the sentence is clearly not its subject. This is an example of deferred reference, a linguistic feature much more pervasive in Japanese than in English.
Because of its contrastive nature, the topic cannot be undefined.
In this situation ga is forced.
In practice, the distinction between thematic and contrastive wa is not that useful. Suffice it to say that there can be at most one thematic wa in a sentence, and it has to be the first wa if one exists, and the remaining was are contrastive. For completeness, the following sentence (due to Kuno) illustrates the difference.
The first interpretation is the thematic wa, treating "the people I know" (boku ga shitte iru hito) as the theme of the predicate "none came" (dare mo konakatta). That is, if I know A, B, ..., Z, then none of the people who came were A, B, ..., Z. The second interpretation is the contrastive wa. If the likely attendees were A, B, ..., Z, and of them I know P, Q and R, then the sentence says that P, Q and R did not come. The sentence says nothing about A', B', ..., Z', all of whom I know, but none of whom were likely to come. The sentence is ambiguous up to this difference. (In practice the first interpretation is the likely one.)
It may be useful to think of the distinction in terms of the question each statement could answer, e.g.:
Similarly, in a restaurant, if the waitress asks who has ordered the eel, the customer who ordered it can specify himself with
This particle can also mean "through" or "along" or "out of" when used with motion verbs.
The general instrumental particle is で (de), which can be translated as "using" or "by":
This particle also has other uses: "at" (temporary location):
"With" or "in (the span of)":
The general locative particle is に (ni).
In this function it is interchangeable with へ (e). However, ni has additional uses: "at (prolonged)":
"In (some year)", "at (some point in time)":
The additive particle も (mo) can be used to conjoin larger nominals and clauses.
For an incomplete list of conjuncts, や (ya) is used.
When only one of the conjuncts is necessary, the disjunctive particle か (ka) is used.
Quantities are listed between から (kara, from) and まで (made, to).
This pair can also be used to indicate time or space.
Because kara indicates starting point or origin, it has a related use as "because":
The particle kara and a related particle yori are used to indicate lowest extents: prices, business hours, etc.
Yori is also used in the sense of "than".
It is also used to indicate a manner of similarity, "as if" or "like".
In a related conditional use, it functions like "after", or "upon".
Finally it is used with verbs like to meet (with) (会う au) or to speak (with) (話す hanasu).
This last use is also a function of the particle に (ni), but to indicates reciprocation which ni does not.
Finally, the particle よ (yo) is used in a hortative or vocative sense.
Other sentence-final particles add emotional or emphatic impact to the sentence. The particle ね (ne) softens a declarative sentence, similar to English "you know?", "eh?" or "I tell you!"
A final よ (yo) is used for emphasis or a stronger way to say "you know".
There are many such emphatic particles; some examples: ぜ (ze) and ぞ (zo) usually used by males; な (na) a less formal form of ne; わ (wa) used by females (and males in the Kansai region) like yo, etc. They are essentially limited to speech or transcribed dialogue.
Other structures are rarer, though of course possible. A few examples:
In classical Japanese, which was more purely agglutinating than modern Japanese, the category of auxiliary verb included every possible verb ending after the stem form, and most of these endings were themselves active participants in composition. In modern Japanese, however, some auxiliaries have stopped being productive. The most classic example is the classical auxiliary たり (-tari) whose forms た (-ta), て (-te), etc. are now no longer viewed as verbal endings, i.e., they can take no further affixes.
|auxiliary||group||attaches to||meaning modification||example|
|ます (masu)||irregular1||continuative||makes V polite||書く (kaku, to write) → 書きます (kakimasu)|
|られる (rareru)²||2b||cont. of grp. 2||makes V passive/polite/potential|| 見る (miru, to see) → 見られる (mirareru, to be able to see)|
食べる(taberu, to eat) → 食べられる (taberareru, to be able to eat)
|る (ru)³||hyp. of grp. 1||飲む (nomu, to drink/swallow) → 飲める (nomeru, to be able to drink)|
|させる (saseru)4||2b||cont. of grp. 2||makes V causative||考える (kangaeru, to think) → 考えさせる (kangaesaseru, to cause to think)|
|せる (seru)||imperf. of grp. 1||思い知る (omoishiru, to realize) → 思い知らせる (omoishiraseru, to cause to realize/to teach a lesson)|
Much of the agglutinative flavour of Japanese stems from helper auxiliaries, however. The following table contains a small selection of an abundant store of such auxiliary verbs.
|auxiliary||group||attaches to||meaning modification||example|
|ある (aru, to be (inanimate))||1|| -te form|
only for trans.
|indicates state modification||開く (hiraku, to open) → 開いてある (hiraite-aru, opened and is still open)|
|いる (iru, to be (animate))||2a|| -te form|
|progressive aspect||寝る (neru, to sleep) → 寝ている (nete-iru, is sleeping)|
|2a|| -te form|
|indicates state modification||閉まる (shimaru, (intransitive) to close) → 閉まっている (shimatte-iru, is closed)|
|行く (iku, to go)||1||-te form||"goes on V-ing"||歩く (aruku, to walk) → 歩いて行く (aruite-iku, keep walking)|
|くる (kuru, to come)||ka||-te form||inception, "start to V"||降る (furu, fall) → 降ってくる (futte-kuru, start to fall)|
|perfection, "have V-ed" (only past-tense)||死ぬ (shinu, die) → 死んできた (shinde-kita, have died)|
|conclusion, "come to V"||異なる (kotonaru, change) → 異なってくる (kotonatte-kuru, come to change)|
|始める (hajimeru, to begin)||2b|| continuative|
|"V begins", "begin to V"||書く (kaku, to write) → 書き始める (kaki-hajimeru, start to write)|
punctual & subj. must be plural
|着く (tsuku, to arrive) → 着き始める (tsuki-hajimeru, have all started to arrive)|
|出す (dasu, to emit)||1||continuative||"start to V"||輝く (kagayaku, to shine) → 輝き出す (kagayaki-dasu, to start shining)|
|みる (miru, to see)||1||-te form||"try to V"||する (suru, do) → してみる (shite-miru, try to do)|
|なおす (naosu, to correct/heal)||1||continuative||"do V again, correcting mistakes"||書く (kaku, to write) → 書きなおす (kaki-naosu, rewrite)|
|あがる (agaru, to rise)||1||continuative||"do V thoroughly" / "V happens upwards"|| 立つ (tatsu, to stand) → 立ち上がる (tachi-agaru, stand up)|
出来る (dekiru, to come out) → 出来上がる (deki-agaru, be completed)
|得る (eru/uru, to be able)||(see note at bottom)||continuative||indicates potential||ある (aru, to be) → あり得る (ariuru, is possible)|
|かかる/かける (kakaru/kakeru, to hang/catch/obtain)||1|| continuative|
only for intrans., non-volit.
| "about to V", "almost V", |
"to start to V"
|溺れる (oboreru, drown) → 溺れかける (obore-kakeru, about to drown)|
|きる (kiru, to cut)||1||continuative||"do V completely"||食べる (taberu, to eat) → 食べきる (tabe-kiru, to eat it all)|
|消す (kesu, to erase)||1||continuative|| "cancel by V"|
"deny with V"
|揉む (momu, to rub) → 揉み消す (momi-kesu, to rub out, to extinguish)|
|込む (komu, to enter deeply/plunge)||1||continuative||"V deep in", "V into"||話す (hanasu, to speak) → 話し込む (hanashi-komu, to be deep in conversation)|
|下げる (sageru, to lower)||2b||continuative||"V down"||引く (hiku, to pull) → 引き下げる (hiki-sageru, to pull down)|
|過ぎる (sugiru, to exceed)||2a||continuative||"overdo V"||言う (iu, to say) → 言いすぎる (ii-sugiru, to say too much, to overstate)|
|付ける (tsukeru, to attach)||2b||continuative||"become accustomed to V"||行く (iku, to go) → 行き付ける (iki-tsukeru, be used to (going))|
|続ける (tsuzukeru, to continue)||2b||continuative||"keep on V"||降る (furu, to fall (eg. rain)) → 降り続ける (furi-tsuzukeru, to keep falling)|
|通す (tōsu, to show/thread/lead)||1||continuative||"finish V-ing"||読む (yomu, to read) → 読み通す (yomi-tōsu, to finish reading)|
|抜ける (nukeru, to shed/spill/desert)||2b|| continuative|
only for intrans.
|"V through"||走る (hashiru, to run) → 走り抜ける (hashiri-nukeru, to run through (swh))|
|残す (nokosu, to leave behind)||1||continuative||by doing V, leave something behind||思う (omou, to think) → 思い残す (omoi-nokosu, to regret (lit: to have something left to think about))|
|残る (nokoru, to be left behind)||1|| continuative|
for intrans. only
|be left behind, doing V||生きる (ikiru, live) → 生き残る (iki-nokoru, to survive (lit: to be left alive))|
|分ける (wakeru, to divide/split/classify)||2b||continuative||the proper way to V||使う (tsukau, use) → 使い分ける (tsukai-wakeru, to indicate the proper way to use)|
|忘れる (wasureru, to forget)||2b||continuative||to forget to V||聞く (kiku, to ask) → 聞き忘れる (kiki-wasureru, to forget to ask)|
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