16 Most Common Japanese Particles | An Essential Guide for 2022

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What exactly is the Japanese particle? A quick search may tell you that particles are postpositions with no conjugations and come after other words to reflect defined grammatical relationships. Well, don’t be perplexed by this sequence of terms! Actually, learning Japanese particles can be pretty simple! This article aims to help you grasp Japanese particles in an easy-to-understand way. Bookmark it first if you want to learn later!

What are particles in Japanese?

First, let’s clarify the fundamental logic of the particle. A particle is just like a nametag that indicates the grammar component of one or more words in a sentence. For example, You can compare a sentence to a kingdom, where the subject is the King, and が is the crown that’s always placed atop his head. Similarly, each grammar component has its own symbol to indicate its role.

Since each particle suggests a different “identity,” variations in particles can completely change a sentence’s meaning. Here is an interesting example for you to get a sense of what I mean 👇 

わたし まど った。

(watashiga madowo watta)

I broke the glass.

 

わたし まど った。

(watashiwo madoga watta)

The glass broke me.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to the primary uses of the 16 most common Japanese particles. If you can master the following content as a beginner, then that means you’re off to a great start with Japanese grammar! By the way, to follow along with this article, it’d be best to have a basic understanding of Japanese sentences.

japanese particles

は (ha)

は is the first particle that many Japanese learners encounter. Despite seeing it from the start, they never really comprehend its meaning. First of all, there is no preposition or other counterpart that corresponds to it in English. Secondly, as one of the fundamental particles in Japanese, the usage of は is impossible to summarize in a single sentence. But no worries, I’m only going to show you its two most crucial uses. If you master them well, you will be able to handle most applications.

Cue the topic, limiting the follow-up content

は serves to qualify the subject of a sentence. Many beginners mistake は for the particle that indicates the subject when that is actually が. Although there is no literal translation of は in English, we can tentatively think of it as “As for” to make it easier to understand. However, it’s significant to note that は appears much more frequently than “As for” in English and is more widely used.

ジェリ― 日本語にほんご先生せんせいです。

(jeriha nihongo no sensei desu)

As for Jerry, (he) is a Japanese language teacher.

じつわたし りません。

(jitsuha, watashimo shirimasen)

To be honest, I don’t know either.

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Emphasis on contrast

As mentioned above, は serves to qualify the topic, not suggest the subject as many tend to think. Although it is used with the subject most of the time, it can also function with other sentence components (e.g., object, gerund, etc.) to create contrast in some cases.

テニス きではありません。

(tenisuha suki dehaarimasen)

As for tennis, (I) don’t like (it).

This sentence would normally be  “テニスが好きではありません” but replacing が with は implies a contrast ー I don’t really like tennis (but I like basketball or something else).

ラビット 野菜やさい べます。さかな べません。

(rabittoha yasaiha tabemasu. sakanaha tabemasen)

As for the rabbit, (they) eat vegetables, but (they) don’t eat fish.

 Similarly, this sentence would have initially been

ラビット 野菜やさいを べます。さかな べません。

(rabittoha yasaiwo tabemasu. sakanawo tabemasen)

As for the rabbit, (they) eat vegetables, but (they) don’t eat fish.

The particle replaces as the object, contrasting the vegetables with the fish.

が (ga)

As stated previously, が is used to suggest the subject, just like the king’s crown indicating whoever is the king (subject). Japanese learners always mix up が and は. Indeed, they  both have overlapping uses and distinctly separate uses, which can be hard to differentiate.

It could be said that a serious comparison between and would be enough for a Japanese language researcher to complete a master’s thesis. Again, I will only introduce two of the most common uses of .

Cue the subject

Although は often replaces this function of が as a subject, in many cases, が has an irreplaceable role.

ぞう はな ながいです。

(zouha hanaga nagai desu)

As for the elephant, (its) nose is long.

In this sentence, suggests the topic of the elephant, which means that the sentence is about something related to the elephant. The latter suggests the subject. What is long? The nose(鼻が)! The following example may help you better understand the difference between and when they both act as subjects.

わたし ジェリーです。

(watashiha jerii desu)

As for me, (my name) is Jerry.

わたし ジェリーです。

(watashiga jerii desu)

I am Jerry.

Used in declarative sentences

Unlike , which is often used in judgment sentences, is used in declarative sentences. You may be wondering what the difference is between a declarative sentence and a judgment sentence. In a nutshell, a declarative sentence describes a thing someone sees or experiences without any modification. Meanwhile, a judgment sentence incorporates someone’s subjective judgment.

Declarative sentence:ゆき ります。

(describing natural phenomena)

Judgment sentence:ラーメン 美味おいしいです。

(only the speaker feels it delicious, others may not think so)

The above is one of the most common differences between and . But of course, as I noted before, there are more complications between and than that. The complexity of Japanese grammar nags at many people. After reaching a higher level, you will gradually unlock a better understanding.

japanese particles guide

か (ka)

Many newbies feel baffled between the particle “が (ga)” and the question marker “か (ka).” In reality, the difference between them is more than just the two missing points.

The particle “か” is a question marker that follows the end of a sentence and transforms a declarative sentence into a question sentence. I think this rule is much simpler than the English one, don’t you?

さくらが きました。

(sakuraga sakimashita.)

Cherry blossoms have bloomed.

さくらが きました

(sakuraga sakimashitaka.)

Have the cherry blossoms bloomed?

へ (he)

へ suggests the destination to which the subject is moving. Imagine that  you want to fly from New York to Manchester and you need to buy a plane ticket (in case you don’t own a private plane). へ works just like this ticket, telling the flight attendant where you are going.

来週らいしゅうわたしは 米国べいこく きます。

(raisyuu, watashiha beikokuhe ikimasu.)

I will go to the U.S. next week.

昨日きのう病院びょういん きました。

(kinou, byouinhe ikimashita.)

Yesterday, (I) went to the hospital.

で (de)

で is probably the particle with the most uses. Although there are many, they are not difficult to understand because each usage has its own unique features. As a beginner, if you can understand a few of them, you will be able to use them in most situations

Indicates where the action takes place

教室きょうしつ 手紙てがみを きました。

(kyoushitsude tegamiwo kakimashita.)

(I) wrote a letter in the classroom. 

Indicates methods, tools, instruments

教室きょうしつ 日本語にほんご 手紙てがみを きました。

(kyoushitsude nihongode tegamiwo kakimashita.)

I wrote a letter in Japanese in the classroom.

In this sentence, two appear –  the first suggests where writing the letter takes place, and the second indicates the language (method) used to write the letter. After all, there are also two in’s in the English translation. However, this is not always the case, as in the following example.

電車でんしゃ 東京とうきょうへ きます。

(denshade toukyouhe ikimasu.)

(I) will go to Tokyo by train.

The above suggests the means of transportation to Tokyo. Recall that the prepositions used in English to suggest methods, tools, instruments are “in, by, through, as, with, etc.” Yet, the Japanese preposition で is an all-purpose card. Isn’t that easy?

Indicates the range (time, space)

ここは 日本にっぽん 一番いちばん美味おいしい レストランだ。

(kokoha nihonde ichiban oishii resutoranda.)

This is the best restaurant in Japan.

一年いちねんなか もっとも いそがしい時期じき

(ichinen no nakade mottomo isogashiijiki.)

The busiest time of the year.

Indicates the conditions

Different grammar books may subdivide the examples given below. But please think deeply about the fact that their meanings semantically come from one origin.

三冊さんさつ 600えんです。

(sansatsude roppyakuen desu.)

Three books cost 600 Yen.

(In the case of buying three books, it is $600, but it does not mean that buying one book must be $200. The three books here indicate a situation.)

クラスのみな 一緒いっしょに 寿司すしつくります。

(kurasunominade issyoni sushiwo tsukurimasu.)

The class will make sushi together. 

(In what context will sushi be made? Together with the class)

Indicates raw materials

In the previous section, we discussed that から can be used to cue raw materials. can also be used to indicate raw materials. The difference between them is that the raw materials suggested by are often directly observable to naked eyes.

で particle

このつくえは  つくったのです。

(konotsukueha kide tsukuttanodesu.)

This desk was made of wood.

かみ 飛行機ひこうきを つくります。

(kamide hikoukiwo tsukurimasu.)

Make airplanes out of paper.

と (to) and や(ya)

Many beginners tend to think of as “and” in English, but this is only partially true. The use of to express juxtaposition is far less widespread than “and.”

is usually used only in juxtaposing a complete count. If you want to exemplify something, then is appropriate for an incomplete count.

果物くだものは、イチゴバナナが きです。

(kudamonoha, ichigoto bananaga sukidesu.)

As for fruit, (I) like strawberries and bananas. (that’s all, nothing else)

果物くだものは、イチゴバナナ ( など ) が きです。

(kudamonoha, ichigoya banananadoga sukidesu.)

As for fruit, (I) like strawberries, bananas, etc. (examples only, maybe something else)

Also, when you want to express that a person and another person are doing something simultaneously, you need to be careful with the position of .

わたし はは 一緒いっしょに 寿司すしつくった。

(watashiha hahato issyoni sushiwo tsukutta.)

I made sushi with my mother.

ga particle japanese

を (wo)

Indicates direct object

is also one of the essential particles in Japanese. Its most prominent use is to indicate the direct object. If you’ve ever played a shooting game, you must be familiar with the fact that the scope on a sniper rifle helps you aim at the prey or the enemy. is like such a scope, aiming at the receptor (direct object) of an action.

ばんめしわたし リンゴを べました。

(bangohanha, watashiga ringowo tabemashita.)

As for the dinner, I ate an apple.

In this sentence, is suggestive of the subject, telling us that what follows is related to dinner. plays the crown, signifying the subject (私). Furthermore, “食べました” is the verb that acts as the predicate, like a gun that goes through the scope (を) and aims at the target (リンゴ). The following example is interesting and more intuitive.

キングが ラビット 射殺しゃさつした。

(kinguga rabittowo syasatsushita.)

The king fired a shot at the rabbit.

…を降りる

Just like に, also has an essential fixed collocation with the verb 降りる (おりる, get off). I won’t expand on why it’s like this as it’s easier to just remember it as a collocation for now. 

電車でんしゃ りる。

(denshawo oriru.)

(I) get off the train.

The above sentence shows how to express “getting off the train” from the angle of this action’s subject. However, different perspectives require different particles. For example, if you are standing on the platform and see your wife getting off the train, you need to use the particle “から.”

つまは 電車でんしゃから りる。

(tsumaha denshakara oriru.)

My wife gets off the train.

の (no)

This is also a Japanese particle that gives many beginners a headache. Again, many grammar books or articles will break it down into many uses. Still, you need to remember only one original meaning, which indicates someone or something’s belongings.

わたし先生せんせいは やさしいです。

(watashi no senseiha yasashii desu.)

My teacher is gentle.

あれは ジェリーさんくつです。

(areha jeriisanno kutsu desu.)

Those are Jerry’s shoes.

Additionally, の can also be used as a pronoun, equivalent to “one“. Especially when something has already been mentioned, の can be used to replace that item.

あかいスカートは どうですか。

(akai sukaatoha doudesuka.)

How about the red skirt?

 

このしろは よりいだ とおもいます。

(kono shiroinoha yoriyoidato omoimasu)

I prefer the white one.

に (ni)

, like で, has many uses and is a model worker in the world of particles.

Indicates a place where some things exist in

First of all, can be used to indicate a place, and such sentences are often translated as “There is/are…in…”. Perhaps you understand it simply as ”in“, but if you just mechanically memorize it like that, you will likely confuse it with . Please note that で suggests the place where the action takes place, and に suggests the place where the object exists. Here is a set of examples.

遊園地ゆうえんち 子供こどもが たくさん います。

(yuuenchini kodomoga takusan imasu.)

There are many children in the amusement park.

遊園地ゆうえんち アイスクリームを いました。

(yuuenchide aisukuriimuwo kaimashita.)

(I) bought an ice cream in the amusement.

The following example is similar to the one above. They are actually from the same origin and suggest an attachment point for something.

ここ 名前なまえ いてください。

(kokoni namaewo kaitekudasai)

Please write your name here.

Indicates specific time

The third use of is to indicate absolute time, which you can think of as “at.” Generally speaking, time concepts involving numbers, such as “May 2” and “7:50,” are indicated by . In addition, it can sometimes be added to the days of the week. 

7 きます。

(shichijini okimasu.)

I wake up at 7.

 

木曜日もくようび(に) 試験しけんがあります。

(mokuyoubini shikenga arimasu.)

The exam will be on Wednesday.

ni particle japanese

Indirect object of an action

While is used to cue a direct object, as we mentioned earlier. に can be used to cue the person who is the recipient of an action, aka, the indirect object as linguists put it. Meanwhile, the object or thing receiving an action from a transitive verb is called a direct object.

彼女かのじょ プレゼント おくりました。

(kanojoni purezentowo okurimashita.)

(I) gave my girlfriend a gift.

先生せんせい う。

(senseini au.)

(I) meet the teacher.

direct object and indirect object

subject of the action

As we mentioned in the previous section, the particles and can be used to cue the subject in active sentences. Nonetheless, in passive sentences, the subject of an action is indicated by .

先生せんせい められる。

(senseini homerareru.)

(I) praised by the teacher.

板野いたのさん 会長かいちょう しかられました。

(itanosanha kaichoni shikararemashita.)

Itano-san was criticized by the boss.

Express a purpose

In Japanese, the most basic sentence structure to express purpose is verb stem form or noun +に + 行く. If you understand this, you can quickly master a series of expressions such as “I’m going to do sth”, “I went doing sth” and so on.

 きます。

(tsurini ikimasu.)

I am going fishing.

もの った。

(kaimononi itta.)

(I) went shopping.

…に乗る

Another use of is to indicate means of transportation. You may come across the phrase “xx に (get on)” very often at early stages of Japanese learning. As you have guessed, here is used to indicate means of transportation. 

電車でんしゃ る。

(denshani noru.)

(I) get on the train.

も (mo)

The usage of is straightforward – it has the role of indicating the subject, and on top of that, it has the additional meaning of “also.” In English, it is equivalent to “also,” “as well,” or “either.”

ニクソン アメリカにんです。

(nikusonmo amerikajindesu.)

Nickson is also American.

It can also be used with the negative form of verbs and adjectives to indicate complete negation. 

なに りません。

(nanimo shirimasen.)

(I don’t know anything)

から (kara)

から is one of the few particles in Japanese that consists of two kana. It has several meanings and uses. At first glance, they seem very different. But a closer look shows an underlying logic: almost all of them are related to the meaning of “source.”

Indicate starting point

First, let’s learn two examples of how から is used to indicate the starting point of time. In such cases, they are always placed after time-related nouns like “いつ (itsu)”, “三時 (sanji)” and “何時 (nanji)”.

いつから 日本語にほんごを 勉強べんきょうしていますか。

(itsukara nihongowo benkyoushimashitaka.)

How long have you been studying Japanese?

会議かいぎは 三時さんじから はじまります。

(kaigiha sanjikara hajimarimasu.)

The meeting will begin at three p.m.

kara particle

Likewise, から can also indicate the starting point of space, which is similar to “from” in English.

どこから ましたか。

(dokokara kimashitaka.)

Where did you come from?

 

大阪おおさかから ました。

(osakakara kimashita.)

I just came from Osaka.

In addition, から can also indicate the starting point of some abstract concepts. For example:

一番いちばん学生がくせいから 順番じゅんばんに 発表はっぴょうします。

(ichibannogakuseikara junbanni happyoshimasu.)

 The presentations will be made in order.

Indicates the subject of an action

Kara can also indicate an action’s subject, mainly in receiving and giving phrases –  use から to indicate the giver if it’s an organization.

図書館としょかんから ほんを もらいました。

(toshokankara honwo moraimashita.)

I received a book from the library.

If the giver is a person, then use 

先生せんせい おしえて もらいました。

(senseini oshiete moraimashita.)

My teacher taught me.

Indicates raw materials

Sometimes から indicates the raw material from which something is made. It’s important to note that unlike で, which suggests raw material has not gone through major changes before becoming the final product, から is often used in cases when a chemical change has occurred or when the raw material can’t be spotted by naked eyes. You can also refer to the differences between “made of” and “made from” in English.

ワイン は 葡萄ぶどうから つくられています。

(wainha budoukara tsukuraretemasu.)

Wine is made from grapes.

ビール は むぎから つくられました。

(biiruha mugikara tsukuraremashita.)

Beer was made from wheat.

から particle

Indicates reason

Quite unlike any of the uses above, から can also be used to express reasons like “because”, “since”, and “so”. The から part is mostly placed at the beginning of a sentence. Here are two examples

ルールだからまもってください。

(ruurudakara mamottekudasai.)

It’s a rule, so please follow it.

今日こんにちあめから洗濯せんたくをしません。

(kyouha amedakara sentakuwoshimasen.)

It’s raining today, so I won’t be doing laundry.

まで (made)

Indicates the end of time or space

As we have already mentioned, から can indicate the starting point of time or space. Conversely, まで indicates the ending point of time or space. まで is often combined with から together, and they appear simultaneously. Of course, they can also be used separately.

上海しゃんはいから 東京とうきょうまで 飛行機ひこうきで きます。

(shanhaikara toukyoumade hikoukide ikimasu.)

We will fly from Shanghai to Tokyo.

九時くじまで はたらく。

(kujimade hataraku.)

(I) work until nine o’clock.

Many beginners are confused about the difference between まで and までに. But it’s actually not that difficult to distinguish them. 

まで refers to the end of continuous verbs. What is a continuous verb? It is an action that can be sustained for a while, such as “eating,” “sleeping,” “studying,” etc. In the above example, “働く(hataraku)” is a typical continuous verb, meaning working.

The word “までに” is mainly used to express a momentary verb that must be completed before a specific time. Momentary verbs are not sustainable, such as “come,” “go,” “submit,” etc.

三月さんがつ五日いつかまでに 論文ろんぶんを 提出ていしゅつしてください。

(sangatsuitsukamadeni ronbunwo teishutsushitekudasai.)

Papers must be submitted by March 5.

Don’t worry if you find this a bit difficult, as you will notice their differences gradually as you progress in Japanese with a comprehensive learning tool like LingoDeer.

ね (ne) and よ (yo)

and are two of the most common modal particles in Japanese with quite different usages. Although there are many nuances between them, as beginners, we only need to remember the following rules.

expresses agreement with the others based on a shared understanding of the issue or seeking the other’s approval for one’s inferences or judgments.

A:いい天気てんきです。- It’s nice weather.

(iitenkidesune.)

 

B:本当ほんとうです。- True.

(hontoudesune.)

is used to emphasize one’s judgment or assertion, and to inform or remind others about something they may not have noticed, should know, or should do.

あの レストランは 美味おいしいです

(anoresutoranha oishiidesuyo.)

That restaurant is delicious.

より (yori)

The most typical use of the particle より is that it introduces comparison. In such a case, より can be translated to “than” in English.

北京ぺきんは 東京とうきょうより さむいです。

(pekkinha toukyouyori samuidesu.)

Beijing is colder than Tokyo.

倉本くらもとより 中野なかのほうが 金持かねもちです。

(kuramotoyori nakanonohouga kanemochidesu.)

Nakano is richer than Kuramoto.

In the second example, “Noun 1 より Noun 2 のほうが Adj. or Noun” is a basic comparative sentence structure. meaning “Noun 2 is more xxx than Noun 1”.

Distinguish movement indicators へ, に, and を

Dear reader, you may be wondering – what is it for this part? OK, I‘m glad to explain—

All these three articles are related to movement, but there are subtle differences among their uses. Take a look at the image below to better understand them.

Distinguish movement indicators へ, に, and を

As you can see,  the particle suggests the displacement trajectory created during the climb, focusing on the route

やまのぼって、友達ともだちいえきます。

(yamawo nobotte, tomodachinoieni ikimasu.)

I went over a mountain to a friend’s home.

emphasizes that “climbing” is an action, not a displacement trajectory. At the same time, に gives the impression that the goal is to reach the top of the mountain, while を places more emphasis on the process.

天気てんきがいいから、やまのぼりましょう。

(tenkigaiikara, yamani noborimasho.)

It’s a lovely day! Let’s climb the mountain.

In the example example, the emphasis of the particle is on the journey (from home to the foot of the mountain). へ gives the impression of being on the way to a specific destination. What you will do (climbing or circling the mountain) when you arrive at the foot of the hill is not the sentence’s focus.

くるまやまきます。

(kurumade yamahe ikimasu.)

We will drive to the mountain.

I know the above discussions are a bit difficult, and I am indeed being strict with my beginner friends. It’s okay if you don’t understand this part. 

Dear reader, have you noticed that the special rules I have mentioned in the and section are not actually “special.” Last, let’s have a look at an easier example.

体育館たいいくかん およ きます。

(taiikukanhe oyogini ikimasu.)

(I) go swimming at the gym.

In this example, “the gym” is not the purpose but only the place I’m going to. I’m actually up to “go swimming,” which is indicated by

how many japanese particles are there

Admittedly, Japanese particles are not a piece of cake. It would be best to practice them repeatedly based on a complete understanding in order to master them. This is why an efficient and professional tool will be essential for your study.

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Chelsea
Chelsea
6 months ago

I have been studying Japanese for 1 year. Japanese seems easy but it might also be confusing; each particle can have several different meanings and usages. Thank you for sharing!

Christine
Christine
1 month ago

So helpful! Thanks for sharing this about Japanese! Gotta keep pracitcing