Basic Japanese Particles and how to use them!

Basic Japanese Particles and how to use them!

Are you starting to learn Japanese? That’s fantastic news! Learning a new language is always rewarding and beneficial, and the Japanese language is just as rich as its culture.

The first thing you’d notice when learning Japanese is the particles. We don’t have those in the English language, so it might be a bit difficult to fully grasp its usage when you’re first starting out. Don’t be scared off by the number of particles the language has — it’s actually not that confusing at all!

Now, you’ve come to the right place to get a bit of clarification on the matter. Read on for a brief yet detailed explanation on what Japanese particles are and the various ones we use day-to-day, along with its usage!

What are particles?

In short, Japanese particles are small words which are used in between other words to show the relations of the sentence. Each particle serves a different function. It can vary from differentiating a subject and an object, showing direction of action or motion, to expressing possessive. 

Particles are also known as “post positions”. This means that particles have to be placed after the word they’re relating to directly. 

Sometimes, in informal speech, particles are often dropped. However, it can be unclear what you’re trying to say if you don’t use particles, since the sentence structure can be changed around quite often in Japanese. 

Long story short, particles are pretty crucial in the Japanese language. Let’s take a look at some of the most common and important ones.

は (wa/ha)

First off, we’ll look at は (wa/ha), which is the most common one out of all Japanese particles. This is the first one that Japanese learners will learn. This particle follows the topic of the sentence, making this particle the topic marking particle. The topic of the sentence can be anything — it could be the subject, object, or even a verb. 

This is a general format of this particle:


A は B です。

A wa B desu.

A is B.

Let’s look at an example sentence: 

明日は休みです。

Ashita ha yasumi desu.

Tomorrow is an off day/holiday.

が (ga)

The が (ga) particle acts about the same way as our previous one. Some people get confused as to which to use. You use the “ga” particle to emphasise something or to distinguish it from the rest. It’s also used when you’re first introducing the subject. 

The format is the same:

A が B です。

A が B 〜ます。

A is B.

Here’s an example sentence:

机の上に本があります。

tsukue no ue ni hon ga arimasu

There is a book on the desk.

を (wo)

The next common particle is the を (wo) particle. This particle is used to signal the object of the sentence. Most of the time, it follows a noun or a noun phrase.

This is general format of this particle:


Noun を verb

I (verb) (noun).

Let’s look at an example sentence: 

私はパンケーキを食べました.

Watashi ha panke-ki wo tabemashita.

I ate pancakes.

に (ni)

The に (ni) particle indicates a place or the direction something is moving towards. The particle often follows a moving verb only. It can also be used when you’re talking about the direction of something, like receiving something from others. In that case, it means “from”.

This is a basic format of this particle:


Place に verb.

I’m (verb) to (place).

Here’s an example sentence: 

コンビニに行きます。

Konbini ni ikimasu.

I’m going to the convenience store.

へ (e/he)

This next particle, the へ (e/he) particle, is pretty similar to に. Both particles indicate direction. The difference is that へ emphasises on the direction instead of the arrival. This particle is often specifically for directions, whereas the other one can be used for various types of directional usage. 

This is the general format of the particle:


Location へ verb

I (verb) (location/person).

Here’s an example sentence: 

彼女へ本をあげました。

Kanojo he hon wo agemashita.

I gave her a book.

で (de)

The で (de) particle is another location-related particle. It’s the opposite of へ, as it emphasises location rather than direction. 

Let’s look at the format for this particle:


Location で ….

… at (location).

Here’s an example sentence: 

プールで泳ぎました

Pu-ru de oyogimashita.

I swam in the pool.

も (mo)

This next particle is used like the English word “too” or “also”. The も (mo) particle is used just like in English, to refer to something previously said that’s also true now. This particle replaces other particles like ga, wa or wo when used.

Here’s a general format of this particle:


Noun は Property/Action です。

Noun も Property/Action です。

I (property/action) (noun).

I also (property/action) (noun).

Here’s an example sentence: 

私はペンがあります。

私もペンがあります。

Watashi ha pen ga arimasu.

Watashi mo pen ga arimasu.

I have a pen.

I also have a pen.

と(to)

Similar to the English word “and”, the と (to) particle connects two nouns together, making a single noun. 

Let’s look at the format for this particle:


Noun と noun と noun……

(Noun) and (noun) and (noun)…

Here’s an example sentence: 

パンとご飯とパスタが好きです。

Pan to gohan to pasuta ga suki desu.

I like bread, rice and pasta.

や (ya)

The や (ya) particle is used similar to “and”, but it translates better to “such things as…”

Let’s look at the format for this particle:


A や B や…

…such things as A, B…

Here’s an example sentence: 

日本の都市には東京や大阪があります

nihon no toshi niwa toukyou ya oosaka ga arimasu.

In Japan, there are big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, etc.

の (no)

The の (no) particle indicates possession. It’s like the apostrophe-s (‘s) in English. It can be translated to “it belongs to,..”.

Let’s look at the format for this particle:


Noun A の noun B

(Noun B)’s (Noun A)

Here’s an example sentence: 

私の名前はアズラです。

Watashi no namae wa azura desu.

My name is Azra.

から (kara)

から (kara) can be translated to “from”. This particle indicates the source of an object or action. If the particle is used to talk about time, it translates to “since” or “after”.

Let’s look at the basic format for this particle:


Noun から…

From (noun/action)… / Since (time)…

Here’s an example sentence: 

学校から帰りました.

Gakkou kara kaerimashita.

I came from school.

まで (made)

In contrast to the previous particle, we have the まで (made) particle. This is usually used to show the extent of an action or period of time. It can be translated as “until”.

Here’s a general format of this particle:


Noun まで…

Until (action/time)…

Here’s an example sentence: 

8時から18時まで買い物に行きました。

Hachi-ji kara juu-hachi-ji made kaimono ni ikimashita.

I went shopping from 8AM to 6PM.

ね (ne)

Often used at the end of sentences, the ね (ne) particle is similar to a rising intonation. It can often translate to adding a question tag, asking for confirmation from the listener. It can also be used as a rhetorical device, like saying “it’s a rainy day, isn’t it?”

Let’s look at the format for this particle:


Sentence  ね

(Sentence)…right/isn’t it?

Here’s an example sentence: 

今日はいい天気ですね。

Kyou ha ii tenki desu ne.

It’s great weather today, isn’t it?

よ (yo)

Last but not least, the よ (yo) particle is also attached to the end of the sentence. This particle is used to express a strong conviction about something.

Let’s look at the format for this particle:


Sentence よ

Here’s an example sentence: 

これは私のカバンよ。

Kore ha watashi no kaban yo.

This is my bag!

Master these particles!

Japanese particles aren’t difficult at all. In fact, it can even make your Japanese learning so much easier. If you can master Japanese particles, you’re halfway to fluency…kind of. Good luck! Get a Nihongo Master subscription to learn these concepts fast!