what are the particles in japanese and how to use the particles?

by Shiela Guinto
(Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines)

Japanese Particles

Japanese Particles


Hi Shiela,

This is a question which I don't think can be replied completely and clearly in a single page. However, I will try to give you a general idea of what are the Japanese particles and how to use them with some examples.

Particles, also known as 助詞 (joshi) in Japanese, are actually hiragana characters that attach to main words and indicate the relationship of those words to the following word or the remainder of the sentence.

Particles serve as the links that connect the whole sentence together. The sentence will become incomplete without them.

There are also particles which are used at the end of the sentence to make the sentence sounds differently. For example, to soften a statement, to add force to a sentence, to indicate a question, etc.

You may find that some particles works in the same way as the English words. For example, in this phrase 父と母 (chichi to haha - father and mother), the particle と (to) has the same function as the conjunction "and" in English.

There are other particles that works similarly to the prepositions in English, but the placement of the particles are different as compared to their English-counterpart. They are placed after the words they modify.

For example, in the following phrase...

ane to
Meaning: with my elder sister

...the particle と (to) is placed after the word 姉 (ane).

And in the following phrase...

nihon e
Meaning: to Japan

...the particle へ (e) is placed after the word 日本 (nihon).

In addition, you will also find some particles that have no equivalent in English. For example, the topic marker は (wa) which marked the topic in a sentence as in the following sentence:

imouto wa nijuusan sai desu
Meaning: My younger sister is 23 years old.

The particle を (wo) is another particle with no equivalent
in English. For example, in the following phrase...

terebi wo miru
Meaning: watch television

... the particle を (wo) is used to indicate the direct object - the noun テレビ (terebi) of the verb 見る (miru).

Particles plays an important role in forming a Japanese sentence. Although some of them can be omitted in casual conversation, you cannot omit them in formal situations, especially in writing. Besides, if you use a particle wrongly, the meaning of the sentence can be changed totally.

Most of the particles have multiple meanings depending on how they are used. You have already seen two different meaning of the particle と (to) in the above examples.

Another example is the particle で (de). For example, アメリカで (amerika de - in America), 電車で (densha de - by train), 仕事で (shigoto de - because of work).

I cannot possibly list all the Japanese particles here but I think you get the general idea of what they are and how to use some of them.

If you really want to know more about Japanese particles, I suggest you to read about this excellent book by Taeko Kamiya on particles: Japanese Particle Workbook

You can also check out the following pages where I discussed about some of the common particles used and their functions:

Basic Lesson 11: Particles.

Basic Lesson 14: Particles Change in Negative Answers.

Basic Lesson 15: Particles ka and mo with Question Words.

Basic Lesson 16: Particles to and de.

Basic Lesson 24: Particles wa and ga.

Basic Lesson 27: Particle to for Quotation.

Intermediate Lesson 14: Particle ga for Introduction.

Intermediate Lesson 18: Particle de with more Functions.

FAQ: Using Japanese particles correctly.

Please note that some links on this page are affiliate links. That means I will receive a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through those links, at no additional cost to you.

Hope this helps,
Kia Leng

Comments for what are the particles in japanese and how to use the particles?

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Ahh I see now
by: Robert

Did not see this page before, thank you for the link. This helps me find what I was looking for. :)

by: Loeo

That's impressive.

I need help with particles
by: Nab Sharma

Thank you very much for your FAQs and study material sensei!

I have been using Duolingo as one of the apps to self-learn basic japanese, and since it doesn't provide detailed explanations for anything, while doing its exercises I'm confused over the use of particles in the following sentences:



Firstly, do both of them mean the exact same thing - "There are 3 chairs inside the room"?
And secondly, I understand の is used to show possession, so why is it being used in this manner? Also, why are both に and は used together in sentence 2? Isn't は unnecessary when に has already marked the location (the room)?

I still have to learn all the particles in basic Japanese, and it would be very helpful if you made things clearer at this point. Thank you for helping :)

I need help with particles
by: Kia Leng

Hi Nab Sharma,

Yes, both of your sentences mean the exact same thing - "There are 3 chairs in the room". They are just different ways (sentence patterns) to mean to same thing.

The first sentence pattern is: Place に Thing があります。
In your example, Thing is 三つの椅子. The counter 三つ is a noun and the chair 椅子 is also a noun. So to connect two nouns you use the particle の.

The second sentence pattern is: Place に Thing が Counter あります。
In this example, Thing is just the chair as the counter is placed after が.

は is optional. By putting は there, it emphasizes the place 部屋 as the topic of the sentence. You can also add は to other particles for the same reason, like では, へは, とは. By adding は, it also has this hidden meaning that:
"There are 3 chairs in the room. But there are no 3 chairs in other places."

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