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  Lesson 1 - The Structure of Japanese



English and Japanese have very different structures. English has a sentence structure where the word order is very important. For instance compare the following two sentences:


"I bought a hat" and "A hat bought I".


You can clearly tell that by mixing up the order of the words, the meaning of the sentence changes. The subject, object and verb of an English sentence depends on proper word order. Japanese, on the other hands, indicates the parts of a sentence by particles.


Particles are syllables that are attached to the end of words to mark the grammatical function. In our sentence "I bought a hat", "I" is the subject, "hat" is the direct object. In Japanese, you would mark the subject with the particle "ga" and the direct object with the particle "o". If we were to attach the appropriate particles to our sentence, we would have:


I (ga) bought a hat (o).


Because the grammatical function of the word (subject, object, etc.) is clearly indicated by the particle, you can move the parts of the sentence around and still have it make sense. You could write the sentence like this:


I hat (o) I (ga) bought.


and it would makes sense in Japanese grammar because the particles indicate grammatical function no matter where the word is in the sentence.



1) Particles attach to the end of words and mark grammatical function.

2) Particles stick with their words no matter what order the word has in a sentence.

3) Many particles have several uses. These are usually clear by context.


Basic Particles:


wa = topic marker. The topic is something we do not have an equivalent for in English. It means "about this..." or "concerning...".


o = direct object marker (sometimes written "wo"). Indicates what the verb is acting on.


ga = has two uses. The first indicates the subject of a sentence. The second the indirect object of a verb.


ni = indicates destination. It is the "to" of "going to Paris".





English sentence structure is usually subject verb object. Such as:


Yesterday, he ate sushi.


Japanese sentence structure is usually topic subject object verb. If we attach the particles to the parts of the sentence we get:


Yesterday wa (topic), he ga (subject) sushi o (direct object) ate.


Note the verb comes at the end of the sentence in Japanese.





Find the particles, analyze the sentence structure and translate.




kutsu = shoes

kau = to buy

katta = bought

kyou = today

kinou = yesterday

mise = store

iku = to go


1) kyou wa Akari-chan ga kutsu o kau.


2) kinou wa Akari-chan ga kutsu o katta.


3) Akari-chan wa kutsu o kau.

Note the change of topic here. In this case, Akari-chan is both topic and subject.


4) Akari-chan ga katta.

Note that the object has been dropped here. There is no such thing as a complete sentence as we understand it in English. If the object has been mentioned once, you do not need to mention it again until it changes.


5) Akari-chan wa mise ni iku.

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