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Japanese Particles: O and No

From Namiko Abe,
Your Guide to Japanese Language.


What are particles?

Particles are probably one of the most difficult and confusing aspects of Japanese sentences. A particle (joshi) is a word that shows the relationship of a word, a phrase, or a clause to the rest of the sentence. Some particles have English equivalents. Others have functions similar to English prepositions, but since they always follow the word or words they mark, they are post-positions. There are also particles that have a peculiar usage which is not found in English. Most particles are multi-functional. Click here to learn more about particles.

The Particle "O"

Direct Object Marker

"O" is placed after a noun, and indicates that the noun is the direct object.


Kinou eiga o mimashita.
昨日映画を見ました。 I watched the movie yesterday.
Kutsu o kaimashita.
靴を買いました。 I bought shoes.

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Route of Motion

Verbs such as walk, run, pass, turn, drive, go through etc., take the particle "o" to indicate the route which the movement follows.


Basu wa toshokan no
mae o toorimasu.
バスは図書館の前を通ります。 The bus passes
in front of the library.
Tsugi no kado o
magatte kudasai.
次の角を曲がってください。 Please turn the next corner.

Point of Departure

Verbs such as leave, come out, get off etc., take the particle "o" to mark the place from which one gets of or leaves.


Hachi-ji ni ie o demasu.
八時に家を出ます。 I leave home at eight o'clock.
Kyonen koukou o
sotsugyou shimashita.
去年高校を卒業しました。 I graduated from high school
last year.

The Particle "No"

Possessive Marker

"No" indicates ownership or attribution. It is similar to the English
"apostrophe s ('s). "


Kore wa watashi no hon desu.
これは私の本です。 This is my book.
Watashi no ane wa Tokyo ni
sunde imasu.
私の姉は東京に住んでいます。 My sister lives in Tokyo.

The final noun can be omitted if it is clear to both speaker and listener.


Are wa watashi no
(kuruma) desu.
あれは私の(車)です。 That is mine (my car).

Noun Modification

The noun before "no" modifies the noun after "no". This usage is similar to the possessive, but it is seen more with compound nouns or noun phrases. (e.g. kono hon no chosha -> the author of this book)


Nihongo no jugyou wa tanoshii desu.
日本語の授業は楽しいです。 The Japanese class is interesting.
Bijutsu no hon o
sagashite imasu.
美術の本を探しています。 I am looking for
a book on fine arts.

"No" can be used many times in one sentence. In this usage the order of nouns in Japanese is the reverse of the English structure. The normal Japanese order is from large to small, or general to specific.


Osaka daigaku no
nihongo no sensei
大阪大学の日本語の先生 a teacher of Japanese
at Osaka university
yooroppa no kuni no namae
ヨーロッパの国の名前 the names of the countries
in Europe


"No" links the noun to the appositive that follows.


Tomodachi no Keiko-san desu.
友達の恵子さんです。 This is my friend, Keiko.
Bengoshi no Tanaka-san wa
itsumo isogashisou da.
弁護士の田中さんはいつも忙しそうだ。 The lawyer, Mr. Tanaka seems
to be busy all the time.

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