8 Essential Japanese Particles
for Beginners

One aspect of Japanese language that is different from English is the use of particles in constructing sentences. Particles are used to mark a topic, a subject, an object, etc. Here are eight essential Japanese particles for beginners to know.

Japanese Particles for Beginners

Topic Particle

はis used to mark a topic. In the sentence below, Mr Smith is the topic of the sentence. Mr Smith is also the subject of the sentence. However, a topic is not necessarily the subject, as shown in the second sentence. The topic in the second sentence is “today”, which is a non-subject.

スミスさん いしゃです。
Sumisu-san wa isha desu.
Mr Smith is a doctor.

きょう あついです。
Kyou wa atsui desu.
It is hot today.

Subject Particle

がis used to mark a subject which is a new piece of information in a sentence. The particle がis also used following a question word, and the answer to the question is also followed by the particle が instead of the particle は.

Q: だれ すきですか。
Dare ga suki desu ka?
      Who do you like?
A: メアリーさんが すきです。
      Mearii-san ga suki desu.
      I like Mary.

Object Particle

The particle を is used to mark a direct object.
Ocha o nomimasu.
I drink green tea.

Locative Particle

The particle で follows the place where an event takes place.

きっさてん コーヒーを のみます。
Kissaten de koohii o nomimasu.
I drink coffee at a café.

Goal of Movement Particle

The particle has many functions. One of the functions is to indicate the goal of movement.

うち かえります。
Uchi ni kaerimasu.
I return home.

らいねん にほん いきます。
Rainen nihon ni ikimasu.
I will go to Japan next year.

Another particle that indicates goal-movement is the particle へ. The particle に and the particle へ can be used interchangeably, with a subtle difference. The particle に places emphasis on the destination, whereas the particle へdoes not. Nowadays, more people use the particle に than the particle へ regardless.

For example, for the two sentences above, you can use the particle へ instead.

うち かえります。
Uchi e kaerimasu.
I return home.

らいねん にほん いきます。
Rainen nihon e ikimasu.
I will go to Japan next year.

Time Particle

Another function of the particle に is to indicate the time at which an event takes place.

6じ おきます。
Roku-ji ni okimasu.
I get up at 6 o’clock.

にちようび テニスをします。
Nichiyoubi ni tenisu o shimasu.
I play tennis on Sunday.

Question Particle

The particle か is placed at the end of a sentence to indicate a question, and no question mark is used.

Nan desu ka?
What is it?

Hontou desu ka.

Possessive Particle

The particle の indicates the relationship between two nouns. In the first example, the particle functions as a possessive particle or an apostrophe ‘s in English. In the second and third examples, the particle の connects two nouns and functions as a general modifier.

Naomi-san no boushi
Naomi’s hat

nihongo no gakusei
a student of the Japanese language

doitsu no kuruma
a German car

There are several other frequently used Japanese particles, such as と、や、も、から…まで、which you can explore further when you learn Japanese online.