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JIS-A: Grammar: wa, ga, o, and the un-particle

While English is structured Subject Verb Object (SVO), Japanese is structured Subject
Object Verb (SOV). Examples:

I(S) am(V) a student(O).


私は(S)学生(O)です(V)。

Subject
In Japanese, the particles は, が, and the un-particle can be used to mark the subject.
(The un-particle just means that you don’t use any particle). は puts focus on what
comes after, が puts focus on what comes before, and the un-particle gives no particular
focus. So, you use the particle that gives you the focus you want. However, when you use
a question word, you must give focus on what you are asking about. Examples:
これは何ですか。 What is this?
ポートランドはどこですか Where is Portland?
だれが来ましたか。 Who came?
どれがいいですか。 Which one will be good?**
NOTE: When the subject is understood, it is left off in Japanese!

Object
In Japanese, the particles が, を, and the un-particle can be used to mark the object. が
and を put focus on what comes before (so they are usually used when they mark a
question word), while the un-particle gives no particular focus. The question is when to
use が and when to use を!
It depends on the verb. If the verb is controllable (this is called operational) then を is
used. If the verb is not controllable (this is called affective) then が is used. Here are
some examples of affective and operational verbs:
の か べんきょう れんしゅう か

Operational: 食べる、飲む、書く、 勉 強 する、 練 習 する、買う


Affective: 分かる、ある、できる、いる(to need)、好きです、きらいです
If we apply this, we know whether to use が or を to mark the subject. Examples:
すしを食べる;漢字を書いた;フットボールを練習しました
すしが好きです;漢字が分かる;フットボールができます

NOTE: When the subject is understood, it is left off in Japanese!


Grammar –n desu
A common way to either give or ask for an explanation is to use plain form + んです.
例:
A) あれ、買わなかったんですか。 You didn’t buy that? (what was the reason).
B) ええ、ちょっと高かったんですよ。 Yeah. It was expensive.
(which is the reason I didn’t buy it).
When the plain form is noun + だ, the だ becomes な.
例: A student is putting her stuff away.
A) 帰るんですか。 Are you leaving?
(i.e. is it because you are leaving that you are putting your stuff away?
B) ええ。残りたいんですけど、 Yeah. I want to stay (part of the explanation) but
ちょっと病気なんです。 I’m kind of sick. (Which is the reason I’m leaving).

Grammar: ni
Particle に can be used to indicate a location of existence and a destination. It can also be
used to indicate a point in time.
However, particle に will not be used to indicate a point in time with a relative time
word or a general time word. So with words relative words like 今日, 今, etc. (these
words are relative because what they refer to depends on the current day, time, etc.), and
general words like 朝, 毎日, etc., に with not be used. But with words like 二時, 二十三
日, 土曜日, 八時三十五分, 二千八年 etc. に will be used.
例: 土曜日に来ると思いますよ。 I think he’s coming on Saturday.
学校は三時に終わります。 School ends at three o’clock.
昨日、新しい車を買いましたよ。 I bought a new car yesterday.

Grammar: de
Particle で can be used to indicate the means by which someone does something. In
English, we often convey this idea with “with” or “by” (but not always). Examples:

例: おはしで食べた。 I ate with chopsticks.


新幹線で行ったほうが便利でしょう?
Going by bullet train would be the most convenient option, right?
何で行くんですか。
How are you getting there? (lit. by means of what are you going).
日本語で話してください。
Please speak in Japanese. (lit. by means of Japanese).
Grammar: to
Particle と can be used to indicate mutual involvement in an action. In English, we often
convey this idea with “with”. Examples:
げつようび あそ

例: 月曜日にスコットさんと遊びました。 I played with Scott on Monday.


ともだち べんきょう

友達と 勉 強 するんです。 I’m going to study with a friend.


However, there are some circumstances where と is used in Japanese that “with” isn’t
used in English. Examples:
おな

例: それはこれと同じです。 That is the same as this.


ちが

それはこれと違います。 That is different than this.


けっこん

2005年にジョンさんと結婚しました。 She married John in 2008.


Another use of particle と is to indicate that something applies to two nouns. We use
“and” to convey this idea in English. Examples:
たなか むらかみ き

例: 田中さんと村上さんが来ます。 Tanaka and Murakami came.


ぴ ざ た

おすしとピザを食べました。 I ate pizza and sushi.


NOTE: Using と for “and” in English only works with nouns. For verbs, we use the -て
form.

Grammar: ni and de
Particle に is used to indicate a location of existence**. Basically, when indicating a
location with あります or います use particle に.
Particle で is used to indicate the location of an action. Basically, when indicating a
location with verbs other than あります or います use particle で.
Particle に is also used to indicate a destination. There is a distinction here between a
location (where something is) and a destination (where something goes). Verbs that take a
destination are いく, くる, and かえる***.
がっこう べんきょう

例: 学校で 勉 強 しました。 I studied at school.


学校に行きました。 I went to school.
じしょ つくえ

辞書ですか。 机 の上にありますよ。 The dictionary? It’s on top of the desk.


These are the kanji you should know for the final:
結果 けっか Result
対立 たいりつ Conflict
方法 ほうほう Method
存在 そんざい Exist/Existence
種類 しゅるい Type/kind
問題 もんだい Problem
質問 しつもん Question
土地 とち Land
旅行 りょこう Travel
約束 やくそく Promise
約 ―やく About…
船 ふね Boat
説明 せつめい Explain/Explanation
乗る のる Ride
協力 きょうりょく Cooperation
違う ちがう To be different
賛成 さんせい Agreement/Approval
反対 はんたい Opposite/Disapproval
印象 いんしょう Impression
必要 ひつよう Necessary
必ず かならず Absolutely/Without fail
意見 いけん Opinion
意味 いみ Meaning
服 ふく Clothes
差別 さべつ Discrimination
差 さ Difference
特別 とくべつ Special
通る とおる To go through
通う かよう To commute
通訳 つうやく Interpretation
言い訳 いいわけ Excuse
大統領 だいとうりょう President
伝統 でんとう Tradition
友達 ともだち Friend
仕事 しごと Work/Job
仕方 しかた Way of doing (something)
要る のる To Ride
結ぶ むすぶ To tie, seal, bind
結婚 けっこん Marriage
親類 しんるい Relative