Key Differences Between Japanese & English (Part 1)

SVO and SOV Languages: Say What?

Japanese is an SOV (Subject Object Verb) language, meaning that within any given Japanese
sentence, the subject will come first, followed by the object involved, and lastly the verb. This
feels nearly the opposite when one processes English structure, an SVO (Subject Verb Object)
language.

To get a better understanding of this, let’s look at some very simple examples. Take a look at the
English sentence below:

Today, John ate a red apple.

In this sentence, the subject, John is first, second the past tense form of the verb “to eat”, or
“ate”, and last the object involved with the subject — the red apple; this sentence therefore
follows the SVO pattern as previously described.
Now let’s take a look at the same exact sentence in Japanese:

ジョンさんは赤いりんごを食べました。

In this sentence, the subject ジョンさん, or John-san still comes first. However, the difference
lies in the position of the object and verb. Next comes the apple, りんご, and last the past tense
form of 食べる: 食べました.

We also notice a few other symbols such as は, or を, which are particles marking the subject
and object respectively. All you have to know here is that these particles are necessary in
informing the listener what the subject and object are, and always come after the words.

There you have it. A basic understanding of the differences in sentence structure between
Japanese and English.
While there are millions of other contextual and grammatical differences between the languages,
it is important to note this key difference in structure when embarking on the new language.

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