How to Remember Japanese Particles :Particles, particles…will I ever learn all of these Japanese particles?” If you’re wondering this, you’re no different than Japanese people learning English prepositions—they too find it frustrating. Japanese particles, with their various usages and nuances, can seem daunting at first, but with enough patience and persistence, you’ll get the hang of it, I promise you! Today, we’re going to go over some key Japanese particles and how to remember them!

[Summary]JLPT N4 How to use Japanese “Particles” 助詞(じょし) in Japanese | Learn Japanese Online
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Japanese Particles –は (Wa)

は is the subject marker of the sentence. When using は to mark the subject, the subject is usually something that both the speaker and listener know about—such as Chinese food, shopping, a mutual friend, something already mentioned in conversation, etc. は is usually translated to “is” or “are” in English, but, remember, its main function is the topic or subject marker! Therefore, if you want to talk about your mutual friend Bob, you say, “Bobは…!” If you then want to change the topic and talk about spinach, you say, “Spinachは…!” Every time you introduce a new topic or subject that is known to you and your partner, you have to tag it with は!

Bob wa Amerika-jin desu.
Bob is American.
Hourensou wa oishii desu.
Spinach is delicious.

Japanese Particles – が (Ga)

が is like は except the subject is something that the listener doesn’t already know about. It is commonly paired with the verbs ある (aru) and いる (iru) to mean “There is….”

A: 靴を買いたいね!
B: 109でエスペランザという店があるよ!
A: Kutsu wo kaitai ne!
B: Ichi-maru-kyuu de Esuperanza to iu mise ga aru yo!
A: I want to buy shoes!
B: At 109 there is a store called Esperanza!

が is also commonly used to tag the noun being described by an adjective.

Watashi wa chiizu ga suki desu.
I like cheese.
Kare no atama ga ookii desu.
His head is big.

Also, when asking questions like who, what, where, which, and what kind, が is used in both the question and the answer.

A: このドレスとこのドレス、どっちのほうが可愛い?
B: こっちのほうが可愛い。
A: Kono doresu to kono doresu, docchi no hou ga kawaii?
B: Kocchi no hou ga kawaii.
A: Which dress is cuter, this one or this one?
B: This one.

が is also used as the topic marker when the sentence contains an intransitive verb.

Doa ga aite imasu. 
The door is open.
Koko kara hoshi ga miemasu.
You can see the stars from here.

Japanese Particles – に (Ni)

に indicates the location in which someone or something exists. In this sense, に is paired with the verbs いる and ある.

Keeki wa teeburu no ue ni aru.
The cake is on the table.
Watashi wa Nihon ni iru.
I am in Japan.

In order to indicate location, に is also paired with verbs such as 座る (suwaru, to sit), 置く (oku, to put), 住む (sumu, to live), 勤める (tsutomeru, to work), or 積もる (tsumoru, to pile up).

Kare wa sofa ni suwatte imasu.
He is sitting on the sofa.
Kanojo wa Fuji Terebi ni tsutomete imasu.
She works at Fuji TV.

Another common verb to pair with に is なる (naru, become).

Kemushi wa chou ni naru.
A caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

に is also used to indicate the place someone or something moves to. The most common verbs associated with this are 行く (iku, to go) and 来る (kuru, to come). 

Raishuu Nihon ni iku.
I will go to Japan next week.
Kocchi ni kite!
Please come here!

に also marks a specific time of day or indicates how many times per week, month, or year you regularly do something.

Sotsugyoushiki wa san-ji ni hajimaru.
The graduation ceremony will start at 3:00.
Isshuu kan ni ikkai baske wo suru.
I play basketball once a week.

Japanese Particles – で (De)

で is used to indicate the location of an action. で is less limited than に in regard to specific verb pairings, yet it CANNOT be paired with verbs いる and ある when talking about location.

Konsaato wa Makuhari Messe de yatte imasu.
The concert is being held at Makuhari Messe.
Shibuya de yoku tomodachi to atte imasu.
I often meet my friends in Shibuya.
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Japanese Particles – の (No)

の shows possession. It is similar to the “apostrophe S” in English or “(something) of (something).” Here, let us show you what we mean!

Haha no ryouri wa oishii!
My mom’s food is delicious!
Yakiniku no nioi ga daisuki!
I love the smell of grilled meat!

Japanese Particles – と (To)

と is sometimes translated as “and” in English. In one way, it is used to join nouns in a list.


Mainichi asagohan wa toosuto to bataa to jam to yude-tamago desu.

My breakfast everyday is toast, butter, jam, and hard-boiled eggs.

Keep in mind that と is NOT used to join two sentences into one compound sentence like below!

Shichi-ji ni asagohan wo taberu to, juuni-ji ni hiruhohan wo taberu.
Shichi-ji ni asagohan wo tabete, juuni-ji ni hiruhohan wo taberu.

I eat breakfast at 7:00, and I eat lunch at 12:00.

と can also be used to mean “when.”

Shawaa wo abiru to kibun ga sawayaka ni naru.
I feel refreshed when I take a shower.

Another common use for と is as a dialogue tag for quoting someone—like, “he said,” or “she said.”

Kanojo wa “Sushi ga daisuki” to iimashita.
“I love sushi,” she said.

Japanese Particles – を (Wo)

を is used to mark the direct object of a sentence. When deciding what particle to use in Japanese, I like to think of を like this: if I need to use a preposition between the noun and the verb in English, then it’s NOT を. For example, if I want to say “I go to the store,” I need to use the preposition “to” between “go” and “store.” Therefore, I wouldn’t use を in Japanese. However if I say, “I eat toast,” there is no preposition between “eat” and “toast;” therefore, I can be pretty sure that I need to use を when saying it in Japanese. 

Watashi wa toosuto wo taberu.
I eat toast.
Kare wa terebi geemu wo suru.
He plays video games.

Now that you know some common Japanese particles, it’s time to get out there and practice! Study your Japanese material, read some texts, listen to conversations, and pay attention to the particles and how they are used. After you’re done with that, practice some particles with your speaking partner, teacher, or penpal. Particles take some time to get used to, so stick with it, you’ll master them in no time!  

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