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Learn Japanese – Japanese Particles for Beginners (Forum Spotlight)

Welcome to Forum Spotlight! Here we’ll be introducing interesting and useful posts made by members at our very own Forum.
Our first forum spotlight post explaining particles for beginners of Japanese comes from Bueller_007さん. This was posted in response to a listener who said that they were having trouble keeping all of the particles straight.

(wa) marks a topic, emphasing what follows it as being specific to that topic. There is no real equivalent in English, but people often say that “AはB” = “As for A, B”. The “topic” is often the grammatical subject, but can be anything (including the grammatical object, and sometimes the verb), and it may also follow some other particles. Grammar Bank

(ga) marks the grammatical subject of a sentence. It can also be used to join sentences, like the word “but”, but that が is technically a different word. Grammar Bank
(o) marks the grammatical object of a sentence. Grammar Bank

(mo) functions as “also” in English. It can be used most places where you’d use は. That means, when used, it replaces は and が (and usually を, although I’ve seen them used together) and can follow some other particles directly.  Grammar Bank

(ni) indicates direction (and arrival of) of coming/going or giving/receiving verbs. It usually means “to” (I.e. “I go to work”), but in the case of giving/receiving verbs, can also mean “from”. In the case of passive verbs, it marks the grammatical agent, making it the same as “by” in English. (i.e. “my wallet was stolen by my brother.” ) に is also used to indicate the location of existence when combined with the verbs いる or ある, making it the Japanese version of “at” (in some instances).  Grammar Bank

(e) is basically the same as に, except it emphasizes direction over arrival. The main difference is usage. へ is never used as “from”, “by”, “at”. In addition, the particle の can follow the へ particle directly, whereas it cannot follow に. Grammar Bank

(de) is used to indicate location of an action, so it also means “at”, but is not used together with the verbs いる or ある. Grammar Bank

から (kara) indicates a temporal or spatial starting point. (“from”, “since” ) Grammar Bank

まで (made) indicates a temporal or spatial finishing point. (“all the way to”, “until” ) Grammar Bank

(to) is used to join nouns together into an exhaustive list that functions as a single noun. (“with”, “and”). It’s also the particle used to indicate a direct quote (from someone’s mind or speech), functioning like quotation marks in English. Grammar Bank

(ya) is used in the same way as the first sense of と, but the list is not exhaustive. It means “such things as A, B, and C”. Grammar Bank

(no) indicates possession (functioning like the English “apostrophe-S”), but can also be used (before a copula) to give a reason for something (as in のです, のだ). Similarly, it also functions as an indefinite pronoun. It is also one of the nominalizers, converting verb phrases, etc. into noun phrases. Grammar Bank

is used at the end of sentences, basically in the same way as an English tag question. Generally, if said with rising intonation, it indicates a request for confirmation from the listener (i.e. “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” ), whereas if it’s said with falling intonation, it’s used as rhetorical device (i.e. “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it.” ) Over-generalization, but a decent starting point. Grammar Bank

is used to add emphasis to a sentence, i.e. to strengthen one’s argument during a debate. Grammar Bank

As a beginner, that’s all you’ll need to know. I’ve omitted a lot of stuff, just because it’s out of your league at the moment, and there are TONS of other particles, and combinations of particles, like ので and とか, that need to be memorized as well.

Thank you Bueller_007さん for your detailed explanation!

You can find a lot more useful information like this at the Forum, so stop by and join in the many discussions with fellow listeners and the JPOD101 crew!