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Basic Language Structure in Japanese

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I thought I’d kick off the new week with a look at basic sentence structure in Japanese. I realize that some readers may already be familiar with some of the points I will raise here but I figure it will be a good one to have in the archives for people to go back and refresh from time to time.

So we’ll take a look at a basic Japanese sentence and a few of its components and take a bit of a look at how it can be broken down to make many other sentences. Remember the key to mastering Japanese is understanding how to form your own sentences!

So lets take a look at a sentence:

Watashi wa getsuyoubi ni suteki na boshi o kaimasu.

(On Monday I will buy a nice hat)

One of the first things to remember is that Japanese has almost the opposite sentence structure to English where most sentences proceed Subject Verb Object,

Japanese sentences actually go Subject Object Verb. So you need to get used to switching your order around a little. Japanese sentences are going to end with the verb you are using.

The second is that Japanese sentences are broken up by particles representing the different parts of the sentence. In the above example sentence wa, ni, na, and o are particles. So its easy to identify different parts of the sentence.

Lets take a look at it a bit closer:

Watashi wa – This is the subject of the sentence. In Japanese the primary subject is marked by a ‘wa’. In this sentence it is watashi which means ‘I’

Getsuyoubi ni – This is a time stamp. Ni is a particle and one of its functions is to mark a time when something will happen in this case its Monday. Meaning Monday is when our verb will take place

Suteki na – This is an adjective it is marked by the particle ‘na’ which joins it to the noun that follows it indicating it is the Hat which is nice.

Boshi o – This is our object. Marked by the object marker ‘o’. Boshi is the Japanese word for Hat.

Kaimasu – Lastly we have our verb. The verb Kau means to buy. In this sentence it has been conjugated and put into the ‘Masu box’ to make it more polite. This is commonly how you will see and hear your Japanese verbs.

Once you understand how a sentence is formed you can easily make thousands of your own. For example we can change the example sentence:

Watashi wa getsuyoubi ni suteki na boshi o kaimasu.

to

Watashi wa getsuyoubi ni hirugohan o kaimasu.

(On Monday I’ll buy lunch)

By dropping the ‘suteki na boshi’ and replacing it with ‘hirugohan’ we have made an entirely different sentence about buying lunch.

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Source by Samuel Caleb Stokes

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