Japanese Lesson: Particles "O" and "No"

The Many Different Usages of These Japanese Particles

A particle is a word that shows the relationship of a word, a phrase, or a clause, to the rest of the sentence. The Japanese particles "o" and "no" are commonly used and have many functions depending on how it is used it a sentence. Read on for an explanation of these different usages.

The Particle "O"

The particle "o" is always written as "" not "".

"O": Direct Object Marker

When "o" is placed after a noun, that indicates that the noun is the direct object.

Below are a sentence examples of the "o" particle being used as a direct object marker.

Kinou eiga o mimashita. 昨日映画を見ました。--- I watched the movie yesterday.

Kutsu o kaimashita. 靴を買いました。--- I bought shoes.

Chichi wa maiasa Koohii o nomimasu. 父は毎朝コーヒーを飲みます。--- My father has coffee every morning.

While "o" marks the direct object, some English verbs used in Japanese take the particle "ga" instead of "o". There are not many of these verbs, but here are some examples.

hoshii 欲しい --- to want
suki 好き --- to like
kirai 嫌い --- to dislike
kikoeru 聞こえる --- to be able to hear
mieru 見える --- to be able to see
wakaru 分かる --- to understand

"O": Route of Motion

Verbs such as walk, run, pass, turn, drive and go through use the particle "o" to indicate the route that the movement follows. 

Here are sentence examples of "o" used to indicate the route of motion.

Basu wa toshokan no mae o toorimasu. バスは図書館の前を通ります。--- The bus passes in front of the library.

Tsugi no kado o magatte kudasai. 次の角を曲がってください。--- Please turn the next corner.

Dono michi o tootte kuukou ni ikimasu ka. どの道を通って空港に行きますか。--- Which road do you take to get to the airport?

"O": Point of Departure

Verbs such as to leave, come out, or get off take the particle "o" to mark the place from which one gets off or leaves. 

The following are sample sentences of the "o" particle used to indicate a point of departure.

Hachi-ji ni ie o demasu. 八時に家を出ます。--- I leave home at eight o'clock.

Kyonen koukou o sotsugyou shimashita. 去年高校を卒業しました。--- I graduated from high school last year.

Asu Tokyo o tatte pari ni ikimasu. 明日東京を発ってパリに行きます。 --- I’m leaving Tokyo for Paris tomorrow.

"O": Specific Occupation or Position

In this case, the particle "o" indicates a specific occupation or position, which is usually followed by "~shiteiru" or "~shiteimasu". See the following sentences for examples. 

Tomoko no otousan wa bengoshi o shiteiru. 智子のお父さんは弁護士をしている。 --- Tomoko's father is a lawyer.

Watashi no ane wa kangofu o shiteimasu. 私の姉は看護婦をしています。 --- My sister is a nurse.

The Particle "No"

The particle "no" is written out as の. 

"No": Possessive Marker

"No" indicates ownership or attribution. It is similar to the English "apostrophe s ('s). " These sample sentences show how the "no" particle is used as a possessive marker.

Kore wa watashi no hon desu. これは私の本です。--- This is my book.

Watashi no ane wa Tokyo ni sunde imasu. 私の姉は東京に住んでいます。--- My sister lives in Tokyo.

Watashi no kaban no nakani kagi ga arimasu. 私のかばんの中に鍵があります。--- There is a key in my bag.

Note that the final noun can be omitted if it is clear to both speaker and listener. For example:

Are wa watashi no (kuruma) desu. あれは私の(車)です。--- That is mine (my car).

"No": Indicating Position or Location

To indicate the relative location of the first noun in a sentence, the "no" particle is used. Take these phrases for instance:

tsukue no ue 机の上 --- on the desk
isu no shita いすの下 --- under the chair
gakkou o tonari 学校の隣 --- next to the school
kouen no mae --- 公園の前 --- in front of the park
watashi no ushiro 私の後ろ --- behind me

"No": Noun Modification

The noun before "no" modifies the noun after "no". This usage is similar to the possessive, but it is seen more with compound nouns or noun phrases. The following sentences show how the "no" particle can be used to modify a noun.

Nihongo no jugyou wa tanoshii desu. 日本語の授業は楽しいです。--- The Japanese class is interesting.

Bijutsu no hon o sagashite imasu. 美術の本を探しています。--- I am looking for a book on fine arts.

"No" as a noun modifier can be used many times in one sentence. In this usage, the order of nouns in Japanese is the reverse of English. The normal Japanese order is from large to small, or general to specific.

Osaka daigaku no nihongo no sensei 大阪大学の日本語の先生 --- a teacher of Japanese at Osaka university

yooroppa no kuni no namae ヨーロッパの国の名前 --- the names of the countries in Europe

"No": Apposition

The "no" particle can also show that the first noun is in apposition to the second noun. For instance:

Tomodachi no Keiko-san desu. 友達の恵子さんです。--- This is my friend, Keiko.

Bengoshi no Tanaka-san wa itsumo isogashisou da. 弁護士の田中さんはいつも忙しそうだ。 --- The lawyer, Mr. Tanaka seems to be busy all the time.

Ano hachijussai no obaasan wa ki ga wakai. あの八十歳のおばあさんは気が若い。 --- That eighty-year-old woman has a youthful spirit.

"No": Sentence Ending Particle

"No" is also used at the end of sentence. Please check out "Sentence Ending Particles" to learn about the usage.