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Sentence structure in Japanese

09/17/07

Sentence structure in Japanese

  11:25:57 am, Categories: Japanese Language , Tags: japanese, language, sentence, structure

The basic sentence structure of the Japanese language is of the form: SOV. Meaning, Subject Object Verb.
(note that I will use spaces between words for readability, spaces are normally omitted)
Example:
私は ペテル です。
Watashi-wa Peter desu.
I am Peter.
Litt: I Peter be.

The subject can even be omitted when it is obvious from the context. Only when there is a change of subject or emphasis is applied to the subject, a subject is used.
Example:
これは 何 ですか? 本 です。
Kore-wa nan desu-ka? Hon desu.
What is this? This is a book.
Litt: This what is? Book is.
Example 2:
私は ほんを あります。
Watashi-wa hon-o arimasu.
I have a book.

We can even go one step further up to the point that the sentence is just 1 word, a verb, which is a valid Japanese sentence. For example: ikimashou. Let's go.

Other words can be added between subject (if there is any) and the verb, which will always be the last words (apart from any extra particles which are, technically, not words).
We can put the object or directions in any order.
Example:
私は  東京に 電車で 行きます。
Watashi-wa Toukyou-ni densha-de ikimasu.
I'm going to Tokyo by train.

Let's take a short look at all the parts of this sentence:
watashi is the subject because it is followed by the subject-particle '-wa'.
ikimasu is the formal present conjugation of the verb 'iku', which means 'to go'.
Now inbetween we have:
Toukyou is where we are going, which is followed by the '-ni' particle, which in this sentence means the direction where we are going to.
densha is by what means we are going there, it is followed by the '-de' particle, which in this sentence means the means how we are going there.

We will keep it at that for now as it is quite a bit to digest. Don't worry too much about particles yet, just remember that '-wa' is used for the subject. We will get back to particles along the way.
Two things to remember: subject comes first, verb comes last.

Vocab recap:
desu: be, am, is, are
watashi: I
-wa: subject particle
-o: object particle
kore: this
nan, nani: what
-ka: question particle
hon: book
Toukyou: Tokyo
densha: train
iku: to go
aru: to have

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