All about the particle no [の] in Japanese Language

In this article, we are going to talk about everything you need to understand about the particle no [の] of the Japanese language and its many functions in addition to indicating possession [that something belongs to something].

WHAT is the particle for no [の]?

Many believe that the particle no [の] is one of the easiest in the Japanese language. Its main function is to indicate that one thing belongs to another, substituting from English “do, de, meu, our, yours” and other prepositions or articles that indicate that something belongs to something.

Only the function of the particle no [の] goes far beyond that. We can list the following functions of the Japanese particle:

  • Indicate possession;
  • Nominalize verbs and adjectives;
  • Transform verbs into nouns;
  • Indicate an apposition (union);
  • Indicate the object in subordinate sentences replacing the ga [が];
  • Indicate a conclusion;
  • Indicate an emotional emphasis;
  • Indicate a modified pronoun
  • Indicate a question or question;
  • Used to soften a command;
  • It can mean no (English in) if written in katakana;

Not to mention other functions that the particle no [の] can perform when it is fused to another particle as in the case of noni [のに], node [ので], monono [ものの], nomi [のみ], damage [だの] and node [のです];

Using the particle no [の] to indicate ownership

The most popular function of the particle no [の] as mentioned several times, is to join nouns and words together to indicate that something belongs to another. The simplest examples are:

  • Watashi no kazoku [私の家族] - My family;
  • Kebin no kuruma [ケビンの車] - Kevin's car;
  • Gakkou no sensei [学校の先生] - School teacher;
  • Anata no biishiki [あなたの美意識] - Your sense of beauty;
  • Suzume no namida [雀の涙] - Sparrow tears;
  • Ago no hone [顎の骨] - Bone of the jaw;
  • Dorama no naka [ドラマのなか] - No (middle of) the drama;
  • Bokura no kankei [ボクらの関係] - Our relationship;
  • Mirai no Kuruma [未来の車] - Car of the future;
  • Watashi no inu [私の犬] - My dog;
  • Watashi no pasokon [私のパソコン] - My computer;
  • Konpyuuta no gakkou [コンピュータの学校] - School computer;
  • Tokyo no chikatetsu [東京の地下鉄] - Tokyo Metro;
  • Kankoshi no ane [看護師の姉] - Sister of the nurse;
  • Watashi no piano [私のピアノ] - My piano;
  • Anata no geemu [あなたのゲーム] - Your game;
  • Gakkou made no kyori [学校までの距離] - Distance to school;

I think the examples above can show how simple the function of joining is and indicating that something belongs to another using the particle no [の]. Things can complicate the mind when we try to unite more than two things. The phrases below will help you understand this:

彼は私たちの学校の先生です。
kare wa watashitachi no gakkou no sensei desu.
He's our school teacher.
He is a teacher at our school.

In the first example, we have the particle no [の] to refer to 3 interconnected things. Note that the pronoun is the first to use the particle no [の], followed by the location and profession.

これは私の日本語の本です
Kore wa watashi no nihongo no hon desu
This is my Japanese book.

In this example we can notice that the pronoun comes first, followed by the characteristic and the object of possession. Below is a photo that explains more about the particle structure:

All about the particle no [の] in Japanese Language

First, we have the standard which is any noun [S1 + の + S2] that can extend into [S1 + の + S2 + の + S3]. In the blue boxes we have some pre-defined examples that help to understand the order of each type of noun.

To finish, let’s see one last example:

私の友人の山田君を紹介します。
Watashi no yuujin no yamadakun wo shoukai shimasu.
I introduce my friend Yamada.

In this example we have the use of the particle no [の] as a possession and also as an equalizer. We’ll learn more about equalization in the next topic.

Using the particle no [の] with verbs

See some examples of the verbs being used in conjunction with the particle no [の] to indicate possession. In this case, the sentences are subordinate and the particle does not give the idea of a subject marker.

ユキの買った本
Yuki no katta hon
The book that yuki bought
彼の作ったケーキはおいしかった。
Kare no tsukutta keeki wa oishikatta.
The cake he made was delicious
日本人の知らない日本語
Nihonjin no nihongo shiranai
The Japanese that Japanese don’t know

What exactly is a subordinate clause? Note that the above sentence can be divided into two sentences. The cake he made and delicious cake. Making one depend on the other. Subordinates are dependent phrases that have a function over the other.

The particle no [の] appeared exactly because it was something he did. There is a noun (cake) that was made and belongs to the pronoun (he). It is as if the “cake made ” were the noun or possession of the sentence.

Attention, the particle no [の] can only be used in the case above if a direct object is not present. Simply put, when you don’t have the particle wo [を].

Turning verbs into nouns with no [の]

Another function of the particle no [の] with the verbs is to nominalize them. When you use the particle no [の] after a verb, you kind of turn it into a noun. See the sentences below:

  • Utau no ga suki [歌うのが好き] - I like to sing;
  • Odoru no ga kirai [踊るのが嫌い] - I hate to dance;
  • Asobuno wa omoshiroi [遊ぶのは面白い] - It is interesting to play;
  • Taberu no ga daisuki [食べるのが大好き] - I love to eat;
泳ぐのはお母さんの趣味だ。
Oyogu no wa okaasan no shumida.
Swimming is my mother’s hobby.

The sentence above shows the particle transforming a verb into a noun and then being used as a possession particle. Some people even believe that noga [のが] is a particle, but it is just the junction of the particle [の] with [が] or [は].

We have previously written an article that talks exactly about transforming nouns with the particle no [の]. If you want to read our article click here to know more about no and koto.

All about the particle no [の] in Japanese Language

Using the particle no [の] with adjectives

Many people claim the possibility of joining the particle no [の] with an adjective of both type [い] and type [な], is this really possible? A single Japanese word can be a noun, verb and adjective.

We need to understand that Japanese works differently from our language. An adjective or noun in Japanese is not always considered the same thing in English. So the answer to that question will depend on your point of view.

The great truth is that all the words used with the particle no [の] are nouns, even if they describe or give the impression of being an adjective. See some example sentences below:

  • Fukutsu no hito [不屈の人] - Insupportable person;
  • Himitsu no tokoro [秘密の所] - Secret (mysterious) place;
  • Tokubetsu no chiryou [特別の治療] - Special treatment;
  • Takusan no kukkii [たくさんのクッキー] - Many cookies;
  • Eien no ai [永遠の愛] - Eternal love (from eternity);

All of the above phrases have an adjective, but the meaning is not always an adjective. For example, takusan it can abound meaning, but in the above sentence he passed on the idea of many, since he is also a noun.

There are situations that we will not always know how to differentiate or translate a sentence, in the case of eternal love, could mean eternity love. Interpretation depends on our knowledge and the second noun.

Fortunately, not all [な] adjectives can be used with the [の] particle. So we will hardly have any confusion as to whether that sentence refers to an adjective or noun.

We use the particle [の] to transform nouns into adjectives that often do not exist in the form [な] or [い]. In cases where the noun acts as an adjective, the pronoun usually comes after the particle no [の].

Some phrases mentioned above could simply be used with [な] or [い]. When to know which one to use? Only time will clear up this doubt, but we can say that [な] is more of a “quality” idea while [の] is something more binary.

Some dictionaries such as jisho, categorize words as adjectives of the type [の]. This can help not to get confused.

Attention: Some people make the mistake of joining adjectives [い] with nouns using the particle no [の]. Adjectives in the form i [い] does not need any particles to connect with a noun.

Using the particle no [の] to equalize

You can use the particle no [の] to equalize, that is, describe the relationship between two nouns. Thus, we can assign a description without meaning that something belongs to another. It's like turning nouns into adjectives.

The difference is that we will put the pronoun after the particle in [[] instead of before. The examples below will help you understand what I'm trying to say:

  • Shachou no Kebin-san [社長のケビンさん] - President Kevin;
  • Tomodachi no Yamadasan [友達の山田さん] - My friend Yamada;
  • Sensei no Yamada [先生の田中] - Professor Tanaka;
  • Aka no pen [赤のペン] - Red Pen;
  • Yuki no shirosa [雪の白さ] - Snow white;
  • Sarariiman no chichi [サラリーマンの父] - Salaried father;
  • Kuruma no Toyota [車のトヨタ] - Toyota car;

Of course, these examples are just alternatives to say. I could just say Tanaka Sensei or Kevin Sanchou as a suffix. It is worth remembering that this is not always possible, just be aware of the most common ways of expressing yourself and the occasions that are used.

It is interesting to note that the examples of equalization that we saw above, use many nouns that are also adjectives of the type [い].

Using the particle no [の] in questions

The particle no [の] can be used to emphasize questions and the end of some sentences. I think the best way to exemplify this is using the phrases below:

  • Kuruma nano? [車なの?] - Is that a car?
  • Mou, tabetan? [もう、食べたの?] - Have you eaten?
  • Doushitano? [どうかしたの?] - How was it? What's it?
  • Nani wo kangaeteruno? [何を考えてるの?] - What are you thinking about?
  • Mada ikiteiruno? [まだ生きているの?] - Are you still alive?
  • Ikuno? [行くの?] - Are you going? or Let's go?
  • Gakkou ni ikunoka [学校に行くのか] - Are you going to school?

Some of the above sentences can also be completed with the particle ka [か] which indicates a question. Or you can simply use the two together creating one noka [のか].

What is the difference between using and not using [の] at the end of the questions? One reason is that this particle transmits a strong sense of curiosity, improves intonation and prominence in the question.

どこの関節がはずれたの?
Doko no kansetsu ga hazureta no?
Where did the joints move?

Using no [の] at the end of sentences

The particle is not only used to ask questions, but they have other uses at the end of the sentence. Women often use this particle to indicate a conclusion, to place an emotional emphasis, to soften a command, etc.

The truth is that the [の] particle at the end of sentences is not something exclusive to women or women as some think. Phrases with the particle [の] at the end are commonly used by children and even men in some situations.

The best way to understand the usefulness of the particle no [の] at the end of sentences is with some examples:

  • I'm na no yo [そうなのよ] - That's right!
  • Shiranakattano [知らなかったの] - I didn't know;
  • Kyoto and ikimasuno [京都へ行きますの] - I'm going to Kyoto;
  • Ookina koe dasanai no [大きな声出さないの] - Don't say it out loud;
  • Natsukashii nou [懐かしいのう] - I miss you;
  • Chisaino [小さいの] - Small;

As mentioned, this particle has an emotional emphasis. In the case of men who are more brutish and determined, they know different and better alternatives for ending sentences.

The main cases where [の] is considered something feminine is when it is followed by [です] or [ます]. When used in imperative sentences or ending in [くの] and [たの] it is normal to be spoken by men as well.

If you are unsure whether a sentence with [の] is feminine or not, just read, if you look like an effeminate, then look for an alternative but manly.

ディズニーランドに行きたいの。
Dizunīrando ni ikitai no.
I want to go to Disney.
コナンくんが大好きなの〜〜〜
Konan kun ga daisuki na no〜〜〜
I love Conan.

It was really difficult to write this long article. I hope you enjoyed it and that he answered all your questions regarding the particle no [の]. If you liked it don't forget to share and leave your comments.

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