All about the particle in Japanese [の]

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

What is the particle in [の] for?

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, replacing from Portuguese “do, de, meu, minha, Nosso, seu, sua” and other prepositions or articles that indicate that something belongs to something.

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

  • Indicate ownership;
  • Nominalize verbs and adjectives;
  • Transform verbs into nouns;
  • Indicate an apposition (union);
  • Indicate the object in subordinate sentences by 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;
  • May mean no (English no) 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 in [の] to indicate possession

The most popular function of the particle in [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] – Her sense of beauty;
  • Suzume no namida [雀の涙] – Sparrow tears;
  • Ago no hone [顎の骨] – Jaw bone;
  • Dorama no naka [ドラマのなか] – In (the middle of) dorama;
  • 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] – Nurse's sister;
  • 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 is the function of uniting and indicating that something belongs to another using the particle no [の]. Things can get complicated when we try to put more than two things together. The sentences below will help you understand this:

kare wa watashitachi no gakkou no sensei desu.
He is 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 in [の], followed by the place and the profession.

Kore wa watashi no nihongo no hon desu
This is my Japanese book.

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

All about the particle in Japanese [の]

First we have the pattern 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.

Finally, let's see one last example:

Watashi no yuujin no yamadakun wo shoukai shimasu.
I introduce my friend Yamada.

In this example we have the use of the particle in [の] as a possession and also as an equalizer. We'll learn more about equalization in the next topic.

Using the no [の] particle with verbs

Here are some examples of verbs being used in conjunction with the no [の] particle to indicate possession. In this case, the sentences are subordinate and the particle no gives the idea of a subject marker.

Yuki no kata hon
The book that yuki bought
Kare no tsukutta keeki wa oishikatta.
The cake he made was delicious.
Nihonjin no shiranai nihongo
The Japanese that Japanese people don't know

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

The particle in [の] appeared exactly because it was something he did. There is a noun (cake) that was made and belongs to the pronoun (he). It's like the "cake made” was the noun or possession of the sentence.

Attention, the particle no [の] can only be used in the above case 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 [の] particle with verbs is to nominalize them. By using the no [の] particle 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 dancing;
  • Asobuno wa omoshiroi [遊ぶのは面白い] – It's interesting to play;
  • Taberu no ga daisuki [食べるのが大好き] – I love to eat;
Oyogu no wa okaasan no shumida.
Swimming is my mother's hobby.

The sentence above shows the particle turning 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's 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 in [の]. If you want to read our article click here to learn more about no e koto.

All about the particle in Japanese [の]

Using the no [の] particle with adjectives

Many people claim the possibility of joining the particle no [の] with an adjective of both [い] and [な] type, 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 the point of view.

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

  • Fukutsu no hito [不屈の人] – Insufferable 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] – Lots of cookies;
  • Eien no ai [永遠の愛] – Eternal love (from eternity);

All the sentences above have an adjective, but not always the meaning is an adjective. For example, takusan may abundant meaning, but in the above sentence he has passed the idea of many, as 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 love of eternity. The interpretation depends on our knowledge and the second noun.

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

We use the particle [の] to turn nouns into adjectives that often don't exist in the form [な] or [い]. In cases where the noun acts as an adjective, the pronoun usually comes after the particle in [の].

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

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

Heads up: Some people make the mistake of joining adjectives [い] with nouns using the particle no [の]. adjectives in the form i [い] doesn't need any particles to connect with a noun.

Using the particle in [の] to equalize

You can use particle no [の] to equalize, that is, to 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 are going to put the pronoun after the particle in [の] 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] – White snow;
  • 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 of saying. 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 they 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 no [の] particle in questions

The particle in [の] can be used to emphasize questions, questions and the end of some sentences. I think the best way to exemplify this is using the sentences below:

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

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

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

Doko no kansetsu ga hazureta no?
Where did the joints go?

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, give an emotional emphasis, soften a command, etc.

The truth is that particle [の] at the end of sentences is not something exclusive to women or feminine as some think. Sentences 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 [の] at the end of sentences is with some examples:

  • Sou 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 make a loud voice;
  • Natsukashii nou [懐かしいのう] – I miss you;
  • Chisaino [小さいの] – Small;

As mentioned, this particle carries an emotional emphasis. In the case of men who are more brutal and determined, they know different and better alternatives to end sentences.

The main cases where [の] is considered 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 in doubt whether a sentence with [の] is feminine or not, just read on, if you look like an effeminate, then look for a more masculine alternative.

Dizunīrando ni ikitai no.
I want to go to Disney.
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 it has answered all your doubts regarding the particle no [の]. If you liked it, don't forget to share and leave your comments.

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