We already saw that particles are a vital part of the Japanese language, because they state the grammatical function of the noun or nouns they are referring to. On the other hand, there are some Japanese particles which are put at the end of the sentence, after the verb, which emphasize the purpose of the speaker. They are called:
shūjoshi, 終助詞 ・ しゅうじょし,
with the kanji 終わり, owari, which means “end”.
Literally, it means “ending particles”. Since they are put at the end of the phrase, they are easy to understand and use. Finally, some of them are restricted to a female or a male speaker, as we will see later.
The interrogative particle: か
Have you ever wondered how to ask a question in plain form in Japanese? What about answering questions in Japanese?
か ka is the particle you use to replace the question mark meaning you can simply put it at the end of your sentence to ask a question.
元気です。🡪 (お)元気ですか。 I am fine. 🡪 How are you?
Genki desu. 🡪 Ogenki desuka?
The use of the honorary “お” change the speech to a more formal one.
泳げます。 🡪 泳げますか。 I can swim. 🡪 Can you swim?
Oyogemasu. 🡪 Oyogemasuka?
What are the Japanese Interrogative Pronouns?
か is the particle to use with interrogative pronouns like:
何 ・ nan/nani ・ What
これは何ですか。 Kore wa nan desuka? What is this?
何時ですか。 Nanji desuka? What time is it?
誰 ・ dare ・ Who
彼女は誰ですか。 Kanojo wa dare desuka? Who is she?
どこ ・ doko ・ Where
駅はどこですか。 Eki wa doko desuka? Where is the station?
Nihongo no kyōshitsu wa doko desuka?
Where is the Japanese language class?
いつ ・ itsu ・ When
Anata no tanjōbi wa itsu desuka?
When is your birthday?
どんな ・ donna ・ What kind
Kareshi wa donna hito desuka?
What kind of person is your boyfriend?
なぜ/どうして ・ naze/doushite ・ Why (なぜ is more used in written texts, while どうして in speech)。
Naze tatteiru no ka? Seki ga nai kara desu.
Why are you standing? Because there are no vacant seats.
Why were you late?
The exclamation particle: よ
よ yo – This particle brings the listener’s attention to an unknown aspect. Furthermore, it highlights a recommendation, is used to give advice and can replace the exclamation mark. It’s used in informal speaking.
もう遅いですよ。 Mou osoi desuyo! It’s late!
早く来てよ。 Hayaku kiteyo! Come quickly.
一緒に行こうよ。 Isshoni ikouyo! Let’s go together!
「危ないよ」 Abunaiyo! Careful!
そんなことないよ。 Sonna koto naiyo. That’s definitely not true.
The “Confirmation” Particle: ね
The ね ne particle is used when the speaker wants to share something with the listener, in dialogues. Can express wonder, a question, or an exclamation. From the listener’s point of view, it gives a confirmation in the dialogue. Fun fact: it’s mostly used by women.
いい天気ですね。 Ii tenki dane! Nice day, isn’t it?
また会いましょうね。 Mata aimashoune! We’ll meet again, right?
“Subarashii umi dane!” Sou desune!
“The sea is amazing!” It is!
“Ima nanji darou?” Nanji daroune?
“What time could it be?” I have no idea!
The image says (starting from the right): “Uso… Neko?! Gomen ne gomen ne… Itakatta?!” – “I can’t believe it, a cat?! I’m sorry I’m sorry… Did it hurt?“. Here the Japanes particle ね is put after ごめん to emphasize the apology.
Can You Combine Particles In Japanese?
よね yo and ne can be used together at the end of the sentence to confirm something that is already known.
Kare wa nihongo no kyoushi desuyone?
He is a Japanese language teacher, isn’t he?
Kyōto no tera wa kirei desuyone?
Temples in Kyōto are beautiful, aren’t they?
What Are The Gender Differences in Japanese Speech?
Before talking about other particles, we should note that in Japanese language there are some differences between men’s and women’s speech. These differences are noticed in spoken language more than written.
Women’s speech always tends to be more formal than men’s. Women use more honorary prefixes お o and ご go to sound more elegant. For example, お花 ohana – flower and お茶 – ocha – tea. Women avoid vulgar vocabulary, which is instead used by males.
As for female-only particles, lots of them are used to express exclamation, doubt, or simply a confirmation to the listener. They too can be combined.
かしら kashira expresses doubt in general, self-doubt, or a request. Can be translated as “I wonder if…”, and it is mostly used by wives and older women or by very well-educated girls.
来るかしら。 Kuru kashira? Will he/she come?
これでいいかしら。 Kore de ii kashira? Is this okay/enough?
あの人誰かしら。 Ano hito wa dare kashira? Who is that person, I wonder?
わ wa. This particle replaces the exclamation mark in feminine sentences. Particles ね and よ can follow it to ask for a confirmation and to advertise.
かわいいわ。 Kawaii wa. It’s cute!
楽しみだわ。 Tanoshimi dawa. I’m looking forward to it.
きれいですわね。 Kireii desu wa ne. It’s pretty, isn’t it?
おいしいわね。 Oishii wa ne. It’s good, isn’t it?
明日雨が降るわよ。 Ashita ame ga furu wa yo. (Careful) Tomorrow it will rain.
このスカート、安いわよ。 Kono sukaato, yasui wa yo. Look, this skirt is cheap!
Men’s Ending Particles: ぞ and ぜ
Men’s speech tends to be more informal than women’s. For example, in anime you can hear expressions like あいつ aitsu、すげー sugee that are very casual and used in informal situations only. As for particles, there are two of them that are used only by males.
ぞ zo This is a typical male-used particle which you can find in anime. It gives the sentence a sense of intimidation and threat. Women can use the imperative form directly to express the same sense, for example to give orders to their children, but with the -なさい form, which is more gentle than the imperative form.
Anime and comic books are full of expressions with ぞ particle:
行くぞ Ikuzo. Let’s go!
もう一度聞くぞ！ Mou ichido kiku zo! I’ll ask you one more time! (intimidating)
絶対に許さんぞ。 Zettai ni yurusanzo. I won’t forgive him.
“Korekara aruzo! Shinsekai wa!”
“The ‘New World’ starts now!”
ぜ ze To emphatize their statement, males can also use the ze particle. Remember that it’s very informal.
一休みしようぜ。 Hitoyasumi shiyou ze. Let’s take a break.
このラーメンうまいぜ。 Kono rāmen umai ze. This ramen is tasty!
Sore ijou tsuyoku naranai hou ga ii ze.
You shouldn’t get any stronger than this.
If you can master these ending particles, your Japanese speaking will surely sound more natural!
Author: Valeria (graduated at Ca’Foscari University Japanese Studies)