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Japanese Grammar

Posted by Ken Cannon

Have you ever been completely confused by what freaking order you put the words in a sentence?

I have been getting a lot of questions about this recently, So I thought I’d attempt to address it in a simpler way. (please bare with me as this is a work in progress heh)

A part of the problem lies in that Japanese sentence order is completely counter intuitive to what we’re used to.

Some people describe it as backwards, but completely scrambled is a bit closer to the truth (see now doesn’t that make you feel better?)

Ok I’m kidding, it’s not “completely” scrambled, but it is a real toughie for most learners.

Now what most teachers/books/programs try to do is either ignore this fact, and try to teach people standard cookie cutter like sentences. Until they get used to how it’s used.

Or, they attempt to break down the students understanding of how grammar/sentence order works in general (how they have used English), and kind of build an entirely new Japanese grammar base from which to work.

Now both methods are effective, but often times with varying results, and sometimes much frustration.

So I’m gonna try to do something a little different, and link up what you already know about English grammar/sentence order to Japanese grammar.

So to get started here’s a typical English sentence.

I punch people!

Very simple sentence. Now the trick to turning this sentence into Japanese is you have to be able to find the “verb” in the sentence. If you don’t know, the verb is basically “what’s going on” or “the action” in the sentence. In this sentence, what’s obviously going on is the “punching”

So what you do, is you simply grab the “verb”, take it out, and stick it at the back of the sentence.

So “I punch people” = Becomes = “I, people, punch!”

In Japanese this is “Ore, hito, naguru”

Let’s try another sentence.

I love feet!  =  I, feet, love (ore, ashi, suki)

How about this one?

I’m going to the toilet  =  I’m, to the toilet, going (Ore, toire, iku)

I’ll give this to you  =  I‘ll, this,  to you,  give (ore, kore, omae, ageru)

This is cool = This, cool, is (kore, kakkoi, da)

So as you can see from the above examples the main concept is that all you have to do is take the verb out, and stick it at the end of the sentence, nothing else really matters. (in terms of sentence order anyway)

Now if you’re already studying Japanese you might be asking, what about particles?
And you’d be right on track, because that is what I’ll discuss in tomorrow’s post =)

*Another note is that this formula of sorts does not work with question sentences, such as “what time is it?” Or “Where is that little leprechaun” And those I will address tomorrow as well.

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Ken Cannon


  1. It may sound funny but this is almost the same as the way Yoda from Starwars speaks. Go to www.yodaspeak.co.uk and give it a try.

  2. @Heather, awesome!

    @stoute, haha nice site, I've never seen that before.

  3. @ stoute, I found out that yoda was based off a Japanese person in a movie named Yoda, so the director made him talk like a japanese person also, but in English.

  4. 私はボログを好きです!

    Ha, I hope I got that right. Sorry, I'm only a beginner. :]

  5. This was SUPER helpful! I have been struggling for so long with different learn Japanese books, but I wanted to learn the setence structure first! and none of them would tell me how to put the sentence in order This is much more helpful! thanky ou!

  6. I was wondering if you couldgive me a helping hand, I always see the little one subject one verb one object, but I never see the more useful and real sentences like the, if... then statements, and those that contain multiple adjectives and adverbs and even adverbs descibing adgectives. IE " The big brown dog was coming towards me with a bone in his mouth and his tail wagging furriously at me, as if he expected me to pet him" Ik it's probably a lot to explain and I undrstand that youre fairly busy, but if you could help me out that would be wonderful.

  7. This was a little hard trying to understand it. I really can't get it if he's not saying it! Lol XD I try to sound the words out,

  8. Do you know of any books that do a good job explaining how to form sentences? I just can't get it to come naturally like it does in English. Also, what word should always be first in the sentence and what would you say the middle part typically consists of? Sorry if the question is confusing.
    How did you get it to start coming naturally? The wording feels so awkward.

  9. Oh, my goodness, thank you! By comparison, the other teachers might as well have been speaking gibberish to me when explaining sentence order! They shouldn't start out with complicated terms. Your method of starting us out on this and only then moving onto particles and question order is brilliant!

  10. Yay, I actually get it. My Japanese teacher spent several lunch times and afternoon lessons trying to explain this to me, and yet it took me just a minute to understand what you wrote here. Thank you so much.

  11. Brilliant!
    Thanks, this helps allot.

  12. stoute and ケビン . Star Wars' plotline was largely 'inspired' from Akira Kurasawa's 'Hidden Fortress'. Have you noticed that Darth Vader's helmet has an uncanny resemblance to a kabuto (samurai helmet)? And Yoda definitely talks in Subject-Object-Verb grammar.


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