In the previous article on basic grammar, I covered how to make simple statements that follow the pattern of “X is Y.” In it, two concepts were covered, the subject marker が and the copula だ.
Here we will be covering the particle を that will allow you to describe an action that the subject of the sentence takes on a direct object with a verb.
First, here is some more useful vocabulary you should know
- ねこ – Cat
- ペン – Pen
- さくぶん – Essay
- りんご – Apple
- ぎゅうにゅう – Milk
- おきる – To wake up
- あるく – To walk
- いる – To exist (animate)
- ある – To exist (inanimate)
- たべる ・To eat
- のむ ・To drink
- かく・To write
- よむ ・To read
Important Note: Japanese verbs do not distinguish between present and future tense, nor do they distinguish for grammatical person. So a verb like 「よむ」meaning “to read” can mean “read” in the present tense” or “will read” in the future tense. It also does not change form depending on whether we are saying “I read”, “You read” or “He/She/It reads“. All of these would be the same – 「よむ」. Please keep this in mind when reading the translations of the example Japanese sentences into English.
Pattern １- XがVerb
Before we learned to say that “X is Y” with the pattern 「XがYだ」 but now, what if we want to use some other verb instead of “to be? The answer is that the subject of the sentence is still marked with the particle が, and then we simply add the verb to the end. In short, the pattern is simply 「XがVerb」.
For example if we wanted to say “Tom wakes up” or “Tom walks”, we can simply say:
There are two special and useful verbs that require some extra attention here, and they are ある・いる. Both verbs mean “to exist”, however ある is used for inanimate things (objects, plants, etc) and いる is used for animate ones (humans, animals, sentient Star Trek Androids, etc).
The pattern here remains the same, so one can simply say 「Xがある」or 「Xがいる」to show that “X exists”. Idiomatically, these expressions are often translated into English as “There is (an) X”.
ねこがいる – A cat exists (Idiomatic: There is a cat)
ペンがある – A pen exists (Idiomatic: There is a pen)
Pattern 2 – XがYをVerb
The above patterns work just fine when we are simply talking about the subject and what the subject does. But what if we want to talk about what the subject does to something else? For example, if we wanted to say “I eat an apple”, “I” is the subject, which is the doer of the verb, and “apple” is the direct object – which is the thing that the verb is done to.
In Japanese, the direct object of a verb is marked with the particle を (which is pronounced as ‘o’ – the same as the hiragana お). Just like が and all other particles, it attaches directly to the end of the word it modifies.
So in our example sentence, “I eat an apple” we have in Japanese:「私がりんごをたべる」. The subject, 私 (marked by が）eats (たべる）the direct object (りんご）, marked by を. As mentioned in the previous article, Japanese word order is Subject-Object-Verb, so the direct object comes before the verb.
Here are some more example sentences:
私がさくぶんをかく- I write an essay
私が本をよむ – I read a book
ねこがぎゅうにゅうをのむ – The cat drinks milk.
As you can see, all of these sentences follow the exact same pattern and you can simply plug in the nouns and verbs that you want to create even more possible sentences.