So far we’ve learned two very useful Japanese particles, が to mark the grammatical subject of predicates and verbs, and を to mark the grammatical direct object of verbs. We’ve also learned how to attach subjects to predicates via the copula だ and we’ve learned the difference between the two existential verbs ある and いる.

Now we will be learning how to use the particle の and its most common uses.

New Vocabulary

  • 自由の女神 (じゆうのめがみ)・ Statue of liberty (Literally: Goddess of liberty).
  • 大学(だいがく)・ College/University
  • ニューヨーク大学・NYU
  • 学生(がくせい)・Student
  • 専門(せんもん)・Major

Connecting Two Nouns With の

The first particle we will be looking at is the particle の, which has the job of connecting together two nouns, typically to indicate possession. The pattern here is XのY where X and Y are both nouns and Y is something that belongs to, or is a part of, X. For this reason, の can be related to the genitive case that is seen in European languages such as German.

For example, トムのペン would mean “Tom’s pen” with the particle の connecting “Tom” and “Pen” to indicate possession.

の can also be used with pronouns (which in Japanese are grammatically the same as regular nouns – more on that in a later lesson) to turn them into their possessive form. For example, adding の to わたし (I/me) turns it into わたしの which means “My”. So for example if you wanted to say “My cat” you would simply say 「わたしのねこ」.One thing to note is that while English has 2 ways to indicate possession, Japanese only has 1. In English you have the choice of one of the two following patterns:

  • X’s Y – (E.g Tom’s cat)
  • Y of X – (E.g. Statue of liberty).

However, both of these patterns collapse into the same XのY pattern in Japanese.

For example, the “statue of liberty” becomes “Liberty’s Goddess” 「自由の女神」with the word for “liberty” coming first, and then the word for “Goddess” coming second. Likewise, the phrase “Student of NYU” becomes「ニューヨーク大学の学生です」which is literally “NYU’s student”.

So combining this knowledge of how to use the particle の with the grammar we’ve learned thus far, we can now make even more complex sentences:

牛乳飲む (My cat drinks milk)

トムニューヨーク大学学生 (Tom is a student of/at NYU).

これペン – This is my pen.

いる – There is my cat

Leaving Off the Final Noun

It is also possible to leave off the final noun (Y) and simply say Xの to indicate “X’s”. For example, in English you can say “This is Tom’s” or “This is mine” without explicitly stating the thing that is being owned.

これが私のだ – This is mine.

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