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Japanese Word Order

A Smattering of Japanese Grammar

First, Japanese isn't English. As obvious as that sounds, it is important to keep it in mind. It is good to a certain extent to compare the languages to get a better feel for both, but a constant comparision can lead to disappointment and frustration.

English (SVO)

Cats eat mice.

Japanese (SOV)
  • ねこ は ネズミ を たべます。
  • neko wa nezumi o tabemasu.
  • cats - mice - eat

It isn't as hard as it seems. Constructing a Japanese sentence is like detective work. You collect the clues along the way and then put it all together at the end.

Let's break down another example.

わたし は みせ へ いきます。

watashi wa mise e ikimasu.

わたし は means 'I'. is the particle that shows the topic (more on this later).

  • Ah! You know who is doing the work, but what, where, why, when?

みせ へ means 'store', with the directional particle .

  • Ok! You know where! But what?

And finally いきます, which means 'go'.

  • Now putting it all together, we understand.
  • I to the store goI'm going to the store.

Sometimes it is good to start from the end of the sentence and work your way to the beginning. In that way you will learn the most important info first (the verb) and move to what is made to happen and who does it.

Remember: The 'subject' usually comes first (like English) but the verb comes last (not like English). Everything else usually comes in between.

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Like your short and really helpfull lessons =))
I`m learning now for JLPT N5....and it`s hard)) But I love Japanese Language =)

Kansha's picture

Sou sou

it was all confusing when i started my jap class... i was like "so u mean to say we can only decipher the whole meaning of a sentence by hearing the last word?!" and by that time, i probably forgot the first several words spoken. hehehe! but i think i'm getting used to it. :)

Gambarimasho! :D

SkyGemini's picture


Yes, it's very helpful to keep that "s-o-v" in mind as I have the same thoughts as you did in my head with the "it doesn't work like that in english!! gahh!"...and not even knowing french helps as it's structure is closer to english as well!

Thank you very much for your site, it's fantastic and is helping me out tremendously!

I mean, arigatou gozaimasu!

My authentic japanese name is 猿渡 Saruwatari (monkey on a crossing bridge) 澄麗 Sumire (clear and lovely).
Take your real japanese name generator! today!


the subject verb and anything in between hint is very useful.

Question about the e in 'mise e'

I'm just wondering why exactly it's represented as the 'he' in hiragana/katakana instead of an 'e' from either. Is the h dropped or... well that's the only thing I can think of right now. Arigato gozaimasu in advance!

Perhaps it's best to think of

Perhaps it's best to think of it in the same way as 「は」(ha) sounding as 'wa' when used as a particle.
Hence, 「へ」(he) becomes 'e'.

(Same kind of mystery for English words ending with 'ough' which is pronounced differently for 'tough', 'bough', 'through'... you get the drift.)

Thankfully, the other particles 「が」、「も」、「を」、「に」、「で」、etc, sound the same as their original hiragana forms, as far as I know ;)

Hope the reply helps.

yes, it's useful.

yes, it is.

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