Japanese Particles and Markers

I started the Japanese tree the day it was available on the web, but after a few days gave up because I could not get the hang of hiragana (let alone katakana or kanji).
But recently I gave it another go and have learned a fair portion of hiragana, and am confident I'll eventually learn them all.
I still have an unbearable time with Japanese sentence structure but am hopeful I will eventually get a grip on it.
I have a question, which may sound stupid, but are markers and particles the same thing?
Trying to look up Japanese grammar I have come across both terms, markers usually come with specifics like "topic marker" or "object marker".
Are these the same thing as particles or something different?
If they are the same how many markers are there and are they always needed, are they used for emphasis or clarification (like subject pronouns in Spanish and Italian), or is it a little of both?
If they are different what is the difference?

September 23, 2018


Particle is the grammatical term for them, and Marker describes their function, basically, like 'indicator'. Some particles can have multiple functions, so are markers for multiple things. So the は particle is the Topic Marker, が particle the Subject Marker, を particle the Object Marker, etc. A particle like で is both an action location marker as well as a material/means marker. に is probably the most extensive being used for location, time, purpose or direction.

There isn't a very strict guide to word order in Japanese (aside from ending in verbs) so particles are used to clarify exactly how each word functions in a sentence. If particles are changed the entire meaning of the sentence could change. Some of them can be dropped in casual conversations if their function is already clear from context.

Japanesepod101 has a handy video on all the particles and their functions here

And Tofugu has a nice cheatsheet for quick reference here

September 23, 2018

Thanks for the very helpful reply and the links.
The 2nd link is the site I found that helped me learn some hiragana.
I have one more question, I know that depending on its role in the sentence (subject, object etc.) the same word can have a different marker, but is there only one marker for each part of the sentence?
For instance is there more than one topic marker or object marker?

September 23, 2018

It really depends. The parts that make up a sentence aren't really much different than any other language, it's just that where many languages depend on word order to know the functions, Japanese uses particles instead. Generally in a set phrase of any language you'll have one topic, one subject, and a verb. The rest is details.

The topic marker は also functions as a contrast marker, and can be used to compare ideas. This is the は you'll see in ではありません - "is not" - the polite negative of です。Like "in contrast to it being this - it is not." But it's easier just to treat that as a set conjugation.

に being both a location and a time marker can be used multiple times. 三時に学校にいます "san ji ni gakkou ni imasu" "three o'clock (time particle) school (location particle) exist" "I am at the school at 3:00"

You generally wouldn't use an object marker more than once though unless part of a compound sentence connecting separate thoughts. "I did action to object and then I did different action to object"

If there are multiple objects being interacted with in a single phrase then they would be connected with も "also" or と "and"

ラーメンとすしを食べます "ramen to sushi wo tabemasu" "ramen ('and' particle) sushi (object particle) eat"

You can also combine some particles depending on the situation. Mostly は with one of the location or means particles as these can also be the topic of the sentence. So you will see things like へやには犬がいます "room (location particle)(topic particle) dog (subject particle) exist" "On the topic of in the room...a dog exists "In the room there is a dog"

September 23, 2018

I have the Kodansha Dictionary of Japanese Particles. The Duolingo tree covers about half of them, not in sufficient detail.

Yes, the topic marker は and the subject marker が are particles, as are the not very translatable ね and よ at the end of sentences, and へ、で、に、の、ば、から、まで、を、と、 and dozens more, alone and in combination.

そう でしょう か ねえ? Would that be so, now?

とっ たり と られ たり します。 attack each other

Most of them are essential to Japanese grammar, not just decorations.

September 23, 2018

If you have studied some Latin, think about all the different things an ablative ending can be translated as. Japanese particles have the same kind of range of possibilities? A book I have found useful is the Japanese Particle Workbook by Taeko Kamiya (Boston & London: Weatherhill, 1997). The answers to its exercises are in the back. (I see that you have started Turkish, too. It uses particles similar to the way Japanese does.)

September 23, 2018

These posts have been very helpful.
I'm assuming if I am using katakana I would use the katakana equivalent for は for the topic marker and not は itself.
Also, is は (and possibly its katakana equivalent) the only topic marker? Or are there others that may be used for different levels of politeness or for other reasons?
Is this the case for the other markers?
Is が the only subject marker.
I just want to know if I need to learn several topic markers, several subject markers, several object markers, several location markers etc, or if there is only one of each kind.

September 23, 2018

It's not so simple. I'm not very advanced in Japanese at all, so I advise with some hesitation. 1) Katakana represents the same syllables as hiragana, but it is not like the print equivalent of script letters. So you would never use a substitute sign for は (when pronounced "was"). 2) は and が mark subject but with differing degrees of indication. Sometimes both will be in the same sentence. が can also be used to connect two sentences. They can also be replaced, for example, by も ("also" or "too"). 3) I doubt that there is only one of each kind. "Topic" means what the sentence is about, in order to distinguish it from the grammatical subject of a sentence. In the sentence "I drink wine; I do not drink sake", wine and sake are grammatical objects, but in Japanese, they are the "topic": Wain wa nomu; sake wa nomanai (= As for wine, I drink it; as for sake, I do not drink it).

September 23, 2018

when pronounced "wa" not "was"

September 23, 2018

@dumark: You can edit your post - that's what the "edit" field under the post is for.

September 23, 2018

Umm.. Not everyone is given that option. Just saying.

September 25, 2018

Salut je voudrait bien te répondre mais je ne comprends pas ce que dis car moi je ne parle pas très très bien anglais :)

September 27, 2018
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