Japanese word order and a few other basics for beginners

[Updated December 21, 2018]

Table of Contents:
- Sentence Word Order TTPOV - Particles (は), (に), (で), and (を)
- Visual Guide to Japanese Word Order
- Particles (に) vs (へ)
- Particles (は) vs (が)
- Handakuten [ ゚], Dakuten [ ゙], and the little や、ゆ、よ, and つ
- Devoicing: Why "Desu" is pronounced "Des" etc.

Sentence Word Order TTPOV

Here is the basic word order for beginners: TTPOV.
T - Topic (particle は) (Topic is often left out).
T - Time (particle に)
P - Place (particle で)
O - Object (particle を)
V - Verb

Particles (は), (に), (で), and (を)

Example sentence for TTPOV section above:
Japanese: 私は月曜日に学校で日本語を勉強します。
Romaji: Watashi wa getsuyoubi ni gakkou de nihongo o benkyou shimasu.
Japanese word order in English (with particles): I (は) Monday(s) (に), school (で), Japanese (を), study do.
English: I study Japanese at school on Mondays.

Visual Guide to Japanese Word Order

Here is A Visual Guideline to Japanese Word Order to help explain the sentence structure more in-depth. It also talks about particles, which are often a particular struggle for native, monolingual English speakers.

Particles (に) vs (へ)

Japanese has hundreds of particles. They indicate key differences in meaning, like whether you are going to a place or doing something at a place. Sometimes a particle is used for more than one thing. For instance, に isn't only used for time. It is also used with the three motion verbs: to go (iku), to come (kuru), and to return (kaeru). (Iku can also be paired with に or へ, if talking about the destination of movement.) But, it is good to start with just a few particles at a time, so you don't overwhelm yourself.

Particles (は) vs (が)

Click here for Luke_5.1991's は vs が explanation.

Handakuten [ ゚], Dakuten [ ゙], and the little や、ゆ、よ, and つ

I put together a little guide Here.

Devoicing: Why "Desu" is pronounced "Des" etc

For a little guide click here.

Japanese is a very logical, thoughtful language. It is careful to reflect social status of the speaker, the person or group being spoken to, and those being spoken about.

Japanese pronunciation is consistent, with very few sounds compared to English. In fact, that is one of the difficulties English speakers have; they often add more sounds than are necessary, marking them with a distinct accent.

You will definitely want to seek outside resources to compliment the Duolingo course. If you have an iPad, get the Midori app (paid). If you can, get the 2011 version (maybe it was 2012. Whichever version comes directly after 2009) of the Genki books I and II (unfortunately spendy), and Tae Kim's Guide which is free online. While Google Translate can help with the pronunciation of kanji, be careful using it too much for sentences and passages. It is not consistently reliable. (Also, if you are on a budget, don't lose heart. There are very many, high quality learning resources out there that are free. I only listed the ones I became most familiar with while I was in uni when I was able to take out those hefty student loans. :P)

Good luck! And remember, the good stuff is worth striving for.
alt text: An illustrated bunny strives mightily with a huge chocolate chip cookie, carrying it towards a distant cup of milk. English text on the image reads COOKIE. Japanese text on the image reads がんばれ (pronounced: gun bah ray. Meaning: Don't give up!)
Image source

October 28, 2018


Thank you very much for this Usagi.

October 28, 2018

ありがとうございます(Arigatougozaimasu) for this handy overview! I also highly recommend Lingodeer for Japanese, as well as Marc Barnabe's Japanese in Mangaland books. Both work extensively with grammar and the Mangaland books also go over context and culture.

October 28, 2018

Lingodeer has been popping up a lot in conversations with Japanese learners. My best friend even mentioned it. It was free until recently. But, people have still said it's worth paying for. I think it was mentioned, $20 for a lifetime subscription?

This is the first I've read of Marc Barnabe's Japanese in Mangaland books. That sounds cool though!

October 28, 2018

Yes, there's going to be a $20 fee with Lingodeer, but for lifetime I think it's well worth it, especially since it includes Korean and Chinese plus some European languages. You can also do speaking exercises in the app, which Duo doesn't offer for Japanese.

My dad bought some of the Mangaland books when I was still a teenager. He wanted to learn some Japanese because of anime, but he claims he's not very good at languages. The books themselves are a combination of a Japanese language textbook and short manga comic collection with some cultural things sprinkled in. The formatting is very easy to read and the comics are meant to show things in context so I definitely recommend the books for a visual learner.

October 29, 2018

i love japan

October 28, 2018

Wanikani is a great resource for learning Kanji, and (which is relatively new) is good for drilling Japanese grammar.

October 29, 2018

need help with lerning english right

October 29, 2018

This is the Japanese for English speakers forum. You might try the English for Japanese speakers forum. :)

October 29, 2018

gAsp this is useful. I've been trying to learn this stufffffff sksksk (don't mind me, i'm in a good mood having found this~)

October 29, 2018

@AStrangeChiald, I've updated this and it now has more resources for beginners! :D

December 20, 2018


October 30, 2018
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