Japanese basic grammar topic Particles used with verbs

Particles used with verbs

In this section, we will learn some new particles essential for using verbs. We will learn how to specify the direct object of a verb and the location where a verb takes place whether it's physical or abstract.

The direct object 「を」 particle


1.    さかな - fish

2.    食べる た・べる (ru-verb) - to eat

3.    ジュース - juice

4.    飲む の・む (u-verb) - to drink

5.    まち - town

6.    ぶらぶら - wandering; aimlessly

7.    歩く ある・く (u-verb) - to walk

8.    高速 こう・そく - high-speed

9.    道路 どう・ろ - route

10.  走る はし・る (u-verb) - to run

11.  毎日 まい・にち - everyday

12.  日本語 に・ほん・ご - Japanese (language)

13.  勉強 べん・きょう - study

14.  する (exception) - to do

15.  メールアドレス - email address

16.  登録 とう・ろく - register

The first particle we will learn is the object particle because it is a very straightforward particle. The 「を」 character is attached to the end of a word to signify that that word is the direct object of the verb. This character is essentially never used anywhere else. That is why the katakana equivalent 「ヲ」 is almost never used since particles are always written in hiragana. The 「を」 character, while technically pronounced as /wo/ essentially sounds like /o/ in real speech. Here are some examples of the direct object particle in action.


1.    食べる
Eat fish.

2.    ジュース飲んだ
Drank juice.

Unlike the direct object we're familiar with in English, places can also be the direct object of motion verbs such as 歩く and 走る. Since the motion verb is done to the location, the concept of direct object is the same in Japanese. However, as you can see by the next examples, it often translates to something different in English due to the slight difference of the concept of direct object.

1.    ぶらぶら歩く
Aimlessly walk through town. (Lit: Aimlessly walk town)

2.    高速道路走る
Run through expressway. (Lit: Run expressway)

When you use する with a noun, the 「を」 particle is optional and you can treat the whole [noun+する] as one verb.

1.    毎日、日本語を勉強する
Study Japanese everyday.

2.    メールアドレスを登録した
Registered email address.

The target 「に」 particle


1.    日本 に・ほん - Japan

2.    行く い・く (u-verb) - to go

3.    1) うち; 2) いえ - 1) one's own home; 2) house

4.    帰る かえ・る (u-verb) - to go home

5.    部屋 へ・や - room

6.    来る く・る (exception) - to come

7.    アメリカ - America

8.    宿題 しゅく・だい - homework

9.    今日 きょう - today

10.  明日 あした - tomorrow

11.  ねこ - cat

12.  いる (ru-verb) - to exist (animate)

13.  いす - chair

14.  台所 だい・どころ - kitchen

15.  ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)

16.  いい (i-adj) - good

17.  友達 とも・だち - friend

18.  会う あう (u-verb) - to meet

19.  医者 い・しゃ - doctor

20.  なる (u-verb) - to become

21.  先週 せん・しゅう - last week

22.  図書館 と・しょ・かん - library

23.  来年 らい・ねん - next year

The 「に」 particle can specify a target of a verb. This is different from the 「を」 particle in which the verb does something to the direct object. With the 「に」 particle, the verb does something toward the word associated with the 「に」 particle. For example, the target of any motion verb is specified by the 「に」 particle.


1.    ボブは日本行った
Bob went to Japan.

2.    帰らない
Not go back home.

3.    部屋くる
Come to room.

As you can see in the last example, the target particle always targets "to" rather than "from". If you wanted to say, "come from" for example, you would need to use から, which means "from". If you used 「に」, it would instead mean "come to". から is also often paired with まで, which means "up to".

1.    アリスは、アメリカからきた
Alice came from America.

2.    宿題を今日から明日までする
Will do homework from today to tomorrow.

The idea of a target in Japanese is very general and is not restricted to motion verbs. For example, the location of an object is defined as the target of the verb for existence ある and いる. Time is also a common target. Here are some examples of non-motion verbs and their targets

1.    猫は部屋いる
Cat is in room.

2.    いすが台所あった
Chair was in the kitchen.

3.    いい友達会った
Met good friend.

4.    ジムは医者なる
Jim will become doctor.

5.    先週図書館行った
Went to library last week.

Note: Don't forget to use ある for inanimate objects such as the chair and いる for animate objects such as the cat.

While the 「に」 particle is not always required to indicate time, there is a slight difference in meaning between using the target particle and not using anything at all. In the following examples, the target particle makes the date a specific target emphasizing that the friend will go to Japan at that time. Without the particle, there is no special emphasis.

1.    友達は、来年、日本に行く
Next year, friend go to Japan.

2.    友達は、来年日本に行く
Friend go to Japan next year.

The directional 「へ」 particle


1.    日本 に・ほん - Japan

2.    行く い・く (u-verb) - to go

3.    1) うち; 2) いえ - 1) one's own home; 2) house

4.    帰る かえ・る (u-verb) - to go home

5.    部屋 へ・や - room

6.    来る く・る (exception) - to come

7.    医者 い・しゃ - doctor

8.    なる (u-verb) - to become

9.    勝ち か・ち - victory

10.  向かう むか・う (u-verb) - to face; to go towards

While 「へ」 is normally pronounced /he/, when it is being used as a particle, it is always pronounced /e/ (え). The primary difference between the 「に」 and 「へ」 particle is that 「に」 goes to a target as the final, intended destination (both physical or abstract). The 「へ」 particle, on the other hand, is used to express the fact that one is setting out towards the direction of the target. As a result, it is only used with directional motion verbs. It also does not guarantee whether the target is the final intended destination, only that one is heading towards that direction. In other words, the 「に」 particle sticks to the destination while the 「へ」 particle is fuzzy about where one is ultimately headed. For example, if we choose to replace 「に」 with 「へ」 in the first three examples of the previous section, the nuance changes slightly.


1.    ボブは日本行った
headed towards Japan.

2.    帰らない
Not go home 
toward house.

3.    部屋くる
towards room.

Note that we cannot use the 「へ」 particle with verbs that have no physical direction. For example, the following is incorrect.

·         医者なる
Grammatically incorrect version of 医者になる.

This does not mean to say that 「へ」 cannot set out towards an abstract concept. In fact, because of the fuzzy directional meaning of this particle, the 「へ」 particle can also be used to talk about setting out towards certain future goals or expectations.

·         勝ち向かう
Go towards victory.

The contextual 「で」 particle


1.    映画館 えい・が・かん - movie theatre

2.    見る み・る (ru-verb) - to see

3.    バス - bus

4.    帰る かえ・る (u-verb) - to go home

5.    レストラン - restaurant

6.    昼ご飯 ひる・ご・はん - lunch

7.    食べる た・べる (ru-verb) - to eat

8.    なに/なん - what

9.    ひま - free (as in not busy)

The 「で」 particle will allow us to specify the context in which the action is performed. For example, if a person ate a fish, where did he eat it? If a person went to school, by what means did she go? With what will you eat the soup? All of these questions can be answered with the 「で」 particle. Here are some examples.


1.    映画館見た
Saw at movie theater.

2.    バス帰る
Go home by bus.

3.    レストラン昼ご飯を食べた
Ate lunch at restaurant.

It may help to think of 「で」 as meaning "by way of". This way, the same meaning will kind of translate into what the sentence means. The examples will then read: "Saw by way of movie theater", "Go home by way of bus", and "Ate lunch by way of restaurant."

Using 「で」 with 「何」

The word for "what" (何) is quite annoying because while it's usually read as なに, sometimes it is read as なん depending on how it's used. And since it's always written in Kanji, you can't tell which it is. I would suggest sticking with なに until someone corrects you for when it should be なん. With the 「で」 particle, it is read as なに as well. (Hold the mouse cursor over the word to check the reading.)

1.    きた
Came by the way of what?

2.    バスきた
Came by the way of bus.

Here's the confusing part. There is a colloquial version of the word "why" that is used much more often than the less colloquial version どうして or the more forceful なぜ. It is also written as 何で but it is read as なんで. This is a completely separate word and has nothing to do with the 「で」 particle.

1.    何できた
Why did you come?

2.    暇だから
Because I am free (as in have nothing to do).

The から here meaning "because" is different from the から we just learned and will be covered later in the compound sentence section. Basically the point is that the two sentences, while written the same way, are read differently and mean completely different things. Don't worry. This causes less confusion than you think because 95% of the time, the latter is used rather than the former. And even when なにで is intended, the context will leave no mistake on which one is being used. Even in this short example snippet, you can tell which it is by looking at the answer to the question.

When location is the topic


1.    学校 がっ・こう - school

2.    行く い・く (u-verb) - to go

3.    図書館 と・しょ・かん - library

4.    どこ - where

5.    イタリア - Italy

6.    レストラン - restaurant

7.    どう - how

There are times when the location of an action is also the topic of a sentence. You can attach the topic particle (「は」 and 「も」) to the three particles that indicate location (「に」、「へ」、「で」) when the location is the topic. We'll see how location might become the topic in the following examples.

Example 1

Bob: (Did you) go to school?

Alice: Didn't go.

Bob: What about library?

Alice: Also didn't go to library.

In this example, Bob brings up a new topic (library) and so the location becomes the topic. The sentence is actually an abbreviated version of 図書館には行った?」 which you can ascertain from the context.

Example 2

Bob: Eat where?

Alice: How about Italian restaurant?

Bob asks, "Where shall we eat?" and Alice suggests an Italian restaurant. A sentence like, "How about..." usually brings up a new topic because the person is suggesting something new. In this case, the location (restaurant) is being suggested so it becomes the topic.

When direct object is the topic


1.    日本語 に・ほん・ご - Japanese (language)

2.    習う なら・う (u-verb) - to learn

The direct object particle is different from particles related to location in that you cannot use any other particles at the same time. For example, going by the previous section, you might have guessed that you can say をは to express a direct object that is also the topic but this is not the case. A topic can be a direct object without using the 「を」 particle. In fact, putting the 「を」 particle in will make it wrong.


1.    日本語習う
Learn Japanese.

2.    日本語、習う
About Japanese, (will) learn it.

Please take care to not make this mistake.

·         日本語をは、習う
(This is incorrect.)


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Basic grammar

  • 1 :Addressing People
  • 2 :Adjective Practice Exercises
  • 3 :Adjectives
  • 4 :Advanced proximity of actions
  • 5 :Advanced Topics
  • 6 :Advanced Volitional
  • 7 :Adverbs and Sentence-ending particles
  • 8 :Basic Grammar
  • 9 :Casual Patterns and Slang
  • 10 :Causative and Passive Verbs
  • 11 :Compound Sentences
  • 12 :Conditionals
  • 13 :Covered by something
  • 14 :Defining and Describing
  • 15 :Desire and Suggestions
  • 16 :Essential Grammar
  • 17 :Expressing amounts
  • 18 :Expressing must or have to
  • 19 :Expressing State-of-Being
  • 20 :Expressing the minimum expectation
  • 21 :Expressing time-specific actions
  • 22 :Expressing various levels of certainty
  • 23 :Formal expressions of non-feasibility
  • 24 :Formal Expressions
  • 25 :Giving and Receiving
  • 26 :Hiragana
  • 27 :Honorific and Humble Forms
  • 28 :Hypothesizing and Concluding
  • 29 :Introduction to Particles
  • 30 :Introduction
  • 31 :Kanji
  • 32 :Katakana
  • 33 :Leaving something the way it is
  • 34 :Making requests
  • 35 :More negative verbs
  • 36 :Negative Verb Practice Exercises
  • 37 :Negative Verbs
  • 38 :Noun-related Particles
  • 39 :Numbers and Counting
  • 40 :Other Grammar
  • 41 :Other uses of the te-form
  • 42 :Particles used with verbs
  • 43 :Past Tense
  • 44 :Past Verb Practice Exercises
  • 45 :Performing an action on a relative clause
  • 46 :Polite Form and Verb Stems
  • 47 :Potential Form
  • 48 :Relative Clauses and Sentence Order
  • 49 :Review and more sentence-ending particles
  • 50 :Saying something is easy or difficult to do
  • 51 :Showing signs of something
  • 52 :Special expressions with generic nouns
  • 53 :Special Expressions
  • 54 :Tendencies
  • 55 :The Question Marker
  • 56 :The Writing System
  • 57 :Things that happen unintentionally
  • 58 :Things that should be a certain way
  • 59 :Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
  • 60 :Trying something out or attempting to do something
  • 61 :Using suru and naru with the ni particle
  • 62 :Using yoru for comparisons and other functions
  • 63 :Various ways to express similarity and hearsay
  • 64 :Verb Basics
  • 65 :Verb Practice Exercises