Japanese vs English Sentence Construction

Basic sentence structure (or word order) differs between english and japanese. As I’ve been told, learning japanese sentence structure is relatively easy if you are already fluent in english, as opposed to trying to perfect english given japanese. This is partly because basic japanese grammer rules are more absolute.

The common structure for a basic english sentence is to state a subject (S), followed by a verb (V) then an object (O) that is affected by the verb. “I read the book” follows this S-V-O pattern. Passive voice is an exception.

The common structure for a basic japanese sentence typically starts with the subject as well, but always ends with a verb, creating a S-O-V pattern. Therefore, the same sentence would read ”わたし は  ほん を よみます” or “I book read.”

You may have noticed the ”は” and ”を” in the preceding phrase. Known as particles, Japanese sentence structure makes good use of these word-tailing characters to help to identify what are subjects and what are objects. The ”は” particle flags the primary topic/subject of the sentence. The ”を” indicates the direct object, aka the word that recieves the action of the verb.

There are many particles, but just eight or so are used regularly in basic japanese. These are ”が/は”、”を”、”の”、”と”、”へ”、”で”、”に”、and “か”。We shall explore the subject of particles at a later post, hopefully you won’t object!