Different Japanese Sentence Structures and How to Form Them
written by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch
• edited by: Rebecca Scudder
• updated: 8/2/2012
Creating a sentence in Japanese is relatively simple. Like Latin, the verb comes at the end of the sentence. We also show how to make a negative, and how to connect two verbs in the same sentence. Learn about the different Japanese sentence structures used in Japanese grammar.
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X は Y です
Learning how to form a sentence in Japanese is not very complicated. All sentences follow the basic Japanese sentence structure XはY です(X wa Y desu). X is the subject, and Y is the object. は(wa) is one of the particles that is used in Japanese, which connects X to Y. です (desu) is an important word in Japanese, meaning “it is." です is used at the end of a sentence when another verb is not used, such as in the sentenceわたし は がくせい です(watashi wa gakusei desu), which means “I am a student." わたし(watashi) is the word for “I" in Japanese; however, it is assumed that I is the subject. Therefore, the sentence がくせい です(gakusei desu) also reads as “I am a student," since no other subject is mentioned. While it may seem confusing at first, omitting “I" and “you" will become second nature when speaking and writing Japanese. Let's go over some other sentences that use the basic X はY です(X wa Y desu)sentence structure:
まこと は にほんじん です(makoto wa nihonjin desu): Makoto is Japanese
せんもん は かがく です (senmon wa kagaku desu): (My) major is science
Notice in the second sentence that わたし(watashi) is not used in the sentence, but it is assumed that the sentence is about the speaker. If we want to talk about another person's major, we use another Japanese particle: の(no).
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Noun 1 の Noun 2
The particleの(no) is used to connect two nouns. Let's use の(no) in some sentences:
まこと の でんわ ばんごう (makoto no denwa bangou): Makoto's phone number
だいがく の せんせい (daigaku no sensei): a college professor
えいご の がくせい (eigo no gakusei): a student of the English language
にほん の だいがく (nihon no daigaku): a college in Japan
The rule of using の(no) is the second noun in the main idea, while the first noun modifies the second noun.
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To make a negative sentence in Japanese, the sentence structure X はY です(X wa Y desu) can be used; however です(desu) is replaced by the word じゃありません(ja arimasen) if Y is a noun. For example:
アンドル は にほんじん じゃありません (andoru wa nihonji ja arimasen): Andrew is not Japanese
If another verb besides です (desu) is used, then the negative sentence will be formed differently.
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Banno, Eri, Ohno, Yutaka, Sakane, Yoko and Shinagawa, Chikako. Genki I: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese. The Japan Times, 1999