Basic Japanese Sentence Structure Formation

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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 Y です (X wa Y desu). X is the subject, and Y is the object. (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 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: (no).

Noun 1 の Noun 2

The particle (no) is used to connect two nouns. Let’s use (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 (no) is the second noun in the main idea, while the first noun modifies the second noun.

Noun じゃありません

To make a negative sentence in Japanese, the sentence structure X 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.


Banno, Eri, Ohno, Yutaka, Sakane, Yoko and Shinagawa, Chikako. Genki I: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese. The Japan Times, 1999