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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 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 にほんじん です (makoto wa nihonjin desu): Makoto is Japanese

    せんもん 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).

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    Noun 1 の Noun 2

    The particle (no) is used to connect two nouns. Let's use (no) in some sentences:

    まこと でんわ ばんごう (makoto no denwa bangou): Makoto's phone number

    だいがく せんせい (daigaku no sensei): a college professor

    えいご がくせい (eigo no gakusei): a student of the English language

    にほん 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.

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    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.

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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