Particle の - All you need to know

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'Particle の - All you need to know'

Anna Baffa Volpe

7 min reading time

Today we are covering a topic that many students and enthusiasts of the Japanese language like and are interested in: particles, in particular the particle の (no).

の has a wide range of uses that are worth learning and exploring. の is also one of the most used particles in the Japanese language. In today's post we are going to see the various meanings and uses of の.


Particles - Introduction

Particles in Japanese are called (じょ)():

  • (じょ) jo represents the verb (たす)ける to help, to assist
  • () shi refers to all elements of speech such as (どう)() the verb, (ふく)() the adverb, poetry

You can read the post on the complete introduction to particles to learn more about their origin and meaning.


Using the の particle

の in the kosoado series

One of the very first uses of this particle is with what we call kosoado series, the series of demonstratives.

We have the root of the demonstrative which followed by the particle creates the demonstrative adjective, followed in turn by a noun.

ko(こ)-so(そ)-a(あ)-do(ど)++Noun
  • この(たて)(もの) this building
  • その()(じゅつ)(かん) that museum
  • あの() that day
  • どの(ほん)? which book?

の modifier of the preceding element

NounA++NounB

Where A modifies B:

(えい)()(えい)()

An English film

日本(にほん)()(とく)(ちょう)

The characteristics of the Japanese language

Possession, nature, location

The particle の has various nuances and meanings depending on the sentence we are going to translate.

(おお)(さか)()()(てつ)

Osaka Subway

(ゆき)(しろ)

The whiteness of the snow

(から)()(れき)()

The history of Karate

The particle の is often omitted and implied in newspaper headlines or where there is a need for synthesis.

For example, we can see the following sentence (without の) in an advertisement:

コンピュータ()()(こう)()

Computer Basic Course

More examples:

(やま)()さんの()(たく)(じゅう)(しょ)

Mr. Yamada's home address

(もく)(せい)()()

A wooden piece of furniture

の for possessive adjectives

When the particle の is preceded by a personal pronoun, we have the series of possessive adjectives, followed by a noun:

  • (わたし)my + noun
  • あなたの your -(かれ)の / (かの)(じょ)of hers (his or hers)
  • (わたし)(たち)our, (われ)々の is also used
  • あなた(たち)your; also あなた(がた)
  • (かれ)らの / (かの)(じょ)らの their or (かれ)(たち)の and (かの)(じょ)(たち)
あなたの()(まえ)

Your name

うちの()

My son

うち is often used to indicate first person:

  • うち is transcribed with the kanji (うち) which means internal, inside and (うち) house, family; refers to one's family, to the people in one's group with whom one has an intimacy and trust relationship
  • (そと) on the contrary indicates all people who do not fall within the personal and intimate circle, the term means outside, external

Work, profession

Another common use of the particle の is when quoting a person and his profession or a particular qualification.

()()(はは)

(my) Mom doctor

How do I understand that it is a my doctor's mom and not the the mom of the doctor?

In the second case, speaking of the mother of another person I would have used honorific suffixes and other nouns. (はは) is used for one's mother.

()(しゃ)さんのお(かあ)さん

The doctor's mother

I can also use the term お(かあ)(さま) which highlights the respect and, depending on the situation, also the deference towards the other person; use the suffix 様 sama instead of さん san.

Yet another way to indicate respect for the parent is to use the term (はは)(うえ).

()()従弟(いとこ)

Cousin Engineer

サラリーマンの(ぼく)

I office worker

(ぼく) is another first person singular pronoun I that is typically used by boys and young people in informal situations

の instead of が in relative clauses

In relative subclauses, the subject is followed by the particle が. There are cases where to avoid repetition of が in this function it is replaced by の.

(そと)(とり)()いている(こえ)()こえている。

The birds can be heard chirping outside.

The sentence would be using が: (そと)(とり)()いている(こえ)()こえている。

(かれ)(かんが)えていることは()からない。

I don't know what he's thinking.

の in questions instead of か

In daily and informal conversation, the particle の at the end of the sentence is used between friends and people with whom you are familiar and it has the same interrogative function as the particle か.

これからどうするの?

Now what are you going to do?

もう(かえ)るの?

Are you leaving already?

のだ or んだ

Particle combined with the copula in plain form and です in polite form:

  • のだ or its contracted form んだ is used to emphasize a situation, cause, reason or motivation.
(でん)(しゃ)(おく)れました。だから、()(こく)したんです。

I was late, because the train was late.


As we have seen, the particle の is found in various contexts, has various functions and positions within the sentence.

In this post we have learned the most common uses of the の particle to be able to make the most of it.

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