A complete answer to the confusion regarding Japanese particles

What is a (language) particle?

As defined in Japanese About:

Particles are probably one of the most difficult and confusing aspects of Japanese sentences. A particle (joshi) is a word that shows the relationship of a word, a phrase, or a clause to the rest of the sentence. Some particles have English equivalents. Others have functions similar to English prepositions, but since they always follow the word or words they mark, they are post-positions. There are also particles that have a peculiar usage which is not found in English. Most particles are multi-functional.

From that website too, I’ve compiled various differences in the usage of particles that beginners in the Japanese language may find confusing from A to Z. Hope this guide compilation is useful enough!

Note: This list is not exhaustive, please feel free to send in your questions whenever you stumble upon them.

Location Marker: NI or DE?

Ø DE is used to indicate the place where an action takes place.

e.g. Honya de manga o katta (I bought the comics at the bookstore)

Ø NI is used to indicate the place whereabouts of an inanimate/animate object (esp. with verbs such as iru/aru [to exist] and sumu [to live])

e.g. Okaasan wa Sapporo ni sunde imasu (Mom lives in Sapporo)

Direction marker: E, NI, or O?

Ø E is interchangeable with NI to indicate a destination.

e.g. San-ji ni uchi e kaettewa ikemasen (You can’t go home at 3 o’clock)

Ø NI is translated as “to” when indicating a destination.

e.g. Seinen Furansu ni itta (I went to France last year)

Ø O is used to indicate the route which the movement follows, i.e. with verbs such as walk, run, pass, turn, drive, go through, etc.

e.g. Takushii wa yuubinkyoku no mae o toorimasu (The taxi passes in front of the post office)

The difference between GA and WA.

Fear no longer. You’ve found this blog post, and here are the tricks to choose the correct particle whenever you stumble upon those two:

Ø WA is used to mark something that is familiar to both the speaker and listener. GA is used when a situation or happening is just noticed or newly introduced.

e.g. Mukashi-mukashi, ojii-san ga sunde imashita. Kare wa totemo hansamu deshita. (Once upon a time, there lived an old man. He was very handsome.)

Ø Never use WA with a question word. Use GA instead.

e.g. Kono hito ga sukii desu ka? (Do you like that guy?)

Ø Under special circumstance, GA replaces O to accompany some verbs and adjectives (expressing like/dislike, desire, potential, necessity, envy, fear, etc.)

e.g. Kuruma ga hoshii desu. (I want a car)

Ø WA is used to show contrast.

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