The Japanese no particle の is added to express possession and belonging, similar to saying “my”, “your” and “her”. No can be used to say things like “my name is Mike“, or ask people “what is your name?” in Japanese.
After reading this article you’ll be able to say:
- what is your name?
- my name is Mike
- you are my best friend in Japanese
- student of MIT university
- my, his, hers, theirs, ours, your and its.
Take a look at table below. I know this table looks scary but first understanding personal pronouns will help you – and it’s simpler than you think.
And don’t worry, I didn’t know what a possessive determiner and possessive pronoun was either.
|Personal Pronouns||Possessive Determiner||Possessive Pronoun|
Do you see a pattern here? You can simply make column 2 and 3 by adding no or no mono to column 1.
Personal pronoun + no = possessive determiner
Personal pronoun + no mono = possessive pronoun
Once you have the personal pronouns memorized it becomes easy.
No can be used for more than just turning personal pronouns possessive – it can make anything possessive. Book’s title, for example.
In a sentence the structure of using の is: A の B, meaning A possesses B, put differently, A‘s B or B belonging to A. A and B are nouns.
Let’s look at some examples.
How to say this is my book
Let’s start with a simple example.
“This is my book”
わたし の ほん です
watashi no hon desu
- watashi means “I”
- hon means book.
- です desu is a polite suffix. Adding desu just makes a sentence more polite.
Notice how the no (the possession particle) turns “I” into “my”.
How to say “my name is” in Japanese
“My name is Mike” in Japanese is:
わたし の なまえ は Mike です。
watashi no namae wa Mike desu.
- わたし watashi means “I”
- わたしの watashino means “my”
- なまえ namae means “Name”
- は wa is a subject marker, meaning it gives the word before it (namae) the focus of the sentence.
Feel free to practice with your name instead.
Want to know what your name is in Japanese? Type it here in Google Translate to find out the spelling and pronunciation.
This is a polite way of saying your name. Normally when you introduce yourself casually you can just say:
Which is more concise and means “I am Mike”. You might have also seen this version:
watashi wa Mike desu.
This means “I am Mike” too. This is how most textbooks and teachers first teaches it, which is good as an introduction into the language, but realize that this sounds weird to Japanese people.
This is because Japanese people normally drop the personal pronoun “I”. They infer it from the context instead.
I remember once proudly introducing myself to a group of Japanese girls with “watashi wa Johnny desu” trying to impress them with my Japanese skills – only to later find out that no one says the whole thing (only foreigners).
How to ask “What is your name?”
Now, what if you want to ask people for their name?
あなた の なまえ は なん です か。
anata no nan namae wa desu ka
- あなた anata means you
- なまえ namae means name
- なん nan means what
- か ka is a question marker, meaning it transforms the sentence into a question. Without ka the sentence will be “this is your name“.
The ordering of words in Japanese is “Your name what is?”. Notice how の no comes after the personal pronoun anata (you) – turning it into anatano (your).
When first learning the Japanese no particle it might be confusing at first to know where to put it. So what happens when no is in the wrong place?
あなた は なまえ の です か。
anata wa namae no desu ka
Notice how the position of wa and no are swapped.
This translate to “What is you name’s?” – which makes no sense.
How to say you are my friend in Japanese
“You are my friend” in Japanese is:
あなた は わたし の ゆうじん です
anata wa watashi no yuujin desu
- anata means you
- watashi means I. Adding no after it transforms it into “my”.
- yuujin means friend
How to say you are my best friend in Japanese
This is a stronger expression than above. If you’re lucky enough to have a close Japanese friend you can say “You are my best friend” in Japanese:
あなた は わたし の しんゆう です。
anata wa watashi no shinyuu desu
- shinyuu is the Japanese word for best friend.
More complicated forms of possession
Let’s look at a more complicated form of possession.
How do we say “Mike is a student of MIT university”?
Mike は MIT だいがく の がくせい は です。
Mike wa MIT daigaku no gakusei wa desu.
- daigaku means university
- daigaku no means university’s
- gakusei means student
The possessive part in the English sentence is “student of MIT university”. Or you can see it as MIT university’s student.
Therefore, the の no comes after university to say the student belongs to the university.
Japanese no particle summary
As you can see, understanding how to use no is important to know for expressing basic sentences. When you add no after something it makes it possessive.
The structure is: noun no noun – the no is sandwiched between nouns. Such as gakusei no hon – meaning “student’s book”.