Japanese Grammar Bank – Japanese Sentence Structure

How can you converse in a language if you’re unable to create sentences? That’s why this lesson about basic Japanese sentence structure is crucial to getting you on the path for success.

Using just few words won’t make you fluent in a language, you will need to learn to create sentences. Today, we are here to help you learn just that!

Sentence structure is confusing and difficult to understand for many English speakers learning the language. But why?

The basic Japanese sentence structure is fundamentally different from English!

basic japanese sentence structure

Japanese Sentence Structure | です sentences

Japanese Sentence Structure | Existence structure

Japanese Sentence Structure | Location structure

Japanese Sentence Structure | Using counters

Japanese Sentence Structure | Using verbs

Japanese Sentence Structure | FAQ’s

Japanese Sentence Structure | ですsentences

Let’s start right away. The most basic structure is:

Subject+ は + Object + です.

This sentence structure is used for generalised things or stating facts.

As we have learned in our lesson about Japanese particles, は is a topic marker. Here, the topic treated is similar to the subject.

Noun + は + explanatory noun + です。

For example:

ExampleHiraganaRomanisationEnglish
今日は日曜日です。きょうはにちようびです。Kyou wa nichiyoubi desu.Today is Sunday.

DO YOU REMEMBER? | We use the verb いる iru for living things and ある aru for non-living things. You can find out more about Japanese verbs here.

Japanese Sentence Structure | The Existence Structure

The sentences created following this structure stress the existence of a person or an object.

For living things:

Location + に + person/living thing + が + います。

Example:

ExampleHiraganaRomanisationEnglish
教室に学生がいます。きょうしつにがくせいがいます。Kyoushitsu ni gakusei ga imasu.There are students in the classroom.

For non-living things:

Location + に + person/living thing + が + あります。

Example:

ExampleHiraganaRomanisationEnglish
図書館に本があります。としょかんにほんがあります。Toshokan ni hon ga arimasu.There are books in the library.

If you look closely, these sentences will answer questions related to existence. Simply said, this sentence structure answers the questions related to ‘what’: ‘What is in the classroom?’; ‘What is in the library?’.

Japanese Sentence Structure | The Location Structure

This sentence structure stresses the location of what we are talking about.

For living things:

Person + は + location + に + います。

Example:

ExampleHiraganaRomanisationEnglish
学生は教室にいます。がくせいはきょうしつにいます。Gakusei wa kyoushitsu ni imasu.The students are in the classroom.

For non-living things:

Object + は + location + に + あります。

Example:

ExampleHiraganaRomanisationEnglish
本は図書館にあります。ほんはとしょかんにあります。Hon wa toshokan ni arimasu.The books are in the library.

In the sentences built with the location structure, you will notice that the information provided is about the location of something.

Here, the questions answered will be related to ‘where’: ‘Where are the students?’; ‘Where are the books?’

As you can notice from above examples, particles play a vital role to indicate the role of each word in a sentence.

Japanese Sentence Structure | Using counters

We have already learned about the various Japanese counters in our grammar bank. To use these counters in a sentence, you have to add the counter word between が and あります / います.

For example:

ExampleHiraganaRomanisationEnglish
部屋に本がごさつあります。へやにほんがごさつあります。Heya ni hon ga gosatsu arimasu.There are 5 books in the room.

Japanese Sentence Structure | Using Verbs

English and Japanese sentence structures are fundamentally different. See for yourself:

In English, we follow the SVO structure:  Subject + Verb  + Object.

For example: I read a book.

However in Japanese, we have to follow the SOV structure:

Subject + Object + Verb.

For example:

ExampleHiraganaRomanisationEnglish
私は本を読みます。わたしはほんをよみます。Watashi wa hon wo yomimasu.I read a book.

Here, the verb 読む (to read) comes at the end of the sentence. If translated word for word, the sentence will become “I a book read”.

As you can see, in Japanese the object comes after the subject and the sentence ends with a verb.

Remember, all the sentences in Japanese end with a verb.


That is your introduction to the most basic Japanese sentence structures.

Don’t forget to also check these lessons to improve your grammar skills:

Have you ever considered taking some lessons with a teacher?

On Flexi Classes you can study Japanese 24/7 with professional teachers, and even choose your study time and study topic!

Start today with a 3 hour free trial.

How to use adjectives in Japanese

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the most basic Japanese sentence structure?

The most basic Japanese sentence structure is:

Subject + は + Object + です.

This sentence structure is used for generalised things or stating facts.

How to create a sentence with a verb in Japanese?

In Japanese, the SOV structure is used:

Subject + Object + Verb.

Remember, all the sentences in Japanese end with a verb.

Where to place the counter in a Japanese sentence?

To use these counters in a sentence, you have to add the counter word between が and あります / います.

Learn more about Japanese counters in this free lesson.

How to use adjectives in Japanese?

The Japanese ii adjectives can be used with 2 structures:

Adjective + Noun + です.

Noun + は + adjective + です.

The na adjectives can also be used with 2 structures:

Adjective + Noun + です.

Noun + は + adjective (remove な) + です.

Check out our lesson for sentence examples.

What is a particle in Japanese?

Particles are an essential part of the Japanese language.

The subject, the object and places are all indicated by specific particles.

There are 188 Japanese particles in total and many have more than one usage, so make sure to check our guide to the most important Japanese particles to learn.

Can I learn Japanese on my own?

You can learn Japanese on your own with apps, watching dramas or animes, but progress will be slower than if you were taking classes with a teacher.

Also, a teacher will be able to correct your pronunciation and give instant feedback to help you progress fast.

Japanese Grammar

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    How to use adjectives in Japanese? We explain the difference between the na-adjectives and ii-adjectives in Japanese. Ready to learn?

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  • Particles

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    15 basic and more advanced Japanese particles to learn early on in your language study. We're helping you to nail down the basics for better…

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