Intro to の

Hey do you wanna study some Japanese?

の、の、の、の!

OK. Geez. Nvm.

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Come on, let's just study a little bit. It'll be a breeze...


The particle の is pretty amazing.

It has quite a few uses, and once you master all of them you'll be able to say a wide variety of interesting things in Japanese.

Here we are looking at what is perhaps the least cool usage of の: marking possession.

Long story short, の is the equivalent of an apostrophe "s" used to show that one thing belongs to another.

We all know the word ペン (pen), yeah?

And my name is ニコ (Niko). And I'm blessed to spend my life with an awesome girl named レイ (Rei). Thus:

Niko's pen
→ ニコペン

Rei's pen
→ レイペン

There are many words for "I" in Japanese, yeah? The polite standard for all genders is 私 (わたし). If you're a guy, you can use 僕 (ぼく) in polite or casual language. Or you can use the rougher-sounding 俺 (おれ) in casual conversations. If you're a girl, you can say あたし pretty much any time.

So...

My pen
→ 私ペン
→ 僕ペン
→ 俺のペン
→ あたしのペン


To reiterate:

X Y
= X's Y

X and Y are both nouns.


Let's have a look at some examples.

Must-Know Vocabulary:

弟(おとうと // younger brother
名前(なまえ // name
彼(かれ // he
彼女(かのじょ // she; girlfriend
春子(はるこ // Haruko [a common girl's name in Japan])

Sentences...

これはレイちゃんペンです。
これ は レイちゃん の ペン です。
This is Rei-chan's pen.
Literally: "this + は + Rei-chan + の + pen + です."
Note: ~ちゃん is added to the end of people's names in some cases. It's mostly used for people or animals that the speaker considers cute, which is why you'll hear it most often at the end of girls' and children's names.

彼は僕弟です。
かれ は ぼく の おとうと です。
He is my younger brother.
Literally: "he + は + I + の + younger brother + です."

彼女名前は春子です。
かのじょ の なまえ は はるこ です。
Her name is Haruko.
Literally: "she + の + name + は + Haruko + です."

Speaking of 名前 (なまえ // name), sometimes you'll see this word abbreviated to just 名 ().

Remember when we had the 3-lesson breakdown of the preview for the movie Your Name?

『君の名は』
『きみ の な は』
Your Name
Literally: "you + の + name + は"
Note: Generally speaking, I advise against using words for "you" unless you (A) 100% grasp the nuance of what you're saying or (B) have no other choice. If you are going to say "you," I recommend going with あなた. You'll find that 君 can, at times, have a slight nuance of looking down on a person. Strangely, it is also commonly used to say "you" in love songs.


Leveling Up

の is a bit more versatile than just marking simple possession. In some ways, it is a lot like the word "of" or the Spanish word "de."

Put another way, we'll simply see that の is used a lot to connect two nouns.


Explaining is draining, as they say. So let's just look at some examples.

Here are some nouns:

ここ(here
パン(bread
紙(かみ // paper
本(ほん // book
小学校(しょうがっこう // elementary school
先生(せんせい // teacher
来年(らいねん // next year
夏(なつ // summer
妹(いもうと // younger sister

Now we can connect these nouns using the almighty power of の!


You're sitting at a French restaurant in Tokyo with your homies, and you tell them:

ここパン美味しいよ。
ここ の パン おいしい よ。
The bread here is really good.
Literally: "here + の + bread + tasty + よ."


One of your friends is trying to get you to buy a Kindle, but you know Barnes & Noble is life, so you say:

本が好き。
かみ の ほん が すき。
I like paper books.
Literally: "paper + の + book + が + liked."


You meet an amazing girl at a party, and she mentions that she loves kids. She then asks you what you do. Having absolutely no foresight whatsoever, you lie, saying:

小学校先生です。
しょうがっこう の せんせい です。
I'm an elementary school teacher.
Literally: "elementary school + の + teacher + です."


Your mom calls and asks, "When are you gonna get your life together?" All you want is for her to get off your back, so you say:

来年夏です。
らいねん の なつ です。
The summer of next year.
Literally: "next year + の + summer + です."


Suddenly, you're Japanese. And you have a little sister named Akane. When you introduce her to people, you say:

アカネです。
いもうと の アカネ です。
This is my little sister Akane.
Literally: "younger sister + の + Akane + です."


Some things to notice: Often when we say "NOUN NOUN" in English, it becomes "NOUN の NOUN" in Japanese. The same is true of "NOUN of NOUN."

We saw:

bread here → here bread
paper books → paper books
school teacher → school teacher
sister Akane → sister Akane
summer of next year → next year summer

If that doesn't make sense, maybe you need to go back and read our examples again.

If you look in a Japanese dictionary, they like to list all of the situations in which this happens with の. Just look at all of the translations of の on this page.

But I don't think we need to worry about that. All we need to know is that の often connects two nouns. Often, not always. For really common noun pairs, we don't always need の. But we can worry about that some other day.

That's all for this one! の more studying.

And の more lame jokes.




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