Attributive particle (の)


Japanese attributive particle 「の」 plays a vital role in linking words and showing possession or attribution.

Its proper use is essential for expressing relationships between nouns, making it a cornerstone of Japanese sentence structure.

Basic Usage of 「の」

「の」 connects two nouns, indicating a relationship similar to the English possessive “of” or the apostrophe-s (‘s) for possession.

Indicating Possession

One of the common uses of the Japanese particle 「の」 is to indicate possession or belonging.

In this usage, 「の」 connects two nouns, showing that one belongs to or is a part of the other.

For instance:

  • “私の本” (Watashi no hon – My book)

signifies that the book belongs to the speaker.


  • “彼女のアイデア” (Kanojo no aidea – Her idea)

indicates that the idea originates from her.

Using 「の」 in this way allows for clear expression of relationships between nouns.

To indicate possession, the noun representing the owner is followed by 「の」, then followed by the noun representing the item being owned.

This simple yet effective structure enables the clear conveyance of ownership relationships in Japanese.

Describing One Noun with Another

「の」 is not only for indicating possession but also for describing or qualifying one noun with another.

This aspect of 「の」 is particularly useful for adding detail or specificity to a noun.

When you want to describe a noun using another noun, 「の」 acts as a connector.

For example,

  • “日本語の教科書” (Nihongo no kyoukasho – Japanese textbook)

uses 「の」 to describe the textbook as specifically being for Japanese language.

Qualifying Nouns for Clarity

It’s also used to provide more information about a noun.

For example:

  • “彼の友達” (Kare no tomodachi – His friend)

Here, 「の」 clarifies that the friend is associated with “him.

Advanced Uses of 「の」 in Japanese

Beyond basic possession and description, 「の」 plays a role in more complex grammatical constructions, adding depth and nuance to the language.

Nominalization of Sentences and Clauses

One of the advanced uses of 「の」 is turning whole sentences or clauses into noun phrases.

This form is often used in casual conversation as well as in written Japanese.

For example,

  • “彼が来たのを見た” (Kare ga kita no o mita – I saw that he came)

where 「の」 nominalizes the clause “彼が来た” (Kare ga kita).

Adding Explanatory Nuance

Another important use of 「の」 is to add an explanatory tone to a sentence.

In sentences ending with 「のです」 or 「なのです」, 「の」 adds a layer of explanation or emphasis.

For example,

  • “それが私の答えなのです。” (Sore ga watashi no kotae nano desu – That is my answer.)

gives an explanatory nuance to the statement.

Common Missteps with 「の」

Overuse in Sentences

It’s important to use 「の」 judiciously.

Overusing it can make sentences sound overly complicated or formal.

Striking a balance is key to natural-sounding Japanese.

Differentiating from Other Particles

Be careful not to confuse 「の」 with other particles like 「が」 or 「を」.

Each particle has a unique role and using them interchangeably can lead to confusion in meaning.


The particle 「の」 is an essential aspect of Japanese grammar, enabling a range of expressions from possession to detailed description and explanation.

Its proper usage enhances clarity and depth in communication.

By practicing and understanding its various applications, you can greatly improve your proficiency and expression in Japanese.