Subject, Predicate, Object


Welcome to the fascinating world of Japanese language!

Whether you’re a complete beginner or advancing to intermediate, understanding the sentence structure is key to mastering Japanese.

This guide aims to provide a clear and progressive journey through the essential components of Japanese sentences: Subject, Predicate, and Object, specifically designed for non-native speakers.

The Subject (主語しゅご)

In any language, the subject of a sentence is its cornerstone.

In Japanese, the subject is the part of the sentence that indicates who or what is performing the action or is being described.

It’s typically marked by particles like “は” (wa) or “が” (ga).

For example:

  • 田中さんは学生です。 Tanaka-san wa gakusei desu. (Mr./Ms. Tanaka is a student.)

In that sentence “田中さん” (Tanaka-san) is the subject.

Japanese sentences often rely on context, and the subject can be omitted if it’s clear from the conversation.

This is different from English, where the subject is usually explicitly stated.

For example:

  • 映画が好きです。Eiga ga suki desu. ( [I] like movies.)

The subject “私” is dropped in this text, but it can be understood in context.

Beginners often overuse the subject, making sentences sound unnatural.

Remember, it’s okay to omit the subject in Japanese if it’s clear from the context.

Practice understanding the implied subject in sentences. This will help in both comprehension and conversation.

Subject Particles: は (Wa) vs. が (Ga)

  • “は” (wa) is often used for the topic of the sentence, which can be, but is not always, the subject.
  • “が” (ga) explicitly identifies the subject, especially when introducing new information or emphasizing the subject.

For examples:

  • 明日は雨が降る。(Ashita wa ame ga furu.) (It will rain tomorrow.)
  • 彼がリーダーです。(Kare ga riidaa desu.) (He is the leader.)

The Predicate (述語じゅつご)

The predicate is a vital element in Japanese sentences, providing information about what the subject does (action) or is (description).

It comes at the end of the sentence, setting Japanese apart from English, where the predicate usually follows the subject.

Predicates in Japanese can be verbs, adjectives, or even noun-copula constructs.

The Role of Verbs in Predicates

Japanese verbs convey actions or states and are often the core of the predicate.

For example:

食べる” (taberu – to eat) in “彼はリンゴを食べる” (Kare wa ringo o taberu – He eats an apple).

Verbs in Japanese are conjugated to indicate tense (past, non-past), aspect (completed, ongoing), mood, and politeness.

For instance, the non-past polite form of “食べる” (taberu) is “食べます” (tabemasu).

Adjectives in Predicates

Adjectives can also serve as predicates to describe the state or quality of the subject.

For example:

  • 犬が大きい (Inu ga ookii.) (The dog is big.)

Similar to verbs, adjectives in Japanese change form to reflect tense and politeness.

For instance, “大きい” (ookii – big) becomes “大きかった” (ookikatta – was big) in the past tense.

Copula: The Linking Verb

Nouns can become predicates when combined with a copula like “です” (desu) or “だ” (da).

For example :

  • 彼は先生です。 (Kare wa sensei desu – (He is a teacher.)

The copula links the subject with a noun or an adjective and provides additional information such as tense and politeness.

Understanding how to construct predicates using verbs, adjectives, and copulas is crucial for creating meaningful sentences in Japanese.

Experiment with different types of predicates to express a range of actions and descriptions.

The Object (目的語もくてきご)

In Japanese sentences, the object is the component that receives the action of the verb.

It adds depth and meaning to the sentence by specifying what is being acted upon. Typically marked by the particle

“を” (o), objects are key to forming complete and informative sentences.

For example, in the sentence “彼は本を読む” (Kare wa hon o yomu – He reads a book), “本を” (hon o – the book) is the object, receiving the action of reading.

Direct and Indirect Objects

  • Direct Objects: Directly affected by the action of the verb.
    Example: “彼女は花を買う” (Kanojo wa hana o kau – She buys flowers).
  • Indirect Objects: Indirectly affected by the action, often marked by particles like “に” (ni) or “へ” (e).
    Example: “私は彼に手紙を書く” (Watashi wa kare ni tegami o kaku – I write a letter to him).

New learners often struggle to identify objects, especially in complex sentences.

Paying attention to particles and context is crucial.

Keep in mind that in Japanese, as with the subject, the object can be omitted when it is obvious from the context.

To master the use of the object, you may want to work on the following.

・Practice with verbs: Get used to making sentences with a variety of verbs and their corresponding objects.

・Understand context: Improve your comprehension by understanding how objects are positioned in the broader context of a conversation or story.

Sentence Construction

Basic Sentence Structure

The beauty of Japanese lies in its structured yet flexible sentence construction.

Starting with the basics of subject, predicate, and object, one can gradually build more complex sentences.

The typical sentence order in Japanese is Subject-Object-Predicate, but it’s important to remember that the subject and object can often be omitted if they are clear from the context.

A simple sentence in Japanese can be as straightforward as a predicate alone, especially in conversational contexts.

For instance, “食べる” (Taberu – [I/You/He/She/It] eat/eats).

However, to give more information, you can add a subject and/or an object.

For example:

  • これ食べる。 (Kore taberu.) ([I/You/He/She/It] eat/eats this).
  • 私はパンを食べる。 (Watashi wa pan o taberu.) (I eat bread.)

Adding Details and Complexity

1) Using Adjectives : Adjectives can modify nouns to add more detail.
“彼は古い本を読む” (Kare wa furui hon o yomu – He reads an old book).

2) Incorporating Adverbs : Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs for more descriptive sentences.
“彼女はとても速く走る” (Kanojo wa totemo hayaku hashiru – She runs very fast).

As your understanding of Japanese deepens, you can start constructing sentences with multiple clauses, using conjunctions and complex particles. This includes conditional sentences, comparative sentences, and sentences expressing causality or intention.


Understanding the roles of subject, predicate, and object is essential for mastering Japanese sentence structure.

These elements are the building blocks that form the basis of all communication in Japanese.

While the typical sentence order is Subject-Object-Predicate, flexibility in structure is one of the hallmarks of the language, often seen in the omission of subjects and objects when they are understood from the context.

Key Takeaways

  • Subject (主語): The doer or the topic of the sentence, often implied and not always explicitly mentioned.
  • Predicate (述語): The core of the sentence that describes the action or state, always placed at the end of the sentence.
  • Object (目的語): The receiver of the action, identified by specific particles like “を” (o).