10 essential japanese sentence endings to conquer nuance

10 Essential Japanese Sentence Ending Particles to Conquer Nuance

Imagine an English speaker ending a sentence with the sound “ka.

You’d probably think they were choking.

After making sure that they, in fact, had not been choking, you might ask them what they’d meant by that.

Well, they might explain that they were–oddly enough–sticking a Japanese particle at the end of their sentence.

Ignoring the fact that this sort of thing would sound ridiculous at the end of an English sentence, here’s how you’d use it in Japanese:

映画を見ますeiga o mimasu ka  – Do you want to see a movie?

Just a basic affirmative sentence structure with one extra sound.

Pretty simple, right?

And that’s just the most basic kind of ending–forming a question. Japanese is full of these, each one with a different connotation and meaning.

Additionally, as some are specific to gender, it’s pretty important to know how to use these words correctly. But don’t worry! It’s not as difficult as it sounds.

Conquer these sentence endings and suffixes, and you’re on your way to conquering the subtler nature of everyday Japanese conversation!

ね (ne): Looking for agreement or confirming a statement

ね is a very common particle, and a polite way to end a sentence. Listen to any conversation between Japanese women and you hear lots of ね. It’s used at the end of a sentence to seek confirmation, but it’s different from ka in that it’s not outright asking a question. At its most basic, ね is spoken with a rising intonation to indicate uncertainty. A softer, lowering intonation invites agreement. Think of it as a way to make sure that your peers are all on the same page.

Seeking Agreement

寒いですね samui desu ne – It’s cold!

あの女はきれいですね ano onna wa kirei desu ne – That woman is pretty.

Seeking Confirmation

このかばんは高いですね kono kaban wa takai desu ne – This bag is expensive, isn’t it?

その試験はむざかしいですね sono shiken wa muzukashii desu ne – That test was difficult, wasn’t it?

For more detail, Tae Kim has a great intro here, or you could check out our comprehensive post!

よ (yo): Emphasis, the Japanese version of an exclamation mark

No, it’s not just a way to greet people in English slang–it’s a very powerful word! よ is one of the most useful sentence endings in the Japanese language. Used equally by both genders to indicate a definitive end to a sentence, よ is less passive than ね. The speaker is absolutely sure of what they are saying, as they’ve already formed a strong opinion or have had confirmation of the statement.

その映画はすごいですよ sono eiga wa sugoi desu yo – That movie was awesome.

暑いですよ atsui desu yo – It’s hot!

分かるよ wakaru yo – I understand!

眠いよ nemui yo – I’m sleepy.

なくちゃ/なきゃ (Nakucha/Nakya): A nontraditional ending

I had a hard time with this one because it was never taught in the classroom, but you’ll certainly hear なくちゃ and なきゃ a lot. They’re often used as more colloquial replacements for the more formal なければならない nakereba naranai. The standard meaning is that you must do something and there is really no way to get out of it. There is some regret behind the words but it can’t be helped! なくちゃ is more common, but なきゃ is a shortened way of saying it, which is often used by the younger crowd.

勉強しなくちゃ benkyou shinakucha – I have to study.

食べなきゃ tabenakya – I have to  eat. (Perhaps you have gone too long without eating and are feeling dizzy)

今、行かなくちゃ ima, ikanakucha – I have to leave now.

の (no): Informal question word

The particle ending の performs two functions: it asks a question or adds emotional stress to a statement. In the question form, it’s said with a rising intonation to distinguish it from the の used as a possessive. It’s mainly used by women and children, so you might say it’s the more cute or feminine way to ask a question.

どこいるの doko iru no – Where are you?

いいの ii no – Is this ok?

ここでいいの koko de ii no – Is here okay?

どうしたの doushita no – What’s the matter?

さ (sa): A manly sentence ending

さ is mainly used by men to add emphasis to their statements. It’s extremely rare for a women to use this. The use of さ conjures up nostalgic images of Japanese men fanning themselves and listening to the sound of wind chimes on a hot summer’s day while commenting on the suffocating heat. In some ways it can be used as the stronger, manlier version of よ. The さ sound can be drawn out for even more emphasis.

あのさ ano sa – Hey/You know…

これさ kore sa – This is the one!

重いさぁ omoi saa – It’s heavy!

(zo): An opinionated word

ぞ is another word that is common for men to use as a way to end their sentences with proper emphasis and unswayed judgement. The ぞ sound is often drawn out when men use it to express excitement and energy. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably heard male characters in anime using ぞ when they’re emoting, as anime characters are prone to do. In comparison, if you hear a girl using it, she very well might be trying to be “one of the guys.”

行くぞ iku zo – Let’s go!

飲むぞ nomu zo – Let’s drink!

見るぞ miru zo – Let’s look/watch!

この箱は重いぞ kono hako wa omoi zo – This box is heavy.

な (na): The cousin of ね

Got an opinion to express? Then な is your word. It’s often used by men, and usually within the same age group. It’s used similarly to ね, with a rising intonation, but the sound comes off as a bit rougher. It’s also used much more in casual situations than ね, which is more acceptable in a work environment. Basically, な is a way of expressing an opinion or feeling without asserting yourself too much. However, it can also be used to confirm information, as in the first example here:

おい!喫茶店にいくんだよな oi! kissaten ni ikun da yo na – Hey! Aren’t you going to the coffee shop?

その犬はかわいいな sono inu wa kawaii na – That dog is cute.

変だな hen da na – That’s strange, isn’t it.

ちゃった (chatta): Popular way to express regret

ちゃった is a very popular way to end a sentence, used most commonly by women. ちゃった expresses regret, or doing something without thinking. It’s equivalent to the English slang, “my bad” or “I wasn’t thinking.” Or, in the case of the third example below, it can be used to mean something has happened “regrettably.” As for structure, the verb endings are changed depending on if they are  -ru, -tsu, or -u verbs. Then you simply add ちゃった onto the ending of the verb.

忘れちゃった wasurechatta – I forgot.

食べちゃった tabechatta – I ate (it all).

友達の魚が死んじゃった tomodachi no sakana ga shinjatta – My friend’s fish died (regrettably).

もん (mon): A way to express dissatisfaction

もん is the shortened form of the word mono. It’s a casual way to express dissatisfaction with a turn of events, or an emotional response, explaining the reason for the response or action. Certain words like datte are sometimes placed at the beginning of the sentence to control the level of emotion while explaining oneself. もん isn’t that common but it’s a rather adorable way to end a sentence. A word of advice: avoid this ending unless you’re intentionally trying to be babyish!

分からないもん wakaranaimon – I don’t understand!

だって、出来ないもん datte, dekinaimon – I just can’t do it!

だって、温泉に行きたいんだもん datte, onsen ni ikitaindamon – Aww, but I want to go to the onsen…

Japanese is full of fun ways to end a sentence. Each one has a specific purpose, and is fundamental to knowing how to communicate in Japanese. Not only can these endings make the difference between asking a question or making a statement, but they can also tell you a lot about who’s speaking.

If you want to avoid being a full-grown man uttering something like ”ケーキ食べたいもん” keeki tabetaimon (But I wanna eat caaaake), you should know that having this knowledge of sentence endings will definitely save you some trouble in the long run.

In addition to what’s been covered here, there are even more endings out there to explore, so get goingよ!

And One More Thing…

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FluentU has a broad range of contemporary videos—like music videos, dramas, TV shows, and TV commercials:

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FluentU makes these native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts. Tap on any word to look it up instantly.

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