I'd like tips for Japanese word order

How to get used to Japanese word order and particles. Japanese word order and particles can completely change the sentence in such subtle ways. Particles I could just memorize as the definitions on LingQ are kind of odd or hard to follow. I know some such as “の” being the possessive particle etc. It’s really just the word order that’s tripping me up right now though if anyone has any tips. I’m able to get sentences half-right sometimes but the translation is a little different. I am aware it is SOV.

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From my experience: Don’t bother and keep on reading. Keep on guessing, then look up the meaning of the sentence and examine the sentence again. When I started Japanese (a few months ago) I had the very same problem as you. When I examined the sentences afterwards, in about half of the cases I realized a tiny word that I neglected which lead to my misunderstanding. This was frustrating (as it happened more often than getting a sentence right), but I could say that I’ve learned something from these moments. There were times when I still didn’t quite understand how that sentence worked, so I left it and moved on. Now, all of this happens less often than before.
As for the word order: Keep in mind that it’s totally the-other-way-around for people who are used to English and Western languages. We have to get used to that. That takes time, but it will come subconsciously when you expose yourself more to those sentences.


Also one other thing do you think “Sentence view” or “Page view” is better?

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… kinda. If the sentences are split correctly. :stuck_out_tongue:
I used “sentence view” to get started and it definitely made it easier. That was on News Articles where it actually was a sentence that was presented in sentence view. Then I moved up a gear and listened/read a podcast. The problem was that one “sentence” in sentence view was merely a line from the subtitles of the Youtube video. So “sentence view” just didn’t work. I there changed to “page view” and stuck with it ever since.

“sentence view” has definitely it advantages. The translation button, and one is less overwhelmed. But “Page view” has its upsides, too, like: “the greater picture”. One can see the context. But if you need a sentence translation more often at the moment, I would still recommend using “sentence view”.

I hope this helps…


Thank you, I’ll keep it in mind. Maybe I’ll use it for the time being until I learn some more vocabulary.

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I think of it maybe less as “word order” and maybe more “phrase order.” Japanese is very modular and there’s a lot of flexibility in moving around the phrases that particles provide the scaffolding for.

The word order within the individual phrases is more organized but, in spoken speech, the ordering of the phrases is often determined by stream of consciousness. The nuance is often that the listener is given an insight into the speaker’s ordering of thought and it’s that ordering that can provide the nuance. Beyond this though, nuance is much more conveyed through vocabulary choice.

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I think I understand. If possible though please provide some example videos and/or sentences. I’m not very good at Kanji just yet though so it may be difficult to explain. But if I’m understanding it correctly you’re saying that the word order or “phrase order” as you put it, is left to the persoanl choice of the speaker based on the context? If that’s the case then I understand, but as for the current moment whilst I’m reading things with LingQ, I feel knowing a little more about the nuances and foundations of word order and particles may be helpful.

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Japanese is very different than English. I am not a “jump in and figure it out” person. I am an “explain it to me” person. So I would start learning Japanese by getting an explanation (in English) of some basic things. For me, those explanations might save weeks or months of floundering around guessing.

LingQ was not designed to offer those English explanations. LingQ provides content in the target language. That is useful later. The mini-stories are A2 level, not A1 level. They are not what you start with, unless you are a “dive in and figure it out” person.

Japanese word order is very logical. Verbs are at the end. Particles (small words AFTER a noun) identify the topic, the verb-subject, the verb-object, the verb-indirect object, and other things. You don’t have to rely on word order, like you do in English.

What does “get used to” mean? If you know something, getting used to it is just practice. If you don’t know it yet, you can’t practice it yet. First, you need to learn it.

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If you haven’t gone through a beginner textbook you could do that. I took 2 years of Japanese grammar at college here in the US and it was very helpful but my brain wasn’t really used to Japanese word order. That took years and years of reading, listening, and speaking. I didn’t have LingQ and LingQ has made a lot of good progress just recently with improving its ability to split up the words and add furigana using AI. This should help you import interesting content to facilitate your studies. Hopefully faster than it went for me. It was forever before I felt immersed while reading. The first book I read that I felt immersed in was 1Q84. I think Murakami Haruki is easier for Westerners than Japanese people.

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I can’t find anywhere to import content from other than YT so if you know of anywhere please let me know. And I have Tae kims grammar guide i figured I should give a read through.

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If it helps…

I find the commonest backbone to go:

  1. [Topic] [は]
  2. [Subject] [が]
  3. [Point of Origin] [から]
  4. [Means of Progression in Physical Movement or Flow of Thought] [で]
  5. [Waypoint or General Direction Target] [ へ]
    or [Threshold Target - more like a liminal threshold that one could go “into”] [に]
    or [Point Target - more like a terminal point that one could arrive “at”] [まで]
  6. [Verb]
  7. [Tagging with such as ね and か]

Each of these elements might be present as much as is necessary or desired, with adjectives and adverbs peppered in similarly, as much as is necessary or desired.

What I mean by “as necessary or desired” means that a couple different primary reasons for leaving information out of a human-to-human utterance are because the speaker assumes the information is contextually known or the speaker simply wants to withhold information. (One of my biggest breakthroughs in language acquisition was in gaining appreciation that human-to-human communication bears burden to balance the benefits and risks of information sharing with the benefits and risks of information withholding.)

Note that in the above backbone, there’s often a likely pattern from going from the more general to the more specific in the information and the following of the arrow of time and/or chain of causation which is quite closely related to the arrow of time. There is a lot of straightforward logic behind Japanese phrase ordering. I really miss Japanese grammar right now having just spent a lot of time recently refreshing imperfect, past perfect, and subjunctive conjugations in French!

Primary reasons the individual phrases get reordered are for stream-of-consciousness thinking yet also there can be intentional emphasis (and it can be hard to tell the difference between these two).

Let’s consider a topic such as “everybody coming to Tokyo.”


Breaking it down by phrase:

  • 皆さんは
  • どのように (appearing before the other に marked phrase because of the heightened importance of what’s being asked)
  • 東京に
  • 来ました
  • ?

A response to that question on the topic might be:


Here, the three repeat phrases with で are ordered with possible intentionality of significance, likely from more significant/common/important to lesser, perhaps signaling that many came by train, some by bus, and a few more by car.

In the conversation, it might be said that Suzuki-san came by train.


Here, note the example where Suzuki-san is marked with が. This could be nuanced signaling that we don’t want to yet really shift the context away from the top-level topic of “everybody [coming to Tokyo].”

It’s perfectly fine to alternatively say:


But this would be a signal of shifting context away from everybody to Suzuki-san specifically.

What about Watanabe-san? Let’s evaluate three ways to construct something attesting to that.

A) 渡辺さんが車で来ました。
B) 渡辺さんは車で来ました。
C) 車で渡辺さんが来ました。

For A, this is parallel to what we said about Suzuki-san. With が marking, we’re not changing the topic of “everybody [coming to Tokyo].” We’re filling in a support that for Suzuki-san, it was by car.

For B, parallel to what we said about Suzuki-san, the は marking ups the emphasis that we need to conversational recenter ourselves, on Watanabe-san for a bit. Maybe this is because he was supposed to bring something and we need to chat about that a bit.

For the C construct, note how the phrase order is shifted away from what I offered as the primary backbone. We’ve moved the means marked by で upfront, reducing the emphasis of Watanabe-san. This is a nuance of "hey, what I want you to not miss is the unique/important/exceptional fact that it was BY CAR that Watanabe-san came to Tokyo.

  • Do I want to be crystal clear about it? Then front load it in the sentence.
  • Do I want to communicate it without exceptional emphasis? Just put it in the primary conventional ordering.
  • Do I want to avoid unnecessary repetition of assumed to-be-known context or even conceal info? Then drop that phrase and go silent on that little tidbit.

Grammarians might not like this simple pragmatic explanation of the primary backbone but I think this is the easiest way to conceive of how it all generally, mostly hangs together. There are more prepositions and markers other than these. There are subordinate clauses, idioms, and more. That said, this will get you going in the right direction, or at least give you what I wish I’d been initially told to have a good, multi-purpose scaffolding to use.

And, yes, it is SOV but note that I’m explaining more through simple human communication goals and base-level constructs of logic than with Western grammarian’s frame of reference for a reason.

I know I used some kanji. Feel free to use Google translate or similar. Or simply focus on seeing the patterns. The use of kanji perhaps makes it easier to visually see how the hiragana-only particles do what they structurally do.


Japanese is quite different from English. A sentence can be broken down into parts, and each part is tagged with a particle. The order of different parts does not matter too much (except for emphases and off course, verb is always come at the end of the sentence). Paying attention to the particles are very important in understanding. I learnt the grammar form an app called Human Japanese. Also, Satori Reader may be useful. Those are specially designed for learning Japanese instead of a generic tools like LingQ. Just my two cents.

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For “human Japanese” did you use the lite or premium version? Also, all I’ve gathered from this if I’m being honest is that I should study what the particles do. I’m reading through tae kims grammar guide right now so I’m hoping to pick up some stuff but I need some clarification, do you think it’s in my best interest to learn particles as of right now?

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From my experience with Korean, which shares some similarities with Japanese in regards to grammar, like word order or the particle system, I’d suggest that you read up on the fundamentals. So the basic word order/sentence structure plus the most basic/common particles (topic, subject, object, location etc…). It definetely helps to get an idea of what to expect, especially if the languages you know work completely different.

On the other side, it doesn’t make much sense to study complex sentence structures if you lack the vocabulary that usually acompany those and you will not be able to memorize all the particle constructs anyway (Korean has thousands of them, and Japanese is probably not much better), so it will be most likely a waste of time to try to.

Personally I tend to look up the particles/grammar if I stumble across a construct which I can’t understand from the context or if it is something I’ve came across often and would like to check on whether my assumption of how the grammar works is correct. I often forget stuff I’ve looked up afterwards, though, similar on how I forget vocabulary. Don’t get frustrated if you encounter this, you will improve nevertheless.


Ohhh I see thank you. I’m gonna read through Tae kims guide first just to pick out some things but this seems like a good plan. Thank you.

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