Friday, November 30, 2018

No-Adjectives in Japanese

The term no-adjective refers to Japanese adjectives created by adding the no の particle after a noun. Generally speaking, "noun-no-noun" uses the first noun to describe the second noun somehow. This is also called the "genitive case."

The Legendary Yamada Tae.
Anime: Zombieland Saga
  • Densetsu no Yamada Tae
    伝説山田たえ
    The Legendary Yamada Tae.
    • densetsu 伝説
      Legend.

The term "no-adjective" is mostly used when teaching Japanese to non-native speakers, because a noun marked by the genitive case-marking particle no の acts like an adjective.

There doesn't seem to be a Japanese equivalent for this term. Some books don't use the term at all. Furthermore, no-adjectives can be used in a hundred different ways, so it'd be very difficult to explain what is a no-adjective exactly, and perhaps even a futile effort.

Anyways:

Genitive Case

The term "genitive case" refers to having a noun as modifying another word, usually a noun. That is, having a noun as adjective. In English, this is usually associated with the "possessive" case, in which a noun possesses the other. For example:
  • shiro
    Castle.
  • ugoku shiro 動く城
    Castle that moves.
  • Hauru no Ugoku Shiro ハウル動く城
    The Castle that Moves of Howl.
    Howl's Moving Castle.

However, the genitive case isn't limited only to possessions. The translation above using "of" and the contraction "'s" will not work for all cases. For example, sometimes the genitive describes what something is or is made of:
  • gin
    Silver.
  • saji
    Spoon.
  • Gin no Saji
    Spoon of Silver.
    Silver's Spoon. (wrong!)
    Spoon made of Silver.
    Spoon that is Silver.
    Silver Spoon. (right!)

There's no way to tell what variant of the genitive case a no-adjective is just by looking at it. You have to guess from context and from the nouns involved.

Ambiguity of No-Adjectives

This means that there's ambiguity on what no の really means in a phrase if you don't have necessary context. And it means that a same phrase no の phrase can mean two different things in two different contexts where they have two different variants of the genitive case. For example:
  • onna
    Woman.
  • ko
    Child. (ko has other meanings too.)
  • onna no ko 女の子

When we try to connect onna to ko, our first guess is probably going to be the possessive: "the child of a woman," that is, "a woman's child." However, the term onna no ko normally means "a child that is a woman," instead. In other words: a "girl."

That isn't to say onna no ko always means "girl." It usually means "girl."
  • ano onna no ko あの女の子
    That girl.

But say you're reading a manga and a character says the phrase above while he pointing at an elder woman. Naturally, an elder isn't a "child that is a woman," so "that girl" doesn't work here. Instead, we'd have to interpret it as:
  • ano onna あの女
    That woman...
  • no ko の子
    ...'s child.

Although the above is a rather far-fetched example, it illustrates that the same no-adjective can mean two different things in two different contexts.
  • Pikaso no e ピカソの絵
    A picture of Picasso. (it features him.)
    Picasso's picture. (he bought that picture.)
    A picture made by Picasso. (he drew it.)
  • erufu no hanashi エルフの話
    A story about elves. (an Elven tale.)
    The story told by the elf. (he just told you about hitting an arrow into another arrow. He looked real proud of himself.)

Of course, even if such ambiguity didn't exist, there's still the ambiguity of Japanese plurals and the lack of a, an, the, definite and indefinite articles, so you never get rid of ambiguity anyway.
  • neko no mimi 猫の耳
    The ear of the cat.
    The ear of a cat.
    The ear of the cats.
    The ear of cats.
    A ear of the cat.
    A ear of a cat.
    A ear of the cats.
    A ear of cats.
    The ears of the cat.
    The ears of a cat.
    The ears of the cats.
    The ears of cats.
    Ears of the cat.
    Ears of a cat.
    Ears of the cats.
    Ears of cats.
    The cat's ear.
    The cat's ears.
    A cat's ear.
    A cat's ears.
    The cats' ear.
    The cats' ears.
    Cats' ear.
    Cats' ears.

But not everything is an ambiguous Asiatic nightmare. Japanese words do tend to make sense and follow a semblance of logic, and no-adjectives often mean the same thing in different contexts.
  • Zeruda no Densetsu ゼルダの伝説
    The Legend of Zelda.
  • Densetsu no Yamada Tae 伝説の山田たえ
    The Yamada Tae who is a Legend.
    The Legendary Yamada Tae!!!1
  • Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu 伝説の勇者の伝説
    The Legend of Heroes who are Legends.
    The Legend of Legendary Heroes.

On the other hand, English and Japanese are still different languages. So sometimes even if two no-adjectives work the same way, the way they become translated to English is different. Which is just another reason why you shouldn't rely on translations too much.

謎のアイドルプロデューサー!!巽幸太郎!! from anime Zombieland Saga
Anime: Zombieland Saga
  • nazo no aidoru
    purodhuusaa!!
    Tatsumi Koutarou!!
    謎のアイドル プロデューサー!! 巽幸太郎!!
    The mysterious idol producer!! Tatsumi Koutarou!!

In the phrase above, the word "mystery," nazo 謎, became "mysterious," nazo no 謎の. This is the exact same function of the word "legendary" that came from "legend."

Note that in English "mystery" got an "-ious" suffix, while legend got an "-ary" suffix. In Japanese we simply added a no の both times. So the way you translate the no-adjective to English varies depending on the noun even when it performs the same function.

Noun Compounds

Sometimes, a noun works as an adjective for a second noun without the no の particle. That is, it's a noun right next another noun.

For example, nekomimi 猫耳, "cat ears," is the noun compound version of neko no mimi 猫の耳.

Kanji Compounds

Noun compounds are not to be confused with kanji compounds, which are words composed of more than one kanji.

For example, baka 馬鹿, "idiot," has two kanji, but is just one noun.

Furthermore, each kanji of a kanji compound may have its own meaning and represent a morpheme even if it's not a stand-alone word noun. The word baka 馬鹿 is composed by morphemes that mean "horse," uma 馬, and "deer," shika 鹿, for example.

There are also cases like joshi 女子, which is written with the same kanji as onna no ko 女の子. Its kanji have different readings, and the word itself has a different meaning: although both joshi and onna no ko can be translated as "girl," joshi is usually older than onna no ko, which is used toward young children.

Examples of Usage

For reference, some examples of how no-adjectives are used to help you understand them.

Chart

Here's a chart of no-adjectives' functions, summarizing it all.

Chart of の adjectives in Japanese.

Possessive Case

The most common usage of no-adjectives is talk about possessions. The no particle marks the possessor, and what comes after is the possession, sometimes called the possessee.
  • Possessor no Possession
  • Possessor's Possession
  • Possession of Possessor.

Note that normally when you think of the word "possession" you think of a physical object that can be taken away. This isn't always the case with possessive adjectives. Possessives can refer to attributes and concepts that don't exist physically but are "of" somebody or something.

That said, not everything that is "of" is a possession. A spoon of silver is "of" silver, but you can't say "silver has a spoon," so it isn't one of silver's possession. Meanwhile, "silver has a conductivity," so that's a possession, and you can say "conductivity of silver."
  • Nihon no jinkou 日本の人口
    The population of Japan. Japan's population.
    (Japan has a population.)
  • anime no rekishi アニメの歴史
    The history of anime. Anime's history.
    (anime has a history.)
  • tatemono no takasa 建物の高さ
    The tall-ness of a building. The building's tall-ness.
    The height of the building.
    (buildings have heights.)
  • kuruma no hayasa 車の速さ
    The fast-ness of cars. The cars' fast-ness.
    The speed of the car. The car's speed.
    (cars have speeds.)
  • Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu 涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱
    The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
    (Haruhi has melancholy.)
  • Koe no Katachi 聲の形
    The Shape of Voice.
    (the voice has a shape.)
    (English title: A Silent Voice.)
  • JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken ジョジョの奇妙な冒険
    The Bizarre Adventure of JoJo.
    JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
    (JoJo has a bizarre adventure.)
  • Berusaiyu no Bara ベルサイユのばら
    Versailles no Bara ベルサイユのばら
    The Rose of Versailles. The Versailles' Rose.
    (the Versailles has a rose.)
  • Mahoutsukai no Yome 魔法使いの嫁
    The Bride of the Magic-User. The Magician's Bride.
    (the magic-user has a bride.)
    (English title: The Ancient Magus' Bride)
  • Bakemono no Ko バケモノの子
    Child of a Beast. A Beast's Child.
    (the beast has a child.)
    (English title: The Boy and the Beast.)
  • Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou 男子高校生の日常
    The Daily Lives of High School Boys.
    (high school boys have daily lives.)
  • Saiki Kusuo no Sainan 斉木楠雄のΨ難
    The disasters of Saiki Kusuo.
    (Saiki Kusuo has disasters.)
    (English title: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.)
    • sainan 災難, "disaster," is stylized as sainan Ψ難, or psi-nan, in this title because Saiki is a psychic and the 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet, Ψ, is called psi.
  • Zero no Tsukaima ゼロの使い魔
    The Familiar of Zero.
    (Zero has a familiar.)

Possessive Personal Pronouns

The no particle is often used to make possessives out of personal pronouns. For example:
  • watashi no neko 私の猫
    (I have a cat.)
    My cat.
  • kanojo no tanjoubi 彼女の誕生日
    (she has a birthday.)
    Her birthday.
  • Kimi no Na wa. 君の名は。
    (you have a name.)
    Your Name.
  • omae no doriru wa ten wo tsuki-yaburu doriru nanda yo!
    お前のドリルは天を突き破るドリルなんだよ!
    Your drill is the drill to pierce through the heavens!
  • Boku no Hiiroo Akademia 僕のヒーローアカデミア
    Boku no Hero Academia 僕のヒーローアカデミア
    (I have a hero academia.)
    My Hero Academia.
  • Bokurano 僕らの
    (we have a... something?)
    Ours.
  • Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai 俺の妹がこんなに可愛いわけがない
    (I have a little sister.)
    It Can't Be That My Little Sister is This Cute.

The no particle is also embedded in the demonstrative pronouns kono, sono, ano, and dono. These are the adjectival equivalents of kore, sore, are and dore. They aren't possessives, though.
  • kore これ
    This. (noun.)
  • kono この
    This. (adjective.)
  • kore neko これ猫
    This = cat.
    [Hey!] This [thing is a] cat!
  • kono neko この猫
    This cat.
    This cat [right here.]

Places & Residency

Places are a tricky kind of noun. Most of the time, places are possessions. You own a place.
  • Houseki no Kuni 宝石の国
    The Jewels have a Country.
    The Country of Jewels.
    The Jewels' Country.
    (English title: Land of the Lustrous)
  • Doruaaga no Tou ドルアーガの塔
    Druaga no Tou ドルアーガの塔
    Druaga has a Tower.
    Tower of Druaga.
    Druaga's Tower.

But, thousands of years of human civilization aside, what makes it so you can claim you "own" a place? Do you own land just by putting a flag on it? If you live in a house, does it automatically make it your house?
  • ninja no sato 忍者の里
    The ninjas' village.
    The village owned by ninjas.
    The village where ninjas reside.

At first glance, there's not much difference between one and other. But consider the following phrase:
  • Piano no Mori ピアノの森
    The Piano's Forest.
    The forest owned by the piano...?
    The forest where the piano resides.

The concept of a piano owning a forest is ridiculous. Therefore, the phrase must mean that there's a piano in the forest, hence why it's the piano's forest: it's the forest in which the piano resides.

In English, we can also use noun compounds when something resides in something. For example:
  • ninja no sato 忍者の里
    The ninja village
    The village in which there are ninjas.
  • Piano no Mori ピアノの森
    The Piano Forest
    The forest in which there is a piano.

This is similar to how a "juice box" is a box that contains juice, not a box owned by juice.

Also, in English, we can inflect the noun into an adjective instead of using noun compounds. For example:
  • erufu no mori エルフの森
    The elves' forest. The forest owned by the elves.
    The elf's forest. The forest owned by a specific elf
    The elf forest. The forest in which there are elves.
    The elven forest. A forest of the elves.

Usage With Numbers

The no-adjectives can be used with numbers for counting the quantity of a given noun. That is, when the possessor is a counter, it counts the possession. For example:
  • ippiki 一匹
    One small animal.
  • ippiki no neko 一匹の猫
    Cats in quantity of one small animal.
    One cat.
  • hitotsu. futatsu. 一つ。二つ。
    One of a thing. Two of a thing.
  • futatsu no sekai 二つの世界
    Worlds in quantity of two.
    Two worlds.
    • Another way to interpret this phrase would be:
      The world possessed by two things.
  • mou hitotsu no sekai もう一つの世界
    One more world.
  • Nanatsu no Taizai 7つの大罪
    Great Sins in Quantity of Seven.
    The Seven Deadly Sins.

This also works for nouns that imply vague numbers.
  • kazukazu no tatakai 数々の戦い
    Battles in numerous quantity.
    Numerous battles.
  • taihan no hito 大半の人
    People of the majority quantity.
    The majority of people. Most people.

Another way no-adjectives and numbers relate are in partitives.

Partitive

When the possession is a number, the no-adjective may form a partitive: a phrase that describes a portion of a whole. For example:
  • keeki no hitokire ケーキの一切れ
    One slice of cake.
  • jinrui no go-wari wa josei 人類の5割は女性
    Five-tenths of the human race are female.
    • jinrui 人類
      Human race. Humankind.
    • wari
      Proportion. Part.
      A tenth. N tenths. (when used as a counter.)
  • mondai no ichibu de shika nai 問題の一部でしかない
    It's but one part of the question.

The above are what are called "entity partitives," since we're talking about a percentage of a whole. (a percentage of a cake, the human race, or the question.)

Another type of partitives are the "set partitives," where we talk about a number of individual units from a larger set of units. For example:
  • neko no ippiki 猫の一匹
    One of the cats.

The above can mean "one of the cats" of a defined group, like you had four cats and something happened to one of the four.

It can also simply mean "one cat" without implying that there's a group or anything because you can also interpret it like:
  • neko no ippiki 猫の一匹
    Given literally all cats in the whole world—no, the whole universe!—we're talking about one single one of them.
    One small animal, that is a cat.

No Hitotsu の一つ

The phrase no hitotsu の一つ means "one of." It's commonly used when you're talking of "one of" many things. For example:
  • shitto wa nanatsu no taizai no hitotsu 嫉妬は7つの大罪の一つ
    Envy is one of the seven deadly sins.
  • gen'in no hitotsu 原因の一つ
    One of the causes. (there are many causes.)

No Hitotsu ya Futatsu のひとつやふたつ

The expression no hitotsu ya futatsu のひとつやふたつ, meaning "one, two, [or more] of," is generally used when talking about something you're supposed to have at least one of. Specially when that's obvious, or expected, or maybe when someone assumed the opposite.
  • hissatsu waza no hitotsu ya futatsu 必殺技のひとつやふたつ
    One or two sure-kill techniques, [or more!]
    (What do you mean you have no sure-kill techniques? Every battle manga main character has least one sure-kill technique!)

No Hitori の一人

The phrase no hitori の一人 also means "one of," but is used toward people instead.
  • ninja no hitori 忍者の一人
    One person of the ninjas.
    One of the ninjas.
  • kazoku no hitori 家族の一人
    One person of the family.

Of course, you can interpret these as attributives instead of partitives:
  • One person that is a ninja.
    One ninja.
  • One person that is part of the family.
    One family member.

Members of Groups

Although not exactly the same thing, no-adjectives can be used similarly to indicate someone is a member of a given group. For example:
  • Koodo Giasu: Hangyaku no Ruruushu コードギアス 反逆のルルーシュ
    Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch コードギアス 反逆のルルーシュ
    Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion.
    (Lelouch is a member of the rebellion.)

No の Between Family Name and Given Name

Similarly, in archaic Japanese, sometimes somebody's name is written with a no の between the family name and their given name, as if the family was a group they were a member of. For example:
  • Nasu Yoichi 那須与一
  • Nasu no Yoichi 那須の与一
    Yoichi of the Nasu family.
  • Kiyohara Fukayabu 清原深養父
  • Kiyohara no Fukayabu 清原の深養父
    Fukayabu of the Kiyohara family.

To be honest I'm not sure if these are family names or clan names, and if they are given names or aliases. Japan was full of name-switching traditions.

For reference:

Omission in Names

In Japanese, names of people are traditionally written with kanji only, no hiragana. Since the no の particle is written with hiragana, it may be left unwritten in some names of people. That is, it gets read as if it was there, but isn't spelled.

Literally.

For example:
  • ki
    Tree.
  • shita
    Below.
  • kinoshita 木の下
    Under a tree.
  • Kinoshita Toukichirou 木の下藤吉郎
    (becomes written as...)
  • Kinoshita Toukichirou 木下藤吉郎
    (Toyotomi Hideyoshi 豊臣秀吉, a warrior samurai general of the 16th century, was also known by this name.)
    • Note that the name is ki-no-shita 木下 not ki-shita 木下. The no の is unwritten.

Aspect & Categorization

Another common use of no-adjectives is to describe things by their aspects. If you have a noun that works as a quality of something, adding the no particle turns it into a category-like word that classifies the following noun. For example:
  • ryouri no hon 料理の本
    A book of cooking. A book about cooking.
    A cooking book.
  • jikan no mondai 時間の問題
    A question of time. A matter of time.
    A time matter.
  • kane no mondai 金の問題
    A question of money. A matter of money.
    A money matter.
  • manga no egakikata 漫画の描き方
    The way-of-drawing of manga.
    A way to draw manga. How to draw manga.
  • hyaku nana-juu senti no dakimakura kabaa 170cmの抱き枕カバー
    A daki that measures 170cm.
    A 170cm daki.
  • kagebunshin no jutsu 影分身の術
    Technique of the shadow clone type.
    Shadow clone technique.
  • honoo no mahou 炎の魔法
    Magic of flame. Magic that casts a ball of fire.
    Fire magic.
  • Toaru Majutsu no Index とある魔術の禁書目録(インデックス)
    A Certain Index of Magic.
    A Certain Magical Index.
    • indekkusu インデックス is the katakanization of "index," used as gikun 義訓 for "banned books' index," kinsho mokuroku 禁書目録.
  • Aku no Hana 惡の華
    The Flower of Evil.
    The Evil Flower.
  • Kara no Kyoukai 空の境界
    The Boundary of the Emptiness.
    The Empty Boundary.
    (English title: The Garden of the Sinners.)
    • karappo 空っぽ
      Empty. Vacant. Hollow.
  • Hokuto no Ken 北斗の拳
    The Fist of the North Star.
    The North Star-Style Fist. (as in, martial arts.)
    • Hokuto 北斗 seems to refer to the Big Dipper, a group of stars from Ursa Major, which means Fist of the North Star and Gravity Falls are in a way related to each other.

Material & Composition

As you'd expect, this includes specifying of what something is made of.
  • dou no yoroi 銅の鎧
    Armor made of copper.
    Copper armor.
  • chi to namida no kesshou 血と涙の結晶
    A crystallization made of blood and tears.
    The fruits of your sacrifices and hard work.
  • Hagane no Renkinjutsushi 鋼の錬金術師
    The Alchemist made of Steel.
    The Steel Alchemist.
    (English title: Fullmetal Alchemist.)
  • Hai to Gensou no Gurimugaru 灰と幻想のグリムガル
    Hai to Gensou no Grimgar 灰と幻想のグリムガル
    The Grimgar Made of Ashes and Illusions.
    (English title: Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions)

Region & Origin

The aspect may also be the region something is from, its origin. In English, we sometimes have separate adjective words to mean something "comes from" somewhere. For example:
  • Itaria no piza イタリアのピザ
    Pizza of Italy.
    Italy's pizza.
    Italian pizza.
  • nihon no hito 日本の人
    People of Japan.
    Japanese people.
    • When referring to people of countries, usually you use a noun compound suffixed by a -jin ~人 morpheme instead. See:
    • nihonjin 日本人
      Japanese person. Japanese people.
  • taiyou no tsubasa 太陽の翼
    Wings of Sun.
    Solar wings.
  • taiyou no te wo motsu shounen 太陽の手を持つ少年
    The boy who had hands of Sun.
    The boy who had Solar hands.
  • Shidonia no Kishi シドニアの騎士
    The Knights of Sidonia.
    The Sidonian Knights.
  • Higashi no Eden 東のエデン
    The Eden of the East.
    The Eastern Eden.

Colors

The words for colors in Japanese are a bit weird because some of the most common colors have two versions: a noun version, and an adjective version.
  • aoi 青い
    Blue. (i-adjective.)
  • ao
    Blue. (noun.)
  • kuroi 黒い
    Black. (i-adjective.)
  • kuro
    Black. (noun.)

This means there are two ways to describe something by color. For examples, to say a "white rose," you can say:
  • shiroi bara 白いバラ
    shiro no bara 白のバラ
    White rose.

Both mean the same thing, they both describe a white rose. If there is a difference, it's in usage. Generally speaking, the i-adjective version of colors sound indefinite, while the the no-adjective versions sound finite.
  • shiroi bara 白いバラ
    A white rose. Some white roses.
  • shiro no bara 白のバラ
    THE Rose OF THE White Color.
    THE White Rose.

And so the no-adjective variants end up showing in titles of anime more than the less definite sounding i-adjective variants.
  • Ao no Exorcist 青の祓魔師(エクソシスト)
    The Exorcist of Blue.
    The Exorcist of the Blue Color.
    The Blue Exorcist.
    • ekusoshisuto エクソシスト is the katakanization of the English word "exorcist," used as gikun 義訓 for the Japanese word "exorcist," futsumashi 祓魔師.
  • Konjiki no Gasshu!! 金色のガッシュ!!
    The Gash of the Golden Color.
    The Golden Gash.
  • Darker than BLACK -Kuro no Keiyakusha- -黒の契約者-
    The Contractor of the Black Color.
    The Black Contractor.

Direct Attributes

A rather distinct kind of no-adjective are no-adjectives that mean direct attributives of things, and that can therefore be used in the predicative, right before the da だ copula. For example:
  • byouki 病気
    Sick.
  • byouki no hito 病気の
    Sick person.
  • kono hito ga byouki da この人が病気だ
    This person is sick.

At first glance there isn't a lot of difference, but consider the following:
  • ryouri no hon 料理の本
    Cooking book.
    Book about cooking.

We can say a book is of cooking the way above. This is an indirect attributive. We know it's indirect because the predicative form doesn't make sense:
  • kono hon ga ryouri da この本が料理だ
    This book is cooking.
    (what.)

The important thing about no-adjectives that are direct attributives is that they can behave like na-adjectives grammatically. In which case the no の is sometimes analyzed as an attributive copula, just like na な.

For example, this means we can use the attributive past of na-adjectives with a no-adjective:
  • byouki datta hito 病気だった
    A person that was sick.
  • byouki denai hito 病気でない
    A person that isn't sick.

Some other examples of direct no-adjectives:
  • kono mangekyou sharingan ga eien da この万華鏡写輪眼が永遠だ
    This Mangekyou Sharingan is eternal.
  • eien no mangekyou sharingan 永遠の万華鏡写輪眼
    Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan.
  • Sakasama no Patema サカサマのパテマ
    Patema that is inverted.
    Inverted Patema.
  • Patema ga sakasama da パテマがサカサマだ
    Patema is inverted.
    Patema is upside down.

Note that some of these adjectives aren't usually used in the predicative. For example:
  • shin no sugata 真の姿
    Form that's real. Form that's true.
    Real form. True form.
    • E.g. one's final form, monstrous, powerful, as opposed to the feeble humanoid disguise.

Although shin 真 means "real" or "true," it's normally used as shin no 真の, "true [something]," rather than "[something] is true," something ga shin da ◯が真だ.

Superlatives

Adjectives that are superlatives also fit this category.
  • Shijou Saikyou no Deshi Ken'ichi 史上最強の弟子 ケンイチ
    The Disciple that is the Strongest in History: Ken'ichi.
    History's Strongest Disciple: Ken'ichi.
    (English title: KenIchi: The Mightiest Disciple.)
  • Hajime no Ippo はじめの一歩
    The First Single-Step.
    The First Step.
    (English title: Fighting Spirit.)
    • Ippo is also the name of the protagonist, making the Japanese title a word-play.

Apposition

Apposition, or doukaku 同格, refers to when you have two phrases that refer to the same thing one beside the other. In English, we usually introduce an apposition with a comma, but we can use the preposition "of," which's what we for our genitive case, to do it too.

In Japanese, a no-adjective can be part of an appositive in a way similar to the "of" preposition.

For example:
  • nihon 日本
    Japan.
  • nihon no kuni wa... 日本の国は…
    Japan, the country, [is]...
    The country, Japan, [is]...
    The country of Japan [is]...

There isn't much apposition can do that can't already be understood by other functions of the no-particle shown so far. So let's focus on what's new: it explains the way the no-adjective is used with family members.
  • otouto no Sasuke 弟のサスケ
  • Sasuke of the younger brother.
    • This is probably not what the phrase means, as it implies Sasuke is a possession of somebody's younger brother.
  • Sasuke that is the younger brother.
    • This is better, but using "that" there introduces a restrictive adjectival clause: it's saying that there might be a second Sasuke that's not the younger brother so we must specify we're talking about the Sasuke that IS the younger brother, which's likely unnecessary.
  • Sasuke, the younger brother.
    • Perfect! This is an appositive: Sasuke is the younger brother, the younger brother is Sasuke. We all know who we're talking about!

A lot of times appositives aren't translated as appositives, though. Probably because a lot of times it sounds weird.
  • Tonari no Totoro となりのトトロ
    Totoro, the Neighbor.
    The Neighbor, Totoro.
    (English title: My Neighbor Totoro.)

Directions

The no の particle can be used with directional words like up, down, left, right in various ways. If the directional word is qualified by the no-adjective, it refers to a direction away from the qualifier. If it's part of the no-adjective, it qualifies where the noun is. For example:
  • karada no migi 体の右
    The right of the body. The body's right.
    The right side of the body.
  • hidari no te 左の手
    The hand of the left. The hand of the left side.
    The left hand.

When up and down are involved, they often translate to above, atop, under, bottom, and so on.
  • beddo no ue ベッドの上
    The above of the bed. The bed's above.
    Atop the bed. On the bed. Over the bed.
  • beddo no shita ベッドの下
    The below of the bed. The bed's below.
    Under the bed.

Also, if the ue or shita come before the no when talking about people, it usually carries an hierarchical meaning.
  • ue no mono 上の者
    A person of above. Above's person.
    A superior. (e.g. I need to confirm with my superior.)

Of course, there are other directions besides up, down, left and right, like north, south, east, west, etc.:
  • mori no kita 森の北
    North of the forest.
  • hako no naka 箱の中
    Inside the box.
  • ie no soto 家の外
    Outside of the house.
  • Kyoukai no Kanata 境界の彼方
    That Side of the Boundary.
    (English title: Beyond the Boundary.)
    • kanata 彼方
      That side. That direction. That way.
      Written with the kanji for "that" and "direction," hou 方.
      By the way, did you know that kanojo 彼女, "she," is literally "that woman"? Because kanokuni 彼の国 means "that country." And asoko written with kanji is asoko 彼処, literally "that" and "place," tokoro 処.

Densetsu no Ki no Shita 伝説のキノシタ

Akihisa jumping on Hideyoshi
Anime: Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu バカとテストと召喚獣
(Episode 5)
  • Context: Akihisa confesses to Hideyoshi.
  • Akihisa:
  • Hideyoshi! suki jaa!
    秀吉!好きじゃー!
    Hideyoshi! [I like you]!
    • jaa じゃー
      The copula da だ pronounced euphorically.
  • Hideyoshi:
  • ikinari nani wo ii-dasu-n-ja?!
    いきなり何を言い出すんじゃ?!
    What are you saying all of sudden?!
Akihisa speaking.
  • Akihisa:
  • kore niwa juudai na imi ga aru-n-da!
    これには重大な意味があるんだ!
    There's an important meaning [behind] this!
  • Hideyoshi wa shiranai kamoshirenai kedo
    秀吉は知らないかもしれないけど
    Hideyoshi may not know this but,
  • nihon niwa densetsu no ki no shita de kokuhaku suru to
    shiawase ni nareru to-iu ii-tsutae ga aru

    日本には伝説の木の下で告白すると
    幸せになれるという言い伝えがある
    In Japan there's a folk tale that says if you confess under the legendary tree you'll become blessed.
    • ii-tsutae 言い伝え
      A folk tale. A legend.
      Something that you "pass," tsutaeru 伝える, by "saying" it, iu 言う. In other words, a legend passed down by word of mouth.
    • shiawase ni nareru 幸せになれる
      May become happy. (literally.)
      But let me translate it as "blessed" here because it's like in "happy ending."
      Although before this scene Akihisa was saying there was "misfortune," or he was "unfortunate," literally "unhappy," fukou 不幸. So this whole development is him trying to fix that by becoming "happy," shiawase 幸せ.
Yuuji interjecting.
  • Yuuji interjects:
  • ii-tsutae janai ga na... 言い伝えじゃないがな…
    It's not a legend, though...
    • Because it's probably a reference to the 1996 dating sim game:
    • Tokimeki Memoriaru: Densetsu no Ki no Shita de
      ときめきメモリアル 伝説の樹の下で
      Tokimeki Memorial: Under the Legendary Tree.
Akihisa explaining.
  • Akihisa:
  • kono gakuen no densetsu no kinoshita to-ieba
    densetsu-teki na bishoujo
    Kinoshita Hideyoshi no koto wo sasu!

    この学園の伝説のキノシタといえば
    伝説的な美少女
    木下秀吉の事を指す!
    In this school, [when we talk about the]
    densetsu no ki no shita ("legendary under a tree")
    [we're talking about]
    the legendary-like beautiful girl
    Kinoshita Hideyoshi!
Akihisa concluding.
  • tsumari kore wa
    Hideyoshi ni kokuhaku suru to
    shiawase ni nareru to-iu imi datta-n-da yo!

    つまりこれは
    秀吉に告白すると
    幸せになれるという意味だったんだよ!
    In other words, this means that...
    if [I] confess to Hideyoshi,
    [I'll] become blessed!

Verbs Involved in Genitives

Verbs can be part of genitives in multiple ways, and since the fact a verb is a verb, not a noun, carries some added complexity, I figured they deserve their own section explaining how it works.

Action's Agent

First off, the agent of an action in a phrase can be part of the genitive in another phrase involving the same action.

Now, to recap: a verb means an action, and an action means an agent doing that action. In active voice, the agent is the subject, who's marked by the ga が particle.

For example, say we have this phrase:
  • sekai ga owaru 世界が終わる
    The world ends.
    • sekai 世界
      The world.
    • ga
      (marks previous word as the subject.)
    • owaru 終わる
      To end.

Then we change the verb owaru 終わる to its polite masu ます form:
  • sekai ga owarimasu 世界が終わります
    The world ends. (polite way of saying.)

Now we replace the subject marker ga が with the genitive case marking particle no の and remove the masu suffix leaving only the masu-stem form of the verb owaru, also known as the "connective form," ren'youkei 連用形, which is the form in which the verb is treated as a noun:
  • sekai no owari 世界の終わり
    The world's ending.
    The ending of the world.

And there we have it. We change from "the world ends," where we say it's happening, to "the ending of the world," where we merely refer to the happening.

In most cases, the pattern above with the connective form is followed. For example:
  • sekai ga hajimaru 世界が始まる
    The world begins.
  • sekai ga hajimarimasu 世界が始まります
    The world begins. (polite.)
  • sekai no hajimari 世界の始まり
    The world's beginning.
    The beginning of the world.

Although it's always grammatically correct, a lot of times there are better ways of saying it. For example:
  • kare ga shinu 彼が死ぬ
    kare ga shinimasu 彼が死にます
    He dies.
  • kare no shini 彼の死に
    The dying of him.
    His dying.
    (people don't say this.)
  • kare no shi 彼の死
    His death. (possessive.)
    • Although shi 死, "death," and shinu 死ぬ, "to die," are obviously related, one isn't an inflection of the other, so you won't be able to just remove the okurigana of another verb to get the same result.
    • For example: kaku 書く is "to write," but just ka 書 doesn't mean anything.

With suru verbs, that is, nouns that become verbs by taking the suru auxiliary verb, we can simply remove the suru auxiliary to get the noun.
  • haha ga kodomo wo ai suru 母が子供を愛する
    The mother loves the child.
    • haha ga 母が
      The mother (subject)
    • ai
      Love. (noun.)
    • suru する
      To do.
    • ai suru 愛する
      To do "love."
      To love.
  • haha no ai 母の愛
    The mother's love.
    The love of the mother.
    The love done by the mother.
  • kusuri ga kouka suru 薬が効果する
    The drug effects. The drug has effect.
  • kusuri no kouka 薬の効果
    The effect of the drug.
  • anime ga eikyou suru アニメが影響する
    Anime influences.
  • anime no eikyou de nihongo wo manabu アニメの影響で日本語を学ぶ
    To study Japanese because of anime's influence.
  • hakkekkyuu ga hataraku 白血球
    White-blood cells work. (as in, they function, perform their functions.)
  • tainai ni shin'nyuu shita byougentai wa
    hakkekkyuu no hataraki ni yotte haijo sareru

    体内に侵入した病原体は
    白血球の働きによって排除される
    The pathogens that infiltrated the inside of the body
    are exterminated by the work of the white-blood cells.
  • Kino ga Tabi Suru キノが旅する
    Kino Journeys.
  • Kino no Tabi キノの旅
    Kino's Journey.
    The Journey of Kino.
  • Kuroko ga Basuke Suru 黒子がバスケする
    Kuroko Baskets. Kuroko does Basket.
    Kuroko Basketballs. Kuroko does Basketball.
  • Kuroko no Basuke 黒子のバスケ
    Kuroko's Basketball.
    The Basketball of Kuroko.

And, of course, not even this pattern is free from Japanese's extreme ambiguity. Specially when you can have homonyms and writing words without kanji.
  • riaru リアル
    Real.
    Real life. (as opposed to virtual life.)
  • juujitsu suru 充実する
    To be complete. To be full. To be replenished.
  • riajuu リア充
    Someone satisfied with their real life.
    A "normie" to antisocial nerds and internet addicts.
  • netojuu ネト充
    Someone satisfied with their internet life.
    An internet addict or antisocial nerd to a normie.
  • Neto-Juu ga Susumeru ネト充が進める
    Someone satisfied with their internet life progresses.
    An internet addict progresses. (as in, toward the recovery of their addiction.)
  • Neto-Juu ga Susumeru ネト充が勧める
    Someone satisfied with their internet life recommends.
  • Neto-Juu no Susume ネト充のススメ
    1. The Recommendations of Someone Satisfied with their Internet Life.
    2. The Progress of an Internet Addict.
  • (English title: Recovery of an MMO Junkie.)

The title of the anime above can be interpreted in two ways: the main character is having fun with their net-life and is "recommending" things to do if you're an internet addict; or, the main character is sickly addicted to internet and is having "progress" in treating it.

Verb as No-Adjective

Sometimes you have a verb that's not modified by a no-adjective but that's actually part of the no-adjective. This is different from the above, and in this case the verb is just a noun.
  • Owari no Serafu 終わりのセラフ
    Owari no Seraph 終わりのセラフ
    Seraph of the End.
    • Not "The Ending of Seraph," so it doesn't grammatically come from "Seraph ends [something]."

Of course, you can chain multiple no-adjectives too:
  • {Natsu no Owari} no Amaoto ga 夏の終わりの雨音が
    The Sound-of-Rain of {the Ending of the Summer} [is].
    • Title of a Love Live! song.
  • Natsu no {Owari no Amaoto} ga 夏の終わりの雨音が
    The Summer's {Sound-of-Rain of the End} [is].
    • An unlikely interpretation.

Action's Patient

The genitive can also contain the patient of an action of another phrase. That is, of whom the action is done upon. In active voice, this is the direct object the phrase, marked by the wo を particle.
  • sentaku 洗濯
    Laundry.
    (not to be confused with the homonym sentaku 選択, "choice.")
  • sentaku wo arau 選択を洗う
    To wash laundry.
  • sentaku no arai 洗濯の洗い
    The washing of laundry [by someone].

In passive voice, the patient is the subject marked by the ga が particle.
  • nusumu 盗む
    To steal.
  • nusumareru 盗まれる
    To be stolen. (passive conjugation.)
  • houseki ga nusumareru 宝石が盗まれる
    The jewels will be stolen [by someone].
    The jewels are stolen [by someone.]
  • houseki no nusumi 宝石の盗み
    The stealing of the jewels [done by someone].
  • houseki no nusumi ga ooi 宝石の盗みが多い
    [There's] a lot of stealing of the jewels [happening].
  • houseki no nusumi wa akirameru 宝石の盗みは諦める
    To give up on the stealing of the jewels.
    To give up on stealing the jewels.

Note that it's actually grammatically impossible to tell apart the agent from the patient genitives. For example:
  • kodomo no nusumi 子供の盗み
    The stealing of the children.
    1. The stealing done by the children.
      Your children stole something!
    2. The stealing done upon the children.
      Someone stole the children!

Of course, just because it's grammatically ambiguous doesn't mean that it's ambiguous in practice. In the case above, we can safely assume the children stole something, and not that someone "stole" the children, as that doesn't make much sense.

Ambiguity of Verb Nouns

Not every time you have a verb in its noun form after a no-adjective it's going to be something like the above. After all, Japanese is a language full of ambiguities. For example:
  • tsukau 使う
    To use.
  • mahou no tsukai 魔法の使い
    1. Use of magic. (unlikely.)
    2. User of magic. (likely.)
  • tsukai 使い
    1. Use [of something.]
    2. An user. Someone who uses something.
  • kusari no tsukai 鎖の使い
    1. A chain's use.
      (e.g. how Kurapika uses the chain.)
    2. A chain's user.
      (e.g. Kurapika himself.)

Genitives and Transitivity

Beware of the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs, as they affect the genitives that come from them.
  • tamashii ga kiyomaru 魂が清まる
    The soul cleanses.
    • Agent, intransitive verb.
  • tamashii ga kiyomeru 魂が清める
    The soul cleanses [something].
    • Agent, transitive verb.
  • tamashii ga kiyomerareru 魂が清められる
    The soul is cleansed [by something].
    • Patient.
  • tamashii no kiyome 魂の清め
    The cleansing of the soul.
    • Agent: the soul has cleansed something, the phrase refers to "the cleansing" that the soul has inflected upon something.
    • Patient: the soul has been cleansed by something, the phrase refer to how [you] or [someone] did "the cleansing of the soul."
  • tamashii no kiyomari 魂の清まり
    The cleansing of the soul.
    • Agent: the soul has cleansed, the phrase refers to that fact. It doesn't imply anybody cleansed it, just that it became cleansed: on its own, for example.
    • No patient form since this comes from an intransitive verb.

Although the difference isn't very big in the end, tamashii no kiyome implies something else is involved in this cleansing business besides the soul: as it must either cleanse something or be cleansed by something. The word kiyomari doesn't carry this implication.

Particles Particulars

の Instead of が in Relative Clauses

Sometimes, the no の particle is used instead of the ga が particle to mark the subject of a relative adjectival clause. Although this isn't literally a case of no-adjectives, relative clauses are adjectives, so I feel this should be mentioned in this article too:
  • kamisama ga Inai 神さまがいない
    God isn't [here.]
    God [doesn't exist.]
  • kamisama ga Inai Nichiyoubi 神さまがいない日曜日
    The Sunday in which God isn't [here.]
    The Sunday in which God [doesn't exist.]
    The Sundays... (etc.)
  • Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi 神さまのいない日曜日
    (same as above.)
    (English title: Sunday Without God.)

For further reference:

が Instead of の as Possessive Marker

Sometimes, the ga が particle is used instead of the no の particle to create a possessive adjective. This usage is rather old, and in modern Japanese it's limited to a few specific cases.

The most common one is the possessive of the first person pronoun ware.
  • watashi
    ware
    I. Me.
  • watashi no 私の
    waga 我が
    My.

The second case are names of places.
  • hara
    Plains. Fields. Prairie.
  • senjou 戦場
    Battlefield.
  • senjou no hara 戦場の原
    senjou ga hara 戦場が原
    Plains of battlefield.

Using hiragana in names of things is generally frowned upon, likely because kanji looks more authoritative. Maybe because of this, this ga が particle tends to be spelled as a small katakana ke ケ-looking symbol instead.
  • Senjougahara 戦場ヶ原
    Battlefield plains.

There are also cases where the ga vanished with time as people found more and more lazy ways to refer to that place.
  • akiba no hara 秋葉の原
    akiba ga hara 秋葉が原
    akibagahara 秋葉ヶ原
    ahibahara 秋葉原
    akihabara アキハバラ
    akiba アキバ
    Plains of Autumn Leaves.

での, からの, までの, への

The no-particle can come after a number of other particles to create an adjectival clauses. For example:
  • mirai e 未来
    Future.
  • mirai e
    Toward the future.
  • mirai e no kibou 未来への希望
    Hopes toward the future.
  • sayonara サヨナラ
    Goodbye.
  • sayonara made サヨナラまで
    Until goodbye.
  • Sayonara Made no Aida サヨナラまでのあいだ
    The interval until goodbye.
    The [time] until goodbye.
    • Title of a song.
  • okyakusan kara no irai お客さんからの依頼
    Requests from clients.
    A request from a client.
  • seikatsu suru 生活する
    To live. (somewhere, somehow.)
    • This is a verb created with the suru auxiliary.
    • You can turn it into a noun by removing the suru.
    • seikatsu 生活
      Living. Livelihood.
  • isekai de seikatsu suru 異世界で生活する
    To live in another world.
    • isekai de 異世界で
      In another world. (adverb.)
    • isekai de no 異世界での
      In another world. (adjective.)
  • isekai de no seikatsu 異世界での生活
    The livelihood in another world.

Suffixes

Sometimes a no-adjective is a suffix that's combined with another adjective for form a more complex phrase.

-Tame no ~ための

The phrase tame no ための is a no-adjective for the word "purpose," tame ため. It usually works like this:
  • Something you want tame no requirement.
  • Action you want to perform tame no requirement.

For example:
  • henshin suru 変身する
    To transform.
  • henshin suru tame 変身するため
    The purpose of transforming.
    In order to transform.
  • henshin suru tame no aitemu 変身するためのアイテム
    An item for the purpose of transforming.
    An item [you need in order] to transform.
  • katsu tame no senryaku 勝つための戦略
    The strategy for the purpose of winning.
    The strategy [needed] to win.
    The strategy [necessary to emerge victorious].

-You no ~用の

The phrase you no 用の is a no-adjective for the word "use," you 用. This word is a bit complicated because it usually means by whom something is used, or to whom something is made to be used, or for what purpose something is made to be used, and so on.

For example:
  • doubutsu 動物
    Animal.
  • doubutsu you 動物用
    Animal use.
    For use by animals.
    Made to be used by animals.
  • doubutsu you no kusuri 動物用の薬
    Medicine for animal use.
    Medicine for use by animals.
    Medicine made to be used by animals.
    (people don't use it.)
  • oo are! Doku ne. おおアレ!毒ね。
    Oh, that! Poison, [right]?
  • Kusuko you no doku. クスコ用の毒。
    The poison for Kuzco's use.
  • Kusuko wo korosu tame no supesharu na doku. クスコを殺すためのスペシャルな毒。
    The special poison made to kill Kuzko.
  • karada ni warusou na doku. 体に悪そうな毒。
    The poison that seems bad for the body.
  • ...
  • sono doku その毒?
    That poison?
  • sou! sono doku! そう!その毒!
    [Yeah]! That poison!
  • *Kronk grabs poison.*
  • kono doku ne! この毒ね!
    This poison, [right]?!
  • The Emperor's New Groove, Japanese version: Rama ni Natta Ou-Sama ラマになった王様, "The King who Became a Llama."

Expressions

Beware of set-phrases and expressions that include no-adjectives, because they either don't make much sense or don't follow the rules above.

For example:
  • ki no doku 気の毒
    The poison of the feeling. (literally.)
    [It's a pity.]
    [That's unfortunate.]

For colors, the no-adjective and i-adjective variants are not interchangeable in set expressions.
  • aka no tanin 赤の他人
    akai tanin 赤い他人
    A red other person. Someone (who isn't you) who is red.
    (this meaning applies to both variants.)
  • aka no tanin 赤の他人
    A complete stranger.
    (this expression only applies to aka no)

Attributive Copula No

In some situations, no-adjectives are identical to na-adjectives. Even down to the fact that no の gets analyzed as an attributive copula, just like na な gets analyzed as an attributive copula.

These situations would be those where you can write the no-adjective in the predicative by switching the no with the predicative copula da だ.
  • kono koukousei ga futsuu da この高校生が普通だ
    This high-school student is normal.
  • futsuu no koukousei 普通の高校生
    A normal high-school student.

The only difference is that for nouns no の tends to be used instead of na な. But that's about it. In this case, the inflection of no-adjective to past, negative, etc. mirrors the inflection of na-adjectives.
  • futsuu 普通
    Normal. (noun.)
  • futsuu no 普通の
    Normal. (no-adjective.)
  • futsuu no koukousei 普通高校生
    A high-school student that is normal.
    A normal high-school student.
  • futsuu datta koukousei 普通だった高校生
    A high-school student that was normal.
    An once normal high-school student.
  • futsuu denai koukousei 普通でない高校生
    A high-school student that is not normal.
    An abnormal high-school student.
  • futsuu de heibon na koukousei 普通平凡な高校生
    A high-school student that is normal and common.
  • heibon de futsuu no koukousei 平凡で普通高校生
    A high-school student that is common and normal.
  • futsuu sa 普通さ
    Normal-ness.
  • futsuu-sou 普通そう
    Seems normal.

Again: the above only makes sense when no-adjectives describes things directly. When you have possessives or any other kind of no-adjective none of the above makes sense. For example:
  • watashi no neko 私の猫
    My cat.
  • watashi datta neko 私だった猫
    The cat that was mine. (WRONG!!!)
    (this form must come from the predicative with da, not from the possessive!)
  • neko ga watashi da 猫が私だ
    The cat is me.
  • watashi datta neko 私だった猫
    The cat that was me.

Further Reading

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