Tuesday, May 14, 2019

な Particle

WIP : this article is incomplete and might change in the unforeseeable future.
In Japanese, the na な particle has several functions.

Creates Adjectives

The na な particle creates na な adjectives. There are two things that you need to know about this.

First, there are dozens of words in Japanese classified as na-adjectives. These words work just like other adjectives in Japanese: they come before nouns to qualify them. The peculiar thing about the na-adjectives is that they need na な particle to qualify the nouns. For example:
  • hon
    Book. (a noun.)
  • yasui hon
    Cheap book. (yasui is an i-adjective.)
  • kirei na hon
    Pretty book. (kirei is a na-adjective.)

When an adjective is specifying a noun like above—the "pretty book," only the pretty one, not the ugly ones—that's called an attributive adjective. The counterpart is a predicative adjective, which happens when you have a phrase like "the book is pretty."

Besides that, you need to know is what a relative clause is. A relative clause is a when you have a phrase like "the book that is pretty." In this phrase, the relative pronoun "that" introduces the relative clause "is pretty" which qualifies the noun "book."

Since a relative clause is a clause, it has a verb.
  • hashiru hito
    A person [that] runs.
    • Here, "to run," hashiru, is a verb, part of the single-word relative clause qualifying hito.

In the clause "is pretty" the verb is "is." The words "is," "are," "to be," "being," "was," "were," are a copulative verbs, also called copulas.

All this is important because, in Japanese, adjectives are verbs. They have copulative verbs, copulas, built into them. So although they look like one word, they're all essentially relative clauses.

For the i-adjectives, the copula is the -i ~い suffix.
  • yusui hon

    Cheap book.
    The book [that] is cheap.

Attributive Copula

The na な particle which creates na-adjectives is actually an attributive copula. The counterpart is da だ, which is the predicative copula.
  • kirei da
    [It] is pretty.
  • kirei na hon
    The book [that] is pretty.

Basically, every time da だ is in a relative clause, it automatically becomes na な. Because one is predicative, the other is attributive.

The one exception are no-adjectives. When you have a noun that qualifies another noun, the no の particle is used instead of na な. This no の particle also acts as an attributive copula in this case.
  • jugyou ga suugaku da
    The class is math.
  • suugaku no jugyou
    The math class.
    The class [that] is math.

Both na な and no の attributive copulas are only used in the affirmative non-past. In the past, datta だった is used. In negative, denai でない is used.
  • kirei na sora
    Sky [that] is pretty.
  • kirei datta sora
    Sky [that] was pretty.
  • kirei denai sora
    Sky [that] is not pretty.

Lastly, the -ku ~くsuffix and the ni に particle are adverbial copulas. Adverbs modify verbs, while adjectives qualify nouns. So if what you have is a noun, you need na な, but if what you have is a verb, you need ni に.
  • yasuku naru
    To become cheap.
  • kirei ni naru
    To become pretty.
    • Here, the verb naru is modified by the adverb kirei ni.

It's important to note how this na な copula interacts with the no の particle when it acts as nominalizer.

Syntactically, the nominalizer is like a noun, and it can be qualified by attributive adjectives and by relative clauses. Unlike other nouns, however, the nominalizer doesn't mean anything on its own.

The easiest way to understand it is by its easiest function: it translates to the "one" in English, What does the "one" means? Save for Matrix references. It doesn't mean anything. Which "one" you're talking about? You need to qualify "one" in order for it to be useful.
  • yasui no ga katta
    [I] bought the one [that] is cheap. The cheap one.

As seen above, the no の nominalizer can be used as a generic noun. It can be used in place of any other noun. For example:
  • kirei na hon wo katta
    [I] bought the book [that] is pretty. The pretty book.
  • kirei na no wo katta
    [I] bought the one [that] is pretty. The pretty one.

This is the basic way the compound particle nano なの works.

Next, another function of no の is to refer to the action of the relative clause qualifying it.
  • hashiru no ga tanoshii
    The action [that is] "to run" is fun.
    To run is fun.
    Running is fun.

Above, the action is verb hashiru, "to run." So we're talking about someone running. Presumably, me running.

When the action is the copula na な, "to be," the action ends up being the fact something is "being" the adjective before na な.
  • heiwa na no ga ichiban da
    The fact it "is peaceful" is best.
    Being peaceful is best.

Note that you can mark the adjective with ga が directly

If you use na-no-ga なのが, you refer to the fact something is "being" the adjective, or, maybe, to the "one" that is being the adjective. If you use just ga が you simply refer to the adjective.
  • shizen ga ichiban da
    Natural is best.
  • shizen na no ga ichiban da
    The one that is natural is best.
    The fact it is natural is best.
    Being natural is best.

There are compound particles with no の that have secondary functions. The compound noni のに, which has the ni に particle, also means "even though." The compound node ので, which has the de で particle, also means "because."
  • tabeteiru no ni yaseru
    Even though [he's] eating, [he] loses weight.
    [He's] eating, but [he] loses weight.
  • yonda no de shitteiru
    Because [I] read [it], [I] know.
    [I] read [it], so [I] know.

When you add na な to the equation, you have nanoni なのに and nanode なので.
  • kanojo ga kirei na no ni kareshi ga inai
    Even though she is pretty, [she] doesn't have a boyfriend.
  • kanojo ga kirei na no de moteru
    Because she is pretty, [she] is popular with guys.

There's one important thing to note about this.

Remember that da だ is the predicative copula and na な is the attributive counterpart? This means that when you have nanoni, nanode, or just any nano, you can remove everything after the na な and then turn the na な into a da だ, and then you'll have the predicative form.

This can help you understand a complex phrase. For example:
  1. kanojo ga kirei na no ni kareshi ga inai
    Even though she is pretty, doesn't have boyfriend.
  2. kanojo ga kirei da
    She is pretty.

Since da だ becomes na な in a relative clause, what nano なの does is essentially turning into a noun the copula da だ. When you need da だ to become a noun, it becomes nano なの. That pretty much only happens in nanoni, nanode, and a few other cases, though.

Next, remember how I said that when nouns qualified other nouns the no の attributive copula was used instead of na な?

That's the case normally, but it's not the case with the nominalizer no の. With the nominalizer, you use na な, even if what comes before na な is a noun. To have a better idea:
  • gaiken ga futsuu da
    The external-appearance is normal.
  • futsuu no gaiken
    An external-appearance [that] is normal.
    A normal external-appearance.
  • gaiken ga futsuu na no ni moteru
    Even though [her] appearance is normal, [she] is popular with guys.
    • In the sense she doesn't look gorgeous, she looks normal, and in spite of that they're all charmed.

Next we have a weird one: structures like no-da のだ and no-desu のです.

This is the predicative copula, the plain one and the polite one, coming after the nominalizer.

Adding na な to the equation you get na-no-da なのだ and na-no-desu なのです. And yes, this is just like if you put a da だ onto another da だ, because you have a copula-nominalizer-copula pattern here.

Let's ignore the fact it makes no sense for a moment. Actually go ahead and ignore it for the rest of your life, you'll be happier that way.

When you have no-da or no-desu in a phrase, what it's expressing is that the speaker is asserting their opinion, explaining something, or giving advice. It's only a matter of nuance, and basically doesn't change the meaning of the phrase at all.
  • yaru no da
    [We'll] do [it]. (this is what I firmly believe.)
  • kirei na no da
    [It] is pretty. (in my humble opinion.)
  • futsuu na no da
    [It] is normal.

In this case, the no の nominalizer is contracted to the n ん particle.
  • yarunda
    (same meaning.)
  • kirei nanda
    (same meaning.)
    • Not to be confused with nanda 何だ, which means "what is?"
  • futsuu nanda
    (same meaning.)

Negative Imperative

As a sentence-ending particle, the na な particle can sometimes express a command to "not do" something.

This is similar to naide ないで, except naide is usually "please don't do" something, while just the naな is more like an order.
  • yameru na!
    Don't give up!
  • naku na!
    Don't cry!
  • iu na!
    Don't say [it]!
  • korosu na!
    Don't kill [him]!
  • nigasu na!
    Don't let [him] escape!

Positive Imperative

As a sentence-ending particle, the na な particle can sometimes express a command to "do" something.

This sounds confusing at first because na な can also express negative imperatives. So the same na な that tells someone to not do something also tells them to do something? Not exactly. In this case, the na な comes after the ren'youkei 連用形 form of verbs, so it's easy to tell which one is it.
  • jigoku e iku na!
    Don't go to hell! (negative imperative.)
  • jigoku e iki na!
    Do go to hell! (positive imperative.)

This na な can be thought of as an abbreviation of -nasai ~なさい.
  • benkyou suru
    To study.
  • benkyou suru na
    Don't study. (negative.)
  • benkyou shinasai
    Do study. (positive.)
  • benkyou shi na
    Do study. (abbreviation.)


As a sentence-ending particle, the na な particle can sometimes ask for agreement or confirmation on the speaker's opinion.

This is very similar to ne ね, except ne ね tends to actually ask other people questions, while na な simply states one's thoughts and seeks agreement.
  • shippai suru ne
    [He] will fail, [don't you think?]
  • shippai suru na
    [He] will fail, [am I not right?]

Note that the translations "don't you think" and "am I not right" aren't literal. They're just me trying to the best of my ability to translate sentence-ending particles. Generally, sentence-ending particles can't be literally translated, so don't even bother translating them. They're simply there to enunciate the speaker's emotions.

Both ne ね and na な can be repeatedly to bother people in similar fashion.
  • ne? ne? ne???
    Right? Right? RIGHT???
  • na? na? na???
    (same meaning.)

One big difference between na な and ne ね is that na な can be used to express one's thoughts toward oneself.
  • hoshii na...
    [I] want [it], [don't I...?]
  • hoshii ne?
    [You] want [it], [don't you?]

Even though the phrases above don't explicitly have the words "I" or "you," it can be inferred the first one is someone telling themselves that they want something, while the second one, by contrast, is someone confirming someone else wants something.


As a sentence-ending particle, the na な particle can sometimes express wonder about something. This is the same function as before.
  • kirei na...
    [It's so] pretty...
  • hontou ni hayai na
    [It's] really fast, [huh!]


As a sentence-ending particle, the na な particle can sometimes express doubt about something. This is also the same function as before.
  • ore ni mo dekiru ka na?
    [I wonder] whether I, too, can do [it]?
    Is it possible for me to do it too, [I wonder]?

1 comment:

Leave your komento コメント in this posuto ポスト of this burogu ブログ with your questions about Japanese, doubts or whatever!

All comments are moderated and won't show up until approved. Spam, links to illegal websites, and inappropriate content won't be published.