Wednesday, September 11, 2019

って Particle

WIP : this article is incomplete and might change in the unforeseeable future.
In Japanese, tte って is a quoting particle. It's sometimes used as the casual counterpart of the to と particle, but it has other uses, too, like mentioning things in order to refer to them.


Direct Quotations

The basic usage of tte って is to mark the words that were said when it's used with a verb of communication.
  • Tarou wa "hai" tte itta
    [He] said yes.
  • Tarou wa "hai" tte kotaeta
    Tarou answered "yes."
  • Tarou wa "hai" tte kaita
    Tarou wrote "yes."

In the sentences above, tte って can be replaced by to と. For example: to itta と言った.

Indirect Quotations

The tte って particle can come after a phrase surrounded by quotation marks 「」 like above, but they aren't necessary.
  • Tarou wa hai tte itta
    Tarou said yes.
  • {tachi-iri-kinshi tte kakareta} kanban
    A signboard [which] {entry-prohibited was written on}. (no entry, no trespassing, etc.)

The quotation particle can also be used with verbs about hearing:
  • shinda tte kiita
    [I] heart that "[he] died."

And with sentences about confirming things that were said:
  • shinda tte hontou ka?
    Is it true that "[he] died"?


The tte って particle can also be used with verbs for thoughts:
  • sugee tte omotta
    [I] thought "[that's] awesome."

This, too, can be replaced by just to と, as in: to omotta と思った.

In fact, it seems that even in casual contexts, the collocation to omou と思う is more common than tte omou って思う.(Nilep and Fujimoto:2017:4–5)

I guess that tte って is used more with verbs that mean to say, to hear, to write, to read, because with those verbs the message quoted is literally somewhere: it can be literally heard or seen.

It's not used with verbs that mean to think, because what you think about doing is usually not a literal quote. For example:
  • kore ni tsuite hanasou to omoimasu
    [I] thought: to talk about this.

Sentences in the format above are common, where the verb before to と is what you plan to do, in this ~ou ~oう form. What this form means is that you intend to do something in the future.

It often translates to "let's," as an invite, but it can be used when you're going to do something on your own, too. What you think about doing today, for example: to talk about this.

Naturally, the speaker hasn't literally thought the sentence kore ni tsuite hanasou. That's just the way the speaker formulated his intentions in words. This is different from, for example:
  • "abunee!" tte omotta
    "[That's] dangerous!" is what I thought.

The words sugoi すごい, "incredible," and abunai 危ない, "dangerous," are examples of things you can literally think inside your head. You see something dangerous, you literally think: "wow, that's dangerous."

Even if you don't say it out loud, its literality allow it to be quotable with the tte って particle.


The tte って particle can also be used to define things.

This can happen when it comes before the verb iu 言う, "to say," becoming the construction tte-iu っていう, which is used to say "how you say something," or "how something is called." The name of a thing.
  • kore wa neko tte iu-n-da
    This is said cat. (literally.)
    This is called a cat.

Compare with:
  • kono kanji wa "neko" tte yomu-n-da
    This kanji is read "neko."

Without Verb

The tte って particle is sometimes used without a verb, expressing a function by itself. This can happen in various ways.


The tte って particle can categorize the noun that comes before it using the noun that comes after it. For example:
  • jinsei tte mon da
    The thing which is life.
    • Life is a thing, so "thing" categorizes "life."
    • mon もん is the same thing as mono 物, "thing."
    • This phrase is generally used to say "that's how things are in life," "that's how life is," and so on.
  • ore tte yatsu
    The guy which is me.
    • I'm a guy, so "guy" categorizes "me."
    • This phrase is used to say "this is the kind of guy I am." Often, it's used in a negative way:
    • ore tte yatsu wa dou shiyou mo nai
      To the guy which is me, what to do doesn't exist.
      For a guy like me, nothing can be done.
      I'm incorrigible.
    • omae tte yatsu
      The guy which is you.

In the cases above, tte って can be replaced by to iu という. Then we have an usual relative clause. For example:
  • {jinsei to iu} mono da
    A thing [which] {is called life}.
  • {jinsei tte iu} mono da
    (same meaning.)


The tte って particle can mark a clause which is "said," and this saying then qualifies the noun:
  • {Tarou ga bengoshi da} tte hanashi
    The story that says: {Tarou is a lawyer}.
  • {ashita yuki ga furu} tte yohou
    The forecast that says: {tomorrow, it will snow}.
    • yuki ga furu
      Snow will fall from the sky. (literally.)
      It will snow.

The examples above can be alternated with to iu と言う.(Hirose and Nawata, 2016:5–6)
  • {Tarou ga bengoshi da to iu} hanashi
    A story [that] {says Tarou is a lawyer}.
  • {Tarou ga bengoshi da tte iu} hanashi
    (same meaning.)

The presence or omission of tte って can change the meaning of the sentence. For example:(Hirose and Nawata, 2016:5)
  1. kinou, Tarou wa Hanako ni atta
    Yesterday, Tarou met Hanako.
  2. {kinou Tarou ga atta} hito
    The person [which] {Tarou met yesterday}.
  3. {kinou Tarou ga atta} tte hito
    The person which [someone] said: Tarou met yesterday.

In sentence 2, it's a fact, or at least it's assumed to be a fact, that Tarou met with that person. By contrast, in sentence 3, the speaker qualifies "the person" with something they've heard about: someone said "Tarou met [that person] yesterday."

In other words, in sentence 3, the speaker is explicitly expressing the information is hearsay. They aren't claiming Tarou met with that person. They've just heard that Tarou met with that person. It could be a lie, they don't know.

Note that, with the quoting particles tte って and to と, the content clause preceding them is in the predicative, but relative clauses are in the attributive.

Normally this isn't a problem since most words are identical in both predicative form, shuushikei 終止形, and attributive form, rentaikei 連体形.

However, the predicative copula da だ becomes the attributive copula na な in the attributive. Observe:
  • Tarou wa {anime ga suki da}
    {Liked is true about anime} is true about Tarou.
    {Anime is liked} is true about Tarou.
    Tarou likes anime.
  • {anime ga suki da} tte hito
    A person that [someone] said: likes anime.
    A person that says "[I] like anime." (they say it themselves.)
  • {anime ga suki na} hito
    A person [who] {likes anime}.
  • *{anime ga suki na} tte hito

Since the content clause before tte って must be predicative, it can't end with the attributive copula na な. Note, however, that the na な particle has other uses, some of which can precede tte って.


The tte って particle can be used to mark the topic of a sentence. For example:

胸の小さい女子って、そのコトを気にしてる場合が多いらしいぜ。 って、3組の木村さんが・・・!!
Manga: Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san からかい上手の高木さん (Chapter 2: プール)
  • Context: Nishikata remembers something he heard from someone who heard it from someone else.
  • {mune no chiisai} joshi tte,
    {sono koto wo
    ki-ni-shiteru} baai ga
    ooi rashii ze.

    Speaking of girls [with] {small chests},
    I heard that,
    the cases [in which they] {be worrying about that are many}.
    • i.e. there's a rumor flatter-chested girls often have complexes about it.
    • ki ni suru 気にする
      To mind. To think about. To care about. To worry about.
    • {mune no chiisai} joshi is a relativized possessive double-subject construction with a no の subject marker.
  • tte, san-kumi no
    Kimura ga...!!

    Is what Kimura from the class 3 said!!
    • Kimura is marked as subject (Kimura ga) of a sentence that has no verb.
    • Because of the quoting particle tte, we can safely assume the implicit verb is supposed to be "to say," iu 言う.
    • Kimura ga itta
      Kimura said.

Above, Kimura provides information regarding the topic mune no chiisai joshi, which is marked by the tte って particle.

Note that, generally, it's the wa は particle that marks the topic in Japanese. There are differences between tte って and wa は used to mark topics, but they're a bit complicated so I'll explain about them in another article.

At Sentence End

The tte って particle sometimes appears at the end of the sentence. This can happen for various reasons.


First and foremost, it happens when the verb is omitted.

Normally, this happens with verb itta 言った, "said."

For example, if someone asked you: "what did he say?" The presence or omission of tte って changes the meaning of the sentence.
  • shiranai
    [I] don't know [what he said].
    [I] don't care.
  • shiranai tte
    [He] said: "[I] don't know."
    [He] said: "[I] don't care."

In the case above, tte って abbreviates tte itta って言った, "said."

The tte って particle can also be used to quote yourself. For example, if you say something once, but someone else insists, the tte って particle can be added to emphasize you've already said something. Observe:
  • daijoubu
    [It's] alright.
  • (insert insistence here.)
  • daijoubu tte!
    [I] said: "[it's] alright"!

In this case, tte って abbreviate tte itte-iru って言っている, "[I] am saying" it's alright.

Although unusual, the lone, final tte って can also imply the verb omotta 思った, "thought," rather than "said." In this case, it easily comes in the form of: ka naa tte かなぁって.
  • atarashii no wo kaou ka naa tte
    [I was thinking:] to buy a new one.

The verb omou 思う can be abbreviated because ka naa かなぁ expresses the speaker was wondering about something, in this case, they were wondering about "buying a new one," so it's implied that's a thought of theirs, not a spoken line of somebody.

Second Vocative

The tte って particle is sometimes used after somebody's name to address them, specially when calling their attention for the second time.(Hirose and Nawata, 2016:18–20)

For example:
  • oi, Tarou!
    Hey, Tarou!
  • Tarou tte!
  • Tarou tte ba!!!

The ba ば used above doesn't seem to have much purpose besides emphasis. In Naruto, he says tte ba yo ってばよ, which is similar, but ends in the assertive yo よ particle.

This is similar to the to itte-iru と言っている, "[I] am saying," that we've seen before.
  • hayaku koi tte!
    Come quickly! (I'm saying this again.)
    Come quickly! (somebody else said this.)
  • okiro tte! okiro tte ba!
    [Wake up! I'm telling you to] wake up! Wake up!


The exact origin of the tte って particle is hard to say. Given that it can be used in multiple ways, it's very possible that there are different origins for its different functions.

One possible origin is to te とて, an obsolete combination of the quoting to と particle plus the te て used the in the conjunctive te-form.(Hirose and Nawata, 2016:4, and the dictionary 大辞林 第三版)

An example:(Sei Shōnagon 清少納言, 996–1025, cited in Suzuki, 2006:69)

The phrase to iuu と言う is another possible origin.(Hirose and Nawata, 2016:9)

The phrase to ii-te と言いて is another possible origin. This combines a conjugation of iu 言う, plus the conjunctive te て.(Hirose and Nawata, 2016:9, citing the second edition of Nihon Kokugo Daijiten.)

The phrase to itte と言って, with iu 言う in its te-form, is another claimed origin.(Morishige, 1954 and Tanaka, 1977, as cited in Suzuki, 2006:68)

The topic-marker and vocative usage are also possibly related to to ieba と言えば, through the contraction tte-ba ってば.(Hirose and Nawata, 2016:21)



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  1. This nerdy tte language you use isn't necessary. I want to crush my computer when I read such texts, I think it's a problem in articulation rather than a positive thing becasue you confuse more than you clarify