- Word Order
is considered an SOV (Subject-Object-Verb) language, while English is
an SVO language. That is, Japanese always ends with a verb or an adjective
or a copula. The word order of adverbs or direct objects is not very
strict, but the subject is normally placed in the beginning and the
verb is placed in the end.
Watashi wa hon o yomimasu.
( "I" = subject) ( "book" = object) ( "read" = verb)
Watashi wa wakai
( "I" = subject) ( "young" = adjective)
Watashi wa sarar"man desu.
( "I" = subject) ( "salaried employee" + copula)
In English, you can tell if the sentence is going to be the question
or the statement just by listening to the beginning of the sentence.
In Japanese, however, in case of yes/no questions, you cannot tell if
the sentence is going to be a question or a statement until you hear
the sentence ending. In questions, "-ka" is placed at the end of the
sentence as a question marker.
Tanaka-san wa gakusei desu. (Mr/Ms. Tanaka is a student)
Tanaka-san wa gakusei desu ka. (Is Mr/Ms Tanaka a student?)
Japanese word order in relative clauses is also reversed compared with
English. In the English relative clause, the modifier comes after the
word. However, in the Japanese relative clause, the modifier comes before
The book which I bought
("book" - Word) ("I" - Modifier)
Watashi ga katta hon
(The book which I bought)
(I) (bought) (book)
("I" - Modifier) ("book" - Word)
In terms of the word order of adjectives and the nouns that the adjectives
modify, the word order is the same as English.