Today I am going to share my thoughts and experiences with the book All About Particles: A Handbook of Japanese Function Words written by Naoko Chino.
In my review I will go over some basic things like the contents of the book and its layout. After that, I’ll talk about how it helped me understand this particular aspect of the Japanese language and my personal opinion on it.
What Is A Japanese Particle?
As the name of the book indicates, the contents are all about learning and understanding Japanese particles.
If you’re new to Japanese and not that familiar with what a particle is and what it does, allow me to illustrate with a simple example.
If you already know what particles are, feel free to skip to the next section.
- kore wa kimi no pen desu ka?
- Is this your pen?
In this short example there are three particles. They are は (wa), の (no), and か (ka).
The first two particles attach to the word that precedes them and helps us to understand what their function is in the sentence.
The は particle is marking the topic of the sentence, which in this example is the word “this” and is the thing we’re talking about.
The の particle indicate possession, kind of like the English apostrophe + S (‘s), and changes the word 君 (kimi) from “you” to 君の which means “your.”
The last particle is what’s known as a sentence ending particle.
This particular one is か (ka) and it is the question particle. That just means that it functions like the question mark (?) and that it turns the entire sentence into a question.
What Does The Book Teach?
This book teaches a total of 69 Japanese particles. Of those, 53 are normal particles and the other 16 are sentences ending particles.
That seems like a lot, and it certainly is.
Most people who read a good beginner book on Japanese will be exposed to the most common particles, like perhaps a dozen of them or so, but certainly not all of them.
That’s one of the thing I found nice about this book, that it had explanations and example sentences for some of the lesser used particles that I encountered from time to time.
What’s more, many of these particles have multiple meanings depending on the context of the sentence that they’re used in.
For example, the が (ga) particle which is one of the most commonly seen has a little over 20 different uses listed in the book.
For me, having lots of different meanings for a single Japanese word was incredibly frustrating as a beginner.
Unfortunately, it’s one of those things you have to just plow through and get used to. Thankfully, this book made it a lot easier for my brain to understand.
I didn’t use this book like a typical textbook however. I’ll talk about my method of utilizing it near the end of this post.
How Does It Explain Each Particle?
The book is laid out in two parts: normal particles and sentence ending particles.
Within each section the particles are organized by the most frequently used to the least.
When you read a section on a particle, it explains one of the particles meanings and then provides several example sentences that illustrate that meaning to help you better understand it.
Then it moves on to the next potential meaning of the particle and provides more examples. This process is repeated until all of a particles meanings have been explained.
When it comes to the example sentences, the Japanese version comes first written in kanji, hiragana, and katakana. It is then followed by its reading in romaji, so that you can learn the readings of any new words you haven’t seen yet.
Finally, it’s finished with an English translation (or two) that help show how we would say the same thing in English.
In addition to that, there are notes when appropriate that explain when one particle can be used in the same place as another and what their differences are.
For example, the book explains that the first usage of くせに (kuseni) is similar to that of のに (noni) but with an added feeling of contempt.
Another common note is when one particle functions like another, but has a different level of formality. Or when one particle is used more often in writing, and another used more often in speech.
I found it nice to have these additional explanations because when I would try to find the differences in a dictionary, I was often unable to do so.
This left me wondering why you would use one particle over another if their meanings were the same.
When applicable, the book also provides English equivalents for a particle to help comprehension. For example, the book says that the particle ものの (monono) is like the English “But, although” when used between clauses.
How It Helped Me
The reason why I first got this book was because someone recommended it to me. I’m glad they did, because even though I was already familiar with the most common particles, there were still a lot I didn’t understand yet.
I never went through the book from start to finish, as getting too many explanations on different meanings of a single particle was confusing for me.
Instead, I used this book as a reference and looked up a specific particle when I encountered it somewhere else and didn’t know its meaning.
Like when I was working through a Japanese news article or short story.
The short explanation and example sentences were especially helpful for this reason.
I would try to find an example sentence in the book that was similar to the one I encountered while reading or listening to native materials in order to understand the meaning I had run into.
Since particles show up in basically every single Japanese sentence, this book was one that I felt was essential to my studies.
So, those are my thoughts and experiences with All About Particles.
For me, it was one of the best resources I ever got on understanding Japanese (especially Japanese particles).
I’ve got a lot of books on learning Japanese, but this one is definitely in my top five.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments about the book. Thanks!